John Hume has dementia, and cannot remember what he achieved in bringing peace to Northern Ireland. We should not allow the world to not remember.
I had the privilege of meeting him when he delivered the Glasgow Fabians Lecture in the late 1980s. (I also bought him a drink. Or maybe two)
This poem is about him and Seamus Heaney.
The St. Columb’s Old Boys Club.
John said let us spill not our blood, but our sweat together,
His father taught him on St Patrick’s night you can’t eat a flag
Seamus made poetry’s redress with words as harsh as weather
And gave it a glorious shake in the Good Old Rattle Bag
And John left off with a whiskey from the priesthood way
To give his people cross-border credit in unions where it was due
Seamus put poet’s pen to Ulster paper to grapple and to play
With lines to define like the Bann and Foyle and make the world anew –
So bordered, confessional lives need be not blessing nor curse
The craft and sweat of labour that those obdurate men could give
Bring blessings in themselves to save them and us from worse
Making room to argue out loud together as well as love and live
John, Seamus, from two-name city, an island, people, province of divide
From a school that made peace and poetry equally Nobel prized.