Son of Erin (for Gerry Conlon)

by Aidan Andrew Dun

Gerald Conlon


He’s a West Belfast boy
he’s an Ulster lad
through the Tyrone branch
he’s a Conlon man, sad
that forced conversion
in Sasana, so sad.
In the rivermouth city
raised, it’s too bad
the Troubles took away
the childhood he never had
here’s the Harland
and Wolff shipyard
now he dreams
he’s a sailor like Sinbad
another street-kid
in cold wintertime half-clad;
climbing through the sky
with some comrade
he flies the blue pigeon
on an ironclad
rides Liverpool-bound
with a newspaper ad.

Innocent sailing
to the Promised Land
the downfall of the
Gaelic Order of legend
is seen again in your fate
well-intentioned man
with no real hatred for England
with your long black hair
and your hippy headband
don’t go insane
as you look ahead, damned
sailor destined to be cast up
on the sand
where skulls of madmen
slowly whitened
burn under suns imperial, grand:
fifteen years is a lot to stand
in a prison beneath
the Gardens of Fand.

Sleepless mysteries
looking back at night
as the contraries
lock together tight:
a bed under mirrors
and a house full of light
a prostitutes lair
and the squat out-of-sight
where the goddesses
made you feel alright
but the jealous freaks
still wanted a fight;
and then the whole world
was set alight
with nitroglycerine’s
‘might is right’;
and that was when
the dove took flight,
and disappeared in
the azure height:
and they locked
a scapegoat up in spite,
and Gerry
God forgot about you

Until your father
came to your side
though you cursed him
in your bitter pride.
He came because
you had been denied
your freedom, and he
alongside you suffered
like Christ, for He was tried
and he too, your father
with nothing to hide
was sent down to do
many years inside
and through the pain
of those years you suvived
as they pissed and shat
in your food, applied
lashes with coshes
in your mindstate pried
tried to make you, Gerry
commit suicide.
And when, after your
father had died
and when for your father’s death
you’d cried
and when at last
the prison door stood wide
the judge could only say
‘The officers lied.’


Gerry Conlon One Of The Guildford Four Accused Of The Ira Pub Bombing Murders In Guildford In 1974. He Is Pictured Leaving The Old Bailey With His Sisters In 1989 After Being Freed. Ira Bombings - Mainland


And then the tabloid
monster of Satan
from high-security
jails of Britain
traumatized, ashen
he whose good name
they tried to blacken
whose neck the screws
wanted broken
ran down a one-way street
a free man on News-at-Ten
like shot-from-a-cannon
because now at last
it was known for certain
he’d been treated worse
than a common felon
for fifteen years though
he didn’t weaken
ever become something
less than human
among his solid
Celtic brethren:
the long-suffering Irishmen.

But freedom came
like a dark demon
with the dirty money
of compensation
for the time of your early
manhood stolen
and, Gerry, the cocaine
wouldn’t loosen
as you sought to numb
yourself and sweeten
the memory of all
those years so barren
behind the cell bars
made of iron.

And all I can say
with lips bitten
not expecting
that words can hearten
is that you, Gerry
were never beaten
forgiving even
what they did to you
in prison
all those years, my friend
Son of Erin.


Gerry Conlon dies