TYNESIDE POETS!

TYNESIDE POETS!

Thursday, 2 April 2020

GORDON PHILLIPS - TYNESIDE POET (1949 - 2017): IN MEMORIAM

























































































Gordon Phillips – Tyneside Poet



I first met Gordon in the early 1970s, both of us “incumdons” to the North East, he from St. Albans while I’d arrived from Burnley. It was poetry that brought us together as active members of The Tyneside Poets.

We shared the ethos of taking poetry away from the self-regarding circles of academe and the cliques to encourage a wider participation. At the same time we developed and honed our own poetic voices.

Gordon’s verse always had a strong musical current pulsing through it and he went on to work with composers to produce work that was lyrical and had strong strains of North Eastern traditions and heritage running through it.

True to the belief in encouraging others we worked together on two anthologies of young people’s poetry under a small press imprint, Pivot Press. For the first one we had a goodly number of contributions and the detailed planning of the anthology was well underway. What we didn’t have was a title. Then Gordon received an envelope with a couple of good poems in it.

The accompanying letter also proved significant. The boy, early teens, was enthusiastic about the possibility of having a poem or two published. However, he was somewhat concerned about how he might be perceived by his peers. This led him to write that he’d be really pleased if we used one of his poems but, “…don’t tell my friends.” Both editions of “Don’t Tell My Friends” were very successful.

Before I left Tyneside in 2012 Gordon had been showing me a poetic project he was working on with St. Mary’s lighthouse in Whitley Bay as its focus. Recently, almost five years later he gave me a copy of the CD, “The Square and Compass”: the project was completed and set to music. A grand piece of work.

Unfortunately, the CD has been followed far too quickly with bad news. On Sunday, 5th February 2017, the illness Gordon had alerted me to finally claimed him. Perhaps it is always too soon, but this is truly so. On my last visit with him he told me of other projects he still had in mind and I had hoped he might at least be able to bring some of them to fruition. It is not to be.

However, as a poet his voice, Gordon’s words, will live on. It was poetry that brought us together, sustained our long friendship and will remain to speak to me.


Dave Alton




POEM FOR GORDON (1949-2017)


Across a Fenham avenue,
through the pools of stars in your eyes,
the seering light of your vision,
I saw your finely hewed words running towards me,
a crystal stream
tearing along these Newcastle lanes.
We tripped along together
in huddled poetry readings,
throbbing public houses
and ancient mansions,
searching for images
to make our days
brighter,
longing for a folk song
to drink with
in the approaching darkness.
Searching,
always searching,
for the right words
to sing to our loved ones,
we crossed the sea
to fulfil our dreams
from the flat land of East Anglia
into the arms of Scandinavia,
returning with that smile of yours
still intact,
beaming with the sun
breaking up the clouds
on any dogged northern day
in your adopted home,
lending a sparkle to Grainger Street,
a twinkle to our beer;
the joy of a lasting friend,
the spilt dreams
forever flowing with us.


 

KEITH ARMSTRONG




THE TREATMENT BELL (GORDON'S FINAL POEM)

 

On the side wall, beside the reception

hangs the treatment bell,

pristine, silver,

its shine an encouraging glow.



Before it, hopeful patients sit.

The next ringer strikes a note for them all:

a customary three times

for an end of plan toll,

excitement measured in the hammering and applause.

 



Gordon Phillips, 18th December 2016


Note from Maureen Phillips:

The first time Gordon and I heard the three rings of the bell was on his first visit to the Department of Radiation Oncology for consultative purposes to evaluate and determine his most optional treatment.  

The inscription on the bell is:
Ring this bell
Three times well
It's toll to clearly say
My treatment's done
This course is run
And I am on my way

 



FOR THOMAS BEWICK

 

In your precious art you raised
delicate species fresh, alive
with every searching niche of blade,
on metalled tints of bone
in flesh, conceived.

Today, our clear eye can review
that aggregate of animals
and speading plants which grew;
now your thoughts to Cherryburn
are our adoption.

Through sludge of field flung back
from my drag of parting feet,
crossing rutted rural lands
you swept in light and shade,
a lock of trees
inside a border to engrave.


