Heaney read Docker to the Belfast ‘Group’ led by Philip Hobsbaum in late 1963. He had been invited to join the group as an undergraduate and expose his poems to a small non-denominational assembly of poets. The poem exposes the prejudice lurking behind the dour, uncompromising exterior of a dockworker in mid twentieth century Belfast. To Heaney’s mind the man’s intimidating appearance embodies the sectarian mentality of favoured Protestant working men compared with the Catholic minority. Heaney is aware of employment policies that discriminated against Catholic dockers: shipbuilders Harland and Wolff for example aimed their recruitment policy towards Protestants. This prophetic poem deals with uncompromising attitudes. Non-communicative, the man sits silent and alone in the corner of a public bar […]