Lucy Vickery

Much have I travelled

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In Competition No. 3122, to mark the demise of the 178-year-old travel company, you were invited to submit a poem about Thomas Cook. The firm may have hit the buffers, but many entries featured its eponymous founder’s original offering — railway travel and Temperance tours — which would be just the job in our clean-living, climate-change-challenged times.

In a large and excellent crop, the six below stood out and earn their authors £25.

James Cook explored, and met the end

Lèse-majesté procures,

But Thomas Cook began the trend

For organising tours.

He was dynamic, fired with hope,

And thus the business boomed,

Though nonetheless its moral scope

Was tragically foredoomed.

They started out as Temperance jaunts,

Those earnest early treks.

Now low, disreputable haunts

Draw mobs for drink and sex.

That Spanish coast which once for some

Was vividly romantic

Is foreign-yahoo playground from

Cebère to the Atlantic.

Basil Ransome-Davies

When Thomas laid on special trains

for groups who spurned the demon drink,

he said, ‘there must be greater gains,

the world’s my oyster, now I think

I’ll take more people for a ride’ —

he saw a chance and so he took it,

‘Here’s to tourism,’ he cried,

then said, ‘Don’t book it, Thomas Cook it.’

With happy hols, the profits rose,

no hint of hopes that would be dashed,

but when old Tom turned up his toes

the firm was sold; in time it crashed.

Said all the fat cats (getting fatter),

‘Stranded passengers who’ve booked,

and loyal staff, you scarcely matter,

screw you all, your goose is Cooked.’

Sylvia Fairley

Like crocuses the brochures came,

A sign of winter’s loosening grip,

And starter of the annual game

To book ourselves a summer trip.

Pictures and words so glossy bright

They made a dazzling sunlit scene,

A winking promise of delight

With nothing dull beneath the sheen.

In store, brisk Mandy claimed to know

Just what we wanted, worked the phone,

And clinched things in a way to show

We could not manage on our own.

And so we travelled out and stayed

In search of little more than sun,

With Cook’s our holiday nursemaid,

The sort that helps you walk, not run.

W.J. Webster

I’ve travelled much, at first to serve the Lord

Delivering Baptist pamphlets close to home,

Then venturing further, called by God to roam,

The villages of Derbyshire I toured

Till thoughts of touring occupied my brain

And, knowing God on strict abstainers smiles,

I planned a Temperance Trip, eleven miles,

To Loughborough from Leicester on a train;

And thus my empire grew in scope and scale.

By God’s good grace more travellers chose to book

Their annual holidays through Thomas Cook,

The name to trust, the firm that could not fail

Nor ever would. So, travellers, rest assured,

With us you’ll have no reason to complain,

We’ll take you off and bring you home again,

Since Thomas Cook was founded on the Lord.

Alan Millard

It’s no go the Continent, it’s no go the Riviera,

We’ve got a blue passport again but it won’t much help the bearer,

It’s no go the booze cruise, it’s no go my honey,

It’s no go the travel agent, now that Cook’s are up the Swanee.

Old Thomas Cook was a clever chap, we need his resurrection,

He’ll take us on holiday again, but in the right direction,

And all we want is north-west Wales on a Cook’s tour railway train,

Teetotal trips to Conwy or Llandudno in the rain.

We can’t afford the airfares and there’s nowhere we can fly

And all Cook’s planes are grounded (though no one is quite sure why),

But those teetotal tours by train will suit us really fine,

Though even Cook won’t help us when the leaves are on the line.

It’s no go the foreign food, it’s no go my poppet,

It’s no go the Costa del, they said we have to stop it,

It’s no go the Citroen, VW or Beamer,

But Thomas Cook could still take us to Shanklin on a steamer.

Brian Murdoch

A goodly man there was with fertile brain,

Who organised some early trips by train;

His bright idea was a great success

And many townsfolk found new happiness

In travelling together far and wide

Led by a trusted, safely temperance guide.

He told such tales of many a foreign land

That soon there grew a promising demand

From pilgrims keen to worship sea and sun,

Thus ‘package holidays’ were first begun,

And from an altruistic, kindly start

Grew up a business, profit at its heart.

When Thomas Cook eventually became

A company’s, not just a person’s name,

The world of commerce proved a faithless place:

This project ended with a fall from grace.

Alanna Blake

No. 3125: first or last

You are invited to compose a comically appalling first or final paragraph of the memoir of a well-known figure, living or dead. Please email entries of up to 150 words to lucy@spectator.co.uk by midday on 13 November.