I.K.B. - R.I.P.

as we passed beneath the westway
i was not thinking straight
parallel to the great western railway
was where i met my fate
the journey it was a long one
it was only time to lose
just then i spied a solitary figure
staring at his shoes
wearing a stove-pipe hat
blowing smoke like the fires of hell
no need to ask his name
it was isambard kingdom brunel

my companion and i introduced ourselves
he turned and tipped his hat
i asked if i could be of any assistance
he said it was too late for that
muddy tracks led back to kensal green cemetery
the graveyard next to the line
i noticed the dates sn the tombstone
eighteen six to eighteen fifty-nine
why had he died so young
only he could tell
was it the great leviathan
killed isambard kingdom brunel?

his eyes burned through to the back of my head
as though he could read my mind
i was beginning to wonder
which one of us was the ghost
when i left this century behind
the westway vanished into thin air
so did the high-rise flats
suddenly i was smoking a big cigar
and wearing a stove-pipe hat
to cut a tall story short
we slipped back in time for a spell
and now i know what makes a man tick
like isambard kingdom brunel

i found myself in the napier yard
on the isle of dogs
the crowds had come to see leviathan
leave the millwall docks
the press lined up with their pens dipped in blood
the cynics here to disprove
november the deadline for the creditors
but the great ship still wouldn't move
the papers talked of the shame
a scandal was always a good sell
so they slandered the engineer's name
poor isambard kingdom brunel

i watched them struggle with that hulk
one man had already died
as the crowds jeered and laughed at brunel
i turned my head and cried
when building the great eastern steamship
all seemed doomed to fail
his coffin already built at millwall
john scott russel hammered in the nails
months passed with the ship high and dry
he worked on though he was not well
but such was the determination
of isambard kingdom brunel

the ship finally floated and awaited her fittings
supplied by russel and co
they made mistakes and changed the plans
without letting isambard know
so many problems had beset this venture
leaving the poor man a wreck
isambard suffered a massive stroke
and fell paralysed to the deck
he layed like a ship on the rocks
not rising with the swell
they'd broken the man but not the spirit
of isambard kingdom brunel

i was on the great eastern on her maiden trip
that fateful September morning
what came to pass was an incredible blow
the passengers had no warning
pressure had built up in the feedwater heaters
it was only a matter of time
as the explosion blew away the for'ard funnel
six men in the engine-room died
with the great engineer on his deathbed
the news was hard to tell
the shock was too much and it took the last breath
of isambard kingdom brunel

in a flash we were back in the present
the ghost weeping into nis chest
i asked if i proved the success of his creation
would he then lay to rest?
the spectre nodded its head
and a book to it i did hand
showing how his ship laid the first telegraph
from britain to newfoundland
his face did seem to lighten
as this venture did unfurl
the great eastern under his old friend gooch
had laid cables all 'round the world
go build your castles in heaven
in this half-world you should not dwell
now rest in peace your weary soul
isambard kingdom brunel