TYNESIDE POETS!

TYNESIDE POETS!

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).













 

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

BLACK GATE


































Black Gate,
an oxter of history,
reaches for me
with a stubby finger,
invites me into Old Newcastle,
its vital cast
of craggy characters,
Garth urchins,
dancing blades
and reeling lasses.
Black Gate,
I can read
the lines
on your brow,
the very grit
on your timelined walls,
the furrowed path
down the Geordie lane
where Alexander Stephenson stoops
to let me in
and the merchant Patrick Black
still trades in memories.
Once
there was a tavern
inside you,
that’s why
the bricks cackle
and the windows creak
with the crack of old ale
and the redundant patter
of publican John Pickell.
Black Gate,
you could say
my childhood is in your stones,
my mother and father figures,
my river
of drifting years,
waiting to greet me.
Hoist up your drawbridge,
in the startling chill
of a Tyne dawn,
this boy is with you
and with himself
in this home city
of old bones,
new blood
and dripping dreams.



KEITH ARMSTRONG

*The Black Gate is named after the seventeenth century merchant Patrick Black.
'Evocative. Sings for me.' (Stuart)  'Nice poem Keith. Evocative and full of rich characterisation.' (John)

Sunday, 15 December 2019

CASTLE KEEP


 
































Keep,
this history by the river.
Keep,
the stairway to the past.
Keep,
the memories singing folk songs.
Keep,
the cobbles wet with blood.
Keep,
those ballads down the centuries.
Keep,
the ancient voices in your head.
Keep,
these stones alive with music.
Keep,
the wind howling in the brick.
Keep
the days that speed our lives.
Keep,
the rails to guide you there.
Keep,
the people that you meet.
Keep,
the children's faces dancing.
Keep,
the devil in your fleeting eyes.
Keep,
the bridges multiplying.
Keep,
the moon upon the Tyne.
Keep,
the flag of lovers flying.
Keep,
your feet still
Geordie hinny.


 

KEITH ARMSTRONG

Thursday, 28 November 2019

A LANCASHIRE LIFE BY DAVE ALTON



A Lancashire Life Lived
(Sooner or Later)

Staring down Cottonopolis Road I still see
Mill chimneys, sticking up as defiant digits
To this digital world. There’s a mischievous tree
Sprouting from one as if, despite its height, it fits.
This then is the realm of King Coal and Queen Cotton
These days. Sooner or later they’ll be forgotten.

Edwardian villas, grand once but shabby now,
Are reminders rendered in red brick of great wealth
Spun from mills, woven in sheds, that slipped by somehow
Spinners and weavers donkey stoning off the filth
Belched smoke soot-smutted along millstone terraces,
Becoming, sooner or later, heritage places.

In one villa, being minded by milling carers,
Laid out on cotton sheets in a drawn-curtain room,
And almost, almost prepared for the pall bearers,
The fent of a woman frays. So I must assume
My position as her son for days, weeks perhaps,
Until, sooner or later, the yarn of her life snaps.

Dave Alton

Saturday, 23 November 2019

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALAN C. BROWN

ALAN C. BROWN - A TRIBUTE


































Photo by Tony Whittle







"They Shoot Horses Don't They ...?"



A sunny day in back in the 1970s and there's a parade through the streets of Newcastle. I don’t recall the reason for it, some mayoral celebration or significant civic anniversary perhaps, but it was quite extensive.

There were floats and fanciful costumes, crowds along the pavements and amidst the slow moving, slightly unruly jollity, on the flat-back of a lorry, the Tyneside Poets, declaiming their verses through a loud hailer.

Amongst the collective of young bards was the father figure, a poet in his fifties who was as enthusiastic as ever he’d been. Alan C. Brown read with customary enthusiasm his poem inspired by a popular film of the day, “They Shoot Horses Don’t They…”

Alan was the link between the upsurge of poetic interest in the 1950s and a group of poets determined to take poetry out from the hallowed halls of academe to wherever it might find a hearing, the more unlikely the venue the better.

The spirit of originality suffused Alan who cared little for conforming to conventional thinking. This showed through in his combining being a practicing Christian with a political sympathy for Russia.

As a poet he had an enduring interest in Russian poetry, with the possibility that poetry could become a popular art form. While others of his generation may have acquired greater public acknowledgement, none could match Alan’s enthusiasm and capacity for poetry.

Being one of those young bards on the lorry, I have vivid memories of my time with the Tyneside Poets and the central role Alan played in it. Even after that original group dispersed, Alan persisted and kept things going, organising subsequent groups that bore the name.

Initially, Keith Armstrong and I set up the Poetry Tyneside blog to put work drawn from Poetry North East, the Tyneside Poets’ magazine, on-line. Alan’s poetry was and is an important part of that heritage.

They may shoot horses, but old poets read on until they can read no more. Alan C. Brown may no longer read, but it is a testimony to him that he will continue to be read.



The Poet’s Tongue
(For Alan C. Brown)

The poet’s tongue is in repose,
His ear shrouded in silence,
But though the voice has passed away
Words remain of consequence.

Time is versed in its own passing:
Rigour of mortis requires
Syllables be chosen with care
Before their moment expires.

What remain stays with the reading,
Way beyond fad or fashion.
His spirit lives though the verses
Penned with the ink of passion.


Dave Alton




  p.s. from Steve Walker:


This is a tribute to Alan C Brown, who was a tremendous encouragement and influence upon me as a young poet on Tyneside and a passionate believer that poetry had a power to transform lives and worlds.

Monday, 11 November 2019

A PRAYER FOR THE LONERS































 



The dejected men,

the lone voices,

slip away

in this seaside rain.

Their words shudder to a standstill

in dismal corners.

Frightened to shout, 

they cower

behind quivering faces.

No one listens

to their memories crying.

There seems no point

in this democratic deficit.

For years, they just shuffle along,

hopeless

in their financial innocence.

They do have names

that no lovers pronounce.

They flit between stools,

miss out on gales of laughter.

Who cares for them?

Nobody in Whitley Bay

or canny Shields,

that’s for sure.

These wayside fellows

might as well be in a saddos’ heaven

for all it matters

in the grey world’s backwaters.

Life has bruised them,

dashed them.

Bones flake into the night.

I feel like handing them all loud hailers

to release  

their oppressed passion,

to move them

to scream 

red murder at their leaders -

those they never voted for;

those who think they’re something,

some thing special,

grand.

For, in the end,

I am on the side of these stooped lamenters,

the lonely old boys with a grievance

about caring 

and the uncaring;

about power,

and how switched off

this government is

from the isolated,

from the agitated,

from the trembling,

the disenfranchised 

drinkers of sadness.



 
KEITH ARMSTRONG

Kenny Jobson absolutely excellent



Davide Trame This is a great, powerful poem



Libby Wattis Brilliant poem x



Gracie Gray Very evocative Keith. x



Sue Hubbard Very strong


Mo Shevis Another powerful poem Keith! The photograph is heartbreaking too! Sad for the victims , angry about the system!



David Henry Fantastic! A powerful and very moving poem 



Strider Marcus Jones A great poem full of so many truths.
 

Dominic Windram Great stuff Keith... always a vociferous voice for the voiceless! 
 

Siobhan Coogan Beautiful Keith you give a voice to the lonely