Poetry – The Gansey Girl

The Gansey Girl

Patiently sitting, waiting,

with her three needles, knitting

Her Gansey sweater

For her fisherman.

Each sweater unique

So the body can be identified

When fished out of the sea.

Close-knit, in one piece,

To keep the elements at bay.

Self-consumed, thoughtful,

Content, but on edge.

Patient and reconciled,

Avoiding thinking

Of the possibility,

Not looking out to sea,

Controlled, focused inside.

Around her hem

Shoals of fish swim

Above her buttoned boots.

Her face, whimsical,

Not pretty yet handsome and kind.

Her clothes patterned and full

But nowhere near as intricate

As the product of her round needles.

All her love

pouring into the work

Out of her fingers,

The intricacy of the pattern,

That she wished

Never to see

Washed up

In some future nightmare,

Like so many before her.

Frozen in that moment for ever.

Her young fulsome body

Captured in that instant.

The tension of the vigil evident.

All her fears expressed

In the concentration of her stance

So understated.

A Gansey girl.

One of many

Who spent an eternity

Hovering in anxious calm,


Out at sea,

Among the heavy rollers,

With the icy spray,

Stinging wind

And lightning strike;

Pitted against the elements,

Hauling nets,

Lugging fish,

Tossed like a toy,

Earning a living,

Her man.

On the ocean

With the pitch and yaw,

Drenched and ripped by waves,

Laughing into a gale,



Pushed to the limits,

Accepting and enduring

The dangerous test.

Seeking the rewards,

The fulfilment,

The pride,

The camaraderie,


That comes with such danger,

When men work

As a team.

A test of manhood.

So the Gansey girl

Does what she can.

She knits and waits

Like so many others.

Her face controlled,


Sad and accepting,

Her attitude reflective.

The emotions stored

Waiting to erupt.

Opher 6.1.2019.

I wrote this poem after spending time with the wonderful statue of the Gansey Girl by the brilliant sculptor Steve Carvill.

Sitting serenely on the pier she sees out the boats and welcomes them back in.

She is a reminder of a past age, of the dangers of the sea; a reminder of the present day, where dangers are not all gone; and a warning.

Fishing is a hard life. There has been a heavy cost.

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