Boys of the Byline Brigade
It’s four in the morning, the paper’s in bed
the Newsroom’s as quiet as the tomb.
When the old man gets up from his seat by the door
another day’s nightwork has been done.
Like a greying old shadow he peels on his coat
and he knocks off the lights on his floor
and he melts with the shadows into the grey dawn
just before the presses start to roar.
And the glass in his hand feeds the pain in his eyes
alone, insecure and afraid
A victim of booze, overwork and old age
and the boys of the byline brigade.
That morning the byline brigade will arrive
those bright keen young men about town.
And they’ll shout into three different phones at one time
and get the whole damn thing written down.
When the country edition’s being flogged on the street
and the City’s being checked on the stone.
That old man who once interviewed princes and kings
is quietly drinking alone.
And he stands at the bar and remembers the time
when he was as good as the best.
In those days when his shorthand was clear-cut and plain
and he’d work twenty hours without rest.
In the days when his copy ran just as it stood
lead stories and bylines galore.
The first with the angles, the first to the phone
the first with his foot in the door.
If he had only licked more arses and got drunk with the boss
God knows where he might have been today.
Not manning the doomwatch at the dead of the night
and curing the shakes half the day.
He had died on the day that his shorthand broke down
from too long pushing pen , soul and mind.
And they’ll bury his body along with his pride
in six lonely lines on page nine.