Tag Archive | History

The Day The Phoenix Rises 

This poem draws on the stories of my ancestors who told me about the importance of the phoenix in guarding the laws of Scotland and Ireland and the belief that our countries will finally be free of British rule on the day the phoenix rises. It is for that reason I have given it the title The Day The Phoenix Rises. I hope you enjoy the read. 
The Day The Phoenix Rises

Outsiders

we were scorned on arrival 

in a cold uncaring place 

the locals claimed we were not the same as them 

using lsnguage and religion as excuses to label us 

boasting of their achievements

as part of an empire

they were unaware their own culture was scorned 

Scots or Irish a Celt can never be 

reborn as a Brit

when they were told this 

the new order got angry 

they were beyond unhappy

when the Irish community formed a football club 

which would be open to those of  all faiths and none 

when trophies were won we were feared and hated 

the angry brigade felt threatened 

that their fragile identity had been questioned 

there were suggestions we should go home 

as those with blood on their hands

conveniently forgot  it was they 

who did the clearing 

which left us dispossessed 

the victims of cultural genocide

in the Celtic heartlands from which I am descended 

 I’ve always my blood is the blood of twin tribes 

both of which were marginalised 

the Irish  and the Islanders share 

a history of oppression

with stolen lands taken from the people 

and given to those who would obey colonial orders

without questioning why 

in Culloden and Atherny 

the pain lives on  in the lyrics of our songs

and the hearts of those who know 

the history the oppressers tried to ban 

along with our culture and traditions 

that however was a big mistake to make

in their determination to break us 

they inspired a spirit of resistance

they will not quell 

hell will freeze over before we ever accept 

the label outsiders 

It is not who we are nor will it ever be 

our freedom will come on the day the phoenix rises 

to take us home from the ashes of a ruined estate 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Active Citizens 

As a spoken word poet I am rightly proud of our tradition of activism on just about every topic you could name. From Apartheid to Women’s rights poets have opinions on everything and not afraid to voice them. This is something we share with all performers, but in this poem I take a look at musicians both folk and pop, and in particular the protest songs written over the years to express support of causes and campaigns to document an important part of social history . Whilst some of the songs, I’ve incorporated in to this poem may be very obviously political others may initially at least  strike you as slightly less so but when you look closely at the lyrics you’ll see they may be more radical than you think . I’ve given it the title Active Citizens as I have  long held the belief that the creative community are often a government’s more effective critics. I hope you enjoy the read. 
Active Citizens
My journey started with McGinn of The Calton 

who sang of  a may day for the ordinary people

and women pining for the pill .

Glen Daly told the story

of a wild colonial boy 

whose spirit will always live 

in the hearts of rebels with or without causes

the Corries took me over the sea to Skye 

while the hills of Donegal 

and the fields of Anthery 

showed the other side of my family tree 

both sides displaced in the name of the great white sheep 

and generations later the Proclaimers 

lamented the industrial clearances 

when they sent a letter from America

and narrated Scotland’s story 

as a  land of migrants 

throughout our history 

our so-called masters have ignored us 

attempted to silence our voices 

in the name of their false unity 

but our community remains strong

writing and  singing  the protest songs 

that expose them and their cruel deeds

carried out in the name of greed and personal gain 

meanwhile though she took a train to Leeds Central in 1989.  

we are still  looking for Linda 

and when we find her 

she will know she is one of  Jock Tamsons Bairns 

regardless of where she was born 

you see  where you are from can only be the first verse 

the starting point of the protest song

what follows is the journey about where your going to

and  how we help you get there 

by listening to the lyrics 

and the lessons they teach us for the future 

we can’t afford to be seduced and abandoned

by falling for lies and false promises 

or ignoring the 1 in 10 

we need to send the selfish homeward 

make them think again on the consequences of their behaviour 

their attitudes that make me a very angry girl 

I come from the generation who dared to feed the world 

and ask when there would be a harvest for it 

a harvest we could share 

with west end girls and smalltown boys 

we can’t let politicians create 100 000 Allentown’s 

or hold back the years in a vain attempt 

to keep us in what they think is our place 

in the rat trap they’ve created over years and centuries

to preserve what they see as the natural order 

with those McGinn sang of at the bottom 

with independence lies the hope of a better Scotland 

though we will still have our problems 

and protest songs to sing 

in the hope of the finding solutions 

as creatives we have always been political 

critical of our establishment regardless of party colours

and as our future governments will discover

we will always be active citizens

speaking out on the issues that matter. 

