Woman overcomes fear of the sea to take top prize

A Yorkshire woman who is afraid of the sea has won a national competition for maritime limericks ahead of Wednesday’s World Poetry Day.

The Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, the charity behind the inaugural competition, enlisted poet-in-residence for the English National Opera, Ian McMillan, to judge the competition and the ‘Bard of Barnsley’ chose Maggie Ballinger’s offering;

The swell, and the towering wave,
Cover many a seafarer’s grave.
So to land Britain’s dish,
(What are chips, without fish?),
A man must be strong, skilled and brave.

Mr McMillan said: ‘Maggie’s limerick actually covers a number of emotions which is hard to do in five lines: it rhymes, it’s got rhythm, it’s a proper limerick.’


A shipping forecaster called Gough,
Found Forties and Forth made her cough;
Her throat went quite tight,
With Fastnet, German Bight;
And Finisterre finished her off.

by Bob Turvey from Bristol.

A young man signed up for the sea
and soon was as sick as could be.
The First Mate said “Jack,
it’s sea legs you lack
we’re sadly still tied to the quay”.

The Landlubber’s Lament by Les Penrose, from East Yorkshire.

An honorary mention went to a 6-year-old schoolboy from Cornwall.
There was a surfer from London
who went to tea in a dungeon
he had some coffee
and plenty of toffee
and said ‘I wish I was a penguin.’

Video of Seafaring Limerick Competition judge, poet Ian McMillan, on the winning words:

Cover image: Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society / competition winner Maggie Ballinger