Tag Archives: cape breton

Mira Gut by pd Lyons as published by Lost Sparrow Press


There are no flowers here but snow.

The bay not yet free chunked with ice

the white of which exists only against a distant liquid sea.

at least the sun visits, comforting,

illusion though it is,

visions of thawing, melting down to something green.


In the long sleep of winter, I have dreamed

something Spanish that you said along a twilight turquoise

something soft covering sun drenched shoulders

silver threads   an old man’s harp

played for money by the moon


The Lost Sparrow


Canada, by pd Lyons as published by The Corner Club Press ( 2011)



thank you very much to corner club press for publishing this little piece of my Canadian heart. They are still actively publishing – check them out for good reading &/or submitting your own work. See link below.





Where I could step out into the night
Smoke with the stars
Hear an ocean just beyond the pines
And something’d draw the
Dog off barking
Into a pitch black forest where really anything could be
When all I wanted was a sparkling solitude of Orion
But you know when the s.o.b. came back
All proud of himself waging his tail –
All I could say was
Good boy – Good boy


publish fall 2011 by The Corner Club Press http://thecornerclubpress.weebly.com/

The dog was a Dalmatian dog named Max. Many’s the night we stood out under the most wonderfully black sparkling sky I would ever know.  Well I’d stand and being a smoker then, I’d smoke while he as you can see did not stand still at all but eventually he’d show up and sit next to me lean against my leg – no matter how cold the ground.



For the Ice to Heal, by pd lyons

wrote this while living in Cape Breton – the winters were longish there and sometimes folks could get a bit depressed about it, and steel mills were gone and the liquor was chap. but the ocean was beautiful, the pack ice on a sunny day would sing like wind chimes as sea birds and wood land birds would follow as I walked alone upon the rough shore line


For the Ice to Heal

From the kitchen window

Curtain less

Stiff abandoned

On the line

Since October

Sentinel dish towel

Clumsy signal


Not yet

Not yet

Might as well

Another coffee

Something for the birds

Rare as rubies cardinal

Blue jays bright stuns my eyes

Dull small brown little things



First thing tomorrow

Auger from the garage

Break that agreement

Made with myself

To wait

snow by morgan lyons

snow by morgan lyons


Augers – either gas- or hand-powered – are used by ice fishermen to drill holes to fish through.





Balreask, by pd lyons

pdlyons photo, artist unknown - paris

pdlyons photo, artist unknown – paris

after 2 years living in Cape Breton we returned to Ireland. for a short while we stayed with Michelle’s family in Balreask, while we sorted out a house of our own. This poem was written then 2004 – I was still a bit high about being in Ireland again. Maeve is , for me the goddess of sovereignty of the land. It was a good morning.



Earliest morning I been up

Since we got here

Out in the garden Qi gong cup of tea

One crow on the aerial above the chimney

Is that you ?

Is that really you Maeve?

Yes you are sleek and shiny really beautiful today.

Tilts her head towards me

As if surprised

Then clucks a few syllables in return.

Can we stay Maeve? Can we make our home here

Well not exactly here but in this country. Are we really coming home?

She leans further towards me, opens and closes her beak, leans closer

then whistles three gutsy in her throat whistles & flies.

The grass needs tending

It just might rain

Beginning is the least I can do


pd lyons photo artist unknown - paris

pd Lyons photo, artist unknown – Paris

Mira Gut, by pd lyons

Mira Gut

there are no flowers here but snow.
the bay not yet free chunked with ice
the white of which exists only against a distant liquid sea.
at least the sun visits, comforting,
illusion though it is,
visions of thawing, melting down to something green.

in the long sleep of winter I have dreamed
something Spanish that you said along a twilight turquoise
something soft covering sun drenched shoulders
silver threads an old man’s harp played for money by the moon.





Was lucky enough to live in Cape Breton for a while. The area Mira Gut was where the river Mira entered the Atlantic. We lived across the street from the ocean. Sometimes we’d walk down to the Mira bridge and fish for mackerel. Some of the most beautiful parts of being there were the winters.  this was probably written on 2003.



