Whitstable and the Flood of 1953: A Poem by May Johnson (1908-1995)

During the time that Simply Whitstable has been operating, some of the most touching sentiments have been those encapsulated in verse. We are therefore privileged to be able to include this lovely piece by May Johnson. May was the aunt of Ian and Jennifer Johnson. She lived in Woodlawn Street in 1953 but, sadly, died in 1995. The verse is one of her lasting legacies. We would like to thank the Johnson Family for allowing us to include the work as a poignant reminder of the flood.

"Time and Tide"

“How lovely to live by the seaside”,
So often was this said to me;
A remark that is usual in summer
When zephyrs waft in from the sea.

How different the mood in the winter
When gales toss the sea like a bull,
‘Til in fury it thrashes the seashore
As it did in my home – Whitstable.

On my afternoon’s walk by the seashore
White horses were prancing with glee
And as darkness came down like a curtain
My thoughts were of perils at sea.

With the wind growing stronger and fiercer,
Warm bed was a comforting thought,
Not for long was this comfort allowed me
– Shouts, and knocks on the door cut it short.

For a second, I could not believe it,
But persistent knocks shattered for me
All thoughts of a peaceful night’s dreaming
– In my home there was peril of sea.

First of all there were just a few inches,
Two a.m. was high tide – that was soon
– But although this cruel tide was receding,
It swept through my home room by room.

No time to move lino or carpets
They were quite overwhelmed by the sea
And as I glanced out of a window
A shiver of fear ran through me.

The morning revealed my Town flooded,
A pitiful, heartbreaking sight;
Shadowed eyes and pale cheeks of its people
Told stories of that tragic night.

The sea - no respecter of persons
Had swept over cottage and store,
Flinging high all the flotsam and jetsam
As it rushed through the Town from the shore.

We were anxious for news of some others,
They were equally anxious, so we Took a boat,
and went sculling to seek them
Round the roads now engulfed by the sea.

Once again night came down like a curtain
At Whitstable down by the sea,
With the flood waters still in possession
– A friend that had turned enemy.

As to thousands of other “seasiders”,
The night had brought tragedy near
– The dates I shall always remember
When my town was invaded by fear.

By May Johnson

Published with kind permission of Ian & Jennifer Johnson and family.
Normal Laws of Copyright Apply

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