Poems published after the Armistice by working-class writers can be deeply sceptical, as here. John White (1859-1943) worked as a miner and then a tailor in the colliery village of Whitburn, near Bathgate in West Lothian. There is a typed copy of his poems in Linlithgow’s local history collection, produced by the Whitburn Local History Group in 1993. As yet it is unclear where the original poems, or published versions, might be located. This poem is included in the typescript, as it appears below. It probably dates from c1922-3 – and from the subject matter, it is unlikely it was published, though it is easy to imagine White writing it for recitation among friends.

Two Minutes Silence

Two minutes silence with heads bowed down
A la mode in village and town

Two minutes silence so little to give
To those who died that we might live

Two minutes silence, the best thing I know
Those who make war be first for to go

Two minutes silence for those that are dead
While their wives and children are crying for bread

Two minutes silence for him with a crutch
One more for the miner sweating pushing a hutch

Two minutes silence, our hearts only sore
For the living not dead who have gone before

Two minutes silence of one thing I’m sure
With the Tories in office God help the poor

Two minutes silence for the hirers of slaves
The long lengthened stick dug many graves

Two minutes silence hope never despair
Dead heroes’ children in need of your care

Two minutes silence when heart’s in a glow
So help the perishing best way you know

Two minutes silence, we are taught how to pray
By the crucified one on a hill far away

Two minutes silence and do not forget
The hardest struggle in life we’ve had yet

Two minutes silence for those who won peace
And yet with all our sorrows increase

Two minutes silence, war is all wrong
A poor honest soldier’s life worth an old song

Two minutes silence brings sorrow and pain
Planned by the rich their purpose to gain

Two minutes silence, promoters go free
The Devil’s own agents and more believe me

Two minutes silence, respect just a sham
Was one of the army now homeless I am

Two minutes silence, only trust in your God
We’ll be in his keeping at the end of the road


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