.© Gayle Smith 2017 

The Glory And The Dream (A Poetic History Of Celtic Football Club )

On the day my club win the treble of Championship , League Cup, and Scottish Cup I take a poetic journey on Celtic through the ages from our formation in a church hall in the Calton, to a treble clinching Scottish Cup Win at Hampden this afternoon. I have given it the title The Glory  And The Dream in tribute to Tom.Campbell and Pat Woods who are the co-authors of the best ever history of our club .I hope you enjoy the read .

The Glory And The Dream

In a church hall in the Calton

a football club was born 

to feed the people of Glasgow’s East End

 who had fled famine and starvation 

inflicted on their nation 

by a cold and callous imperial United Kingdom 

but though founded to assist the Irish catholic poor 

our founders made sure no-one was excluded 

on the grounds of colour, creed,  or religion 

we would make it our mission 

to play up and play the game 

Willie Maley was the first man to claim 

the manager’s chair

moulding  teams with passion and flair 

which would be the Celtic way 

from our earliest days 

we would start as we meant to go on

attacking play to entertain the fans 

on terracing and in the stands 

this would be of paramount importance in our club’s story 

we play not for wealth and riches 

we play for the glory and the dream 

right from the early years 

when Maley built our first all conquering team 

set records not equalled till Stein 

made legends in green and white

Sunny Jim Young, and Jimmy Hay 

had their days in a trophy laden side

Quinn, and Gallagher added their names to the legacy 

that will be forever Celtic 

as did Johnny Thomson the bravest of the brave 

who went to his death to save us from defeat against Rangers 

and James and Willie McStay 

played a part in our story 

and even now when you mention Jimmy McGrory 

fans still know a name which  like so many others 

is immortalised in the songs we sing 

the post war years would bring us difficult times 

trophies like food still rationed in paradise 

as in the period between the wars 

we faced challenges with only occasional success

one off trophies were what we did best 

Exhibition and Coronation Cups 

both decked in green and white 

in the early to mid fifties whilst still  single 

my dad had in his words a team worth cheering 

a double built on that coronation victory 

fashioned by a half back line of Peacock, Evans, and Stein 

and the wing wizardry of Charles Patrick Tully 

who when he scored direct from a corner  

was ordered to take it again 

he did and placed it

 in exactly the same spot of the Falkirk net 

In 1957 and not long married came a memory

the old man would never forget 

when Lambhill’s finest Billy McPhail 

played a part in Hampden glory 

in a game forever etched in our club’s story 

as Rangers were crushed 7-1 in the league cup final that year 

as our fans cheered Hampden success 

we would be tested once more 

and for seven long seasons 

the trophy room would have none of the major honours 

to display to our faithful support 

the turning point came with the appointment of Stein 

a tactical genius who built teams to play in the traditions of the club

the man who had spies in every pub 

built a team capable of winning the European Cup 

and breaking down Inter Millan’s rock solid defence 

relentless attack was the plan 

which would take the team to glory 

on the greatest night in Scotland’s sporting history 

as with pride in the jersey 

and fire their hearts 

bhoys became men 

and lambs became lions 

under the Lisbon sun 

we won everything we entered 

that golden season 

including the second of nine successive titles 

Stein would create three sides during this time 

some of the football sublime to watch 

it was the way the game should played 

as names  like McGrain , Connolly , Hay and Dalglish 

gradually replaced the heroes of Lisbon 

with Atiken , Burns, and McCluskey coming later 

fulfilling potential under Ceaser 

the man who captained our club

 on the greatest night in our history 

now in the gaffer’s chair 

he crafted a team built on guile and imagination 

the inspirational skills of Charlie Nicholas and Paul McStay 

showed that we will always put talent before age 

if your good enough to play the game 

 Celtic Park will be your stage 

as it was for McClair , McGarvey , McAvennie, McGhee 

Provan and McLeod 

in the dark depressing society that was 1980’s 

there free flowing football did the hoops proud 

though rewards were thinner on the ground 

than a team of their talents deserved 

a centenary double was won

with a McAvennie brace at Hampden

 in the sunshine of a may afternoon

the fitting reward for a club in the mood for a party 

but just when we thought we were flying  high 

the next nine years reminded us 

that sometimes even great clubs 

have barren years 

hopes were soon replaced by fears

then in 1994 our fans made a stand  

and by their actions saved the club

we love 

we demanded changes

the board had to be replaced 

and a man in a bunnet saved the day 

Fergus believed in the Celtic way 

and slowly but steadily we were back on the road to recovery 

we were playing great football under Tommy Burns

the bhoy from Soho Street 

who when he played was a poet with a ball at his feet 

whose twists and turns had those in the stands

 jumping up from their seats 

and the jungle chanting  his name 

but unfortunately the trophies never came 

and with Rangers equalling our  nine in a row 

we had to make a change 

heartbreaking though it was

It was the right decision 