The Watcher, by pd lyons

Beryl Markham by unknown

Beryl Markham by unknown



The Watcher


bright morning

sun magnified by ice and snow

stood at the sink

about to fill the coffee pot

look through the window

there through an even brighter space

where the curtains do not meet

in the distance something

a movement

almost tallest pine

deep against a pure dimensional sky

“What a beautiful bird”

after a brief pause said again out loud

“Because I know it is a bird and to me all birds are beautiful”

as if that part of himself was ever satisfied with any answer,


From the amazing Canadian maritime winter days – when even coffee making was an adventure. written around 2003-04 from the self published Not Quite Thomas – new poems by p d lyons, lulu.com 2008. the photos are of Beryl Markham, the photographer is unknown by me. She is one of my heroes.  If interested you can goggle her and find out why she is and why she is part of this blog post.


beryl markham, by unknown

beryl markham, by unknown

Big Lorraine, by PD Lyons – a ghost poem



Big Lorraine



I dreamed my love had found me
my children gathered too
put down all their weapons
eased their hearts cried their fill
then they began to play
like they did when they were young
and when I woke I’d forgotten
all my dreaming days were done.

I went down to make the coffee
sat by the open window
ran my fingers through my hair
thought I heard somebody talkin’
voices carry on the air
birds out over the ocean
rising silver like a prayer




Big Lorraine is in Cape Breton Nova Scotia, Canada. In one of those vast woodland logics of Cape Breton, Big Lorraine is much smaller a town than Little Lorraine is. In fact I don’t think there’s more than a house or two visible from the highway.  Maybe it was different back in the day? Anyway Cape Breton is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever lived in.  There are many ghosts along the rugged coast and through out the highlands where sometimes they don’t even get a town left standing for them. So this is a ghost poem and it is obviously for Big Lorraine.

I’d say this was written in 2003 or maybe 4. A version appears in Caribu & Sister Stones : Selected Poems by PD Lyons, selected by Deirdre Kearney, Published by Lapwing, Belfast, 2009. ISBN 978-1-905425-90-7 .



the extent of his youth by pd lyons

ties that bind (2)

ties that bind (2)

the extent of his youth

up the road to the next town

with a girl he knew from high school and her kid

grey clap board bungalow

breakers on the rocks below

reminding him only of working boats.

he loved that kid more then he loved anyone

took her out for sweets and ice cream at the corner shop

taught her how to skate and hold a hockey stick on black ice lakes

almost ended up in jail trying to get that Barbie House for Christmas.

eventually she left him.

bottoms of too many bottles between ‘em.

never heard from her again.

but got  letters from the kid.

eventually dwindled through the years.

now an almost annual event.

doing good .

miss you so much.

when can I see you?

how come I cant see you?

finished school .

moved away from  mom.

someday I’m gonna come see you.

just show up, you’ll see.

we’ll get together.

never forget you.

just like a real dad to me.

first published by Boyne Berries, Meath Ireland. in issue 7 spring 2010  http://boynewriters.com/index.html

wrote this when living in Canada back in the early ’00’s . kinda self explanatory. i don’t often make friends but while there, i met a man who was just a kindred spirit. a tuff old fellow with a heart of pure gold. this is loosely based on some of his experiences in his younger days.


