Following on from my uncle John’s poems, here are two more from a late uncle, but from one I never met: my Mum’s brother Murray Lane, who died in 1942 aged 21 (his story is told here). Finding this envelope in the archive was like finding buried treasure for me. The envelope is addressed to Auntie in her hospital ward in Guildford in February 1972, where she lay with a broken hip following a fall at her home, and contains 2 short handwritten letters and 2 typed sheets. One of the letters is from my eldest brother, then aged 14, and it reads: “While you are in hospital, I thought you might like to read these two poems which I have included. They are ‘Christopher Columbus’ and ‘Sir Francis Drake’ by Mum’s brother. I am glad to hear that you are well and cheerful, and hope that you will be out of hospital soon, and that we shall be able to visit you.” Mum’s brief covering note adds: “The boys think the ‘poems’ are great stuff. My brother used to write a lot of nonsense rhymes when he was about their age & these two, the only survivors, came to light when we moved upstairs. Everyone is asking after you. Do hope you had a more comfortable night last night.”
These are indeed all that remains of the poems and songs written by my unknown uncle, which is a shame as, although they are clearly juvenile stuff (and very much of their time, which would have been the 1930s), he had apparently developed quite a talent before his tragically early death. So here it is: the only surviving poetry of Charles Murray Lane.
“The world is round” Columbus cried,
“I’ll show you I’m a trier,
I’ll sail the seas to prove my point,
In the good ship Black Maria.”
The ship was ready that very day,
But the crew said “We no can go”
So a jazz-band stood on the quarter-deck,
Playing a Spanish tango.
That made the varlets waken up,
They sprang aboard with gusto,
They smelt the spuds in the galley below,
And gave a cry, “Ah, Bisto!”
They sailed and sailed and sailed and sailed,
Until the crew got ratty-
You see, they couldn’t buy hair-ceam,
To make their bald heads natty.
But Columbus was a brainy lad;
He had a tube of glue,
He mixed it with hot water,
And he gave it to the crew.
“Stick it, milads!” cried Columbus,
“We’ll sight land one fine day,
And when we get to Hollywood,
I’ll see you get your pay.”
“Land ahead,” the lookout cried,
As he stood on his spindle-shanks –
“The natives here are dentists,
So let us call them Yanks.”
But Columbus was not impressed
By the land of Yeah, “And How”
He told his crew to get on board –
“I think we go home, now.”
Sir Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake was a warrior bold –
The scourge of the Spanish Main;
He singed King Phillip’s curly beard,
And the Spanish king raised “Cain.”
“Say, dis palooka’s getting fresh,”
Said Phil to his bodyguards,
“We’ll have to give dat guy de works,
Get out and get him, pards.”
To Plymouth Hoe they sailed that day,
To haul Drake o’er the coals,
But did old Frankie care two hoots?
No – he was playing bowls!
Frank straightened out his old school tie,
“The bounders, the cads” he said,
“Just wait till I’ve finished my game of bowls –
Then I’ll give them a dose of lead.”
When stumps were drawn at close of play,
And Frank had holed in three,
He saddled his noble steed Black Bess,
And then he put to sea.
Frank took his shooter from his side,
And gave one mighty blow –
The peas flew out like cannon-balls,
The Spaniards sank below.
When good Sir Frank returned that night,
The blighter landed lucky –
Queen Liz sent out her Royal Command –
“Come up and see me, ducky.”
To London Town old Frankie went,
Deck’d in his posh new suit;
And there Queen Liz gave him a “Mark”
“The Order of the Boot.”
Who knows what Murray may have gone on to be, had he survived the war – composer, songwriter, poet, comedy writer? Perhaps he would have entertained us on the BBC radio, or even TV. I do know he would have made a lovely uncle. And I hope these youthful ditties of his brought Auntie some cheer in her hospital bed, as she never did come out of hospital. She died there shortly afterwards, and we never saw her again.