The Chapman Light

Verse and painting by Harry Russell


The Chapman Light

Tall legged, our lighthouse
Used to stand
A signpost of the London river
At fairways edge on Chapman sand

It welcomed voyagers from afar
And homeward on their run
It gave Godspeed to all that passed
On journeys new begun

In daylight hours
Red garbed and crowned
It vied in sunlight glow
With the splendour of the barges’ sails
As they passed on the tidal flow

The night time saw its gleaming eye
Which flashed and shone to guide
The traffic of the estuary
Passing by

For a safe held course the beam was white
A warning red, to those
Who ventured where the water shoaled
On passage through the night

In summer haze or winter’s murk
When fog made sea and sky alike
The lighthouse bell gave tongue
Its message clear to all afloat
In liner, barge or collier
In yacht or pleasure boat

The lighthouse in array of flags
At times of celebration
Stood shiplike, bunting dressed
Adorned to hail a victory
Or mark a coronation

War dimmed its light
And drove away the trippers
From the land
Who came in boats across the tide
Or walked from shore as water ebbed
To play around its feet
On rippled Chapman sand

It saw grey war fleets
Passing by
And watched as toll was taken
From vessels bound on duty’s course
By foemen from the sky
Who made the estuary waters grim
With bullet, bomb and mine

With peace proclaimed
Again the light
Shone out to guide and greet
On waters from war perils free
The ships that passed by night

The daytime scene, with colours bright
Of craft, in peacetime rig
Was made more cheerful by the sight
Of crimson painted
Chapman light

The lighthouse stood a century
A friendly beacon mark
And to celebrate the passing
Of this hundred years
Came fame and acclamation
With tributes paid for service made
Throughout the hours of dark

A Royal occasion, near the end
In this tale of our honoured friend
When a great armada
Flag bedecked gathered
To meet the Queen

Amid the throng
Of motley craft
The lighthouse tall
With each and all
Paying homage
As the sovereign passed

The light no longer gleams
From Chapman’s iron tower
The bell will sound no more
No lighthouse now commands the view
An age has passed and taken toll
In time and tide

Now there is nothing left to see
Where stood the Chapman light
We still recall the fun we had
How everything seemed grand
As we played when we were young
Close by the old red lighthouse
Upon the Chapman sand.

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