(Image:Commons File Meuble Heraldique Main
Zigeuner, Author Lobsterthermidor 11 Oct 2015 UTC)
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!’