Once it took a regular twelve hour shift to walk around with a clock in Grimethorpe.
A low paid security guard of N.U.M. remains: ripped floor-tiling, dust piling up like unused coal.
You had to find the key to fit the clock to record the time you found the key to account for your existence, the evidence collected.
A set of other keys echoing their jangle into empty spaces unlocking the door out to a wasteland of rooms without walls or ceilings
so you could see a cold October sky abuzz with stars and the coke plant behind its steel fence working up a head of grind and industrial lights.
You had nowt to do but waste your time, kick up weather worn tiles of old floors, to look forward to going in, losing the fresh air from the plant, to climb creaking stairs and reenter
the security guards room where Bill ogles Mayfair and the unattainableJasks why you’re back so early, didn’t you realise soon as you get back sooner he’s out
call you ‘Dumb Shit’, take the clock and keys and leave you to the room at Three o’clock. His tales of the steel industry that let him go will remain with you .
You will remember this as you sit supping coffee in the Grimethorpe Activity Zone, as you wait for people to attend your jobsearch room, as you listen how the building you guarded will be called the heart of the Village.

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The Barnsley Writer Gander

‘ the person who assiduously endeavours to become a good poet, cannot do otherwise than become an elegant and accomplished scholar’

John Burland, a Barnsley Chartist teacher, poet and journalist.

An occasional blog on Barnsley writers from 19th century to today. Barnsley has a notable writing history. It was one of two towns to produce the earliest dialect Almanack. It produced a few commemorative poets who supported their local area. Barnsley has John Arden, Barry Hines, Donald Davie, Ian McMillan, Andrew McMillan, Joanne Harris, Milly Johnson. I will be looking at each in turn, not in a dry, academic fashion. My views are solely mine. I want to see what each writer has to say about the town and its characters. Perhaps, discover common threads, that run like the linen industry through their words. I will be looking at usual suspects: Barry Hines, Kes, John Ardens ‘The Workhouse Donkey’, Donald Davies ‘The Wind At Penistone’, @ImcMillans ‘The Er Barnsley Seascapes’ and a few you may never have read

As with all towns and cities in the Nineteenth century Barnsley underwent great changes. Moving from a major linen weaving town to a mining one. The Barnsley writers of the day reflected this.

The Childhood Tree

Age makes a difference

he says, remembering when their posse went too far with an old tree.

Posse were a gang called after U. S. Rappers who took it from cowboy films.

Posse found it down Lovers Lane, overarching the canal: too full to flow ancient bedsteads, glossy wheel trims.

Over a fag scratched their names

in its bark, shinned and slung a rope round a branch overreaching the water

competitions seeing who dare swing furthest without getting wet.

Then fatty had a go. Expected happened, limb snapped


told his mother he’d slipped in a puddle when we’d a drought a week.

Later, some of them, like him and wife courting down canal, would boast these cracks. Even then looked sorry for itself. All wrinkly and scabby wounds.

 Still, some of them, sap bleeding allover, hacked their names


imbetween or arrow through heart.
Then fatty Wayne overreached

with a joyride. Took
collectors Chevvy dumped, set it alight.

 Bugger had it too close!

 angry now.

His childhood tree went up.

Lately, him and wife, take steady strolls by water find younger couples carving Lovers hearts in wood remains.

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Industrial lights

are going out all over as I stand on one side of the Dearne and look over to where I patrolled the night before.
North Gawber colliery on the one side, Amco plant on the other. Where the lights are less I can see the other.
Tall concrete and steel warehouses, night workers. Unlike mine repair shops you can hardly hear their hammers and their welding on your walk outside, for another hour and a half, before a twenty minute break: get your coat off, note time of arrival, pray it’s not a dodgy biro,e quick slurp from your flask before out again to renew intimacy with Siberian cold.wpid-img_20140428_100616.jpg


The winter evening before stood sentry on the frozen cracked concrete edge of North Gawber pit I saw Willow bank , the only known site in South Yorkshire for plants with the weird names Frogbit and Whorled WaterMillfoil fall away to the Dearne.

Remains of old forest flank flow of river and misused canal where barges once unloaded prosperity, loaded hope to move away.

What did you know of history then? Wished you knew how to make go faster shifts.

And at night at Amco on the other side you walk along calm as owt, moan what a boring job this is, goalrake odd stones and wham! an industrial light half blinds.
Like a concentration camp searchlight snapped on you’ve been caught escaping, sirens go off and others are woken from sleep and all the massive orange plant, motorway builders still as museum dinosaur bones, stare at you, their metal darknesses deeper
and hear gust shake chains on their fuel tanks whip up shallow gravel round empty temporary huts, echo off discarded plastic wrapping.

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The Rules for Occupation

The rules for occupation: take the military road across the river.

The long stride over flood plain to the other side.

Divide the spoils of the valley into three wapentakes, Three bureaucracies to sort and file your differences.

Unhindered supply lines will provide the frontier: the wall between decency and those that smell.

Roads will provide fast delivery of goods and policing. It is a better surface, for occupation.

 Stories half told, half received.

