Trapper, scholar, Shakespeare’s custodian,
Unlettered pit-boy out of Percy Main,
Illuminating the blackboard darkness
With the lamp of his imagination.
Hewer of knowledge from the dust and gas,
Picker of words from amongst cobs of coal,
Drawing on fossils of creation
With a stick of chalk. Then his poet’s soul
Took wing, flying up and out of the shaft,
His tongue no longer tainted by the damps,
Though never lost the taste for those who graft
In the petrified colons of the earth,
Pressed between floor and roof into the cramps
Of crevices, when every shift could be
The very last for all eternity.
His verse – their voice, their words – his poetry.
Balladeer for those who had no reason to rhyme,
Who had no talent for pens, had no time
To make their marks on paper, a collier
Working those rich seams of community,
Willing to dig deep and ever deeper.
When the roof fell in, when the beam broke free,
He told the tale with truth and strict metre.
Miner poet, his three score and ten spent,
Returned to the Tyne where, to the theatre
Deep underground, a seven year old was sent.