27 August 2003

A Poem...A Miners Lament

This poem, attributed to Gordon Nicholl, describes the demise of Bulgill Colliery in about 1910. With no name.

Yes, "A Poem" could well be called "A Miners Lament"

Original West-Cumbrian Version...............Translation

Bulgill's buggert marra..............................Bulgill's buggered friend,
Wukken out cum's fast.............................Working-out comes fast,
If thou gits t'backshift in...........................If you get the backshift in,
That cud be thee last...............................That could be your last

T'Powney's gone till Riser..........................The pony's gone to Risehow
T'Ingins gone till t'seals.............................The Engine's gone to the sales
Thompson's up afoort t'boss.....................Tompson's up before the boss
Fer pinchun six inch neals..........................For stealing six inch nails

Tyson's gone till Buthy...............................Tyson's gone to Bothel
Cass till Outerside.....................................Cass to Oughterside
Uncle Joe's at Number Fower....................Uncle Joe's at Number four
An Tom's at Number Five.......................... And Tom's at Number Five

Bulgill's buggert marra...............................Bulgill's buggered friend
Just a wa' o stean......................................Just a wall of stone
Divent ga 'till Buthy....................................Don't you go to Bothel
Thoo's better off at yam.............................You're better off at home

Ere we ga up t'clog trod.............................Here we go up the path
In till t'Railway Pub.....................................Into the Railway Pub
Get thee wissel wet me lad........................Get your whistle wet my lad
See-un thou'll be on't club..........................Seeing as you'll be on the club

22 August 2003


Today was bud burst in the swampy bottom below our house here in
NZ. During the month of August, I look each day from our diningroom window and, this was the day!

15 August 2003

Ullswater: The Corlett's.
Our friends, the Corlett's lived at Sharrow Cottages some way towards Howtown, on the hillside, overlooking the lake. The one they lived in was was the middle one of the block of 3.

The Corlett's had 3 daughters Annie, Jean and Elsie. Mrs Corlett was a cheerful person and quite noisy and loving to "pull ones leg", often mine. Mr Corlett was a retired, quiet man and had been a gardener at a large house, close by.

Elsie, the youngest worked in a shoe shop in Penrith, McVities. Jean the middle daughter had joined the WAAFs in the early part of WW2. Annie, the eldest I'm not sure what here work was now. Sometimes if our parents were out late, usually at the weekend or possibly visiting relatives in west Cumberland, brother John and I sometimes stayed at the Corlett's.

The 3 cottages did not have electricity and as the evenings dimmed, Mrs Corlett would bring a large table lamp off the top of the piano and place in the middle of the dining table. The lamp was a pressurized type and was operated by paraffin. The lamp had a glass flue, a piece called a mantle, which glowed whitely when, with the wick lit and the paraffin vapour was pressurized by pumping and  fed to the mantle. The light from the table lamp lit the room brightly.

There was only an outside toilet, set some distance to the rear of the house and needed cleaning out periodically. This was quite common in country areas and not uncommon in towns and sometimes built-up areas. Some houses did have cesspit's or septic tanks fitted, but this was costly. 

After WW2 was over, the following years showed an improvement, especially with electricity supply.

On one of our periodic visits to the Corlett's, Mrs. Corlett was all a-buzz, after a cup of tea we were whisked up stairs. At the top of the stairs was a door to a small bedroom. With an almost theatrical throw, she flung open the door, wide. There standing before us, was a brand new indoor toilet. After our first surprised shock we were all talking together, asking questions. I'm not sure what type the toilet was now, whether it was a wet or dry type.

Other times I remember well was winter. In the decade of the 1940s, this period was particularly cold. Just down from the Corlett's was a fair sized pond close to the road. The pond used to freeze over in winter, thick enough to skate on. The Corlett girls all had skates and used to use them. They had at least one small pair which I used to attempt to skate with but I wasn't very good.

During our visit to the area in the year 2000, I noticed the pond area no longer had water. It was just grass and weeds. As I knew it over 1940s, the pond was full all the year round. The pond was situated where the stream which flows in front Sharrow Cottages, then down the hillside at an angle then crossing the road and into the lake. The stream did not connect to the pond.