 

Gordon Phillips

(as read by Dave Alton at Gordon's funeral on Thursday 16th February 2017 at St Robert of Newminster Roman Catholic Church,  Newcastle upon Tyne)

Thursday, 19 March 2020

NEW FROM DAVE ALTON


(left) photo of dave alton































 Covid-19



There are no rats streaming off from rigged ships,

No bell clanging crier calling out the dead,

No trundling overburdened tumbrils led

By masked spectres as the malady grips.

No crosses daubed over doors, though handles

And handshakes could prove fatal. Fast as fear

This plague flies, a traveller’s souvenir

Round the carousel of the world, dandles

Life and death without intent or purpose

Other than its own being. City shaken,

Markets deserted and futures tumbling.

The preachers of profit are at a loss,

While pubs are closing, last orders taken.

Lock all the doors…but the walls are crumbling.



Dave Alton

Sunday, 8 March 2020

HOTEL UTOPIA




(for Tony Whittle)


In the Hotel Utopia,
we’re as happy as mortal sin.
You can hear an old man crying
through the city din.

There’s a tap that’s always dripping
and walls that are paper thin
and, in this Hotel Utopia,
we’re really dreaming.

There’s a picture in the bathroom
of a resort miles away
and the stairs creak like the old man’s lungs
as he lives another day.

Outside, the trams go tumbling past
and a young girl lights the glass.
It’s Amsterdam and more days lost
on the streets that run so fast.

Yes, here in the Hotel Utopia,
we’re as happy as mortal sin.
You can hear an old man crying
through the City din.

There’s a tap that’s always dripping
and walls that are paper thin
and, in this Hotel Utopia,
we’re really dreaming.

Remember Anne Frank passed this way
so you could grab some Speed,
get high on Sex and learn tp pray
for this City of Eternal Greed.

Take a canal boat, a Rembrandt Ride,
take a hippie down a diamond mine.
I’m a happy man but this City’s sad
and we’re running out of time.

Here, in the Hotel Utopia,
we’re as happy as mortal sin.
You can hear an old man crying
through the City din.

There’s a tap that’s always dripping
and walls that are paper thin
and, in this Hotel Utopia,
we’re really dreaming.

You can lose your eyes in a haze of dope,
you can drink your life to death.
Lying down, in these days of hope,
you’re running out of breath.

So pack your bags and fly away,
through the crowds on these Amstel streets.
Just one last whiff of a Tulip Day
and the weight is off your feet.

In the Hotel Utopia,
we’re as happy as mortal sin.
You can hear an old man crying
through the City din.

There’s a tap that’s aways dripping
and walls that are paper thin
and, in this Hotel Utopia,
we’re really dreaming.





KEITH ARMSTRONG



'Well Keith your beautiful poetry melts my heart, you know that don't you?

Good to see you writing about current politics, don't stop, our country may be depressing politically but the things that are happening are still brimming with meaning and young people today especially need to believe that poetry can be powerful.'

(Jen x)






Tuesday, 25 February 2020

PARK LIFE




CELEBRATING GREEN SPACES IN NORTH TYNESIDE

Local people are invited to send written contributions to our new anthology Park Life - celebrating green spaces in North Tyneside. Poetry, prose and lyrics all inspired by local parks (see information below) and a green agenda generally are welcome to reach us by the end of April 2020. Contibutors may email several written pieces to us as our aim is to ensure that all parks in North Tyneside are celebrated in the writing.

The anthology, published jointly by North Tyneside Council and Northern Voices Community Projects, will be launched in September as part of this year's Heritage Open Days events.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,

Doctor Keith Armstrong,
Northern Voices Community Projects,
35 Hillsden Road,
Whitley Bay,
Tyne & Wear NE25 9XF.

Tel 2529531
k.armstrong643@btinternet.com





Northumberland Park

Nestled between Tynemouth and North Shields, Northumberland Park has attracted visitors to its woodland paths, gardens, lake and bowling green since it was opened in 1885.

Northumberland Park offers a tranquil green space with a variety of landscapes, providing a mixture of Victorian elegance and urban wilderness.

Resting on the medieval site of St Leonard’s hospital and chapel – which has been explored using archaeological digs – today it hosts scenic walks, a herb garden, tea room, bandstand, sculpture trail, children’s play area and BMX pump track.

Marden Quarry - Whitley Bay

10 minutes walk from Whitley Bay town centre is Marden Quarry Park – with mature woodland and limestone grassland. It offers an unusual landscape, as virtually the only exposure of magnesium limestone north of the River Tyne.

