William Andrews.

North country poets : poems and biographies of natives or residents of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, Durham, Lancashire and Yorkshire ... : (modern section) (Volume 1) online

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like poems relating to pit-life ; but there are also many others, on general
subjects, of a high and thoughtful order. " Thistle and Nettle " is a charm-
ing rustic idyll, archly told with simplicity and humour ; " The Violet and
the Rose " has the quaintness and symbolic condensation of Heine ; " The
Mystic Lyre " deals with life, space, progress, and the great harmonica of
the universe ; " A Cry for Poland " ends with " how long ?" ; " The Angel
Mother " is touchingly sweet, natural and beautiful ; " The Reign of Gold "
is an indignant protest against the sordid spirit of the age, and has a fine
true manly ring about it ; " The Seaton Terrace Lass " is a ballad in which
the " old story " is well told in a light airy natural way. Along with it, we
name the rose-cheeked " Rosa Rea." " Slighted " is a poem full of pathos.
In a note at the end of "Carols from the Coal Fields," we are told
by Dr. R. Spence Watson, who has been an intimate friend of Mr. Skipsey's
for more than twenty years : " I must say a word or two more about Joseph
Skipsey himself, for we have in him a man of mark, a man who has made
himself, and has done it well. His life-long devotion to literary pursuits
has never been allowed to interfere with the proper discharge of his daily
duties. Whilst still a working pitman, he was master of his craft, and it
took an exceptionally good man to match him as a hewer of coal. When
after many long years of patient toil, he won his way to an official position,
he gained the respect of those above him in authority whilst retaining the
confidence and affection of the men. Simple, straight, and upright, he has
held his own wherever he has been placed. The life of the miner is one of
peril ; he lives with his own and the lives of those dear to him constant!}'
in his hand ; and Joseph Skipsey has had bitter and painful experience of
the cruel sorrows to which he is exposed. He is personally known to not a
few of the men whom, in letters and art, England delights to honour, and
I think I may truly say ho is honoured of them all. Perhaps, if we could
see things as they really are, Joseph Skipsey is the best product of the
north-country coal-fields, since George Stephenson held his safety lamp in
the blower at Killingworth pit." Mr. Skipsey having been introduced to
me by Mrs. G. Linnaeus Banks, some eighteen years ago, having
corresponded with me at intervals ever since, and having recently visited
me, I need only add that I quite agree with Dr. Watson's high estimate
of one who is truly a remarkable man.


Joseph Skipsey. 63


Mother wept, and father sighed ;

With delight a-glow
Cried the lad, "To-morrow," cried,

"To the pit I go."

Up and down the place he sped,

Greeted old and young,
Far and wide the tidings spread,

Clapt his hands and sung.

Came his cronies, some to gaze

Wrapt in wonder ; some
Free with counsel ; some with praise ;

Some with envy dumb.

"May he," many a gossip cried,

" Be from peril kept ; "
Father hid his face and sighed,

Mother turned and wept.


The Violet invited my kiss,

I kiss'd it and called it my bride ;

"Was ever one slighted like this?"

Sighed the Eose as it stood by my side.

My heart ever open to grief,

To comfort the fair one I turned ;

"Of fickle ones thou art the chief!"
Frown'd the Violet, and pouted and mourned.

Then to end all disputes, I entwined
The love-stricken blossoms in one;

But that instant their beauty declined,
And I wept for the deed I had done !

64 North Country Poets.


It sounded in castle and palace,

It sounded in cottage and shed,
It sped over mountains and valleys,

And withered the earth as it sped ;
Like a blast in its fell consummation

Of all that we holy should hold,
Thrilled, thrilled thro' the nerves of the nation,

A cry for the reign of King Gold.

Upstarted the chiefs of the city,

And sending it back with a ring,
To the air of a popular ditty.

Erected a throne to the king :
'Twas based upon fiendish persuasions,

Cemented by crimes manifold :
Embellished by specious ovations,

That dazzled the foes of King Gold.

The prey of unruly emotion,

The miner and diver go forth,
And the depths of the earth and the ocean

Are shorn of their lustre and worth ;
The mountain is riven asunder,

The days of the valley are told ;
And sinew, and glory, and grandeur,

Are sapped for a smile of King Gold.

Beguiled of their native demeanour,

The high rush with heirlooms and bays ;
The poor with what gold cannot weigh, nor

The skill of the pedant'appraise ;
The soldier he spurs with his duty,

And lo ! by the frenzy made bold,
The damsel she glides with her beauty,

To garnish the brow of King Gold.

