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Inspired by the story of Charles Wootton, born in Bermuda. This black man was killed by a white mob in Liverpool – he was chased into the River Mersey and pelted with stones until he drowned on 5 June 1919.


History will haunt

until it is acknowledged.

A slosh of settled attitude

enveloped a body,

the heart was a river run dry –

of blood.

Charles Wooton fled 18 Upper Pitt Street,


A question rather than a bed,

always on the look-out,

eyes in the back of the head.

But what good is it when eyes can alert

then do nothing but blink?

He ran for his life

before three hundred pairs of

narrowed eyes and

from the tightest teeth –

the scariest soundbites of

fractured white masculinity.

Their butch stones brought him

to the base of the Mersey,

his body birthing a new fear every time –

it was hit.

Until all fears were released.

His twenty-four years eclipsed by tragic end,

he was much more

than this one event –

Charles Wootton

he splashed around like a fish out of water

except he was in water –



History will repeat

until it is acknowledged.

Pain will resurface

until it is felt.

I spent my teenage years,

looking across the Mersey river

on to an imposing city I wasn’t told was built

on the slave trade.

The ebb and flow of the brown water

at Hamilton Square.

made me feel nauseous

I couldn’t locate the why.

Colonialism didn’t make it into

the textbooks in high-school.

I didn’t know Charles Wootton’s story,

until I was in my thirties.

Long after I had left Merseyside.

History will haunt.

History will haunt.

History will haunt.

Until it is acknowledged.

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NISHA BHAKOO has two poetry collections published "You found a beating heart" (The Onslaught Press, 2016) and "Black & White Dream (Broken Sleep Books, 2018). She edited "Contemporary Gothic Verse" for The Emma Press in 2019.

4 responses to “The Shadow of the Mersey”

  1. Manmohan Bhakoo says:

    Very timely and poignant.

  2. Rachael says:

    I don’t know the story, but I felt it.
    And now I will go away and learn it.
    Thank you Nisha x

  3. Mei says:

    Thank you Nisha, we must remind ourselves of history and sometimes the shame of it. Very moving piece. 💓

  4. Fred says:

    “History will haunt.
    Until it is acknowledged.”
    Reminds me that history has many faces.
    Thank you Nisha.

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