It is a local nature reserve too, with a large wildfowl lake supporting breeding birds such as the mute swan, mallard, moorhen, coot, tufted duck and seasonal migrating birds.

The quarry park celebrated its 40th anniversary in November 2017.

Richardson Dees – Wallsend

Wallsend Parks are a group of three public parks, close to Wallsend town centre.

They form a resource for wildlife and people in three unique, connected green spaces over 16 hectares in size.

The grounds are adjacent to the Green which was the site of the original Wallsend village in medieval times. In the 19c two large houses stood to the north of the Green; Wallsend Hall and The Red House which both had substantial ornamental gardens now incorporated into the park.

To the south east of the site was the 'C' Pit, an extension of Wallsend Colliery, which was closed in 1854.

Wallsend Parks is made up of:

Wallsend Civic Hall Grounds – a quiet parkland with formal walks and points of historical interest, dating back as far as 1790
Prince Road Arboretum – an open grassland area, sloping down to a natural burn with a mixture of open spaces and beautiful views
Richardson Dees Park – a Victorian park dating from 1900, incorporating formal planting with a wide range of facilities:
multi-age play area
Verandah Café
bandstand
community pavilion
bowling greens
outdoor gym
tennis and basketball courts
skate park
multi-use games area
lakeside and woodland walks
sculpture story trail

Rising Sun Countryside Park

The Rising Sun Country Park is now a site in Benton that once housed one of the world’s largest coal mines. It has been transformed into a 400 acre natural green oasis. The Park is a site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI) and the lake is designated as a Local Nature Reserve (LNR).
The Rising Sun Country Park is a green oasis of 162 hectares, set in the heart of North Tyneside.

Boasting a nature reserve with ponds, woodlands and extensive grasslands; a farm and Countryside Centre, the site is a haven for wildlife and an ideal place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors.

Benton Quarry

A quarry of some sort has been here since Roman times and it is said that when the quarry came into full production in the 1800s – the age of the industrial revolution – the sandstone was used to help build some of Newcastle’s famous buildings.

The unfenced quarry became worked out and filled up with water in the 1930s, with the exception of an island known by locals as ‘Froggy Island’ – suggesting it was a haven for frogs.

In the 1960s, the council of the time used the quarry for disposal of building rubble and the quarry basin was filled in. Lime, sycamore and horse chestnut trees surrounded the quarry and it was fenced off. The land inside was basically grassy scrubland and a local farmer used it to feed his goats.

Then in the late 1970s and 1980s trees were planted with the help of local volunteers and Scout groups. The park was left to develop naturally and little more was done until 2003 when North Tyneside Council reintroduced Park Wardens. The old pathways were then reclaimed and the park started to look as it is now.

Silverlink Biodiversity Park

Silverlink Park LNR incorporates Silverlink Biodiversity Park and West Allotment Pond, and occupies approximately 18 hectares in the centre of Cobalt Business Park, just off the A19.
As part of a new development scheme in 1996, a new country park was created on the site of a former rubbish tip.
This 'Biodiversity Park' together with the pond at West Allotment was declared a Local Nature Reserve in 2005.
The reserve holds significant biodiversity value, with woodland, scrub and hedgerow, grassland and tall herb, wetland and exposed rock habitats.
In particular, the site is of note for its amphibian and invertebrate population. The ponds and ditches are teeming with invertebrates such as pond skaters, blue-tailed damselfly and whirligig beetles.
Roe deer, fox, brown hare and rabbit can all be discovered in the park's grassland, whilst kestrels are regularly seen hovering overhead.
The grassland is also home to many species of butterfly such as meadow brown, common blue and small white.
A giant sundial sits on top of the central hill, and for this reason the site is sometimes referred to as the 'Sundial Park'.
Free parking is available on site, directly opposite the Village Hotel on The Silverlink North.

Killingworth Lakeside

Killingworth Lake is a popular man-made lakeside park. The highlight is a small colony of Mute Swans which attracts a great deal of interest.  At times Whooper and on rare occasions Bewick Swans can also come to visit. There are two lakes, either side of a main road. There is a patch of open grassland on the southern shore and there are patches of woodland along the edges of the park which are home to singing Warblers such as Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler in the spring/summer months.