Joseph Skipsey. 65

Accustomed to traffic forbidden

By honour by heaven each hour,
The purest, by conscience unchidden,

Laugh, laugh at the noble and pure;
And Chastity, rein'd in a halter,

Is led to the temple and sold,
Devotion herself, at the altar,

Yields homage alone to King Gold.

Affection, on whose honey blossom,

The child of affliction still fed
Affection is plucked from the bosom,

And malice implanted instead ;
And dark grow the brows of the tender,

And colder the hearts of the cold :
Love, pity, and justice surrender

Their charge to the hounds of King Gold.

See, see, from the sear'd earth ascending,

A cloud o'er the welkin expands ;
See, see 'mid the dense vapour bending,

Pale women with uplifted hands ;
Smokes thus to the bridegroom of Circe,

The dear blood of hundreds untold ;
Invokes thus the angel of mercy

A curse on the reign of King Gold.

It sounded in castle and palace,

It sounded in cottage and shed,
It sped over mountains and valleys,

And withered the earth as it sped ;
Like a blast in its fell consummation

Of all that we holy should hold,
Thrilled, thrilled thro' the nerves of the nation ;

" Cling ! clang ! for the reign of King Gold."

66 North Country Poets.

John Duncan Richardson.

"\OHN Duncan Kichardson is a poet of the people, and
amidst the trials of a life of toil has with gratifying
success cultivated a taste for literature. He has produced
a large number of poems, which have been appreciated in
temperance circles and amongst his fellow-working men.
A volume of his verse, issued in 1886, under the title of
" Eeveries in Rhyme," was well received. He has
written much poetry and prose for a number of London
and provincial magazines and newspapers, and for eight years he acted as
the editor of The Hull and East Riding Good Templar. Mr. Richardson is a
native of South Shields, and was born in 1848. At an early age he
removed to Hull.

W. A.


Isle of the fair and the brave,

Shrine of each Briton's devotion,
Proudly thy banner doth wave,

World-wide and free as the ocean.
Strangers and exiles who roam,

Fleeing the yoke of oppression,
Find, in thy sea-girdled home,

Liberty's priceless possession.

Lasting as truth be thy fame,

First in the van of the Nations ;
Sweetest of music thy name,

Theme of thy sons' aspirations.
May the Eose and the Thistle combined,

Long bloom together in beauty,
And yield, with the Shamrock entwined,

Blossoms of love and of duty.

England, majestic and great,
Treasured in song and in story,

John Duncan Richardson. 67

Honour and Truth at thy gate,

Point to a future of glory.
Nation of Nations ! thy might

Shall it desert thee ? No never !
Faithful to God and the Eight,

Nothing thy kingdom shall sever.


'Tis eventide, and twilight adds

Its charms to soothe me, here, alone ;
My princes Heaven bless the lads !

Lie sleeping on their nightly throne.
Wide-scatter'd on the floor, I see

The playthings of my careless boys,
And, musing on their merry glee,

I gather up the broken toys.

Methought, " It is not only here,

In this my realm, where I am Queen,
That toys are broken thus, I fear,

For human wrecks are daily seen ;
Fond hearts that too-confiding yield,

When smiling villainy decoys,
Losing the gem of beauty's shield,

Are cast aside as broken toys.

" We loud lament the woes of war,

The heroes inartyr'd in the strife,
But, oh, the slaughter's greater far,

Upon the battlefield of life !
The young by splendid sin betray'd,

Find out too late that vice destroys,
When, reckless made, and scorning aid,

They die the false world's broken toys.


North Country Poets.

George Milner.

MONGST the public men of Manchester, none are held in
greater honour than Mr. George Milner, whose labours in
connection with education, literature, and church-work
have been productive of so much benefit to the community.
George Milner was born in 1829, and by the loss of his
father when an infant, was deprived of the educational
advantages he might otherwise have enjoyed. But if the
opportunities were scanty, they were made the most of, and
the passion for knowledge which he developed at an early age, not only led
to serious and continuous efforts for self -education, but also to a generous
desire to see the healing influences of literature extended to every class of
the community. This feeling has led him to devote much of his leisure to
voluntary teaching in classes connected with the famous Bennett-street
schools. If Mr. Milner had entered upon literature as a career, he would
have made a success ; but he was probably wiser in making it, according
to a famous phrase, a walking stick and not a crutch. A successful mer-
chant, a magistrate, the churchwarden of the Cathedral, the chairman of
the Art Museum ; Mr. Milner is, however, best known as the President of
the Manchester Literary Club, where his social qualities, critical acumen,
and power of saying the right thing in the right way, have gained him the
admiring esteem of all the members. His more than local position in
literature is due to " Country Pleasures," a book first issued in 1881, and
containing the " Chronicle of a Year, chiefly in a Garden," which is full
of delightful reading for the lovers of gardens and poetry. He has been a
frequent contributor to Longman's Magazine, The Manchester Quarterly, and
other periodicals. His verses have not yet been collected, but well deserve
to be rescued from that tomb of literature, the magazine. To a perfect
mastery of the forms of verse, he unites clear fancy and a power of
expression that ranges from genial humour to melancholy pathos. The
first poem we quote is from The Manchester Quarterly, the next three are
from Longman's Magazine, and the last is from Odds and Ends.



