The Duchess of Kilbride

The Duchess of Kilbride

A Poem by David Lewis Paget

They’d said that he was an engineer

In the grand old age of steam,

I wouldn’t know, I was far too young

I was still in school, at Cheam,

I only knew him as Grandpa, that’s

The only name that I knew,

As he sat with a bottle of whiskey

In his rocking chair, at Kew.


I couldn’t imagine him shovelling coal

In through the furnace door,

As the night express went rocketing down

The grade from Elfin Moor,

I knew that he worked with his brother,

Some old guy called Uncle Jack,

A crusty, hellfire driver

On the steep Newhampton track.


Their loco had been a 4-6-0

And they polished it with pride,

Whenever they took it back to the shed,

The Duchess of Kilbride’,

Jack had been made a driver as

The elder of the two,

But Grandpa hadn’t been happy

To be assigned his number two.


They often bickered and quarrelled

On the footplate, on the run,

When picking up speed on the downward stretch

On the way to Essington,

On such a night in a winter fog

They missed a signal Halt,

When they and the ‘Cameron Hall’ had met,

They said it was Grandpa’s fault.


But he had leapt from the footplate just

Before the trains had wrecked,

Just as a curse from Uncle Jack

Was hurled at Grandpa’s neck,

Jack was dead in the instant that

His curse had filled the air,

While coals from the fire and tender box

Had buried him deep in there.


And as I grew I remember how

My Grandpa used to rock,

Muttering on his rocking chair

About how the brakes had locked,

‘If only you had listened to me,’

I heard my Grandpa say,

‘As God is my only witness, you

Would still be here today!’


He would sit and stare in the darkness

At the track that ran outside,

Carrying modern diesel trains

To the beach and the countryside,

And sometimes he would hear the sound

Of a distant clickety-clack,

And cry, 'The Duchess of Kilbride

Is bringing my brother back.'


He’d never reveal what Jack had said

In that final, screaming curse,

But it preyed upon his mind, and I

Could see he was getting worse,

He would lie abed with his nightmares

And would cry, ‘We’ve missed the Halt!

If only you had listened to me…’

And then, ‘It’s not my fault!’


One night I heard the clickety-clack

Myself, as I lay in bed,

That eerie echoing rhythm, was

Repeating in my head,

Then suddenly it was on us, blazing

Lights as it went by,

I saw the glow from the footplate of

‘The Duchess of Kilbride’.


It hurtled through my bedroom wall

In a ghostly, misty light,

With the brothers on the footplate as

They’d been, that fateful night,

I only caught a moment’s glimpse

Of the face of my Uncle Jack,

Screaming some dark obscenity

As my Grandpa turned his back.


The coaches were full of passengers,

I lay and I held my breath,

These were the final moments of

A train on a date with death,

Once it had gone, I made my way

To where Grandpa lay in pain,

But just one look at his terrified face

Said Grandpa went with the train!


David Lewis Paget


© 2013 David Lewis Paget

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Featured Review

this was the most enjoyable read i have gotten from you in quite some time...that is not to say that your writes aren't all superb...they are indeed, but....this is my favorite , i think , of all your poems i have read. you had me inside a racing locomotive with old bearded men and leading me down an uncertain rail until you drove in that fatal spike...excellent!

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


Another great story, David!

Posted 10 Years Ago

Oh! what a chilling ghostly tale! I really love this one with all the railroad references. I was raised in a railroad town, so I am always thrilled by the mention of them. This was written so well and with such a thrill to it.

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

WOW. Another wonderful spin from you, Sir. I have a love/terror relationship with trains. Loved the sound of this piece as I read it. Very descriptive. Found myself empathetic to Grandpa. Well done

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

David that hit the spot for me, I'm with Quinfinn, one of my favourites too. Another great yarn with a dark human story to it. I grew up in a railway family and sometimes lived in railway houses where the clickety clack was a part of life. I even got to ride in the locos occasionally and I still get goosebumps when I hear the whistle of a steam train. That brought back so many memories, from the language you also have a history/knowledge of steam trains.

Posted 10 Years Ago

Nice nice nice, as ever. Your narrative poetry is so amazing.

Thanks, Sir David. :)

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


Posted 10 Years Ago

Very good, as always. I know it's not your first ballad abut ghost trains...I've read them all.

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I have run out of adjectives to describe your works David. This was very well written, smooth in rhyme and rhythm, great storyline with a deathbed dream-scape that is hands down spectacular.

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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11 Reviews
Added on May 11, 2013
Last Updated on May 14, 2013
Tags: express, train, ghostly, hellfire


David Lewis Paget
David Lewis Paget

Moonta, South Australia, Australia



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