The mountain frowned upon the school,
The school stared at the street,
And rich men's sons came there in shoes
While I ran in bare feet.
The rich had meat and cakes to eat,
And butter like the Danes, (1)
While I had only spuds and fish,
And fish, they say, makes brains. (2)
But still the rich boys passed exams
While I kept thin, and thick,
And thanked the stars that he had come
Among us... Brother Mick.
We had the world's slowest clock
That drowsed upon the wall,
While I cursed the Roman scoundrels
That let Caesar loose in Gaul.
There, too, was Euclid with his cuts,
That Peachy, Ring and Chas could do
But they were Greek to me.
And there were sums on trains and tubs
Of water running quick:
'Twas Chinese torture till he came
To save me... Brother Mick.
For Brother Tom no patience had
With duffers such as I
Who never could be taught to solve
The mystery of pi.
And Brother Jim had even less
For those who didn't prize
The hairy men of hither Gaul
As seen through Caesar's eyes.
Then Brother Tom whacked like a bomb,
While Jim could wield the stick.
But that was all before we knew
The smile of Brother Mick.
Still the great Power that will not let
The sparrow fall to earth
Took pity on bewildered brains
No Latin could alert.
For Brother Jim was sent to Trim (3)
To march with Caesar there,
While we sprawled in our desks and heard
The new man on the stair.
We saw him smile as he came in,
His footsteps short and quick;
His name was Brother Michael
So, of course, we called him Mick.
And as the weeks meandered on
We watched with puzzled eye
And wondered if some archangel
Had strayed down from the sky.
He did not shout, he did not clout
But went his gentle way
To bring the light to souls that stood
Full ankle-deep in clay.
He locked the leather in the press
And burned the hazel stick;
‘Twas then we all threw doubts upon
The mind of Brother Mick.
How short is time with one you love,
A year is like a while.
The things you will not do for stick
You learn for a smile.
We passed exams and scholarships,
Our mothers thought us fine,
Though greater than the loaves and fish
The miracle of mine.
The gods be praised I even got
Marks in arithmetic;
'You'll be a second Einstein yet,'
Said surprised Brother Mick.
The big lads reaped their excise jobs,
We all marched to the train
And shook their lordly hands and praised
The old school once again.
The engine panted up the rails,
We flung our cheers out loud
And watched it sprinting past the bridge,
Its whistle long and proud.
And as we laughed we little knew
The card Fate chose to pick,
How soon he'd be an exile too,
Our splendid Brother Mick...
The world has wheeled a lot since then,
Quiet are the hobs of home
And far from me these things are now
As is the moon from Rome.
But I can see the old school still
Stand tall above the street,
I smell the heather from the hill
And hear the running feet.
And in the door he walks again,
His footsteps short and quick,
And back across the years I wave
Goodbye to Brother Mick.