 Other roads not fully travelled not the recommended destination, but bad precedent.

It will be difficult for the natives

to utter ‘Never again’.

Remember victors decide the doctrine, creed, authorised version.

Alternative histories should always be considered after the camber

of the original and, if possible, absorbed. After all, every home

should have its’ midden. A place to offload the waste of decency.

 Dearne can be allowed uncontrollability within limits decided by our history.

A river can always be drained to provide improved delivery by our convoys.

The Route is decided. No deviation,

 use the terrain with respect to our aims objectives.

Aim: Exploitation

Objective: all the areas resources,

soft and hard targets.


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rise Coal-age forts in new grass

Grass, new arrival, begins belong, is removed.


New buildings rise
locally known as Employment.

Before grass there was grass
growing on clay, above ancient forests.
Grass for long-horned cattle provide milk, meat
to calloused hands.

Quiet Dearne flowed slowly by.

Purchased grass removed
by miners who dig their own graves leaving soil at pitside.

Their own graves built Coal-age forts.
Purchased grass turns yellow
under canvas tents,then is removed for a line of houses all the same.

Miners provide bread family.
Their own grave they dig in shifts with calloused hands.It is hell.

Hell provides for children, housekeeping, gossip, rumour stories.

Hell fills lungs, cakes faces. Hell built Coal-age forts. Hell lives behind redundant eyes.

After funeral, Hell grassed over water clouded.


Ochre, iron
spill into Dearne as Dearne flows. inoffensively, by.

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Buried Treasure (1983, revised 2014)

Industry left these hands again, circumstance marooned me here
to endure workhouse stain
accused of idleness.

In damp cellar I worked a loom,
bailing water three times a day,
candles to enlighten gloom
learn from books at my side.

Tiny window for light and air.
Water dropped from eaves.
No drain but my window there.
I did as I was due.

My creed as skilled fancy-weaver
“Give me not poverty, lest I steal.”
Now I bring up blood like fever
do penance in a workhouse.

Too many times the Ship of Linen
has left me like Crusoe castaway
to return God knows how or when.
I thought it I was my  sin.

Workhouse always reproves.
I lose my dignity ;
strip, search, old clothes
in fire, locking of the door.

Barnsleys Improvement Commission promises paved streets, clean water, drainage and sewerage system,
the rich do what they will.

When I get out it’s mine.
Some dying have the gall
To speak of  buried treasure,

Of gold beyond this wall

Barnsley General Hospital was built on the site of the Union Workhouse

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Land Is History

Is a past pitman. Father, a nailmaker whose strong coffin nails  stout fastened the woods  grain swish as land without a skeleton to hold its’ skin.

Both, like open cast places. Redundancy has ripped old features from their faces, old skulls from beneath their skins.

Redundancy within weeks drained the Dearne from arteries, smoothed disused canals from cheeks, wetlands asset-stripped from eyes.

And children sit on father’s knee as on a hill hear how men made hills a sack of land a weight of meaning emptied.

Land no longer propped  by miners hands                               subsides

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Day the statues came alive in Barnsley

Day the statues came alive in Barnsley
Outside college Dickie put his finger down

Day the statues came alive in Barnsley
Outside Tarn Hall soldier slumped after years of standing

Top of Kendray hill a Golden man was lifted by an angel into heaven
Day the statues came alive in Barnsley

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Two Female Eighteenth Century Rivals Gain All You Can (Quack Peggy Mock, extract)

Gain All You Can
I heard eighty three year old John Wesley speak today from the mounting steps of The White bear Inn. His step was firm, his appearance vigorous and muscular. A clear, smooth forehead, an aquiline nose, lightest and most piercing eyes, freshness of complexion. His countenance and demeanour was cheerfulness mixed with gravity; an unusual flow of spirits but a mark of tranquillity. In dress, a pattern of neatness and simplicity. A narrow plaited stock, a coat with a small upright collar, no buckles at his knee, no silk or velvet in any part of his apparel and a head as white as snow.
He preached for an hour or so, filled out and varied the basic material with anecdotes and illustrations. Throughout he spoke in plain language. His subject appropriate for this commercial town: gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can. When we gain all we can it must be from honest trades, we must not haggle over prices and usury should not be tolerated. Conspicuous consumption is wastefulness. We gain and save only to give, and when we give we should do so to the poor. Salvation for all is not dependent on good works but must issue from good works as part of our progress.
He who is holy, humble, courteous, mild,
And who, as heav’n’s viceregent strives to prove Himself entitled to the rank he holds,
Deserves our admiration and applause.
What an economist thou wast of time; What method, regularity, and form, Thou shew’dst in ev’ry action of thy life, And all this for the honour of thy God, And the advantage of thy fellow men, without a mercenary view in it,
I cannot but applaud thee for such deeds Admire thy ardour, venerate thy name, And eulogize thee, as the best of men.
Friend Richard Peaudane has removed his garish dress and thinks to impress me with this. I reminded him of my other stipulation: plainness of manner. He says he has observed John Wesley preaching in the town and would hold him also as another example of neatness and cleanliness. Methodists hold much the same persecuted position in this society as we held in the previous century; prone to preaching so as to change society, a cause we have fallen from, after much of our brethren were persecuted. Though, it must be said they support our Friend William Wilberforce in his fight against slavery, Perhaps Friend Peaudane is correct in following John Wesleys example: A black frock without decoration and a white ruffle, In appearance, at least, he is what I would hope for in a spouse. I then reminded him, that though plain in appearance, the nature of a Quaker is consideration for others. I espoused my belief in the evils of slavery. A commercial man, I was surprised that he also felt the indignity, the horrific notion of one man the slave of another as the basis for a good society was a venal sin. With each conversation and change in ‘ the man, if only cosmetic, I begin to see his fair and just side. This has impressed upon me more than his change of costume.


