The Percy French Prize for comic verse  2015


1st Dee Gaynor,  Kent, England             Pant-up Frustration

2nd Siobhan Flynn, Dublin, Ireland     The Ballad of Daisy McHugh

3rd Peter Goulding, Dublin, Ireland     The oul wans up above in Ballinrobe


1st prize Dee Gaynor, England Pant-up Frustration

Pant-up Frustration


When I was teenager I followed each new trend

My ever-changing outfits drove my mother round the bend

I wore some odd creations that were really quite bizarre

But perhaps this latest fashion fad has gone a bit too far


I think myself as liberal but I’ve been left amused

And, yes, if I am honest, a little bit confused

As to why so many of today’s young men and teens

Have their underwear and backside hanging from their jeans


The sagging look requires the belt to fasten round the thighs

Creating sights that frankly, are not easy on the eyes

I’m sure the guys who sport this style must think they look fantastic

I’d like to take their trousers home and sew in some elastic


I marvel at these fellows as they move around the town

With silly walks they have to do to stop things falling down

Yes, I may be old fashioned but it surely can’t be hip

To lurch as if a crucial part got caught up in your zip


They shuffle as if suffering from awful constipation,

Requiring urgent surgery and hospitalization

And anyone who wants to have their undergarments seen

Ought to make the effort to ensure that they are clean


Perhaps I’m too long in the tooth and simply getting old

But I would think the lack of clothing makes the botty cold

It must get rather draughty when a gust of chill wind hits

Blowing up an icy blast around the dangly bits


To those who will insist to wear their jeans below the crutch,

Please bear in mind for some of us it’s just a bit too much

So take pity on this woman and hear her as she rants

“I don’t want to see your bum – so please pull up your pants!”




2nd Prize The Ballad of Daisy McHugh       Siobhan Flynn, Dublin, Ireland


A bunch of the girls were whooping it up in the Karaoke saloon;

Carmel was leading the rest of the gang in singing a Neil Diamond tune;

Back of the bar, watching the door, sat Dangerous Daisy McHugh,

And watching her watch was the waiting line of ladies outside the loo


When one of the girls, who was fifty or more, and drinking a gin and lime

Spotted a man, who when asked said “divorced”, not young but still in his prime

He looked like a man with a need to be loved and a house to call his own

He had some of his hair and most of his teeth, and his children were surely grown.

They couldn’t quite place the stranger’s face, though they searched themselves for a clue;

But they drank his health, and the last to drink was Dangerous Daisy McHugh.


There’s men that somehow grip your sight, and you just can’t look away;

Your brain instructs your eyes to watch and you wish they’d disobey

His face was red as a well slapped arse and shone like a sticky bun

But he went to the bar and ordered a drink and knocked it back in one.

All of a sudden I knew who he was, and I knew what he wanted to do,

And I turned my head — and there watching him were the ladies outside the loo.


His eyes went wandering round the room, and he seemed to be kind of afraid

Till at last the karaoke machine fell in the way of his gaze.

The ladies were ordering up more drinks as he’d caused a thirst to strike,

So the stranger stumbled across the room, and dared to pick up the mic

In a Dublin shirt that was glazed with dirt he stood, and I saw him swing;

He turned on the machine with a flick of his wrist — Oh God! but he couldn’t sing.


Were you ever out on a Valentine’s night, when the dinner was awful dear,

And the expectation hemmed you in with a silence you ‘most could hear;

When the waiter, with thoughts of his own romance, encouraged you not to linger,

And you were afraid that the man you were with thought you wanted a ring on your finger;

While everyone else was laughing and kissing with no thought of an obligation

That’s what the music reminded me of. . . a romantic aberration.


The ladies had their drinks in their hands they were ready again to sing

Lil was starting to lose her rag ‘cos she wanted to sing “Wild Thing”

He had stolen the mic right in front of their eyes and now they wanted it back

Sure men are all very well and good but you can’t beat the girls for the craic

But someone else had joined the man while they were deciding what to do

“I guess I’ll make it a duet”, said Dangerous Daisy McHugh.


I almost fainted dead away … the girls leapt on stage like a flood;

And they started to shout “It’s Lil’s turn next” and their eyes were red with blood.

The stranger and Daisy stood their ground and started on “Summer Nights”,

They sang about love that had drifted away and they sang about love at first sight

The girls still had their eyes on the prize they weren’t giving up on the mic

They came from the left and they came from the right and now they were ready to strike

But the stranger said ‘We’re not stopping now, for too long it’s been my dream,

To stand on this stage with the love of my life and sing “Islands in the Stream”;

Well that was too much, the girls called up the ladies outside the loo

They screamed “We thought you were one of the girls, you wagon Daisy McHugh.”


But Daisy smiled, and said “Hold your fire, I’m not that much of a louse

I promised my ex I’d sing with him if he let me have the house.

It’s taken a while for my womanly wiles but today the divorce came through”

So they all stood down, and some went back to waiting outside the loo.


These are the simple facts of the case, and I guess I ought to know.

I was one of the legal team, and I’m not denying it’s so

It was the strangest deal I’ve ever done, but strictly between us two —

She earned every brick of that house did Dangerous Daisy McHugh.




3rd Prize The oul wans up above in Ballinrobe    Peter Goulding, Dublin,  Ireland


This new Broadband that they’ve brought us

makes a hare look like a tortoise –

one click can now transport us round the globe.

I daresay it might well catch on,

but in truth it’s not a patch on

all the oul’ wans up above in Ballinrobe.


