Wednesday, 21 March 2012

POETRY: Rhyme Of The Shipwrecked Mariner


Poet’s winning verse celebrates those who gather fish for chips

A Sheffield woman with a terrible fear of drowning has won a poetry competition dedicated to the nation’s mariners, with the prize of having her poem read out by the 'Bard of Barnsley' Ian McMillan.


Maggie Ballinger won the inaugural Seafaring Limerick Competition, launched by the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society (SMS), with her five-line tribute to sailors. The limerick was as much a celebration of the British national dish as it was a celebration of a life at sea.

She wrote:

The swell, and the towering wave,
Cover many a seafarer’s grave.
So to land Britain’s dish,
(What are chips, without fish?)
A man must be strong, skilled and brave.

The announcement of the winning poet was made in time for today – and what better way to mark World Poetry Day (21 March) than by penning a prize-winning poem. The prize in question was to have the poem recorded for posterity by the poet and competition judge Ian McMillan, who performed it in his distinctive Northern style. As winner, Ballinger also received an engraved barometer from the society.

The Sheffield poet said she entered the competition after watching a programme about 30-metre waves; something scientists claimed was impossible until it was proven credible with the result that shipping lanes were changed. Given her fear of drowning, she says she has great admiration for anyone who willingly goes out to sea. This inspired her to write her winning limerickal (sic) tribute, beating off 120 fellow entrants.

“Maggie’s limerick actually covers a number of emotions which is hard to do in five lines: it rhymes, it’s got rhythm, it’s a proper limerick,” said Ian McMillan.

McMillan – or the ‘Bard of Barnsley’ as he is known – is the poet-in-residence for English National Opera and a regular presenter of R3’s The Verb. He also has a strong maritime connection courtesy of his father, who served in the Royal Navy.

The SMS is a charity that provides financial support and advice to retired seafarers in need. Between 2010 and 2011, the charity made regular payments and one-off grants to some 2,644 retired sailors and their families, amounting to over £1.5 million nationally.

Britain’s history and heritage as a maritime nation might be well-known, but according to the organisation it’s continuing reliance on the sea is often overlooked. The maritime sector is worth some £56 billion to the UK economy – more than aerospace and agriculture combined – and directly employs over 410,000 people.

“We were delighted with the response we got to this competition and the creativity of people given just a five line format,” said Malcolm Williams, the society’s Chief Executive. “We really like the winner’s limerick, which is light-hearted, but a serious message on the dangers of the sea and the reliance we have on the sea as an island nation.

“Having someone with the talent and reputation of Ian McMillan judge our competition was a great honour for the society and is especially fitting given his own maritime connections. Every year we see cases of people who have dedicated so much of their lives to our seas and the society aims to support them in times of difficulty.”

See Ian McMillan speak about it here:



Category: NEWS

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