Cadfael's pictures of flooding in Childwall reminded me of "Solomon's Vaults" (as I thought of it) that, when it rained, used to flood my grandad's back garden, and then I recalled the following poem that I wrote:
When Roy and I Dug to Find Solomon's Vaults
Mr. McDougall, the chandler, an ex-footballer,
played for Liverpool and Scotland, but you couldn't
see his nobbly and scarred fullback's knees
for his long gray coat; his shop smelled of Esso blue
paraffin and soap and cold steel chains.
He rented Roy and me the spades we'd employ
to find Solomon's Vaults, the stream that flowed
underground through our Mossley Hill suburb,
wriggled on an antique map south from Rose Lane,
past where Nanna's house stood on Aigburth Hall
Avenue--when it rained hard, Grandad's greenhouse
stood islanded, his Queen Liz roses drowned.
I’d read about a famed quack, Dr. Samuel Solomon,
marketed his Balm of Gilead, a concoction of brandy
and herbs and made a fortune circa 1800. I only
learned years later the cordial was sold to control
masturbation: "a destructive habit of a private nature."
He flogged it to society across Britain and Empire,
--three spoonfuls of his Balm of Gilead would revive
Roy and me after our dig to find his Vaults,
for we dug and dug, and found only orange clay. Grandad
gave us each half a crown--he didn't need to turn over
the potato patch that spring. We had blisters on our
hands, a hole deep enough to reach Singapore.
Christopher T. George
A related poem which also mentions Mr. McDougall is this one:
The Bombers of Mossley Hill
I had read in a comic the details of the how-to
make a bomb, we’d use ammonium nitrate
fertilizer and petrol (paraffin might do).
Today, you’d just find it on the Internet,
in this new age of microchips and lasers.
Thus, in our Rose Lane School black blazers
with our red rose stitched over our hearts,
we Scouse hardknocks (fear didn’t faze us),
embarked on our sortie into the black arts,
to darken the shop of Mr McDougall, chandler,
but the canny retired fullback did ably handle us.
A vision of blasted limbs raised by our infernal list,
thus with a whiff of sulphur, with little fuss,
we were sent packing past Mr. Hull the chemist,
past Cousin’s the bakers, and the Co-op butchers.
Christopher T. George