Saturday, 8 September 2018


Our Dolly

Like her sisters before her, she’s
more than a figurehead, fishwife

or a painted charm for good luck.
Our Dolly doesn’t take kindly

to being gawped at and mocked
by rowdy folk who take liberties,

pose for selfies and pocket pieces
of Dolly to take home. A different story

if you’re about to go to sea, she will
protect you, be a beacon to bring you

back home safely. Our bonny lass
Dolly watches over the beloved Tyne,

she bears our proud history, a lifetime
of industry, shipbuilding, hard graft and coal.

Catherine Graham


A Girl In Every Port Of Call

With duty done, the hammocks swing with talk of waiting girls,
A familiar name rings out in every sea salty heart:
Mine is called 'Dolly' ……. mine is called Dolly too.
I sleep with her under my pillow, I dream of her every night,… I do too.
I know she keeps me safe,….. I know that too.
Dolly will be waiting for me on the North Shields quay, even after dark…. mine will be too.
Dolly loves me, I keep her pressed close to my chest,… Dolly loves me and my chest too.
But does Dolly really yearn for all her besotted beaus?
Does she grieve alone when the Luttine bell tolls?
Or, does she cast another sweeping, mysterious spell across the wide divide?
Eagerly anticipating the cut of a keen new blade that will once more take her out to sea?
Will she mourn when the great oceans give up their many sunken souls?
Will the knife-wielding, rival suitors clash over Dolly’s unrequited love?
Will loving dissection and briny erosion completely dispel Dolly’s contagious myth?
Only the inscrutable, waiting Dollies know.
After all, this is their seafaring tale,
And they are saying nothing.


The new girl on the block

In 1958 the ghosts of past dollies

gather up their skirts and their baskets
and their warnings and rush
to Northumberland Square
to warn the newcomer
about men with knives

They stand in a cosy huddle
comparing wounds and scars
and talk of cuts here
and spelks there
and whether it did any good
and was it bloody worth it

They try to persuade the new lass
to come down to the Jungle
for a few drinks and whatever else
might arise but she says
she might join them later,
mebbes in sixty years or so.


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