Twenty five years on, a disaster recalled

Posted: August 22, 2013 in Popular Culture et al





What will they do, little Michael?

When they take you home again to Derby?

What will they do

with you?


What filled your eight year old mind on that giant red and white boat?

Already tucking into your half portion of fish fingers

while grown ups slurped their first sea-beer?

Slopping some down their fronts,

in the gentle swell behind the harbour wall?

Did you slap the ketchup bottom alarmingly,

to disapproving glances from them all?

Or were you going into battle on the Space Invaders

with your new found friends,

the moment-by-moment bosom buddies

never seen before or since?


And what will they do with you, Michael

when they get you home to Derby?

Will they put you with Aunts and Uncles you never really liked?

I bet they buy you a new bike.


Down on the car deck, one minute is all it took

to greedily, greenly swallow up

the 81 cars, 3 buses and 47 lorries, when at exactly 18.9 knots

and 90 seconds after leaving the harbour the

sea came surging in, sucking its way into corridors,

wrapping itself in an embrace around bulkheads and pillars.

Toppling the crew where they stood, aghast.

Sixty brief seconds of tilting. Filling. Falling.


Could we give you words, Michael?

Could we give you words to tell us what it’s like

to one minute


have a Mum with crinkled washing up hands

and a Dad who takes you to the footie to cheer the County

and a Grandpa who remembers the black, sooty pit and the war

and a Grandma who smells peacefully of lavender water

and an Aunt who makes apple tart the way you like it


and when you get home to Derby

they’re all gone

and you’ve got a new bike?


Herald of Free Enterprise was an English Channel ferry. It capsized

on the night of 6 March 1987, just after leaving the Belgian port of

Zeebrugge, killing 193 passengers and crew – the worst maritime

disaster involving a British ship in peacetime since 1919.

The entire event took place in less than a minute.

  1. Oh boy, Yolly, this one’s a keeper. You could write a balad with these words.


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