Looking back over the decades from a prolific provider of political poems

David McKinstry casts his poetic eye across the decades of the Elizabeth II’s ‘reign’ over us.

The 1980s were covered by him in his poems in Issue 123 (May/June 2021), the 2010s in ‘The Brexit Boat’ published in Issue 131 (Sept/Oct 2022) and the 2020s were also covered in Issue 125 (Sept/Oct 2021) and in Issue 130 (Jul/Aug 2022). This selection of his poems also covers some other ones we were not able to publish before due to reasons of space.

The 1940s

As winter turned to spring

And Churchill’s bombast stilled,

The nation turned to quiet Clem

Voting for a rebuild.

Up went the homes

Finally for heroes to fit,

Down went the miners

Into nationalised pit.

Nye valued good health

Stuffed doctors’ mouths with gold,

As a price worth paying

For an NHS to behold.

Castle insisted family allowance

To women be paid,

Then came the pension

Taking care of all

From cradle to grave.

Proletarian petals began to flower

In schools that planted sixties swinging,

The light of knowledge shining

To the echoes of Jerusalem singing.

Through blitz storm they stood firm

When Nazi was at the gate,

Then with worn out tools

Turned to build a welfare state.

The 1950s

Supermac declared

You’ve ‘never had it so good’,

For sure,

But was content

To don his tweeds

And escape to his

Private grouse moor.

The Carry On team’s

Slap and tickle humour

To some, seemed banal,

But at least it was funnier

Than invading the Suez Canal.

Elvis thrilled the new teenagers

With his rock and roll passions,

Whilst middle-aged mothers’

Still queued for their rations.

The Goons rioted on the wireless

With their crazed humour,

Whilst news of Churchill’s stroke

Was not a broadcastable rumour.

The fifties, a decade

Before we truly danced

Whilst the Fab Four were singing,

But were still content

To see Ruth Ellis swinging.

The 1960s

The swinging sixties,

Where to start?

On one side the Summer of Love

The other ‘Till Death Us Do Part’.

The winter of sixty-three

Covered the country in a white sheet,

The autumn of sixty-four ushered in Labour

Promising ‘White Heat’.

Jagger swaggered

And sang the Blues,

Whilst Enoch ranted

Racist Views.

In the space race

America shot ahead,

Whilst killing King

And shooting Kennedys’ dead.

The Fab Four started with twee

‘Love me Do’

And ended with rocking

‘Polythene Pam’,

Whilst Baby-boomers

Tuned in and dropped out

Burning incense and a hint of Napalm.

The 197Os

A more naïve and innocent time

Where no one scratched their head,

Whilst Eric and Ernie

Were sharing a double bed.

The miners were still underground

Whilst the Wombles were overground

And Wombling free,

Virginia won Wimbledon

In the silver jubilee.

The only platforms

Were of oil and of shoes,

Whilst ‘Love Thy Neighbour’

Broadcast racist views.

Woolies and Pick n’ Mix

Were our weekly treat,

Whilst thirteen lay dead

On Derry Street.

The seventies, a decade

Of riotous bad taste,

Whilst workers had rights

Before Thatcher’s industrial waste.

The 1990s

Tarantino blazed the silver screen

Travolta and Jackson’s dialogues

Became common diction,

Whilst Major’s government

‘Back to Basics’

Acted out its’ own Pulp Fiction.

Top clubs capitalised

As football became the national creed,

Forming the premiership

To cash-in on their brand greed.

Joey and Chandler

Played out their bromance,

Whilst frenemies Tony and Gordon

Tangoed in their own power dance.

African American youths

Were innovating with Hip-Hop,

Whilst British lads rehashed the 60s

And launched it as Brit-pop

The Spice Girls took over the world

Heard on the radio every hour,

Whilst watching Diana’s funeral cortege

We fell silent

Out of respect for her girl power.

The nineties, a decade

Of nostalgia and innovation,

When Britannia no longer

Ruled the waves,

But Cool Britannia

Ruled the cultural waves.

White Noise

Chained and forced

To sail on Atlantic wave

Some survived,

But for many a mass grave,

This is their holocaust,

This ain’t patter

They are telling us

Black lives matter.

Killing of King

Jailing of Marcus Garvey

And dispensing of the X factor,

This ain’t patter,

They are telling us

Black Lives matter.

Young Black men

Condemned to project schools,

Gaining little knowledge

Fifty fifty the chance

Of prison or college,

This ain’t patter

They are telling us

Black lives matter.

Black people taking the knee

Whilst cops kneel

On George Floyd’s neck,

When are we white folk

Gonna listen?

This ain’t patter

They are telling us

Black lives matter.

Glasgow Sums: A view from my classroom desk

I’m no maths man

But here is my intent

To explain simply,

What is a Glaswegian

Forty percent?

Forty percent

Equals four over ten,

Or approximately

Two score,

Or zero point four,

Or Glaswegian weans

Growing up poor.

It doesn’t matter

If I add or subtract,

Forty percent grow up poor

Is a statistical fact.

That’s what I meant

When I started to

Count a Glaswegian

Forty percent.

Motion Sickness

The cost-of-living crisis

Is not all it seems,

Some big fish are government protected

Through its corporate welfare schemes.

A shark chairman declares

Cost cutting is P&O’s siren sacking call,

In front of a toothless parliament

Thumbing his nose to one and all.

Airlines flying high through furlough

Promising that we will again see the sights,

The chancellor ensuring they are still airborne

Whilst fly guy bosses cut jobs and rights.

Closing ticket offices

And sacking train guards

Are not a health and safety envy,

Whilst international banks

Bid for rail contracts in a feeding frenzy.

The small fish navigate a neoliberal sea

Where insider deals are done,

And corporate welfare schemes net the catch

To the benefit of the privileged some.

Dr David McKinstry Teaches History at Holyrood Secondary in Glasgow.