Dubliner, Mícheál Holmes, married with two adult children, spent thirty-five years as a radio producer and presenter. He was Raidió na Gaeltachta’s Dublin and Dáil correspondent for a period but most of his time was with RTE Radio One where he worked on its daily features, current affairs, and documentary output. This is his first venture into newly composed verse – a 21st-century collection modelled on Hilaire Belloc’s “Cautionary Tales for Children” (1907.)
Rebecca lived in Broadbigg Hall
With fifteen windows in each wall;
With pillared porch and gilded lobby
A snooty girl, all smug and snobby.
Her hair adorned with huge pink bow
Of no real use…. t’was just for show.
She sneered at all the Broadbigg locals
Dismissing them as “Twits and yokels.”
She owned twelve dolls, three boats, a tractor;
Exquisite all, in manufacture
A cushioned swing, neath her own oak,
A garden train that puffed real smoke.
But Becky jeered both girls and boys.
When parents asked “Please share those toys
With village Jane or village Jimmy,”
Shrieked “No, they’re mine!” and “Gimme, Gimme!”
One Sunday, then, at Broadbigg Fair
Beribboned Becky turned up there
And scoffed cream tarts, never sharing,
While famished children stood there staring.
She spied a vendor of balloons
With gas inside, outside, cartoons.
“I’ll spoil these ragamuffins’ fun
And buy the lot, yes, every one.”
“My man,” said Becky, “name your price
To own just one will not suffice”
She bought them all and clinching things,
The seller handed her the strings.
This haughty miss, of manners rotten
By gravity was soon forgotten
The gasbags yanked her from the ground
She soon was swung high up and round
Thinking quickly, she let go
But strings got caught in her pink bow
And soon was over rooftops swept
While goggle-eyed, she wailed and wept.
Over streets and shops she drifted;
Around the village, square was lifted.
At last against the church clock smashed
The balloons all burst as Becky crashed.
The big hand snagged her ribbon pink
Then slowly moved and made her sink
Against the clock face, forced to dangle,
While this brass pointer changed its angle.
For first it marked out five past four
To ten past creaked, a little lower
To quarter past, I must relate,
At twenty past, she met her fate.
The pink bow slipped from off the hand
You’d think her downfall had been planned.
This stuck-up miss dropped from the steeple
And perished, looking down on people.
Thereby reminding one and all,
The truth of “Pride must have a fall.”
On meeting Desmond in the street
You’d say t’was heaven’s gift to greet
A child of such angelic air,
With sparkling eyes and curly hair.
But ask his brothers or his sis.
If Dessie’s ways reflected this,
You’d hear them mumble words of loathing
About a wolf in woolly clothing.
Confiding in this tete-a-tete
“What you see ain’t what you get.
That dreadful boy can’t lose a game
Or his short fuse will burst to flame.”
They’d tell, with barely hidden panic,
Of moods so vicious and volcanic,
If spoilsport Dessie did not win
Then, that’s when whisper turned to din
Let’s pick some gentle pastime, so,
Say, Hunt the Thimble or Ludo
This malcontented little man
Hated being an “also ran”.
Madder than the maddist madders
When outdone at Snakes and Ladders,
He’d vent a slow ascending whine
Like fighter jets, but less benign
And then with one almighty roar
Sweep dice and counters to the floor.
Like sprinklers in a summer’s drought
From his eyes huge tears would spout.
Stuck one day with Scrabble “Q”
With little hope of helpful “U”
He screeched so loud he shifted planks
Which held the attic’s water tanks.
His companions heard the rumble
And from the living room did tumble.
Quite deafened now, by his own roaring
Dessie heard no water pouring,
Till a mighty flood burst through the ceiling
In cold cascade most unappealing
And in a whirlpool reeling round
Within a wink the boy was drowned.
If you turn on the waterworks,
Fate can sometimes display quirks,
By bawling more than you should do
The waterworks could turn on you.