Howdenshire History

Goole's Poet & Commentator: Lou Laister

Goole History > Goole People & Families > Lou Laister


From the Goole Times, 14th September 1973:



Goole's Lewis Laister - poet and commentator on day-to-day events in Goole and a much-liked and respected contributor to this newspaper - died in St John's hospital on Monday.

Mr Laister (78), of 17 Widop Street, had been ill for some time but continued writing from his hospital bed.

A former seaman, Mr Laister began writing verse, pamphlets, broadsheets and letters to newspapers in the hungry thirties when he found his was able to versify on national and local matters. A friend used to print them and sell them for a few pence, or he would take a drink in exchange for them.

Over the years Mr Laister, a native of Garthorpe, commented in verse on a variety of events and social customs, including the death of King George V, the loss of ships at sea, the means test and the plight of dockland prostitutes.

Poems by Lou Laister of Goole, Yorkshire

Seafaring men in fact were used to seeing the work of Lewis Laister, which he signed "Lu Lu", on the walls of public houses, clubs and barbers' shops all over the world.

A bachelor, Mr Laister came to Goole during his childhood. He attended Old Goole school but left when he was 14 to become a "printer's devil" - a machine cleaner - on this newspaper. He left, however, when he was pressed to become an apprentice for seven years, and then worked for a short time as a railway engine cleaner.

At the outbreak of the First World War he joined the Royal Navy. He served as a leading stoker in minesweepers, destroyers, battle cruisers and frigates, and was the only survivor when the Grimsby trawler-cum-minesweeper, Northern Star, was sunk by enemy action off Peterhead in October 1918. Twenty-nine members of the crew died but he lived, to be picked up by a destroyer.

Although his left leg was badly injured he still went to sea after the tragedy, this time in railway boats, and he served in three ships owned by Associated Humber Lines; the Aire, Humber and Mersey. For the rest of his life, Mr Laister, a gentleman who enjoyed life and appreciated beauty, could not bend his left knee, but he often went for long walks and rides on his bicycle.

Mr Laister's verses were inevitably compared with those of William McGonagall, known as "the greatest bad verse writer of his age." He did not mind in the least, as he told this newspaper; "I know my poems are pretty crude, not finished off or polished."

His only regret was his lack of education. He always wished he had taken up a career of song-writing. He once said, "I often wish I'd had a couple of years at the Grammar School, but still, that's how it goes. I've had a good life and can't complain."

Let William McGonagall provide Lou Laister's epitaph;

"And I hope his soul has gone aloft where all troubles cease,
Among the blessèd saints where all is joy and peace."

Lou Laister was no saint, but he would have approved such a couplet.

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