Sky News, with sweet Kay Burley,

boasts it gets the news out early

but it’s positively surly when compared

to east Mayo’s chattering legion

that spreads news across the region

before a public statement’s been prepared.


If the daughter of Joe Cronin

puts on weight, they start their phonin’

and the news will soon be known in Glenamaddy

that she’s looking somewhat chubby

and, poor girl, she has no hubby

and Scratcher Byrne is probably the daddy.


And if the swanky Widow Twanky

thinks her secret hanky panky

with the rich, retired Yankee is unknown,

she’ll soon find that her and Boris

have been feted in Claremorris,

where no secret’s safe for long before it’s blown.


And if perchance you win the Lotto

and take up ‘Silence’ as your motto,

don’t whisper sotto voce in your slumbers,

for the whole damned town will know of it

and make a holy show of it

before you’ve had a chance to check the numbers.


Just last week, the phones were buzzin’

‘bout Catriona Earley’s cousin

selling poitín by the dozen in Kilmaine.

And by the time he got to Cong,

the queue was half a mile long

and he’ll never have to sweep the streets again.


Firms like Intel place reliance

on the benefits of science

and, like all commercial giants, they’re outspoken.

But no microchip is speedier

than the Eastern Mayo media,

which never tells you ‘Oops! The link is broken!’


Yes, the tabloids hack maliciously

and eavesdrop surreptitiously,

but no use how perniciously they probe,

they can’t really get a handle

on the speed they spread a scandal

from Kiltimagh to Knock to Ballinrobe.



Shortlisted Poems

Customer Service  Elizabeth Bodien  Pennsylvania, USA.


For quality assurance, note that all

is monitored, recorded from this call.

Observe new menus (not regarding food)

but endless options. Choose with certitude,

or robot voices will repeat in loops–

you’ll be awash in electronic soups.


Don’t wish for normal conversation here.

The automatic answering is clear,

designed for progress, and will serve just fine.

Your call’s important. You’re now twelfth in line.

If menu choices do not meet your needs,

press zero, and an agent intercedes.


But don’t press zero just to speed on through.

The menus were designed for folks like you.

You’ll have to listen first to all the choices

before the system grants those human voices.

Flawed souls, they like old-fashioned conversation,

they’re slow, and give out faulty information.


Some callers even ask where agents are —

in Cincinnati, Rome, or Zanzibar?

While you live somewhere real, like Barcelona,

our voices are smart cyberspace personae.

And when you press the buttons one by one,

consider your requests as good as done.


With far too many callers here on earth,

we cannot honor individual worth.

These cost-effective means best serve the throngs,

not catering to where each poor soul belongs.

But we digress, you need not text or tweet,

just press the star key, menus will repeat.



The Cabbage King     Anna Greenwood, Roscommon, Ireland


The cabbage competition

Was at the county fair.

It was always well attended and

The green elite was there.


John, he was the cabbage king,

His losses were uncommon.

He’d won the contest every year

And was known throughout Roscommon.


His friends had always told him

That he should take a wife,

But the cabbage patch would call him,

The green stuff was his life.


This year John was worried

Because he had a worthy rival.

Every night he tossed and turned,

He was fighting for survival.


Nelly was his neighbor,

A gardener all her life;

This year she’d grown some cabbages

When John refused her as his wife.


The night before the contest,

John crept out with a torch

And shone it on the veggies that

Grew by Nelly’s porch.


He gasped to see the great, green orbs

Glowing in the light,

So much larger than his own,

They gave him quite a fright!


He very quickly hatched a plan,

Full certain it would work.

He spent all that night toiling,

He was never one to shirk.


Daylight came and, at the fair,

The tension quickly mounted;

Row on row of cabbages,

Too many to be counted.


The judges looked at every one,

It took them quite a while,

Then when they reached John’s giant,

They halted with a smile.

It was obviously the biggest

Of everybody’s there.

John’s cabbage was the winner!

The judges did declare.


They took a knife and cut it

To view its compact heart,

But the cabbage then exploded,

Giving everyone a start!


John’s ‘cabbage’ was a beach ball

With carefully glued-on leaves,

Now in bits across the grass,

A crude effort to deceive!


“Your cabbage days are over!”

The judges yelled in fury.

“Stick to other veggies

Or be forced to face a jury!”


But John was not defeated,

He had another plan,

He very soon wed Nelly

And their married bliss began.


Every year you’ll see them win

At several county fairs,

Happy and contented,

In spite of hostile stares.


Yes, despite the bursting cabbage

And in spite of all the doubts,

Nelly always wins with cabbages,

And John wins with his sprouts!


i understand     Michael Swan


(Written after reading right through two prestigious poetry magazines)


I wrote a poem

and I showed it to some people

and they said

‘We understand it.’


And I said



And they said


you don’t understand.

We understand it.’


So I said

‘Oh, right’

and I put in a lot more words

of various kinds,

and a bit about Pheidippides

and an octopus.


But they said

‘We can still understand it.’


So I said


and I added eight lines

about how my father

wanted to be a jazz saxophonist

in the Matto Grosso

but the birds wouldn’t let him,

and I put in a space

after every third line

and indented

like there was no tomorrow

and made line breaks

like you’ve never seen,

and ended

with something my Aunty Eileen said

about a ferret.


And they said

‘This is really promising,

we can’t understand very much,

but the bit about the Hubble telescope

is a shade over-explicit,

you might want to work on that.’


So I added

four French adjectives beginning with a

and a reference to Timon of Athens,

and they said


we don’t understand anything at all.

May we publish it?’


And I said

‘I understand.’