Remembering my father

It was my father,  the writer and sports journalist Ralph L Finn,  who gave me the love I have of poetry.  I am dedicating this page to some of his – and my – favourite poems.

Crossing the bar  

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

The next two poems are favourite poems by Christina Rossetti.

 When I am Dead, My Dearest

When I am dead my dearest

Sing no sad songs for me;

Plant thou no roses at my head,

Nor shady cypress tree:

Be the green grass above me

With showers and dewdrops wet;

And if thou wilt, remember

And if thou wilt, forget

I shall not see the shadows,

I shall not feel the rain;

I shall not hear the nightingale

Sing on, as if in pain:

And dreaming through the twilight

That doth not rise nor set

Haply I may remember

And haply may forget.


Remember me when I am gone away

Gone far away into the silent land;

When you can more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay

Remember me when no more day by day

You tell me of our future that you planned:

Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while

And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

For if the darkness and corruption leave

A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

Than that you should remember and be sad.

I read this next poem – another one of his favourites – at my father’s funeral.

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

John Masefield

This one, by Charles Kingsley, was another favourite of his.

Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be clever,

Do noble deeds, not dream them, all day long;

And so make life, death and that vast forever,

One grand sweet song.

It was my father who introduced me to the poems of Robert Louis Stevenson:


 Under the wide and starry sky

Dig the grave and let me lie:

Glad did I live and gladly die,

And I laid me down with a will.

 This be the verse you ‘grave for me:

Home he lies where he long’d to be;

Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.

Finally, just to show that it’s not all doom and gloom, here’s another Robert Louis Stevenson poem.  My father used to recite this one to me when I was little. And I in turn, read it to my own children.  There is a lovely song by Alison Krauss, “A hundred miles or more” which evokes this poem.

Where go the boats?

Dark brown is the river.
Golden is the sand.
It flows along for ever,
With trees on either hand.

Green leaves a-floating,
Castles of the foam,
Boats of mine a-boating—
Where will all come home?

On goes the river
And out past the mill,
Away down the valley,
Away down the hill.

Away down the river,
A hundred miles or more,
Other little children
Shall bring my boats ashore.

Robert Louis Stevenson

A last apt word from one of my father’s favourite quotations:

For when the One Great Scorer
comes to write against your name,
He marks – not that you Won or Lost
but How You Played the Game.    (Grantland Rice)

Ralph L Finn

Born:  17 January 1912

Died:   30 October 1999

 © Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems

15 thoughts on “Remembering my father

  1. I would like to read Ralph Finn’s books about growing up in London (Aldgate I assume), but I am a little confused by the titles, and I can’t find much online.

    ‘No Tears in Aldgate’ is the first that came to my attention, and there appears to be a follow up called ‘Springtime in Aldgate’, but then there are two others called ‘Time Remembered’ and ‘Grief Forgotten’, and I am not sure if they are the same books with different titles.

    I would be very grateful to anyone who could advise, I am wondering that if I get ‘Time Remembered’ and ‘Grief Forgotten’ that would be what I am looking for?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment. You are right that Time Remembered and Grief Forgotten are the same books – they were published later by a different publisher. You should be able to find my father’s books on a second hand book site such as or


  2. Dear Andrea

    I read your father’s books, Time Remembered and Grief Forgotten, with no little emotion. The books have helped me to build up a picture of my late father, John S. Mather, one that has been absent in my life to date. Page 183 of the latter book mentions John’s wife, my mother, who is still alive and now 87. But John had a son, me – and it is true I never saw my father again after I was taken from London as a little boy, to Glasgow. Perhaps you might have more information on my father?

    My step-father adopted me when I was 15 – hence the name change – and I have appropriate certificates and other evidence to establish my identity. I would welcome an email chat with you.

    With kind regards

    Iain Hughes


    1. Hi Ian
      Thank you for contacting me. All I can say is that I remember your father’s name and also reading about him in dad’s book. I believe they were friends. I regret that’s all I know. It’s good to know that my father’s memories have helped you build up your memories of your late father.
      With kind regards


      1. Hello Andrea

        Thank you for responding so promptly, and of course I understand. I shall always be grateful to your late father for setting out in his books his friendship with my father.

        All best wishes



  3. Andrea,

    I have been searching, without any luck, for your father’s book ‘An Indiscreet Guide to the East End’. This was advertised as available (around 1945), but it does not come up in the British Library catalogue, via the online second-hand book seller http://www.bookfinder,com nor elsewhere. If you can can cast any light on this seeming mystery, I would be very grateful.


    Jonathon Green


  4. Dear Andrea,

    I was looking up your dad as I have a couple of his books Spurs Supreme and Spurs Go Marching on. Am on the look out for more. As a writer myself I really loved reading the books and wish I could write like him.

    Although a Spurs supporter I will be looking for other books of his and I would like to find out more about your dad, must be the research side of me coming out.

    Loved the blog and you must be very proud of your dad’s work which lives on and your poetry.

    Kind regards

    Lee Cook


    1. Dear Lee

      It was really heart warming to read your comments about my father and his books. Thank you!

      You may also find my page, “The Greatest Game” interesting as it will tell you more about my dad and lists the books he has written.

      It is still possible to buy many of dad’s books online. I can recommend abebooks as a good source. I have also found books of his on eBay!

      If there’s anything more you would like to know, please feel free to email me.

      Very best wishes


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