Close to the road which separates the two lakes, Cormorants and Grey Herons can be seen on some wooden platforms. The site remains a good site for Common Terns and Great Crested Grebes in the summer.

On occasion Black Terns have also been recorded visiting this site.

Royal Quays/ Chirton Dene/ Parks, North Shields

A recently developed park, part of the Royal Quays regeneration. The name comes from the Chirton Burn, previously a culverted burn which ran into the Tyne, but has been restored and integrated into a series of water features. A lake attracts swans, gulls, ducks and wildfowl. To the north it connects with the Parks Centre which was originally a recreation area for Smiths Docks Company workers. To the south it meets the Royal Quays Marina, formerly the Albert Edward Dock.

Weetslade Countryside Park

This is reclaimed from the site of the old Weetslade Colliery which closed in 1966 and can found up near Dudley.

The sinking of Weetslade Colliery began on the 6th of August 1900 and the colliery opened in c.1903. Weetslade had workings connected with the nearby Burradon Colliery, though the two mines had separate ventilation systems. The colliery was on a branch of the Seaton Burn Wagonway. In the 1910s Weetslade Colliery was owned by the Burradon & Coxlodge Coal Co. Ltd., and then in the 1940s by the Hazlerigg & Burradon Coal Co. In 1947 Weetslade Colliery was recorded as producing 160,000 tons of coal for household, manufacturing and steam production. By 1960 there were 638 people employed at the colliery (488 working below ground and 150 working on the surface). Weetslade Colliery closed on the 10th of September 1966. The site continued to be used as a washery until 1980 before being left abandoned. Many years later the site was landscaped to become Weetslade Colliery Country Park, which opened in 2006

Monday, 17 February 2020

THIS



this
used to be countryside
shapely acres of land and now it's
ground for genocide
the sheep jostle with exploding tanks

townsfolk
use our land to plan in
clean out their minds and
leave us

all their rubbish
tins and tanks

listen
to the weekend artists stumbling mumbling in their cottage country haunts running free
between the gunbursts

tins and taunts and
towns and tanks

yes this used to be countryside
shapely acres of land and
now it's
ground for genocide
the sheep drift in city waste

artists amongst tanks

 