Wild Woman (2)
Unmanned, like a bull bereft of all; a flaccid decoration without use;
at least if thee had what I have thou could be a woman; eunuch hiding your treasure for marriage
and hypocrisy. And leave me with empty decoration; rings without sense,
dresses without purpose.
Go about your business thou say
I want nothing to do with thee now;
yet not a month ago it was all Peggy this,
Peggy that; such are the changes of the seasons.

I cannot give birth to an empty ache;
wet nurse it; teach it its fathers worth;
I cannot tell the ache how we loved,
how we met, how we joyed.

I cannot sit round this mughouse days and months

I must out into the world roll in the smell of Man again
with a jug of ale in one hand
and earning a stony crust
from some wight with a jangling purse.

And forget the bull that was castrated.
Helping Joseph
Joseph Lister is one of my many custom weavers. I shall offer him board in my premises. It will remove my loneliness awhile and further prove to Sarah my will to have her bound to me.
Joseph and his brother James have inherited a four-loom shop at Beaver Hoyle from their uncle, John Lupton. Joseph has acquired a wife, Susannah Bottomley of Wooldale and a son. Susannah is pregnant again. John wishes to make a life separate from his brother James. He is a regular and fastidious workman like his uncle. And John Lupton portrays his nephew as a pattern of industry. As he produces the linen that we may spread it out on the fields to dry, to croft, so he may gather it up and store it in my attendant warehouse. If I cannot help him in his progress then I am the poorer man as my future wife Sarah has taught me.
As I observe Susannah with Joseph, she is constantly curbing his generous nature. A beggar came to our door and asked for shoes and Joseph gave him his best brogues without a thought. Susannah scolded Joseph with the words: We have not enough for our own feet and you give away our best. We must gain and save before we can give! Joseph, smiles and kisses her pregnant stomach. As I presumed a wife becomes more than a companion, but a moral arbiter. A family dispels the disconsolate air. This place of mine does not feel so empty. It only lacks a wife for myself.

Lost to Women
O monster of Reason what have you forgotten: how we wet the drying fields of linen

and Barley where you ground my com
with a jug of mughouse ale
and fresh and naughty manners; this was our rusticating;
you strode a giant amongst my hills and made the river flow.
Now you stride through town cocking a snoop at all you laughed and jollied with before; nothing but a prig made up to look like summat.
But your dear pouch must yearn like a custom weavers shuttle for some
decent to and fro.
I know my threads are breaking without your damp,
snapping like twigs in Autumn,
Arid dry as an empty jug.
 Means not Ends
I went for a walk with Friend Dearman at Dearne Flats. I have decided that this relationship should become more public and thereby confirm the rumours of our companionship.

The River Dearne, though prone to dangerous flooding has its own delights. And The Flats are known for their courting couples and rusticating. A note upon this word: rusticating would once have been frowned upon. After all, what can be gained from grass and trees for they are wasteland. Just as the soul can be desolate and made beautiful, perhaps with change in mood, even the worst excesses of tree, grass and river can be seen to improve the soul.
Still Friend Dearman sees philanthropy towards others, plainness of dress and mildness of manner as ends in themselves. I told him that the only path by which he can show real change is for him to have ideas and manners of his own. Too many Commercial men are taken in by the mechanical nature of change. It is the human heart that must change too. He must no longer see the Dearne as a navigable waterway and more as a stream that gives life to its surroundings. I am not only to be his wife but a companion too.


I said to Friend Peaudane, as we walked Dearne Flats by the serpentine river that he has more than proved his worth as a husband. I would gladly accept him in such a position and be willing to bear him children to cement our association. He answered that it is only a beginning and we must both strive for the ends I described to him at the beginning, extravagance in our generosity towards others, both personally and publicly. It is now Friend Peaudane, that wishes me to call him Richard as he shall call me Sarah and that we should wait a time yet till we are married. He has his duty to Joseph and family to fulfill.
Yesterday he was present when Susannah, Joseph’s wife gave birth to their second son. Joseph and his brother James who is now living there too pacing up and down, wanting to drown his sorrows Clearly, since I ventured upon this self improvement my mind has moved to the self improvement of others and I find I like myself. I should be wary of too much pride in what I know of myself New converts are likely to be over vociferous for others conversion. Knowledge is power.

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