“We tramped through narrow dew set paths
lined with gorse, it’s barbed wire limbs waving
warning trophies of rent clothing; a BMX,
abandoned in the no man’s land of briar
and bramble. Machinery lost to thorn. Oak bars
marked the path, submerged into mud and gravel;
cut and regular; moss coated, surrounded
by pennywort, yarrow and timothy.
With no incline, there seemed no need
for the reinforcement but following the path,
the gorse thinned and revealed a threnody
of tarmac and asphalt. The mystery beams
revealed themselves as sleepers, once attached
to a railway line that serviced the shipyard,
bringing steel and rivet to the pride of Scotland.
The track barely seen beneath pitch and aggregate
was not the victim of Beeching’s decimation
but – with the collapse of an industry – an attempt
at hiding the scale of the loss. Broken lines
and corroded fishplates stacked between derelict
pontoons – rusted and sheared – hinting
at a past of engineers, berths and precision.
The final ship refused to slip the tallow,
as if she knew she would be the last to leave.
Not even burning the fat moved her from the runners.
When she finally left, the dock gate closed
against the main, preventing the flow of fresh
sea water, leaving the pool stagnant and stinking.
An oily film, the only colour in a sepia landscape,
dazzles against the ochre algae in the thin March sun. “
From “The Shipping Forecast”
Originally published in The London Magazine.