Keith Armstrong

Thursday, 6 February 2020

KEITH ARMSTRONG - LIST OF PUBLICATIONS



































Books:
Shakespeare and Company. Erdesdun Publications, Whitley Bay 1975.
Giving Blood. People's Publications, Newcastle 1977.
Pains of Class. Artery Publications, London 1982.
Love Poems. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 1984.
Dreaming North (book & LP). With Graeme Rigby. Portcullis Press, Gateshead Libraries 1986.
The Jingling Geordie: Selected Poems 1970-1990. The Common Trust & Rookbook Publications, Edinburgh 1990.
Poets' Voices. With Cynthia Fuller, Michael Standen & others. Durham County Council & Tuebingen Cultural Office, Tuebingen 1991.
The Big Meeting: A People's View of the Durham Miners' Gala. TUPS, Newcastle 1994.
The Darkness Seeping: The Chantry Chapel of Prior Rowland Leschman in Hexham Abbey. With introduction by historian
Colin Dallison & illustrations by Kathleen Sisterson. Northern Voices & Crowquill Press, Belfast 1997.
Innocent Blood: the Hexham Riot of 1761. With historian Tom Corfe. Northern Voices & Crowquill Press, Belfast 1996.
Old Dog on the Isle of Woman. Cold Maverick Press Legend Series Number 1, Sunderland 1999.
Our Village. Memories of the Durham Mining Communities. The People's History, Durham 2000.
Bless'd Millennium: The Life & Work of Thomas Spence. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2000.
The Town of Old Hexham. The People's History, Durham 2002.
Imagined Corners. Smokestack Books, Middlesbrough 2004.
Out to Sea. With artist Rolf Wojciechowski. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2004.
Sweet Heart: Erotic Verse. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2006.
Angels Playing Football: Newcastle Poems. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2006.
The Hive of Liberty:The Life & Work of Thomas Spence. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2007.
Hermann Hesse in the Gutter: Tuebingen Poems (1987-2007). With translations by Carolyn Murphey Melchers. Northern Voices,
Whitley Bay 2007.
A Blush in Staindrop Church. Christopher Smart (1722-1771) in Durham. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2008.
Common Words & the Wandering Star: Jack Common (1903-1968). University of Sunderland Press, 2009.
From Segedunum to the Spanish City. North Tyneside's heritage in words and pictures. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2010.
Grand Times. The story of the Grand Hotel, Tynemouth. Grand Hotel, Tynemouth 2010.
The Spanish City. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2010.
The Light in the Centurion. The story of Newcastle’s historic bar. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2011.
Splinters: Poems by Keith Armstrong. Hill Salad Books (Breviary Stuff Publications), London 2011.
The Month of the Asparagus: Selected Poems by Keith Armstrong. Ward Wood Publishing, London 2011.
Still the Sea Rolls On. The Hartley Pit Calamity of 1862. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2012.
North Tyneside Steam. Northern Voices Comunity Projects, Whitley Bay 2014.
Thomas Spence: The Poor Man’s Revolutionary. With Alastair Bonnett. Breviary Stuff Publications, London 2014.
Follow the Sun. Northern Voices Commmunity Projects, Whitley Bay 2016.
The Pitman Poet of Percy Main: Joseph Skipsey. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2017.
Wallington Morning. Poems by Keith Armstrong. Wild Boar Books, Lincoln 2017.
The Wooden Dollies of North Shields. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2018.
Tyne Anew. Celebrating Public Art in North Tyneside. Northern Voices Community Proects, Whitley Bay 2019.
Magazines:
Including: Revival,True Faith, Toon Talk, Red Pepper, Poetry Review, Iron, Aesthetica, The Poetry Business, The Ranfurly Review, The Penniless Press, Citizen 32, Morning Star, The Recusant, Kenaz, The New Statesman, Other Poetry, Poetry Scotland, True Faith, Dream Catcher, Episteme, Northern Echo, Newcastle Evening Chronicle, Sand, North East History, North East Life, The Informer, StepAway, Northern Review, X magazine, Poetry Salzburg Review, Ash (Oxford University Poetry Society), The Cheviot, The Galway Review, Culture Matters.
Recent anthologies:
Golden Girl. Poems on Newcastle upon Tyne. Credo, Newcastle 2001.
The Seven Deadly Sins. University of Groningen 2002.
Mein Heimliches Auge Erotic Yearbook. Konkursbuch, Tuebingen 2002.
Red Sky At Night: Socialist Poetry. Five Leaves Publications, Nottingham 2003.
War On War. Sub, Breda, 2003.
Paging Doctor Jazz. Shoestring Press, Nottingham 2004.
Microphone On. Poetry from the White House Pub. White House Press, Limerick 2005.
Paint the Sky with Stars. Re-Invention UK, Rayne 2005.
Miracle and Clockwork. Other Poetry, Durham 2005.
North by North East. Iron Press, Cullercoats 2006.
Revival. White House Poetry, Limerick 2006, 2007 & 2009.
Both Sides of Hadrian’s Wall. Selkirk Lapwing Press, Selkirk 2006.
The Wilds. Ek Zuban, Middlesbrough 2007.
Two Rivers Meet. Poetry from the Shannon and the Tyne. Revival Press, Limerick 2008.
Kemmy’s Limerick Miscellany. Limerick Writers’ Centre 2009.
Fishing and Folk. Life and Dialect on the North Sea Coast. Northumbria University Press, Newcastle upon Tyne 2008.
Emergency Verse. Poetry in Defence of the Welfare State. Caparison, Brighton 2011.
The Robin Hood Book. Verse Versus Authority. Caparison, Brighton 2012.
Anthology for a River. Danu Press, Limerick 2012.
The Blue Max Review. Rebel Poetry. Fermoy, 2012.
View from Zollernblick. Regional Perspectives in Europe. Grace Note Publications, Ochteryre 2013.
How Am I Doing For Time? Five Years of Poems, Prose and Pints. Harrogate 2014.
The Spirit of Tolpuddle. Citizen 32, Manchester 2014.
Anent. Hamish Henderson: Essays, Poems, Interviews. Gracenote Publications, Ochtertyre 2015.
More Raw Material: Work Inspired by Alan Sillitoe. Lucifer Press, Nottingham 2015.
De grote dikke hobbyrockencyclopedie. Uitgevers Passage, Groningen, 2016.
Half Moon: Poems about Pubs. Otley Word Feast Press, Otley 2016.
1916-2016, An Anthology of Reactions. Limerick Writers’ Centre, 2016.
Voices from the Cave. Revival Press, Limerick, 2017.
Word Sharing: A Literary Anthology. Kulturamt, Tuebingen, 2017.
CDs:
Bleeding Sketches. With The Whisky Priests. Whippet Records, Durham 1995.
Out to Sea. With The Ancient Mariners, Jim Mageean, Ann Sessoms. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2007.
Sound City. With Rick Taylor, Bruce Arthur, Pete Challoner, Ian Carr & Bob Fox. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2007.
The Elvis Diaries. With Jim Nunn. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2007.
The Poetry of Percussion. With Bruce Arthur. Northern Voices, Whitley Bay 2008.
Mad Martins. With Gary Miller. Whippet Records, Ferryhill 2017.
Sing a Song for Henshaw. With Chris Ormston. Northern Voices Community Projects, Whitley Bay 2018.
Cassette:
The Pitman Poet from Percy Main:The Life & Times of Joseph Skipsey (1832-1903). North Tyneside People’s Centres 1991.