Next door, lived Mr and Mrs Platt. I mentioned Mr Platt earlier with us showing of a light during the WW2 blackout. Quite some years later after WW2 was over and we had left Sharrow Bay. The Platt's passed away. The house became vacant, the youngest daughter Elsie, with permission took over the cottage to run as a rental for both summertime visitors. It was also popular with out of season climbers, walkers and fishermen, and not forgetting its spectacular views over Ullswater.

When the cottage was initially taken over and in the process of being refurbished, the attic was inspected. A heavy box was found and removed. When opened it contained a large number crown and halve crown coins. Being honest people, the Corlett's got in touch with the solicitors who  had handled the Platt's affairs. What happened from here on I don't fully know, other than the Platt's did not have any offspring and did not seem to have any near relatives.


12 August 2003

Galloper Jack

A politician every bit as flamboyant as Alan Clark

(Filed: 18/05/2003)

Alan Judd reviews Galloper Jack by Brough Scott

Time's toll on contemporary reputation is always greater than we think. You could be close to kings and prime ministers, minister of state, war hero twice over, friend of Churchill's for 48 years, founder of the National Savings movement, father of the 1930s National Government, ennobled, arch-appeaser of Mussolini and Hitler, then repentant and vigorous supporter of war against them – all this and more, yet within a few decades your name is known only to historians and your family.
But Jack Seely – the first Lord Mottistone – may become better known as a result of his grandson's affectionate memoir. Brough Scott, racing correspondent for The Sunday Telegraph and Channel Four, decided to add bones and structure to the corpus of family stories about their dashing and heroic Edwardian forebear. The result is a story both uplifting and instructive, well researched and written with infectious, but not uncritical, enthusiasm.
The Seely fortune grew from Nottinghamshire coal, but home for Jack (1868-1947) was the family estate on the Isle of Wight. The privileged, impetuous youth became and remained a stalwart member of the local lifeboat crew and the experience reinforced in him those liberal and egalitarian instincts that so often went hand-in-hand with Victorian and Edwardian patronage. Theirs is an age we have, in Scott's words, "cast into caricature" and Jack Seely, with his upper-class drawl and imperial assumptions, could easily be caricatured.
But to do so would be as facile and unjust as that cinematic sneer against the First World War, Oh! What a Lovely War. Grim experience of the Boer War – when he ruffled feathers by protesting against military muddle and by opposing ranch burning and concentration camps – sharpened his political instincts, and he entered Parliament to campaign for Army reforms. He was first a Conservative, then a Liberal MP, but always, essentially an issues rather than a party man.
He progressed to secretary of state for war, but politics turned his virtues – loyalty, straightforwardness, honesty, courage – into vices: na├»ve judgment, simple-mindedness, self-advertisement. In 1914 he was made scapegoat and forced to resign over the Curragh Mutiny. He also had his share of ill-luck: while he was breaking up a fight at a royal function between the South African and Canadian representatives, his horse bit the King's foot – and that is what stuck in people's minds. To the military hierarchy, it showed he was a loose cannon.
This was despite the judgment of Maurice Hankey, first and archetypal Cabinet secretary, that Seely did more than anyone apart from Asquith and Haldane to facilitate the country's belated war preparations. Not least of his achievements was helping to found the Royal Flying Corps and organising shipping to get the Army to France. Flying became a theme of his life: he was the first minister to fly, became post-war Under-Secretary of State for Air, and in 1919 scandalised the powers-that-were by flying a sea plane through Tower Bridge to land at Westminster. Of modern ministers, perhaps only Alan Clark might have had that style.
In the First World War, Seely forsook Westminster for the trenches, commanding a Canadian cavalry brigade with idiosyncratic flair and systematic bravery. He endured four harsh winters in the line and numerous near escapes before the brigade he loved met its own Calvary at Moreuil Wood, during the 1919 German Spring Offensive. This, like other war episodes, is vividly evoked by Scott, a biographer who rightly makes the effort to walk the ground he describes. The commentary box asides that pepper his earlier chapters – remarks that might work on air, but appear intrusive and otiose in print – are less evident here. His depictions of the four million horses killed on the Western Front, and his descriptions of Seely's incomparable mount, Warrior, are written with all the informed enthusiasm you could expect of a former jockey.
Seely led a vigorous life after the war, but he was somewhat adrift and his ardour never to see such suffering again blinded him to the realities of Mussolini and Hitler. Always an idealistic optimist, he became, says Scott, "a cock-eyed one" who found Hitler "absolutely truthful, sincere and unselfish". It took another war to restore his political sight; he donned uniform and went to Churchill in tearful repentance. He died in 1947 of the gas that had got him in 1918.
Not least among our misconceptions of that age is the assumption that our forebears repressed their emotions; one of the attractions of this sympathetic piece of family and social history is that it shows how fearlessly and well they could express feeling, and how Roman they were in performing their duty. I doubt we match them in either.

