Pay off at the Silo (Paul O’Brien)


It’s the pay off at the Silo

And they’re picking men again

They gather ‘round the notice board

To read the list of names

The handful, the chosen ones

To wind the business down

Though comrades will all move on

And the here, the work is done


The forklifts stand as idle

As the men in empty sheds

The older ones are quiet now

They shrug and shake their heads

The younger men are giddy

Swapping numbers, telling jokes

They make their plans and talk too loud

Then silence as they smoke


It’s the pay off at the Silo

And another curtain falls

While seagulls cry forlorn along

Redundant harbour walls

Like the spirits of the men who were

Once the heart and soul

Of a dockland town, within a town

They no longer call their own


The old hands will sit out their time

As the young ones move away

To suburbs and factory floors

Or whatever pays the way

Away from the little helpers

And the shovels, number nine

And family names that meant so much

Ah, once upon a time


In quiet almost empty bars

They once had filled with song

Old men nurse their glasses

Their drinking almost done

They whisper now and then a name

Of another that has passed

And when the silence it returns

They wonder who’ll be last


It’s the pay off at the Silo

And again a curtain falls

In Sailortown or along the Clyde

Or Dublin’s own North Wall

On the people who once

Were the very heart and soul

Of dockland towns within the towns

They no longer call their own