Further information: Northern Voices Community Projects, 35 Hillsden Road, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear NE25 9XF, England. Tel 0191 2529531. Email: k.armstrong643@btinternet.com

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

MY FRIEND JACK COMMON










































 








 
 
 
 
 
Ever since the sixth form,
when I found you, 
a kindred Novocastrian
in a library book,
I seem to have followed in your steps,
stumbled after you 
in rain soaked lanes,
knocked on doors
in search of your stories.
For over forty years,
I have tracked
the movement of your pen
in streets you walked
and on cross country trains
from your own Newcastle
to Warrington
Malvern,
Newport Pagnell,
Letchworth,
Yetminster,
Wallington 
and back again.
I have given talks about you,
supped in your pubs,
strode along your paragraphs 
and river paths
to try to find
that urge in you
to write 
out of your veins
what you thought of things,
what made you tick
and your loved ones 
laugh and cry.
I tried to reach you in a thesis,
to see you as a lad in Heaton,
but I could never catch your breath
because I didn’t get to meet you
face to face,
could only guess
that you were like me:
a kind of kindly 
socialist writer
in a world
too cruel for words.





KEITH ARMSTRONG

Peter Common Well said Keith!



Dear kindly socialist writer - this is great - thanks a lot for sending it

Love
Pat

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

HOOKEY WALKER'S FAREWELL TO SHIELDS


































HOOKEY WALKER’S FAREWELL TO SHIELDS

(I wrote the following jeu d’esprit in the year 1852 and had it printed anonymously. It was meant to represent, with that spice of exaggeration permissible in such good natured squibs, the condition and aspect of the Shieldses – South Shields more particularly – as they struck a dispassionate resident in that remote era, before the local sanitary reformers had set about their Herculean task, towards the accomplishment of which they have since gone a great length).





Farewell to Shields, the filthiest place

On old Northumbria’s dirty face,

The coal-hole of this British nation,

The fag-end of the whole creation,

The jakes of Newcastle-upon-Tyne,

The banquet-house of dogs and swine,

The paradise of bugs and fleas,

And human vermin worse than these;

A mass of houses – not a town -,

On heaps of cinders squatted down,

Close to the river’s oozy edge,

Like moulting hens behind a hedge;

Huge ballast heaps, from London brought,

And here, like churchyard rubbish, shot,

Half-clad with scurvy blighted green,

Alone diversify the scene,

And furnish, when the weather’s dry,

An inexhaustible supply

Of dust, with every breath that flies,

To torture and to blind the eyes,

And, when it rains or thaws, a flood

Of sticky, stinking, coal-black mud,

Oft ankle-deep, in Claypath Lane,

Making the use of blacking vain;

Brick-yards, the nastiest smoke exhaling;

Green scummy ponds, a source unfailing

Of fell disease, foul middensteads,

Where everything infectious breeds;

Steam-tugs, whose smoke beclouds the river;

Chimneys, forth vomiting forever

All sorts of gas, to taint the air,

And drive the farmers to despair,

Blighting their corn, their quicksets blasting,

And all their prospects overcasting;

For scarcely even a weed will blow,

For miles around no trees will grow

In stunted copse or rugged fence,

Within their baneful influence,

And where stray birds have planted them,

In former better times, each stem

Looms on us, bare, black, mummied quite,

A ghastly and unnatural sight.

