Sing a song of somebody

You came to these shores like a comet.
In its tail were thousands of songs
And your own special story to tell.
Your voice filled classrooms and pubs
With much more than more of the same.
You shipped in the sights and the sounds
Of a Thames ennobled by time
With temples, domes, palaces and towers.
Engraved on its surface, your tug
Was busy with daily encounters,
While an immense past was being towed
Towards unexpected destinations.

Oh! Danny boy, child of the East End,
The mighty flow of life would take you
Far across the sea, until spouting whales,
Their haunting songs and an unpredictable tide
In your roving life, landed you here,
Like flotsam on a beneficial wave.

Your appetite and intellect combined
To put Australian capital into the bank
Of folksong you inherited. It grew
Into an asset much admired. Your skill
And passion opened many doors;
Important among them, Melbourne University,
Which welcomed the doyen of the folk scene.
And Spooner, dubbed 'professor' by his peers, Added excitement to the lecturing
Of Ian Maxwell, fervent Professor of English.
They made Norse sagas resonate, and Boewulf.

To my delight, when made aware of Danny,
A stroke of luck brought joy to History.
I found an opening, through a special grant
For an artist-in-residence to swell our team.
So began a friendship, crystalline,
Which sparkles down the years. Immediately
Your impact was immense, putting to use,
In British History, work and protest songs
Already Spoonered, but adding greatly
For Australianites, ballads of convicts,
Shearers, miners, tramps.

Much you did, and doing, quite outdid
The rest of us. By reading everything in sight,
The folksy bookworm gobbled up the library.

Becoming well known within the campus,
Our rising star was traced
By the Extension Team who wanted him
To take the University to Town.
Just as they did with Medicine and Science.
And Danny paid them well. His common touch
Was much admired, especially it seems,
By our man's minder. Gael Shannon found
Her new performer was indeed a star
Who shone bright in the firmament.
A splendid meteor he was
Who gently came to earth beside her.

So much they've done since then, and multiplied
The impact of his voice. He studied hard
And joined the teaching trade,
Inspiring hundreds to excel;
But singing still. Across Australia
And in the USA, at festivals and gigs,
Danny hits the spot. Applause is in the air
He breathes. So is Gael. Shining together,
Teachers of much renown, they've made
Their home a special place for us, and cats.
And, add to that, their spirit never seems to flag.
Gael was, still is, will be, his true support.
The years applaud her, just as we,
Gathered to toast him on his 80th,
Give thanks for all the wondrous
Times we've shared: for all the songs
He brught to life. And we rejoice
That, through an elastic bond,
London's East End has been extended here.

Weston Bate
10th December 2016