though when we brought in Wim Jansen 

from Dutch champions Feyenoord 

some of our fans said oh my god 

what have we done 

but cometh the hour cometh the man

and our Dutch master had a plan 

he signed Marc Reiper to shore up our back four

he bought in Burley and Lambert midfield men who could score 

but the best thing he ever did for Celtic 

was sign a bhoy called Henrik 

and with the addition of one or two others

discovered we had a team 

capable of writing an important chapter in our story 

we stopped 10 in a row I was there to see it done 

when at 4.31 on the 9th May 1998 

Harold Brattback was fated to be the man

 who brought the title home 

and sparked scenes of celebration 

from our fantastic support 

Paradise was a sea of green and white

we were back where we belonged 

champions of Scotland 

then as sometimes  happens

we didn’t build on the progress of that season

Wim was allowed to leave 

and for a couple of years we were underachieving again 

until Martin O’Neill took the reins 

in  his first old first old firm game 

we had a beautiful Sunday which brought a 6-2 victory 

we were_3-0 up in just 11 minutes

personally I thought we let them off lightly 

 like all our fans I was delighted with a treble won in style 

football with a smile has always been 

the way we played the game 

yes we’ve had heartbreaks along the way 

Seville was a hard one to take 

especially as we watched 

our greatest rivals claim the treble 

but it fired our determination to succeed 

and in the main the early years of the new millennium 

have belonged to us 

Sutton , Hartson , and the Hooperman 

provided, goals to savour

and Petrov and Lennon the engine room for our success

Lubo’s artistry was something I was blessed to watch 

in the years since then  players and managers have come and gone 

but the glory and dream lives on

and in this history making season

a team unbeaten, in all domestic competitions

won the treble with flair and ambition

by playing the Celtic way 

now there are new heroes

who in years to come will be named 

when this generation are grandparents 

as they remember Stuart Armstrong, Tom Rogic Moussa Demeble, Craig Gordon, and Scott Sinclair 

they will talk of Kieron Tierney, Leigh Griffiths,  and Scott Brown 

and the 5-1 thrashings handed to Rangers at home and away. 

by the team that Brendan made

they will recall with pride the days we dug deep and ran on  empty 

because we are Celtic and that is what we do to win

for our  ever faithful fans 

it is the spirit of the club 

the beating heart of every Celtic team 

we play up and play the the game

and we do it  for the glory and the dream 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Dare To Speak 

Hey Readers 

As some of you may know February  is LGBTIQ history month and I am a trans woman so I decided to attend a themed poetry event to celebrate the diversity of our community. I also wrote a  poem to commemorate both my attendance at the event and the struggles I’ve  faced on my personal journey I’ve given the poem the same title as the event and called it Dare To Speak I hope you enjoy the read. 

Dare To Speak. 

I will say what needs said

I am trans 

I am woman 

I am not superhuman 

despite what. my younger friends may think 

black and pink both have places in my closet 

which is for clothes not living in 

I am trans so where does my story begin ? 

my earliest recollections of being different 

are remembering a hot summer Saturday in 1969

I was eight 

my mum allowed me to be a girl 

it was great 

my dad had taken my big brother 

on a fishing trip 

so I got to wear lipstick and get my  nails painted 

I was dressed in a navy skirt 

and tan stockings with a suspender belt 

which my mum had too fasten 

presbyterian fashion was very conservative 

in a home the swinging sixties never found 

then Donny and the Rollers came around 

and sent my head and hormones  spinning 

I thought of highly original sins 

I would never dare to commit 

during my Jackie reading years 

secret tears were cried as I denied myself 

a hundred and twenty three times 

at least 

Jesus wept at the secrets I kept hidden 

throughout the 70’s and 80’s 

yes I was frustrated but better frustrated than dead 

occasionally I would say what needed to be said 

but not until the 90’s did I do more than whisper 

what I should have dared to say  in a much louder voice 

being trans is not a choice

it’s an inescapable truth 

It’s who I am 

it’s who I was born to be 

I respect myself but it’s been a long and difficult journey 

to reach a place of contentment

I have no time for resentment

or holding grudges against those who mock 

they can say what they like 

I don’t care what they think 

black and pink both have places in my closet

which is for clothes not for living in 

I am trans 

I am woman

I am not superhuman 

and despite ignorance, prejudice , fear ,

or transphobes labelling me queer

I will not be silenced

I will say what needs said 

my lipstick will be pink or the deepest shade of red 

I will be who I am 

I have opinions and I will say them out loud 

I am trans and proud 

I am a woman who won’t wait till she’s given permission

to air my views

I will do whatever I need to do 

I will dare to speak my truths 

@ Gayle Smith 2017 

Tears At The Bells

Hey Readers

In this my first poem of 2017, I think on new year memories and why as, I celebrated Celtic’s hogmanay victory over Rangers at Ibrox I wept as I thought of my dad in the early hours of ne’erday. I’ve titled it Tears At The Bells I hope you enjoy the read.  

