Tally ho! It’s the charge of the Dockyard Light Horse

CHARGE Dockyard workers on the outmuster at Unicorn gate in September 1974
CHARGE Dockyard workers on the outmuster at Unicorn gate in September 1974
The smashed glass in the door at Johnny Black Photography in Southsea

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Like many of you I can still recall and remain fascinated by the mass exodus of dockyard workers on their bikes each evening.

I never tire of looking at pictures such as those here of an event which seemed to capture the essence of Portsmouth.

So, for some Friday light relief here is the poem written by RL Seagar, of Francis Avenue, Southsea – a verse to outmusters when about 25,000 men were employed in the ’yard.

The Dockyard Light Horse

EVERYBODY OUT This was an outmuster of a different kind as workers walked out on strike in a pay dispute in June 1975

EVERYBODY OUT This was an outmuster of a different kind as workers walked out on strike in a pay dispute in June 1975

A wonder to many journalists

In the days when Britain was great

Was the number of Dockyard cyclists

Coming out of Unicorn Gate.

SOME HAD BRAKES On their way home in 1958 in Edinburgh Road

SOME HAD BRAKES On their way home in 1958 in Edinburgh Road

This highly irregular force

Of cycles and men were so large

It was nicknamed The Dockyard Light Horse,

For it looked like a cavalry charge.

There were cycles of every hue

And many of various makes;

Some had a mudguard of two

A few of them even had brakes.

Pedestrians took headlong dives,

But drivers would blanch;

Strong men ran for their lives

From this human avalanche.

Tourists came from miles around

To see this awesome sight –

Massed Dockyard wheelers homeward bound at noon and also at night.

Mothers gathered their offspring

And took them to safety for

They knew the sound of the hooter would bring

This ravening horde past their door.

A Dockyard cyclist was able

Or so old wives would recount

To get to his dining room table

Without having to dismount.

His wife would open the door

And then stand well to one side

And without his feet touching the floor

Straight up the passage he’d ride.

You could do to him what you thought fit,

You could curse him all you like;

But the worse crime you could commit

Was to kick a dockey’s old bike.

The work force has dwindled of course,

The Empire is now no more,

The ranks of The Dockyard Light Horse

Has been thinned to just a few score.

Now only memories remain

And they fill me with remorse

For never will I see again

The Charge of the Dockyard Light Horse.