Bobbie Lumsden

Round about the year 1948 the branch of the NUM of Whitburn Colliery handed out their usual leaflet about the balance for that year. One item was very intriguing and it read as follows ‘Wreath £2.10′ and across the page was ‘Robert Lumsden, Bathgate’.

Now the wreath was for a young lad that had been killed in the pit and Robert Lumsden, Bathgate was the florist. But at the same time we had a Robert Lumsden who worked down at the pit bottom for years and everybody knew him.

You can imagine the kiddin’ that went on when the men went down the pit that day. The scene of this wee poem is Bobby Lumsden’s bedroom about 2 o’clock in the morning. Bobby’s sitting up in bed staring in terror at the figure of Death, who with his scythe, is sitting by the fire holding a copy of the East Whitburn Branch bulletin sheet.

Bobbie Lumsden

“Noo Bobbie freen there’s naught tae fear
It’s no in death my business here
I’m jist a poor auld puzzled man
The mair this balance sheet I scan.
f’ve passed this wey a wheen o’ times
An’ ta’en men, in and oot their crimes
But you, ma freen, I’ve surely missed
Accordin’ tae this printed list.

Ye’ll ken auld chap, ye had me scared
I thought, be-jings ye had me snared.
That item there is printed wrang
Ye’ll be aulder yet afore I gang

Mistake, ye say, aye maybe right
But Bob that doesnae help my plight
Yi’re doon here on this sheet as deid,
An’ auld St Peter tae, can read,
That wee misprint I might explain,
Tae square the sheet, they had ye slain
Baith auditors in truth aligned
Wull Cook an’ Wull M’Mahon signed.
They certif ied the wreath’s indent
An’ you were deid afore ye kent’
So Bob, let’s honour their decree
Come on, man, don’t embarrass me.

Haud on! Haud on! Yer hungry heuk
My life as yet, ye daurnae pluek
The Bible promises, Ye’ll ken
‘Nae man wull go afore his ben
Ye’ll ken best whit excuse tae tell
So leave ma hoose, aye leave yersel’

Ah Bob, I wish ye wid consider
If life or death the greatest bidder
There’s naught but strife and worry here
Each added day an added fear
Day in day oot, week efter week
Year efter year, in drudge ye seek
A livelihood frae grudgin’ life.
Soon ended if ye’ll try ma knife.
An Death is no as preacher’s talk
Wi’ warped fancy gane amok
The pictures they hae drawn o’ Hell
Wad territy auld Nick himsel!
Some inconveniences l grant
But pleasures Bob, they arenae scant.

Noo freen, ye neednae try tae coax
Am no for hae’in yon polished box
There may be joys your side the grave
But maybe no the kin’ I crave.
I’ll bide here tae the Lord thinks f it
So wreath or no, l’m no leevin’ yit.

But Bobbie, freen, why dae ye cling
Tae such a poor begrudged thing
Your Union’s ta’en the power o’ Death
An’ usin’ God Almighty’s graith
ln fact they faun’ His method slow
They bocht yer wreath afore ye go,
Come on ma freen an’ tak the hint
It’s dearer tae correct the print
lf gaun the noo ye’ll save their face
An’ keep auld Death fae deep disgrace

It seems ye canna understaun
Plain English – well I am nae gaun
So gird yer robe aboot yer knees
An’ don’t come back tae Bobbie deis.
Sae premature ye’d like tae throttle
An’ me no touched ma Ne’erday bottle.
Awa’ then man, about yer trade
An’ find oot wha this blunder made.

The blunder’s made as blunders are
An’ you ma freen, are left the scar
A mark ye’ll carry tae the tomb
Which aye in front of ye will loom.
Your Union had ye re-assessed
They gave ye what they thought was best
They couldnae force a wage for living
So compromised wi’ what they’ve givin’
But Bob, I see ye’re keen on life
Guid luck tae ye in a’ its strife
But Bob, auld chap, frae whit I’ve seen
Yer unions no as whit it’s been
The fightin’ voice has lost its cry
It’s nothing now but “Pacify.”
Frae whit I’ve seen deep at its core
I’d hang that wreath on Freedom’s door,
So guid nicht Bob that’s a’ I’ll say
I’ll see ye freen some ither day.

John Mallaghan