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The Archway of Tears

by Peter Higginbotham

When I was a young girl we always were poor,
Eight kids in one bed and our ma on the floor.
She'd do anything to make sure we got fed,
Though some days it was just a piece of dry bread.

Then once in a while she'd come in and she'd say
To me and my brothers and sisters at play,
My darlings come gather yourselves at the door,
For we're off to stay at the workhouse once more.

With all of us kids and one more on the way,
She'd not seen my father in many a day,
She looked so much more than her twenty-six years
As we trailed in a line through the Archway of Tears

I cried as they took her away from our sight,
I cried all that evening and cried through the night,
I felt so alone and was so full of shame
I swore when I grew up I'd not be the same.

They gave us a bath and they cut short our hair,
And gave us the rough workhouse clothing to wear.
On Sundays the one thing to lighten the gloom
Was fifteen short minutes with ma in a room.

With all of us kids and one more on the way,
She'd not seen my father in many a day,
She looked so much more than her twenty-six years
As we trailed in a line through the Archway of Tears

Those terrible days now seem so long ago,
When ma passed way I was fifteen or so.
I did what I could to look after us all,
Though times were so hard it was such a long haul.

Then I met a young man who promised the earth,
But I soon found out what his fine talk was worth.
He ruined my virtue, left me to my fate,
So now it is me at the workhouse's gate.

And with all my kids and one more on the way,
I've not seen the father in many a day,
I look so much more than my twenty-six years
As we trail in a line through the Archway of Tears.

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