I work in conjunction with the two local Universities and several care homes seeking ways to assist those living with dementia. Part of my work entails using drama and the written word to address thoughts and feelings as expressed by those with whom I work.
Over the past month I've completed a poem which records the emotions of Avril on the day her weeping father dressed her ahead of the official closing of North Wallbottle Colliery. It was of course the day he lost his job. It had never crossed my mind that such an event could continue to impact so heavily across the generations but Avril opened my eyes to the reality with her thoughtful words.
She made me recognise that for some, as the poem concludes, "there will be no closure".
The following poem was kindly sent to me by Mike Jones working with Averil Dawson, a resident of the care home, Grovewood House, which specialises in dementia care.
I was sent this photo recently by Glyn Lloyd with the question:
I'm trying to establish the origins of a photo I came across which shows young men in army battledress uniform & berets practicing marching during some down time. They are all next to a wall mounted sign of Heddon on the Wall.
I replied saying that I hadn't seen the photo before, We have no photos of soldiers on the website apart from one of the Home Guard and there is no old photos showing that road sign. It looks to have been taken where the former road passed the farmhouse of Town Farm at the east end of the village,
I asked him where he had found the photo as it looked like an old framed copy from someone's mantlepiece (possibly a relative).
His answer was completely unexpected.
A recent visit to the fabulous Dunstanburgh Castle on the Northumberland coast north of Craster reminded me of some nearby place-names similar to the more famous, Rumbling Kern, further south at Howick.
It has been described as a churn or barrel through which the sea runs noisily.
Bill Griffiths in 'Fishing and Folk: Life and Dialect on the North Sea Coast' (2008) describes two similar local features: 'Rumble Churn' at Dunstanburgh and 'The Churn' on the Farne Islands.
The latter feature is said to be a cavity in the rock near the north-west point of Inner Farne. It has a hole at the top through which the water is forced by the sea, producing a beautiful 'jet d'eau' (water-spout), particularly when the wind is from the north-east with a heavy swell. Presumably, he says, the noise resembles the rumbling sound of a churn.
The following is for all those who love the Cheviot Hills.
Then, let our pilgrim footsteps seek
Old Cheviot's pathless mossy peak;
For there the Mountain Spirit still
Lingers around the lonely hill,
To guard his wizard grottoes hoar
Where Cimbrian sages dwelt of yore;
Or, shrouded in his robes of mist,
Ascends the mountain's shaggy breast,
To seize his fearful seat—upon
The elf-enchanted Hanging-Stone,
And count the kindred streams that stray
Through the broad regions of his sway:--
Fair sister streams, that wend afar
By rushy mead or rocky scaur,
Now hidden by the clustering brake,
Now lost amid the mountain lake,
Now clasping, with protective sweep,
Some mouldering castle's moated steep;
Till, issuing from the uplands brown,
Fair rolls each flood by tower and town;
The hills recede, and on the sight
Swell the bold rivers broad and bright.
Part of the poem, The Autumnal Excursion by Thomas Pringle (1836).
He was a Scottish writer (born at Blakelaw near Kelso), poet and abolitionist (who became secretary to the Anti-Slavery Society). He is known as the father of South African poetry having emigrated there with the help of Sir Walter Scott in 1820. He was the first successful English language poet and author to describe South Africa's scenery, native peoples, and living conditions.
In his notes to the poem, he describes the Hanging Stone as:
'... a lofty cliff near the western summit of Cheviot, so called from its impending position over a huge rocky chasm or recess, in the bosom of the mountain, known by the name of Hell's Hole. Out of this grim recess flows the pretty Northumbrian stream of College Water, which is here divided by only a narrow neck of ground from the sources of the river Beaumont. The Hanging Stone is surmounted by an ancient cairn; and, either from the shadowy remains of olden legends, or from the savage aspect of the scenery around it, is still regarded by the neighbouring peasantry with a certain degree of superstitious dread'.
The Hanging Stone, though, is some distance from the Hen Hole to which he refers, and perhaps he has the location confused with one of its closer and equally rocky neighbours (see below).
Worm (Old English: wyrm) is a local word for a serpent or dragon. There are many legends or folk-lore tales regarding such mythical creatures and how they terrorised their districts before being vanquished by a local hero. Some may go back a long way in time with the stories endlessly retold and embellished.
The Lambton Worm is a much better known tale from the River Wear area of County Durham and is one of the area's most famous pieces of folklore. The Linton Worm from the Scottish Borders is similar.
The Laidley Worm is Northumberland's alternative from the Bamburgh area but although all these stories were all presumably originally made up, this particular tale doesn't seem to have quite the same historical longevity.
The Hornpipe Paganini of Bottle Bank
I have been making regular trips now for some months over the Pennines from Tynedale on family duties and had the pleasure to drive on the A686 road through Alston that the AA described as ‘One of the Greatest Drives in Britain’. Some music that regular accompanies me when winding through this beautiful upland landscape was composed by James Hill in the mid nineteenth century but still fits my mood and pleasure well.
FARNE, the Folk Archive Resource North East, provides a short biography:
James Hill is considered to be one of the most talented fiddler players and tune writers of the 19th Century. He is believed to have been born in Scotland in 1811 and to have died from consumption in Westmoreland Lane, off Westgate, Newcastle in 1853 making him 42 years old. He lived on Bottle Bank in Gateshead near the "Hawk Pub" with his wife Sarah, who was born in County Durham, for most of his life where he composed fiddle tunes from the 1830s onward.
Contacts made through the website are always appreciated, often informing me of things I don't know, or setting me off on a new train of thought. A lady called Lynne Petrie contacted me recently through a mutual friend in Wylam regarding the blog I'd written about Isaac Jackson, made after the talk by Jim Rees for this year's Puffing Billy Festival.
She asked if I knew the Geordie folk song, 'Canny Wylam', which mentions Jackson and other notable, and not so notable, worthies from our neighboring village. After a mention of George Stephenson, the verse about Jackson goes:
Now there's Jackson, his owld mate, was another up te date,
This was a Poem of the Day by Anthony Todd of Howdon, Wallsend published in the Newcastle Journal. It nicely sums up events at the festival on Saturday 21st September in Wylam to celebrate the 200 year anniversary of Puffing Billy.
'Welcome Home Puffing Billy'