women we should know/ beryl markham

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

women we should know


Originally published in Woman Pilot • January/February 2000

Against Prevailing Winds – The Remarkable Life of Beryl Markham


By Jackie Kruper

West with the Night, the autobiography that introduced me to the extraordinary woman, Beryl Markham, chronicles her Kenyan childhood and her historic, solo flight across the Atlantic from east to west. Her captivating memoir details exciting adventures and aviation exploits; it provides insights into her philosophies and general outlook on life. Beryl’s precise observational skills are concisely translated into ornate prose; yet there are no revelations of the “private” self. Was this intentional? Through additional reading and a journey to Kenya, I began my search to learn more about this enigmatic, complex, multi-faceted woman.
Beryl Clutterbuck was born in Leicestershire, England in 1902. By 1904, the British government was offering large tracts of land to lure settlement of the East African Protectorate. In 1906, Beryl’s father, Charles Clutterbuck, a retired British army captain, seized the opportunity to move his family to British East Africa (BEA, later Kenya) with hopes of developing a horse farm and a sawmill. This new, rugged life soon lost its appeal for Clara, his wife. She and Beryl’s older brother, Richard, returned to England in October 1906. Beryl’s mother did not see Beryl for 17 years. As an adult, Beryl would often say she was orphaned at the age of four.
Beryl’s childhood was anything but typical with the stoic, military-like influence of her father and the multi-cultural influences of her early, male playmates from the Luo, Nandi, Kikuyu, and Kipsigis tribes. She spoke Swahili and mixed, tribal dialects. Her unconventional upbringing permitted freedoms to which few females (black or white) could aspire in the white pioneering of Kenya. Attempts to educate Beryl resulted in a string of tutors and governesses; each resigned after brief attempts to tame the happy, active, blond child who explored and hunted almost naked with her black friends. One governess repeatedly beat her. Throughout her life, she remained aloof in the company of women.
She managed to remain at the Nairobi European School for two terms. When she left the Nairobi school, men again dominated her existence – her father, her servants, her playmates. Beryl worshipped her father; no other man could measure up to Charles Clutterbuck in her eyes. As a result of this significant relationship in her early years, Beryl grew to rely on men to guide her throughout her life.
Beryl learned to observe everything around her through hunting and tracking. She met animal kingdom enemies daily; with survival at the forefront, she became imbued with an unnerving sense of fate. She demonstrated physical prowess in any activity she pursued. Her Nandi friends taught her to jump higher than her height. She trained horses with her father; her skill and artfulness in handling horses was considered extraordinary.
Two events in her teen years served to heighten Beryl’s feelings of deprivation and abandonment. Lady Delamere, a neighbor and surrogate mother, died in 1913. And a prolonged drought from 1916 through 1917 caused severe financial reverses for her father’s farming and milling ventures. These reverses were exacerbated by the 1920 revaluation of the rupee. Charles Clutterbuck auctioned his properties and accepted a trainer position in Peru to perhaps escape the stigma of bankruptcy. For Beryl, 18 and newly married to Jock Purves, this was a significant personal loss; she, forevermore, perceived everything as disposable. Already skilled at screening grief, anger, love and joy, she was unable to express emotional loss.
After her father’s departure, she obtained a trainer’s license, the first ever granted to a woman in Kenya, and began working as a horse trainer in earnest. In her best season, 1963-64, she trained 46 winners. By the end of her illustrious equine career, she had trained six winners of the Kenya St. Leger and six winners of the East African Derby, Kenya’s most prestigious racing event.
Perhaps she was waging a private battle with her grief at Denys’ death or survivor’s guilt. Whatever the reason, she hired Campbell Black as her flight instructor, soloed within four weeks of Denys’ death (eight hours logged) in a DH Gypsy Moth identical to Denys’ and earned her A License on July 13, 1931. Her first log book’s initial entry is dated 11 June 1931; it runs through 10 October 1934. Beryl recounted that her first solo “. . .was an emotion one experiences only once in a lifetime mingled with a kind of independence . . . I have never been able to find in any other walk of life . . . I was one with the aeroplane.”
With Tom’s support and instruction, she pursued her commercial rating and flying career with intense dedication. They shared dreams of an aviation partnership as well as personal intimacy beginning in the fall of 1931. Tom accepted a position in England and departed Kenya in March 1932; Beryl did not portend this was the beginning of the end of their relationship.
One month later, Beryl bought a blue and silver Avro Avian IV (tail VP-KAN, 2-seater, 120 hp DH Gypsy II engine). With 127 logged hours, she flew from Nairobi to London’s Heathrow Airport in seven flying days. Considering the nature of navigational aids in 1932, Beryl demonstrated uncanny navigational instincts for this flight of over 6,000 miles. This aviation feat was possibly a maneuver to regain Tom’s attention.