Streets, - if the name can be applied

To dingy lanes not ten feet wide,

Bordered by wretched tenements,

Let to poor devils at high rents;

Houses, on Dean and Chapter Land

Which, if not close packed, would not stand,

Whose perfect matches can be found

Nowhere within the empire’s bound;

Sewers, that only serve to stay

Stenches the wind will blow away,

And guide them to our outraged noses,

Concentrated in double doses.

When his sweet pipe Amphion blew

The enchanted stones together flew,

And formed a city. Widely famed,

Thebes by the Syrian Cadmus named.

Not such a dulcet origin

Had Shields, but to the cursed din

Of wheels and axles, saws and hammers,

And competitions thousand clamours,

It rose around St. Hilda’s pit,

For sooty fiends a dwelling fit.

Since Sodom and Gomorrah fell,

By bolts from heaven and blasts from hell,

Satan, with all the skill he wields,

Has formed no counterpart to Shields,

And, in futurity’s dark womb,

Laid up for Shields is Sodom’s doom,

For all that store of bitumen

Was not placed under it in vain.

He who perambulates the place,

Needs no uncommon skill to trace

The features of the inhabitants,

Whose instincts, appetites and wants,

It suits to such a nicety,

That nothing lacking they can see,

But shout “Hourrah for canny Shields”

And deem the Bents the Elysian fields.

Take from the mass a score or twain,

Honest in heart and sound in brain,

Free-spirited, intelligent,

Friendly-disposed, benevolent,

And all the rest are chaff and sand,

Fit only to manure the land,

Mill-horses, pacing round and round

The same eternal spot of ground,

To pick a paltry pittance up,

And smoke and snooze and eat and sup;

Gross gluttons, worshipping their belly;

Boobies, with brains of calf’s-foot jelly;

Creatures, whose souls are in their dress;

Base crawling serfs, idealless;

Crouching, dust-licking parasites;

Prim sanctimonious hypocrites;

Fellows whose lives are one long lie,

To meanly cloak their poverty,

Who, with the bailiffs at the door,

Turn up their noses at the poor,

And living upon shift, despise

The drudge from whom they draw supplies;

Magistrates, void of all pretence

To morals as of moral sense,

Leaving the beershop for the bench,

To send to Durham their own wench;

Lawyers, who know no more of law

But from their clients fees to draw;

Clergymen, dull and dry as dust,

In whom old women put their trust;

Doctors, a shallow, quackish crew,

But that, alas, is nothing new;

As for the so-called “vulgar rabble”,

One learns their status from their gabble;

They can’t be said to speak at all,

But jabber, croak, grunt, burr and drawl;

'Tis neither English, Scotch, nor Norse,

Though it partakes of all, and worse.

If brutes have souls, as some pretend,

And after death to Hades wend,

And learn to speak, I do expect,

'Twill be in the Shields dialect.

Farewell to Shields! I shout again;

A long and glad farewell! Amen!

I never liked the place, nor did

The place like me; but God forbid

I should bear witness false against it;

I have writ truth, and here attest it.



HOOKEY WALKER



On board ship “Lizzie Webber”.


The Lizzie Webber was built in Sunderland in 1851-1852 and sailed from Sunderland to Melbourne 31-7-1852 arrived 4-12-1852.

Written by William Brockie (1811 - 1890)


Born at the East Mains of Lauder where his father was the tenant farmer, William was educated at the Parish Schools of Lauder, Smailholm, Mertoun and Melrose as his father changed farms.
Starting work as a teacher - he was at Kailzie prior to 1843 - he decided to pursue his real love, writing, and in 1842 he set up the "Galashiels Weekly Review". He also wrote articles for other publications including the "Border Treasury". Before long he was the editor of the "Border Watch" which was to become the "Border Advertiser".
In 1849 he crossed the border into England to become editor of the "North and South Shields Gazette", later becoming editor of the "Sunderland Times" from 1862 to 1872.
During all of this time, he was also busy researching and writing, particularly in the field of local history and folk legends.
Amongst his best known works are:
"The Gypsies of Yetholm" (1884) for which he is best known in the Borders, "Coldingham Priory" (1886), "A Day in the Land of Scott", "Leaderside Legends", "Legends and Superstitions of the County of Durham"(1886) and "Sunderland Notables"(1894).