Timothy Winters – Charles Causley – Comments

Timothy Winters

Timothy Winters comes to school
With eyes as wide as a football pool,
Ears like bombs and teeth like splinters:
A blitz of a boy is Timothy Winters.

His belly is white, his neck is dark,
And his hair is an exclamation mark.
His clothes are enough to scare a crow
And through his britches the blue winds blow.

When teacher talks he won’t hear a word
And he shoots down dead the arithmetic-bird,
He licks the patterns off his plate
And he’s not even heard of the Welfare State.

Timothy Winters has bloody feet
And he lives in a house on Suez Street,
He sleeps in a sack on the kitchen floor
And they say there aren’t boys like him any more.

Old man Winters likes his beer
And his missus ran off with a bombardier.
Grandma sits in the grate with a gin
And Timothy’s dosed with an aspirin.

The Welfare Worker lies awake
But the law’s as tricky as a ten-foot snake,
So Timothy Winters drinks his cup
And slowly goes on growing up.

At Morning Prayers the Master helves
For children less fortunate than ourselves,
And the loudest response in the room is when
Timothy Winters roars “Amen!”

So come one angel, come on ten:
Timothy Winters says “Amen
Amen amen amen amen.”
Timothy Winters, Lord.

Charles Causley (1917 -2003)

This is probably the most well-known poem of Charles Causley. It is based on a real person. It is an eight stanza ballad written in the 1950s about a boy who was afflicted with a series of misfortunes aptly described in each stanza.

Here is a reading of the poem by the author

S1 … people would have known about the blitz
S2 … home life is clearly expressed in the state of dress and personal presentation
S3 … not a good scholar, rather bad manners at table – not aware of ‘Welfare’
S4 … shoes are lacking, his bed rather primitive … thought to be not in society
S5 … his dad is a bit of an alcoholic so too his Grandma who is now looking after him after his mum took off with a soldier
S6 … Welfare aren’t very responsive to the situation
S7 … prayers at school include the less fortunate … he certainly says amen to that but the question is – is he just saying amen with no understanding of his unfortunate predicament
S8 … come one angel come ten or more … here’s a plea … Timothy Winters has asked for help whether he is aware or not of his need … he certainly needs his prayers to be answered.

This poem asks a few questions including …

How does society integrate the disadvantaged and unlikable? … the role of ‘Welfare’ and similar support organisations and that of individual response?

How to stop further disadvantage when in mainstream life? Well, in three words awareness, acceptance and support.

Considering awareness, here is an incident when I was a seven or eight year old. My mother had kindly invited an elderly friend for afternoon tea and it was a somewhat formal occasion as we all sat around the dining table. Towards the end of the tea I noticed her friend trying to pick up the patterned flowers from her plate to eat. I sadly admit that my response was to laugh for I knew nothing about being elderly. Awareness, and hopefully respect and sensitivity, increases both with life-experience and education.

Unfortunately that was far from the case in the reprehensible inhuman police killing of the African-American man George Floyd. It leaves an ugly scar on the face of modern day America.

Charles Causley on Wikipedia