Poems

Verses & Views

Here are a few images together with some of my song lyrics. They are from the songs on my new CD 'A Canny Tale' by Crowley's Crew then at the end are two poems, the first with deference to Wordsworth. The recent colour photos are mine, the old B&W photos are mostly from Gateshead Library Archives and shown with kind permission.



THE KEELMAN'S WAY
The other day I took a walk
Along the keelman's way
And as I strolled my mind went back
To some long bygone day
The staiths right here, the men at work
The oarsmen and pee dees
And there the keel boats all in line
Masts bobbing in the breeze

They're working hard with ne'er a break
Perspiring in the sun
These men and boys who never stop
Their loading now begun
A mound of coal, high as a house
Stood by the waterside
All destined for old London town
To keep them all supplied

Now legends are not easy made
The test of time reveals
But once a special breed lived here
And made their mark, these keels
So as my mind it wandered back
To all those years ago
I had to smile and cast a glance
To where the keelmen row



THREE CHEERS FOR BLAYDON CO-OP
The Co-op in old Blaydon
We all knew as 'the Store'
A rather special place it was
Alas it is no more
A building of distinctive style
A splendid sight indeed
With pride of place in Blaydon town
On that we’re all agreed

Chorus - - -
Three cheers for Blaydon Co-op
Hip hip hip hooray
We're all in the Co-op
And our divi's due today

Those Rochdale pioneers
They started something new
With profits shared by members all
Just folk like me and you
The idea was a great success
And spread throughout the land
And Blaydon's own Joe Cowen
He was quick to join the band

He canvassed all the people
Then raised the funds required
To start a store in Blaydon town
And premises were hired
In Cuthbert Street they started off
A modest shop its true
In eighteen fifty eight this was
And business quickly grew

Now soon it was apparent
By far a bigger place
Was needed to expand and grow
To give a lot more space
And so the move to Church Street came
Which surely passed the test
Of all Co-ops throughout the land
One of the very best

So over many decades
The Store was loved and thrived
But then the town was modernised
A new age had arrived
And so the building had to go
But old folk still recall
Its heyday in those bygone days
This store for one and all

Three cheers for Blaydon Co-op
Hip hip hip hooray
We're all in the Co-op
And our divi's due today



CANNY OLD BLAYDON
Old Blaydon once had a nice town square
But sad to say its no longer there
No Church Street, no Tyne Street, no Wesley Place
As for all of the old shops there's now no trace
I remember the Co-op, people milling around
But this nice old building was razed to the ground
Loved by the people who called it 'The Store'
All gone now and we'll see it no more

Jack Percy's for bikes, for models and toys
Bees to the honey for us small boys
Taylor's for wet fish, Tweddle for meat
Worley's cake shop just couldn't be beat
Callers and Palmers, Walter Wilson & Co.
All pulled down, they just had to go
Rogers and Lloyds Bank, Lennard's and James
All gone now but remember their names

The Empire Theatre was built to last
Though its seats would shake when the steam trains passed
The curtain went up and on goes the show
A black and white movie of days long ago
John Armstrongs, the blacksmith, Red Lion and more
Pinches and Bruntons, The Rock and Laws Store
Railway Tavern, The Douglas and Greeners for ale
All gone now so I'm telling their tale

The Tripe shop and Gallons, the old billiard hall
The pork shop and Roberts, remember them all
Ganny Arthur's, the Lime Yard, Shanleys and Todd
The Mechanics Hall where George Ridley was God
For Pellets and Murphy's and Muirs spare a thought
Billy Swan's up those stone steps inside Rifle Court
Beveridge the printers and Boyd auctioneer
All gone now what a shame they're not here

Cubies the chemist, Joe Saps for a snack
Tea Company, Woolies, they'll never come back
Sally Army and brass band on each Christmas day
While the old Venture bus slowly pulled away
Aye Blaydon once had a nice town square
But sad to say its no longer there
All modernised now, just a tale to tell
All gone now but I remember it well



CROWLEY'S CREW
Now Ambrose Crowley came up north
To make his iron works the best
At Sunderland it didn't work
Winlaton's where he found his quest
Sir William Bowes provided funds
Or so they say he likely did
In sixteen ninety then he came
To make his fame and fortune bid

Chorus - - -
Crowley's Crew, Crowleys Crew
We're all blacksmiths through and through
Crowley's Crew, Crowleys Crew
We're all blacksmiths good and true

He brought from Belgium blacksmiths fine
To show the local lads their ways
Their locks and chains, their tools and nails
Were best in Europe, highest praise
And so 'The Factory' was born
Fifteen hundred men at work
Arranged in groups or squares they're called
Good wages paid they never shirk

