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(Image:Commons File Meuble Heraldique Main

Zigeuner, Author Lobsterthermidor 11 Oct 2015 UTC)


Right hand

 Nae Surrender!

The Red Hand of Ulster, to Clyde-side kids,

was seared into psyches via covert ink,

which proclaimed ‘King Billy!’ on closed desk lids,

beside ‘I think, therefore I am – I think.’


None of us knew what The Red Hand meant, though

class-mates ran the gauntlet, after the belt

had been strenuously applied.  And so

this palm symbolised what we had all felt:


the stinging slash; the shock in the belly.

We would shout: ‘F.T.P!’ and ‘Ban the Tawse!’

should King Billy march on Lochgelly,

torching two-tongued ‘Heavyweights,’ to applause.


Belts could split chalk at one stroke -and wrists too,

sometimes for a mere three spelling mistakes.

We’d fight The Battle of the Boyne anew

for all those dyslexia victims’ sakes.


Dyslexia was unknown in Scoltand-

1960/1690: who’d know?

The only way to soothe a belted hand

was to stick it in your oxter, then blow;


not bawl: a shirt tail nasal convenience.

We’d grip a pencil stub and break its lead,

scoring: ‘I hate History…and Fenians!’

while the Commonwealth blushed overhead.


We confused ‘Fenians’ with ‘High Heid Yins.’

‘Sinister?’ – we grasped no heraldic lore.

We hadn’t heard how the Irish chose kings;

nor how The Hand had landed on the shore.


‘Red and green should never be seen-except

on an Irish colleen,’ it was said.

When my mother made me wear green, I wept:

blue was for Rangers; distinction inbred.


The lines on every palm are different,

whether it’s a Papist’s, or a Protestant’s.

In school we found red hands no deterrent;

we were all punished, whatever our slant.

The brave battle cry was : ‘Nae Surrender! ‘

This was essential to boost our morale,

while learning an alien agenda,

yet trauma would last through the interval.

( Image: The Dominie Functions by George Harvey, 1826

Abbot House, Dunfermline

Own work : Kim Traynor 5/11/2011)

  • oxter: armpit
  • Lochgelly- where John Dick made the tawses
  • F.T.P- ‘F- the Pope!’