Civil War, Each Way

by Niamh Donnellan

The weather was fine for the races,
For the crowds on the ten o’clock train.
From Broadstone to Fairyhouse Bridge
The gamblers and day trippers came.

Those in the know had stayed home.
But most, having gotten no call,
Thought freedom can wait, life is short.
They’d soon hear from Liberty Hall.

The gorse by the roadside was blooming.
And little birds sung in the trees,
As ponies and traps trotted past
Bowsies reclined in the weeds.

The Castle was quiet that Easter,
So officers made for the races.
Their motor cars chugging past walkers
And kicking up dust in their faces.

The going was in splendid order.
The horses parading the ring.
The owners and jockeys conversing
The royalty of steeplechasing.

Some chose Civil War in the National.
He had won it a few years back.
But All Sorts came cantering home.
The winner, away in a hack.

Then Treachery in the 4.40.
A fine filly well worth a punt.
Only to fall at the last.
The joys of the national hunt!

By the last race the rumours lay heavy
From the grandstand to outside the gates
Of terrible happenings in Dublin.
Shooting all over the place.

Officials returned to the Castle.
Volunteers took to their bikes.
Drunken or sober they answered the call.
Brave men and cowards alike.

A fifty to one bet come galloping home.
The favourite was shot where he fell.
The rising and fall of a gambler’s lot.
Lady Luck rode ‘tween heaven and hell.

Reproduced with kind permission of the author. This poem will feature on the Poetry Jukebox installation in IMMA from October 2023 to April 2024.