Tears At The Bells

I have to admit there were tears at the bells
as I looked to the sky and thought of my dad
It’s always the same at the New Year
especially if we cheered the hoops to victory against Rangers
they all counted but for some reason
the ne’erday  game mattered more
my dad knew the score
we would always be underdogs in this city
for as long as Scotland remained a British colony
equality wasn’t something they would ever do
the we are the people brigade
deluded themselves they were the chosen few
and still do even though the world moves on
and the empire has no chance of striking back
the union jack was never a comfort blanket
not for our kin
we play the only way we know
the Celtic way isn’t just to win
it’s to do in style
I think he would be proud
of the team we’re building
though he wouldn’t hear talk of Dembele  being the new Henrik
Celtic would always need different players for different times
each would be heroes in the hoops
as long as they wore them with pride
played with passion and gave our fans there all
he would have marvelled
at some of our play
but bemoaned our careless defending
whilst I would accept it
as a risk we have to take
because of the team we are
the team we will always be
a club like no other
if you know the history
and history was something
he taught me well
last night as I listened to The Wild Colonial Boy, Scottish Breakaway, and The John MacLean March
my rebel heart was lifted
I should have resisted
not listened to Flight Of Earls but as I did so
I thought of him
and I knew they’d be Tears At The Bells.

@ Gayle Smith 2017

A Minute To Mourn And Walk A Mile In Other People’s Shoes 

Hey Readers

As we approach what is always the most sensitive clash involving Celtic and Rangers , I notice that some Celtic fans are calling on our support  to respect the minute’s silence which will be held to remember those Rangers fans who died in the Ibrox disaster of 1971.

This post is written by an unapologetic Celtic fan who likes nothing better than seeing my footballing rivals put to the sword by our brave bhoys. However I echo the calls put out on social media in the last 24 hours to respect the silence and honour the memory of those who went to a game that morning and never made it home.

I make my case by stating that I come from a family which had members at both sides of the stadium on that fateful day. So much as I loathe the orange and unionist position of so many Rangers fans I can understand where it comes from in the same way I can understand Celtic’s Irish tradition as without the migration of Irish workers to Scotland my dad’s side of the family would never have arrived in the city of my birth and I wouldn’t be the Kirk attending Celtic supporting SNP member I’ve went on to become.

As someone who was a 9 year old at the time of this tragic event I have vague recollections of listening to the radio commentary of the game and feeling just a wee bit sick when Colin Stein equalised for Rangers just 30 seconds after Jimmy Johnstone looked to have won the game for Celtic with his goal in the last seconds of normal time.  Trust me if I’d felt sick at Rangers equaliser that was nothing compared to how I would feel 20 minutes later as news of what had happened began to filter through. 

The tragedy of the events of that day and what happened on stairway 13 will never be forgotten by the families who were robbed of  brothers, husbands, nephews, and sons and communities who were deprived of friends and neighbours. Now almost 50 years on  (this year marks the 46th anniversary of the tragedy) it will to some seem like just another distant event in our city’s history. For  those who were around at the time however it has without doubt a far greater significance. 

You see I may only have been a 9 year old at the time but you have to remember that in the days before mobile phones families had no way of knowing if their loved ones would make it home until they actually did. The relief when my relatives particularly the Rangers supporting ones who included my godfather made it to our house for the New Year gathering was clear for all to see and irrespective of our loyalties, we could get on with our lives. Other families were however not so lucky and when they got a knock on the door it was from the police informing them on the loss of their loved ones. 

If I can conclude this post with only one message it would be this. We as Celtic fans have always said and I believe with some degree of justification that we are a club like no other with the best support in the world. This minute of silent contemplation gives us the chance to prove it to the rest of the world particularly the British nationalists who misreport every little detail with regards to our club in what passes for the Scottish mainstream media.  Make no mistake these people are no friends of Celtic and one word or whistle out of place will give them the excuse they were looking for castigate our club and our supporters. Let’s not give them that opportunity let’s keep a dignified silence and as we do so let’s walk a mile in the Rangers fans shoes by imaging that Colin Stein had opened the scoring and it was Jimmy Johnstone who had equalised for us. It could have been our fans who had been mourning the loss family, friends, and relatives. Remember that and for one minute honour the memory of those who went to a game never to return. Then when the silence is over sing at the top of your voices and inspire the hoops to victory. 