Along this narrow path, behold,
What store of wealth outspread

The dandelion's burning gold,
The campion's ruby-red,

George Milner. 69

Sweet speedwell's sapphire, daisy's pearl,
Fern's emerald in its virgin curl,
Broad ox-eye's patine silver clear,
Jacinth of bird's-foot, and the dear
Green lady's-mantle holding still

Its diamond-drop of morning dew ;
All these, and fifty more that fill

The hedge-row spaces through and through,
With grasses' fret-work carven rare

And cross'd as in a dainty frieze ;
And, lurking last, but heavenly fair,

Forget-me-not's turkois.

So dower'd I hardly care to raise

My eyes to where the mountains stand ;

Nor scarce have left a word to praise
Far-flashing seas or shining sand ;

But as I wander, rapt and slow,

I see the simple blossoms grow

To beauty greater than before ;

And tell my treasures o'er and o'er,

Or sing them thus, as best I may,
To yon bird's note that on the bough

Of hazel pipes his little lay
For love as I do now,


The boughs are black, the wind is cold,
And cold and black the fading sky ;

And cold and ghostly, fold on fold,
Across the hills the vapours lie.

Sad is my heart, and dim mine eye,

With thoughts of all the woes that were

7O North Country Poets.

And all that through the forward year,
Prophetic, flit like phantoms by.

But, in the cheerless silence, hark,

Some throstle's vesper ! loud and clear,
Beside his mate I hear him sing ;

And, sudden at my feet I mark
A daffodil that lights the dark
Joy, joy, 'tis here, the Spring ! the Spring


The lovers are whispering under thy shade,

Grey tower of Dalmeny ;
I leave them, and wander alone in the glade

Beneath thee, Dalmeny ;

Their thoughts are of all the bright years coming on,
But mine are of days and of dreams that are gone ;
They see the fair flowers Spring has thrown on the grass,
And the clouds in the blue light their eyes as they pass ;
But my feet are deep down in a drift of dead leaves,
And I hear what they hear not, a lone bird that grieves
But what matter, the end is not far for us all,
And Spring, through the Summer, to Winter must fall,
And the lovers' light hearts e'en as mine will be laid
At last and for ever low under thy shade,

Grey tower of Dalmeny.


Too soon, too soon !
For but last month was lusty June,
With life at swinging flood of tide ;
Nor seems it long since May went by

George Milner. 71

With Love and Hope at either side ;
And now 'tis only late July,
And yet, alas, methinks I hear

Too soon, too soon !
Death whisper in the fading trees ;
And when the sun's red light is gone,
And Night unfolds her mysteries,
With failing heart almost I fear
In garden plots remote and lone
To find the dreadful Shadow near

Too soon, too soon !


Take cedar, take the creamy card,
With regal head at angle dight ;

And though to snatch the time be hard,
To all our loves at home we'll write.

Strange group ! in Bowness' street we stand,
Nine swains enamoured of our wives,

Each quaintly writing on his hand,
In haste, as 'twere to save our lives.

O wondrous messenger, to fly

All through the night from post to post !
Thou bearest home a kiss, a sigh

And not an obolus the cost !

To-morrow, when they crack their eggs,
They'll say, beside each matin urn

" These men are still upon their legs :
Heaven bless 'em may they soon return."

North Country Poets.

Joseph Wilson.

