Wash Yer Hands“The soon that we hoped for, is now.”

As heard on liveline

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He told us he was going to do it. Last week, he said he’d be saying it for the last time this week. But what a way to go out. On Friday’s Liveline, Joe Duffy gave us an epic poem by way of saying goodbye to his iconic pandemic catchphrase, “51551 wash yer hands”. For almost 16 months, listeners have heard the phrase regularly during the programme. It’s been a hashtag on social media, it’s become akin to a mantra, but today its race is run (so to speak). You should still wash your hands, of course, but the pandemic has taken us to a place where, Joe feels, “The soon that we hoped for, is now.” 

Wash Yer Hands 

The job in hand was  

To hand write a poem about 

(51551 Wash yer) hands, 

I don’t know if I heard it, first-hand 

Second hand or third hand, 

But, hand on heart, 

From my soft hands who never did a hard day’s work in their life, 

I tried to write this goodbye to  

(51551 wash yer) hands 

But It was out of my hands 

So I hold my hands up, 

I did get a helping hand 

I went, 

Cap in hand, 

I said can you, 

“Give us a hand,” 

And I left it in their hands 

And then by their own hand they wrote 

“My hands are full,” 

So they couldn’t lend a hand with 

(51551 Wash yer) hands 

I thought I could count my friends on more than one hand, 

but my hands were tied, unless I could get 

…. all hands-on deck, 

I got poets with time on their hands, they held my hand, 

And with a guiding hand, using a hand book,  

I have to hand it to them 

We hand made this poem, and hand signed it , 

But it was too… heavy-handed, 

We realised, the task was out of our hands, 

Because, we don’t have gifted hands, 

Hands up or hands down 

That was the hand signal 

That the poem  

(51551 wash yer) hands 

Had got out of hand 

So now, 

I will wait hand and foot,  

As you hand me down your 


your hand-printed, 

handsome words, 

Your golden hand-shake 

As you tell me we all have the whole world in our 

(51551 wash yer) hands 

Lavez-vous les mains 

Nigh do lámha 

Wasche deine Hande 

Lavati lay 

My life is in your hands 

But it was the healing hands  

The gifted hands, the holding hands, the open hands 

That had the whip hand 

When the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing, 

We got the upper hand, 

as hand in hand,  

We came through a pandemic, 

a hand demic that was a hand full, 

not from the hand of God, 

As we said: 

“Get your dirty, filthy hands offa me” 

As it got out of hand,  

We did not hold our hands, but we did  

(51551) wash our hands 

And now we have more time on our hands, hands free,  

We will wash our hands of this pandemic 

This hand-demic 

because we can-demic 

And so, with a freer hand, raise a glass 

Of clear water, 

To every son and daughter, 

Mother and father, uncle, and aunt, 

Siblings and friends to the end, 

To all those we missed and lost  

And loved from a distance 

To the anonymous 5155 ones washing their hands 

For the clean hands, thank you,  

For the healing hands, thank you  

For the hands that wiped away tears, 

Take a bow, 

The soon that we hoped for is now 

So, by a show of hands,  

we say goodbye to  

(51551 wash yer) hands 

You can listen Joe Duffy reading his poem by clicking play in the image above and you hear Friday’s Liveline in full by going here. And if you go to RTÉ’s Twitter feed here, you can also listen to Joe reading the poem accompanied by some nifty graphics. 

Niall Ó Sioradáin 

© The Listener 2021

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