The young may go, but the old must go by Daniel Bowman

‘Manx is a doomed language – an iceberg
floating into southern latitudes.’
William Gill, 1859

Eyes always closed now,
thin lids fluttering
like a moth, trapped in a gas lamp.
Eyes that taught me to wink.

Who knew if he’d been listening?
He had stopped speaking
and he never wrote anything down.

He doesn’t want to be here
and really he isn’t.
He’s on the Manx Steam Railway,
part way up Snae Fell.

Ginny the witch went over the house
To fetch some sticks to lather the mouse

Holidays in Laxey
fraught with long-tailed fellas.
Friendly noises, words,
spoken in such high spirits.

Slaynt as shee
As eash dy vea
As maynrys
Son dy bra

He and uncle round the Christmas table,
I learnt the words but guessed the spellings.
He never wrote anything down.

Drinking, smiling.
They have a word: Brabbag,
for warming legs up by the fire.
He’d embarrass my gran:

‘Did I tell you, lad, when I met Barbara?’
‘Eric give over!’
‘We were working on the lights at Huddersfield Tech
and your gran walks past with her trolley.
Show ‘em how you were walking, love.’

I smirk and he winks at me.
My gran jabs him with a smile
and a shake of the head
for making her feel nineteen again.

To health
And peace
And length of life
And happiness forever.

But loud now.
Cul na henya!
Competing voices.
The closed eyes.

The clag baase.

‘You’re like me, lad,
you don’t like noise.
You don’t like arguing.’

We’d play with his trains.
‘They’re not toys, they’re models’.
I know PWM, CTC,
signals, cranes, lights, horns,
all NMRA compliant.

Now I’m a right Gandy Dancer.
Now we have our own language too.

Goll shee dy lhergy –
He’s heading out,
but out means west.

The Manx line lies
Clearboard up and feeder inactive
Deadhead trains run down the spur.
He went without a word.


I spoke at his funeral.
The words I found written in block capitals
on a square of homosote
the same colour as his face.