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X 

Marching Backwards

Hey Readers

It is my considered opinion that there is something very wrong with politics in democratic nations. With regards to the UK, there has been a disturbing rise in the number of racially motivated attacks in the aftermath of the Brexit vote and there have also been a significant increase in transphobic and disability related hate crimes.

Whilst not everyone who voted to leave the European Union is a racist and many decent and honourable socialists voted to leave for a completely different set of reasons but there can be no denying that post Brexit Britain has unleashed a very unhealthy strain of right wing British Nationalism which if unchecked could see Britain more divided than at any time since the 1930’s.

As a supporter of Scottish independence some people might say this should please me but those who make such wild assumptions do not know me and will never know me. I may be a member
of the Scottish National Party but I was raised an internationalist and I will hopefully many years from now die an internationalist. So believe me when I say I take no pleasure in watching this horror story unravel and the recent victory of Donald Trump will I fear drive this right wing agenda still further. It is with this division and politics of fear clear in my mind I have written this poem entitled Marching Backwards I hope you find it a challenging and thought provoking read.

Marching Backwards

Good morning Britain

I am now going give you a wake up call

ignore it and one day you will be

welcome to the UKKK

an insular xenophobic
small minded island

led by a right wing authoritarian regime

where a very privileged few
will fan the flames of fear

Who needs the facts when you have cheerleaders

like the BBC and 90 per cent of broadcast media.

If we try to find the truth they’ll ban the internet especially Wikipedia

they may deprive us of our human rights

but they’ll do it under the guise

of keeping us safe at nights

whilst numbing our minds

by remote control

EastEnders and Coronation Street

are light family viewing

not manna for the soul

but this is their strategy

they want you to talk about some fictional characters

having problems with their sexuality

this will prove how liberal you are

to friends and neighbours in your street

and your drinking companions at the bar

providing nobody like that lives next door to you

that would to be too much to handle

in this new fantasy land

where the only scandal is getting caught with your morals down

It just isn’t right and all those Muslims and other foreigners

frighten granny’s in Gloucester,

though she won’t say that when visiting her Syrian doctor

or her Bosnian care worker

In this land of strivers and shirkers

her Polish bank manager is always so nice and eager to help

but in this gray unpleasant land

she and her fellow Brits tell anyone willing to listen

this is their United Kingdom

so everyone else has to look , think , speak like them

they see 10 Downing Street
as the epicentre of civilisation

believing that Jesus once walked in their nation

claiming foreign fields as forever English

forgetting or dismissing that Scotland Wales and at least a small part of Ireland

are still for the moment form part of the United Kingdom

they talk about only when it suits

meanwhile as union flags, flutes and Nazi salutes

are dismissed as harmless fun

tabloid Tories like The Sun, The Mail, and Daily Express

make me proud I voted yes in the independence referendum

and if they think I’ll by led like sheep to Armageddon

they must be living in an alternative reality

televised trivialities will not stop me

 pursuing my vision of a better world

where inclusion and attainment are not dirty words

and aspiration is viewed as normal

not dependent on a formal by which I mean private education

we must remove walls not build them

to keep others out

this isn’t what progress is about

nor is it about labelling, demonising, or stereotyping

to provide the few with silver linings

at the expense of everyone else

this mind thyself attitude

which puts Britain first

is the refuge of the cursed

the curse which if ignored

could see the wolf enter through the back door

and wreck havoc if unchecked

this is supposed to be
a nation of fairness and respect

where all lives matter

but the shaven heads who hold their flags

and chant Rule Britannia

don’t agree

these poster boys for the BNP
Britain First

and others on that side of the political spectrum

are the kind of Brits who don’t contest elections

this type of subject has no time

for anything as complex as choice

only wanting one nation one voice, one race

the world will be a safer place
they claim

point the finger of what they see as shame

at any group they don’t like

disabled people, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender

people of different ethnicities

these people are not truly British

according to their way of thinking

as the sinking ship austerity

brings their ideas into the mainstream

if this poem doesn’t make uncomfortable reading

we have not learned the lessons of history

and will be condemned to repeat its mistakes

by marching backwards to the right.

@ Gayle Smith 2016.