Charlie Chaplin - two poems by Raine Geoghegan

17 June 2024
Charlie Chaplin

Spencer Chaplin Says I Do    


The groom and best man stood stone still at the front of the chapel in the Parish of St. Margaret in Ipswich. A few people sat in the pews while others were making their way inside. No music played, as the bride entered with her father. That would come later. All eyes were on the dark haired beauty, no more than sixteen years of age. She wore her grandmother’s ivory lace dress. Carrying a bouquet of peonies, pink roses and gypsophillia her long dark hair in tight ringlets fell down to her waist.                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Eyes as dark as sloes.

Skin the shade of olives.

A gold chain round her neck.

Ellen Elizabeth Smith, a Gypsy girl.

There were whispers, murmurings then silence. As soon as the groom caught sight of his bride, his nerves vanished. His eyes shone. The congregation fell quiet. Word by word they uttered their vows.

When they walked out of the dark church into the sunlight, the bride’s family who had been standing in the doorway were waiting. Dressed in a rainbow of colour, carrying baskets of food and flowers they rushed forward to embrace the young Ellen, showering her with small bags of rowan berries, tied with red ribbon and painted pegs for good luck.

‘Kushti bokt me gel', came the voice of her father. A man stood back playing the fiddle then led the congregation down the lane to the old barn, where merriment was sure to be had. 


Romani words (jib):  Kushti bokt – Good luck.

(Spencer Chaplin – the Grandfather of Charlie Chaplin)

Photograph: Charlie Chaplin in The Tramp, 1915. By P.D Jankens - Fred Chess, Public Domain,

Charlie Chaplin

Chaplin Tells All to a Journalist


I had a troubled childhood, nobody knows what I went through. My dear mother went mad you know. I was just a boy, a skinny little urchin. I came home one afternoon and there was my mother sitting on the doorstep with a neighbour, her eyes rolling around, spit on her lips. The neighbour told me straight.

     ‘Oh my dear Charlie, yer mother’s not well. She’s been going from door to door in the neighbourhood giving away little clumps of coal, saying that they’re gifts for the children. She needs ‘elp.’

So I grabbed her hand and lead her through the streets in the fog and the cold until we got to the infirmary. A kind looking nurse took her in but I never felt so alone. I walked home and waited for my brother Syd to return. When he did, he cooked me boiled beef and carrots. He was good like that, our Syd. After we’d eaten, we snuggled up together, wrapping blankets around us to keep us warm.

The next day the neighbour called, asking about mother. She gave me some heather and said it was from the Gypsies and it will bring us all good luck. I put that heather in my pocket and my luck did change, but as for my mother, well she never did get back to her old self. God bless her soul.

Photograph: Charlie Chaplin in 1920, By Strauss-Peyton Studio - National Portrait Gallery, Public Domain,