Jimmy O’Neill said the Klondike ’99ers had nothing on them,
who built that tinderbox town overnight: hundreds of Irish
slogging their holy guts out for the Halifax Corporation, laying
rails over eight great bridges to the waters of Walshaw Dean.
Jimmy, ‘the Glenties Goliath’, had more than earned his spurs
in the breakneck free-for-alls they waged against the English
on every construction across their land. Plenty took him on,
unwisely, for he felled a good few dead with his cudgelling fists.
On Midsummer’s Eve, a young Liverpudlian, half Jimmy’s size,
threw down the gauntlet. The whole of Dawson City—women,
wee’uns and all—watched the scally hold Jimmy at arm’s-length.
They swore to Jesus it was the Devil himself at work, deflecting
jackhammer blows, as if that scrawniest Spring-heeled Jack
was untouchable, a wee boy capering around like a billy goat,
confounding Jimmy fierce drunk. In the end, just one solitary
southpaw jab knocked Jimmy over straight like a timbered pine;
and he lay there, like Gulliver restrained by Lilliputian tethers.
Matthew Paul lives and works, in local government, on the outskirts of London. His collection The Evening Entertainment was published by Eyewear in 2017. He is also the author of two collections of haiku, both published by Snapshot Press, most recently The Lammas Lands, 2015. He tweets @MatthewPaulPoet.