5 April 2009

The London Tourist Guide

Picture by Caroline

I have been fascinated by Postman’s Park which is a memorial tucked away in the heart of the City of London. There is an excellent blog describing it here. There are also interesting pieces on it here and here. This is my attempt to describe it, written (with apologies) in the style of one of my favourite poems.

The London Tourist Guide

“And here, ladies and gentlemen, only a stone’s throw from St. Paul’s

Is Postman’s Park. On two sides of this grassy strip the towering walls

Of City offices eclipse the sun. The winding path, the ferns and trees,

Stray tombstones like scattered rocks, echo a silent valley floor. Please

Shall we sit and rest a moment? Over to your right you’ll see

The memorial for which this place is known. Fifty three

Victorian ceramic tablets, crafted by Royal Doulton, plain in design,

Immortalising forgotten acts of self-sacrifice. They combine

To tell stories of selfless courage, a registry of heroic acts,

Each plaque detailing with brutal simplicity the facts

Of how one person gave their life to save another.

Harry Sisley of Kilburn, aged 10, drowned in attempting to save his brother

After he himself had just been rescued.” In those few words one cannot tell

The full story of the tragedy, the living hell

Of parents who on the same day lost two small boys

Drowned in each other’s arms. But Harry Sisley’s name lives on

Fired in clay for all to see, and still will be, when you and I are gone

And forgotten. Where are our modern heroes? The ice still cracks.

The fires still burn. Deep water still claims young lives. But would we act?

Or in our indecision simply call for help if faced with tragedy?

Enough. We must move on. Next on our tour we’ll discover the Old Bailey ….”


  1. A big hello and Welcome back! As always great posting! Sensitive and deep, breathes life into stones, brightens darkness, and brings to the fore long forgotten beautiful heroic values and acts. Who said heroism is only limited to the battlefields. I can understand your fascination with Postman’s Park. Perhaps you, Caroline, and the accidental American tourists are an integral part of our modern day heroes for reminding us with these 53 brave souls and the goodness embedded in the human soul.

    I loved the style of the story telling poem. You cleverly used it. All was well until I read the words: ‘Enough. We must move on.’ I found them harsh, abrupt, and contradicting to the aim of your poem. Not sure if you really meant for it to be such a strong transition. I think you could do without them or use something else to soften / ease the transition to the next stop on the tour! While clearly you invited them to ‘sit and rest a moment?’ not forever, by using ‘Enough and move on’ you did not give them a chance to briefly pause and ponder all the deep questions you asked of them. You wanted them to remember, to act, to claim the heroes within. So, help them, leave it open and give them this chance. Let them decide for themselves, whether to quickly and wholly move on to the next stop on the tour, or despite the physical departure, to remain, mentally and emotionally engaged in Postman’s Park!
    This is not a criticism. I would not dare. Your style is beautiful. It is just an innocent observation :-)

  2. Have you seen 'Closer'? Great film and features this park. Another lovely poem - I thought it flowed nicely!

  3. Did you see that they put a new plaque up in Postman's Park this monht - first for 70 years


  4. At 8:57am on BBC4 Today News, they announced a new category added to the updated 2010 version of Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The new entry is: ‘Civilian Heroes.’ They acknowledged Watts ‘Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice’ in Postman’s Park, London.

    Frustrated Poet, you ought to be congratulated too for your early recognition of the importance of Postman’s Park and what it represents. Without a doubt, your moving poem serves as a powerful medium and resonant voice of honouring our civilian heroes.

    Below is an excerpt from the Preface of the new ODNB version and more details on Civilian Heroes can be found at:


    “…A final set of biographies looks at those who have achieved note for acts of civilian heroism since the late-nineteenth century. Individually these are remarkable stories that captured the public’s attention in the immediate aftermath of the event, and have since been celebrated through private memorials and national honours. Collectively they allow us to reflect on changing attitudes to popular heroism, and in particular the emergence and commemoration of the ‘everyday hero’ as a means of shaping debates on public morality…”