She flew briefly in England then returned to Kenya to become Kenya’s first female commercial pilot (September 1933). Her B License II certified her to fly the Avro Avian, the DH Gypsy Moth and the DH Dragon (twin engine, 130 hp, eight-seater). Earning this certification required that she strip an engine, clean jets and fuel/oil filters, change plugs, adjust magneto points and pass written and oral exams on theory and practice of air law (flight regulations) and navigation.
Immediately upon receipt of her B License, she flew sightseeing tours along the coast at Mombasa. From Nairobi, she flew scouting runs and courier service for safari clients; scouting for game was typically a 10-day trek, and she developed a knack for tracking behemoth tuskers. She contracted to deliver mail and supplies to gold miners at the fields of Nungwe near Lake Victoria. Beryl also carried medical supplies and instituted a forerunner of today’s air ambulance services by transporting patients to hospitals or doctors to patients in the bush. In her three years of freelance piloting in Africa, she covered a quarter million miles over extremely dangerous terrain. In fact, she always carried a small revolver and a vial of morphine.
Beryl had been seeking an aviation challenge while she was building hours with her commercial ventures. Tom had married the actress Florence Desmond in 1935, and although this caused deep emotional pain for Beryl, she clung to hopes of setting aviation records with him. In February of 1936, with plans of persuading Tom to join her in the Cape Race (London-Johannesburg-London), she auctioned her Avian to finance the trip to England. She flew to London in a DH Leopard Moth accompanied by Bror Blixen. Mussolini, at war in North Africa, strictly forbade any female to fly alone over the war zone. This was her farewell to Africa until she was into her fifties. It marked the beginning of novel and divergent chapters in her life.
How and when did planes replace horses as Beryl’s passion? The door to aviation began to open when she met the aviator Denys Finch-Hatton in 1922 at Karen Blixen’s home (author, Out of Africa). Three years later, she met Tom Campbell Black on the roadside as he repaired his plane. He was an accomplished aviator, flight instructor and managing director of Wilson Airways in Nairobi. Beryl described Tom as “. . . the happy tinker who had revived it (the plane) and jostled on his way in a nebula of dust. He . . . tossed me a key to a door I never knew was there.” After their second meeting, she referred to his plane as “that irreverent contrivance of fabric and wires and noise, blustering through the chaste arena of night.”
Beryl married Mansfield Markham in 1927 and traveled to England in December 1928 to await the birth of their child. With the marriage foundering, Beryl, almost immediately after her son’s birth, resumed her relationship with Henry, Duke of Gloucester, in London. They had “shared a romp” in Kenya in the mid-1920s. As Beryl’s indiscretions grew blatant, a spurned Mansfield threatened to name Henry as corespondent in his divorce decree. To prevent the embarrassment of having her son named in Mansfield Markham’s divorce decree, Queen Mary had her legal representatives arrange a small annuity for life for Beryl from the royal coffers. This also freed Mansfield from financial obligation to Beryl. Beryl returned to Kenya.
Denys Finch-Hatton was also in England in 1929 to buy a DeHavilland Gypsy Moth and restore his active flight status. He returned to Kenya in the Moth. Denys and his flying undoubtedly intrigued Beryl. Throughout 1930-31, she often flew as a passenger with Finch-Hatton and began an intimate relationship with him. One account indicates Beryl was to fly with Denys on his fatal flight of May 14, 1931.
Sometime that same year, Beryl was dining with a group of friends that included J. C. Carberry, an accomplished pilot and a wealthy British expatriate living in Kenya and England. He casually dared Beryl to “hop the pond” – fly the Atlantic from east to west. He would finance her voyage and provide a specially built plane if she promised to return it in time for him to compete in the Cape Race. Success with an east-to-west, non-stop flight had been elusive; several pilots, male and female, had perished in the attempt. Jim Mollison flew from Ireland to New Brunswick in 1932 in a DH Puss Moth. Amelia Earhart (1928, New York to Ireland, 15 hours) and Charles Lindbergh (1927, New York to Paris, 27 hours) had flown west to east, the more favorable direction due to prevailing winds. She accepted on the spot; this was the challenge she sought.
With expectations of a late July, early August delivery of the plane, a Percival Vega Gull, she continued to hone her piloting skills as chief pilot for Air Cruisers, Ltd. routinely flying the company’s president in a DH Dragon between London and Paris. Technical difficulties delayed delivery of the plane, which resulted in minimal time for Beryl to transition to the new plane. In addition to flying, Beryl trained as vigorously for the flight as would an athlete for competition and spent hours studying maps with Campbell Black and Jim Mollison.
