The Gold

A SHOCK OF GOLD, Barnsley 1992

Now tha’s got money,
tha’s made. Tha can do owt!”
Me grandad says.
“What were t’name they gave it?”
“Treasure Trove.”

I tell him
and think of
a shock of gold
in blue jeans
who got on bus
no eyes for anyone else
but boy she left
at stop in dark.

“Thas got me mystified.
Finish that Youth Slavery Scheme.”
Me grandad says
“Whatever it’s called!”

I tell him
and think of
shock of gold
dug out with spade
sovereigns in glass bottle
plumbing St.Helens Hospital
new start come to light.

“Think of thi-sen ,now.
Your dads redundant,
mam earns a pittance.”
Me grandad says.
“A chance to make
something of yourself.”

I tell him
and I think of
shock of gold glistening
upstairs in bedroom
article in paper
where that pensioner
talked of Workhouse.

“If there”s owt I’ve learned.
It”s enjoy thi-sen, while tha can.”
Me grandad says.
” Never owe owt t’ anybody.”

I tell him
and think of
shock of gold,
rumoured coin
hidden by design,
accidentally a dreamer
spent up like fever,
cleaned out these hands.

Buried Treasure (1830 in doggerel verse)

Industry left these hands again,
Circumstance marooned me
To endure workhouse stain
To tell me I am lazy.

In damp cellar worked a loom,
Bailed water three times a day,
Candles enlightened gloom
Books had something to say.

Small window let in light and air.
Water dropped from eaves.
No drain but my window there
I did as I was leave.

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

Too many times Ship of Linen
left me like Crusoe castaway
To return God knows how or when.
I thought it was I sinned today.

Strip, search, old clothes aflame
heavy locked door.
Workhouse always same
For destitute and poor.

Towns Improvement Commission
Promises paving, drainage
rich are well provisioned
clean water and sewerage

Dying fools weave tale
Of treasured gold coin
Not beyond the pale
When I get out it’s mine.

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

Abandoned Workings”

Wont give Allowance
cos, too old
but I’m jenned
up on gold

apprentice plumber found
digging hospital ground
here, in paper. 

Nowt to nobdy.
Am not history, yet.
Just pensioner
as can remember.

Tramps ‘casuals’ then.
And real not draft-dodgers and like.
Never seen summer-time.
Come harsh winter came.

Parents to separate dorms,
Children to children’s homes.
Families split up of course
Old folk suffered worst.

Me body abandons workings.
Waterworks last legs.
‘No Mobility’ makes debtor
after forking out  on wheelchair.

Minds not abandoned workings
as ‘casuals’
abandoned belongings
outside Workhouse.

I’m News.
Never been
so busy.
Local historian
says I’m history.

Not. Just pensioner
who remembers
Codgers’ homes not for us,
waste government cash.

Never burden to State.
Carry me sen, not Fate.

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