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Bye Bye Black Sheep

May 27, 2013

by Roger McGough

The comic “… ended up marrying a Protestant” and the gently ironic final line – typical McGough.  This is from his 1986 collection Melting into the Foreground. 

Volunteering at seventeen, Uncle Joe
Went to Dunkirk as a Royal Marine
And lived, not to tell the tale.
Demobbed, he brought back a broken 303,
A quiver of bayonets, and a kitbag
Of badges, bullets and swastikas
Which he doled out among warstruck nephews.

With gas-flame blue eyes and dark unruly hair
He could have been God’s gift. Gone anywhere.
But a lifetime’s excitement had been used up
On his one and only trip abroad. Instead,
Did the pools and horses. “Lash me, I’m bored,”
He’d moan, and use language when Gran
Was out of the room. He was our hero.

But not for long. Apparently he was
No good. Couldn’t hold down a job.
Gave the old buck to his Elders and Betters.
Lazy as sin, he turned to drink
And ended up marrying a Protestant.
A regular black sheep was Uncle Joe.
Funny how wrong kids can be.

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