8 August 2003

Ullswater: Sea Training and the Indian Head.

Just up the road from us towards Howtown was a large empty mansion called called Ravencragg. Here the mansion had been taken over by the government of the day for use as a Royal Navy training establishment. The teen-aged boys, I suppose would be 15 years upward. I'm not at all sure what their training was exactly for, but to make a guess I would say it would be for the Royal Navy. We would often see the boys on the lake practising their seamanship with boats which closely resembled lifeboats or maybe cutters.

At Sharrow Bay we, by this time had left the cottage and moved into the lodge at the main gate entrance. The cottage was now empty, shortly a man and his wife moved in and I noticed he wore a uniform, a naval uniform which to me resembled a petty officer's uniform. My wife Patricia's brother was a Royal Navy chief petty officer during WW2 and the uniforms were similar.

The man was employed at Ravencrag and would be, probably an instructor. One day I overheard that the man had asked Nelson's permission to build a boat were the hounds dog kennels were. These unused kennels were from the days when Mr Nelson was Master of the Ullswater Hunt. Sometime after this permission was granted. Part way through the building of the boat we were invited by Mrs Nelson down to see the progress of the boat. The man gave us an explanation of how it was built using steel plate(with rivets), the size of the boat and other things which I forget now.

As I write this I am puzzled why the boat was being built. Why the man had been allowed to build the boat. Why he had been allowed to dismantle the dog kennels. This present early morning as I write I came up with what I think may be the answer.

These were ship building engineering students who at the end of their training would go to sea as ships engineers? How ships were built was part of their course training. Ravencrag mansion was not the ideal place to demonstrate ship building techniques. Ravencrag was built on a small piece of flat ground with rising ground to one side and the rear, with the road to Howtown on the 3rd side. Whether steel boat or ship, steel building causes a noisy environment and if close to a study environment is far from ideal. So that is my best guess.

I don't remember seeing much of the Ravencrag boys but I do remember, vividly, seeing one of the boys carvings. It was on a tree on the Howtown road, not too far from Pooley Bridge. There was a row of smooth barked trees, Beech trees, I think. The row of trees started at about opposite Elderbeck Farm gateway and continued at spaced intervals down the hedgerow towards Howtown for a short way.

Some lines had been cut in the tree bark with a knife. At 2-4 day intervals more lines and curved cuts would appear, slowly a picture started to emerge from the cuts. One day I saw the finished picture. It was a side view of an American Indian's life-size face plus wearing full headdress. Coming down the road on my bike I would sometimes stop and gaze at the picture and marvel at the lifelike picture the boy had done.

In the year 2000 when visiting the UK, my brother John took me up to Sharrow Bay for a nostalgic visit. I thought of the Indian head carved into the tree trunk and asked John to stop. As we came up to the row of trees I immediately picked out the tree. I clambered out of John's vehicle. As I crossed the road towards the tree, at first I could not see the carving. Had I got the wrong tree? I glanced past the tree to the next tree, I started walking towards it; no there was nothing there, the bark was smooth. I started to walk to check the previous tree to the one I was so sure of. I stopped and took another glance at the tree I was so sure of and then stared intently, I thought that is silver coloured lichen I see. I moved closer into the hedge as far as I could and scraped the lichen away and the dirt underneath. With my finger nail following the black line and as I kept scraping I came to missing bark, twisted bark and then newer bark from the tree trying to reproduce new bark. I stopped what I was doing and a thought crossed my mind, if I do clean the carving up, all I can do is make it look worse. Best thing I could do is leave the Indian head carving alone and let nature take its course. As I write this the year is 2010 and I am 78 years. I last saw the Indian Head 12 years ago, in the year 2000. I would be about 10 years old when the boy did the carving.

John sat patiently in the drivers seat waiting for me.