OSEPH WILSON, one of the most successful of modern
Tyneside song-writers, was born in Newcastle on the 29th
November, 1841 ; and, according to his own graphic state-
ment, " just twenty minits efter he had myed his forst
ippeerince, te the stonishment o' the neybors, his bruther
Tom showed his fyce to dispute we 'im whe shud be the
pet o' the family." The father of these rival twins was a
joiner and cabinet-maker, and their mother a straw-
bonnet maker. The former died when thirty years of age, leaving the latter
with four fatherless children to provide for and bring up. At fourteen, to quote
his own words again, Joe went to be a printer. " Sang-writing," says he,
" had lang been me hobby, an' at sivinteen me forst beuk wes published.
Since that time it's been me aim te hev a place i' the hearts o' Tyneside
people, wi' writin bits o' hyemly sangs aw think they'll sing." These songs
he printed as well as sang himself, and having an excellent voice, and an
extraordinary power of representing local character in most of its peculiar
phases, he was induced to take numerous engagements at music halls and
concerts, where he immediately became a prime favourite. He was married
in 1869, and, two years later, he became landlord of the Adelaide Hotel, New
Bridge Street, Newcastle, where, ever and anon, he used to delight his
numerous old admirers, while winning for himself additional friends, by
writing, singing, and publishing one or other new song illustrative of the
manners and customs of " Canny Newcassel," and its neighbourhood.
He died on Sunday, the 14th February, 1875, at his residence in Railway
Street, Newcastle, at the early age of thirty-three. For some time before,
he had been suffering from that lingering and wasting disease, pulmonary
consumption, the germs of which he had inherited from his father ; and by
his untimely but not unexpected removal, a widow and three children, the
youngest of whom was only seven months old, were left in reduced circum-
stances, caused in a great measure by their genial bread-winner having been
so long ill. Having been much and deservedly respected by a large circle of
friends, especially amongst the working classes, and having been himself ever
ready to give his services as a vocalist, to help a brother in distress or benefit
any good institution, a subscription was at once raised for his bereaved
wife and family, and a considerable sum was realised by it. His mortal
remains lie in the Old Cemetery at Jesmond. Joseph Wilson's modest,
unassuming, and amiable personal qualities found a marked expression in
all that he wrote and sang, as well as in his whole physiognomy and
general deportment ; and the deep moral tone that pervades and actuates
his lyrics makes them stand out in shining contrast with the bulk of the
frothy, unmeaning, and ephemeral trash termed comic songs. His " Deeth
o' Renforth," " Aw wish yor muther wad cum," " The time that me
fethur wes bad," " Be kind te me dowter," " Dinnet clash the door,"

Joseph Wilson 73

" The row upon the stairs," and many others of his productions, will bear
comparison with the best things of the kind that ever were written ; and
many of them will certainly live as long as the language, the tincture of
dialectism that pervades them only adding a charm to their homeliness, as
it does to the productions of Robert Burns, James Hogg, Henry Scott
Riddell, William Barnes, and James Russell Lowell, A complete edition
of " Joe Wilson's Tyneside Songs, Ballads, and Drolleries," was published
some years ago by Mr. Thomas Allan, of Dean Street, Newcastle.




Cum, Geordy, had the bairn,

Aw's sure aw'll not stop lang,
Aw'd tyek the jewl raesel,

But really aw's not strang ;
Thor's flooer and coals te get,

The hoose-turns thor not deun,
So had the bairn, for fairs,

Ye've often deund for fun !

Then Geordy held the bairn,

But sair agyen his will,
The poor bit thing wes gud,

But Geordy had ne skill,
He haddint its muther's ways,

He sat both stiff an' num,
Before five minutes wes past,

He wished its muther wad cum !

His wife had scarcely gyen,

The bairn begun te squall,
Wi' hikin't up an' doon,

He'd let the poor thing fall,
It wadden't had its tung,

Tho' sum aud teun he'd hum,
" Jack an' Jill went up a hill,"

Aw wish yor muther wad cum !

74 North Country Poets.

What weary toil, says he,

This nursin bairns mun be,
A bit ont's weel eneuf,

Aye, quite eneuf for me,
Te keep a crying bairn,

It may be grand te sum,
A day's wark's not as bad,

Aw wish yor muther wad cum !

Men seldum give a thowt

To what thor wives indure,
Aw thowt she'd nowt te de,

But clean the hoose, aw's sure,
Or myek me dinner an' tea :

It's startin te chow its thumb,
The poor thing wants its tit,

Aw wish yor muther wad cum !

What a selfish world this is,

Thor's nowt mair se than man,
He laffs at wummin's toil,

And;winnet nurse his awn ;
It's startin te cry agyen,

Aw see tuts throo its gum,
Maw little bit pet dinnet fret,

Aw wish yor muther wad cum !

But kindness dis a vast,

It's ne use gettin vext,
It winnet please the bairn,

Or ease a mind perplext ;
At last, it's gyen te sleep,

Me wife 'ill not say aw's num,
She'll think aw's a real gud nurse, -

Aw wish yor muther wad cum

Joseph Wilson. 75


Oh, dinnet clash the door !

Aw've tell'd ye that before,
Can ye not let yor muther hev a rest ?

Ye knaw she's turnin aud,

An' for eers she's been se bad,
That she cannot bear such noises i' the least.


