You Can Shed Tears That She is Gone By David Harkins

Jan 10, 2014, 02:30 PM

Here's a lovely mourning poem dedicated to my dear late mother Mary Agnes King 1934 - 2013. The Poem is read beautifully by my Darling wife Sheeromie from Sri Lanka and was recorded as practice for her reading it at my mothers funeral service yesterday Thursday 9th January 2014

Twenty years ago a shy, lovelorn Cumbrian baker, David Harkins, wrote a poem which came to prominence after the Queen read it at her mothers funeral service.

Here's an edit of an article from The Gaurdian newspaper in 2002 about this poem.......

it has emerged that the poem was written by David Harkins, a former factory worker and motorway service-station cleaner from Cumbria who now makes a living as an artist, chiefly by selling nude paintings of his wife on the internet. So how did Harkins feel when he saw his words published on this most grave and ceremonial of state occasions?

"I was shocked. At first, I couldn't believe it," he says. "I felt proud, humbled. I wasn't aware that people were using it for words of comfort when they'd lost loved ones."

The original version, written 20 years ago and then entitled Remember Me, was never intended as a work of condolence. Rather, it was written in the spirit of unrequited love.

"I was 22, 23 years old. I was terribly shy," he says, in his soft Cumbrian accent and slightly piping voice. "I became obsessed with a girl, but I was very intimidated. Rather than ask her out, I poured it all into poetry."

Did he never tell his love? "She knew how I felt, but she wasn't interested."

At the time, Harkins was working in the same Carlisle bakery factory as his father. The second of four brothers, he loved poetry and paintings as a young man. Although these artistic interests tended to set him apart in his working-class milieu, they were also his consolation, he says, for his shyness. He wanted to go to art college, an ambition never realised.

"My family needed the money. I was obliged to work," he says. "But I also lacked the courage. I'd say, 'I'm going to get a flat.' My mum would say, 'And who's going to make your bed then?' And that would be that. I had no confidence."

Life was a slog: he worked 12 hours a day, six days a week, in the bakery. "At least the money was good," he says; it gave him the means to travel down to London to see the ballet or visit the Tate. One year, he visited Paris and saw the Louvre. He spent the rest of his time in his bedroom trying to write poems, plays and novels.

"I used to watch the South Bank Show and imagine myself being interviewed by Melvyn Bragg," he says. "I wanted to be the next Harold Pinter. But I never got beyond Act 1, Scene 1."

This Billy Liar-esque existence was interrupted in 1985 when he and his father were sacked for stealing a loaf of bread; Harkins spent the next two-and-a-half years out of work. Still he wrote, but without success. He sent various poems, including Remember Me, to numerous magazines and publishers. The nearest he came to literary achievement was when the Sunday Times magazine bought a piece he'd written for its "Day in the Life" slot. It never ran.

But it was during this period that Harkins' verse of forlorn love went out into the world, was lost to literary culture for several years, only to re-emerge as a poem of consolation to the bereaved. Harkins used to type his name at the foot of every poem, so somewhere down the line someone must have retitled and doctored the poem and decided it should be "Anon" - the guilty editorial meddling, one might speculate, of an anthologist who no longer had any idea who David Harkins was, nor how to find him.

In 1987, the shy but dogged artist finally completed a one-act play, entitled Pam. In a rare entrepreneurial fit, Harkins formed his own theatre company with a friend to direct and a young woman to play the female lead. Harkins himself played the other part.

"We ran for one night at a community centre," he says. "There were 16 people in the audience. Ten of them were my family."

The ver...