Visiting the Ancestors
We come to Aberdeen in the evening,
plan to stay the night
and pass through Dundee the next day
to visit the ancestors.
We didn't count on North Sea oil.
Rows and rows of B & B's in grey granite
all have their signs out : "No Vacancy"
The big hotel offers us an executive suite,
three hundred pounds a night, too flash for us.
Finally we find a phone booth,
drive south on the motorway,
leave them all behind.
Machines whirring at the Verdant Works
where great grandfather William is busy spinning ropes.
Young Edith skips in the street outside the "steamies"
where her mother does the laundry. Her big sisters
rolling hoops on the cobblestones.
The smell of marmalade wafts towards us from Keillor's factory.
Newsboys are calling – Scott lost in the Antarctic,
and away in the south the rigging creaks as his ship
makes its slow way back to rest at anchor here.
It’s crewed by great grandfather Samuel's navy mates
from the days before a wife and children anchored him to shore.
Later his son will meet the girl from Dundee
and make her his wife, but for now
they all disappear into the night
as we drive past Dundee in the dark.
copyright Catherine Fitchett
first published in Takahe no 74
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(Thanks to my daughter S for assistance with the new layout of my blog. The header was put together from photographs of a sculpture situated at Paihia School in the Bay of Islands. More on the sculpture in this story