Then oh, lass, dinnet clash the door se,
Yor yung an' yor as thowtless as can be.

But yor muther's turnin aud,

An' ye knaw she's vary bad,
An' she dissent like te hear ye clash the door.

Just see yor muther there,

Sittin feeble i' the chair,
It's quiet that she wants to myek her weel ;

She's been yor nurse throo life,

Been yor guide i' peace an' strife,
An' her cumfort ye shud study an' shud feel.

She once wes yung an' strang,

But bad health 'ill put foaks rang,
An' she cannet bear the noise that once she cud,

She's narvis as can be,

An' whativor else ye de,
Ye shud study what ye think 'ill de her gud !

So dinnet clash the door,

Or myek ony idle stir,
For the stir 'ill only cause yor muther pain,

As quiet as can be

De yor wark, an' let her see
That ye'll nivor give her causes te complain.

7 6 North Country Poets.



Ye cruel Atlantic Cable,
What's myed ye bring such fearful news ?
When Tyneside's hardly yeble

Such sudden grief te bide.
Hoo me heart it beats iv'rybody greets,
As the whisper runs throo dowley streets,
" We've lost poor Jimmy Renforth,
The Champein o' Tyneside ! "

Hoo sad, hoo unexpected,
What difFrent news we thowt te hear,
Till dismay *d an' affected,

Heart-broken mourners cried,

" Jimmy Eenforth's gyen, wor greet Champein's gyen,
Iv a country strange, away frae hyem,
We've lost poor Jimmy Renforth,
The Champein o' Tyneside ? "

" Oh, Jim, what myed ye leave us ?
What myed ye leave the canny toon ?
A journey myed to grieve us,

Ye've gyen wi' the last tide,
An' the oar that fell, the last oar that fell
Frae yor helpless hand, just seem'd te tell
That Deeth wes the greet victor
I' races far an' wide ! "

Life lost withoot a warnin',
An' stopt yor short but grand koreer,
Then left us stricken, mournin',
Deprived o' wor greet pride ;
Hoo me heart it beats, iv'rybody greets,
As the whisper runs throo dowley streets,
" We've lost poor Jimmy Renforth,
The Champein o' Tyneside ! "

James Clephan.


James Clephan.

OWN to the time when the repeal of taxes on knowledge
rendered it possible for the provinces to enjoy the luxury
of a daily newspaper, there flourished in the two upper-
most counties of England an editor who occupied a unique
position in journalism. He was poet and humourist, as
well as journalist and man of letters, and his paper,
although issued from a small town, and overshadowed by
the venerable and stately press of a great commercial
metropolis, had a far-reaching and wide-spreading influence, was scissored
and quoted by every other editor in the kingdom, and was known by name
to the majority of English-speaking people everywhere. The newspaper
was The Gateshead Observer ; the editor James Clephan.

James Clephan was born at Monkwearmouth Shore, on the 17th of
March, 1804, the second son of Kobert Clephan, of Stockton, baker. He
was educated at Stockton, and began the serious business of life there as an
apprentice to Mr. Eales, printer. When his indentures expired he migrated
to the Modern Athens, and found employment in the offices of Messrs.
Ballantine, who were then printing the Waverley novels. Three years
spent in that occupation qualified him for something better. The sub-
editorship of The Leicester Chronicle became vacant ; it was conferred upon
him, and he entered into active journalism.

Soon after the accession of the Queen, The Gateshead Observer, a com-
paratively young and unknown paper, lost its editor. It was an organ of
the Whig party in North Durham, and Mr. Clephan was a Liberal. He
came, saw, and conquered, and thereupon begun that remarkable career
which is indicated in the opening paragraph of this brief memoir. For
two and twenty years, wit and wisdom, politics and poetry, local lore and
ancient story flowed, commingling, from his pen terse, crisp, sharp and
clear. When the end of his brilliant editorship arrived, in 1860, represen-
tatives of every class in the flourishing communities between Tweed and
Tees combined to do him honour.

Mr. Clephan did not, however, abandon his profession altogether when
he left The Gateshead Observer. After a short interval of repose, he became
a free lance on those famous newspapers of Mr. Joseph Cowen, The New-
castle Daily and Weekly Chronicles writing as the humour seized him, and
upon subjects congenial to his tastes. For a number of years he conducted,
in the pages of The Weekly Chronicle, a special column devoted to the past
life of the Northern counties, wrote papers for the Newcastle Society of
Antiquaries, contributed to the press sketches of departed worthies, and
" helped the living to immortalise the dead." So he continued till the ripe
age of fourscore years, when the infirmities of age compelled him to retreat

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