At 6:50 a.m. on September 4, 1936, she departed the military field at Abingdon, England in the Vega, VP-KCC, dubbed “The Messenger.” It was two-passenger, side-by-side, with a 200hp DH Gypsy Six engine and a cruising speed of 163 mph. It was equipped with a French Ratier variable-pitch prop. Fuel was carried in six tanks, two standard tanks in the wings, and, for long-range, two in the center section, and two in the cabin (255 total gallons, 3800 mile range). There was one gauge for the standard tanks; the extra tanks had no gauges. As each emptied, Beryl was required to switch it off with a petcock and open the next one in a special sequence that maintained the plane’s balance. The panel’s meager display included a Reid & Sigrist turn-and-slip indicator, a Sperry gyro and artificial horizon and an instrument called a `fore and aft reader’ which measured rate of climb. There was no radio.
The Messenger was airborne in 1,800 feet despite the extreme fuel weight. In addition to her food supply of five flasks of coffee, one flask of brandy, a cold chicken and some dried fruits and nuts, Beryl later wrote that, as she set her course in flight, she hummed aloud the mantra Tom had stressed in her early flight training, “Variation west, magnetic best. Variation east, magnetic least”.
She crash-landed on September 5, 1936 in a peat bog on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, 21 hours and 35 minutes after take-off. It was later discovered that one tank was three-quarters full; the crash was a result of carburetor ice. Enough fuel remained to have reached New York, the original destination.
Unscathed save for a gash on her forehead, Beryl greeted crowds of well wishers in Halifax and co-piloted a Beech Staggerwing to Long Island’s Floyd Bennett Field the next day. She was feted with a ticker-tape parade in New York City and honored by Mayor LaGuardia. She met with executives from Paramount Pictures and contracted to teach flying techniques. Days after her triumphant flight, she received word that Tom Campbell Black had been killed when an arriving plane sliced through the canopy of his Mew Gull as he waited to depart Speke, England. Beryl sailed to England.
In July 1937, Beryl arrived in Los Angeles where she worked at fulfilling her contract with Paramount. About this time, she also met Raoul Schumacher; he would become her third husband in 1942. They explored the American southwest, sailed to Melbourne and on to Cape Town. By 1939, they returned to California. Sometime in 1940-41, they announced that Beryl had written her memoir, West with the Night, which she dedicated to her father. Houghton Mifflin published the book in May 1942. Receiving critical acclaim, it made 13 best seller lists including the New York Times.
In the late 1940’s, Beryl returned to Kenya to regain her status as a reputable trainer. She never again piloted a plane.
Throughout her life, Beryl had total disregard for money and never concerned herself with managing finances. Despite an apparently glamorous life, she was always dependent on the kindness and largesse of her friends. Her instinct was to survive no matter the cost to others. In 1981, she was brutally beaten when her rent-free bungalow at Ngong Racecourse was burglarized. Most of her few possessions and memorabilia were stolen. Beryl’s last years were a threadbare existence.
Her father, the most significant man in her life, died in 1957. Her only child, Gervase Markham, died at the age of 42 in a car accident in Paris; Beryl did not attend the funeral. Gervase left two daughters, Fleur and Valery.
East African pilot G. D. Fleming believed that, with the exception of Jean Batten, Beryl was the finest woman pilot in the British Empire. “I never saw her the worse for wear – even after a ten-hour flight…her navigation was uncanny and she could find her way anywhere. I never saw her make a poor landing even in really filthy weather.”
When Beryl departed on her transatlantic flight, she quietly whispered twende tu (I am going). As a result of complications following hip surgery, she quietly departed this earth on August 4, 1986 in a Nairobi hospital; she was 83. Her cremated remains were scattered over the Ngong Racecourse. A memorial service was held on September 4, 1986 in London honoring Beryl’s life and commemorating the 50th anniversary of her epic flight.
When I visited Nairobi’s Wilson Airport in 1992, no one in the pilots’ lounge/FBO knew of Beryl. There were neither photos nor plaques to honor this daughter and pilot of Africa. Ngong Racecourse looked weary and timeworn with Beryl’s former bungalow nestled in the cool shade of a copse of large trees. There was a poignant sadness in what I failed to find.
Originally published in Woman Pilot • January/February 2000



 horses, out of africa, first to fly solo across the atlantic…. whats not to like


Morgan Poem by pd lyons



the Dogs Bay empty on a grey day

curves a wide scythe of sand

mimicked slopes of rocky hills dissolve again in low grey sky.


the Dogs Bay rings silver laughter a treasure of pearls

beautiful daughter darts like a needle between sea and sand

strangers no choice, stopped in their tracks , infected smiles.


not since the Indian Ocean where she learned to walk

not since Cape Cod where she learned her heritage

not since Cape Breton where she learned of treasure

has she now Connemara remembered


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