The Pier Head 1950


Saturday nights in a world before TV:
black smuts on white shirts like boys’ thoughts.
‘They’ll come out in the wash,’ mothers would say.
Sixth Formers, confusing ideals with ambition,
and with nothing to do,
moved between the soapboxes,
searching for the best arguments,
as the eyes of the Liver Birds looked down,
on Communist and Rationalist,
Protestant Truth and Catholic Truth,
each claiming to be smut free.
Fogs on the Mersey come in with the tide
and shortly the buses will cease to run,
the gangways are rising
and the pilot boat
is heading for the bar
as the pubs fill up on the dock road
and the overhead railway rattles by.
Railway and pilot boat,
the first, a fixed-track mind,
the second navigates the Mersey
knowing what to avoid,
sandbank and mudbank
and the abandoned wrecks of time,
never confusing appearance with reality
on its journey to the sea.
That river was my education!


By Albert Radcliffe