He built a school, and then a church
A doctor came and just to add
For those now hurt, or ill or old
The pension paid was none too bad
Now Crowley's Crew the men were called
They fought for rights and common good
Beware if you should disagree
The men were tough, a brotherhood

For countless years the work went on
Renowned and famed throughout the land
But all good things must end they say
And so the smithy's final hand
In nineteen sixty six it came
The hammer struck the final blow
The final link, the final chain
No longer does the fire glow

Crowley's Crew, Crowleys Crew
We're all blacksmiths through and through
Crowley's Crew, Crowleys Crew
We're all blacksmiths good and true



A LEGEND EVERMORE
At Blaydon near the river
Ran a point to point horse race
Eighteen eleven it began
As hoppings week took place
Sword dancers canny to behold
Round villages did go
While keelmen and the pitmen bold
Raised money for the show

But railways came and took the land
A premature demise
So then another course they planned
They're choice a big surprise
For who'd have thought this track would be
On Blaydon Island fair
A special place and all agree
A course beyond compare

From eighteen sixty one to five
It proved a huge success
A joyful anthem helped it thrive
George Ridley's song no less
Then once again fate took a hand
This island had to go
The Tyne Commission cleared the land
Improved the river flow

So once again began the quest
Again the course was moved
To Stella Haugh just further west
A final fling it proved
The great war came and so the end
In nineteen sixteen came
But Ridley's words so neatly penned
A rallying cry became

And so his song we sing with pride
Has grown into folklore
And made our races known worldwide
A legend evermore
A legend evermore



THE LEAD ROAD
Now just imagine seeing this a long long time ago
Some fifty horses, single file, all walking in a row
And on their backs large panniers hang with quite a canny load
The men in charge they lead them on along an old drove road

Chorus - - -
We're headed down to Blaydon
We're on the old lead road
Wor bags are fully laden
Such a heavy, heavy load

Across the moors from Allendale they wind their weary way
Mile after mile the train moves on, the same day after day
And then at last the end is reached at Blaydon, near the Tyne
The Blackett-Beaumont factory where lead goes to refine

North Pennine mines were thriving then but now they are no more
A host of minerals they produced but most of all lead ore
The lead was smelted near the mines but too impure to sell
At Blaydon lead was then refined and then did very well

The ore contained some silver and at Blaydon t'was removed
A very canny process and quite lucrative it proved
But spare a thought for all those men who toiled all night and day
For miner's work is very hard and modest was their pay

And think of all those galloways at Horsecrofts where they graze
A meadow just by Blaydon town that' s still there nowadays
Once loaded up with things folk need, provisions of all kinds
They set off home with ne'er a thought of silver on their minds

We're headed down to Blaydon
We're on the old lead road
Wor bags are fully laden
Such a heavy, heavy load





COFFEE JOHNNY WORE A WHITE TOP HAT
Coffee Johnny wore a white top hat
Who'd have ever thought that he'd do that
Fancy that, fancy that
Coffee Johnny wore a white top hat

Six foot fower and as strong as an ox
A tough young smithy who could surely box
Fancy that, fancy that
Coffee Johnny wore a white top hat

Fought bare knuckles and he beat the best
Head and shoulders stood above the rest
Fancy that, fancy that
Coffee Johnny wore a white top hat

Sure to show up at the hunt or race
Dressed in style a big smile on his face
Fancy that, fancy that
Coffee Johnny wore a white top hat

Hard to miss when stood among the throng
Now immortal through George Ridley's song
Fancy that, fancy that
Coffee Johnny wore a white top hat

At Blaydon Races then he found his fame
A lad from Winlaton with a cute nickname
Fancy that, fancy that
Coffee Johnny wore a white top hat



THE BATTLE OF STELLA HAUGH (also known as The Battle of Newburn)
Stella Haugh is where the Blaydon Races used to be
A meadow just beside the Tyne that's steeped in history
In August, sixteen forty quite a battle took place there
Between the English and the Scots and all because of prayer

For Charles believed divine the right of kings, his word was law
His pious views he tried to force on Scotland risking war
As many Scots resented interference in their ways
And so they took up arms to try to end those troubled days

A powerful army was amassed of Scotland's brave and bold
They headed south towards the Tyne then set up their stronghold
Initially they tried to lodge petitions for their cause
But these were shunned then followed on a most uneasy pause

The king on learning of this raid the gentry's help he sought
His northern friends took up the call and fighting men were brought
To Stella on the southern bank just over from the foe
And then there was a stand off, no one yet would strike a blow

A Scotsman then decided that his horse must take a drink
A deadly English shot rang out, a rash impulse they think
It brought immediate Scots response, their cannon firing then
The English, though they had dug in, lost many of their men

As Scots charged forward by a ford the English did withdraw
To higher ground above the haugh then stand and fight once more
But no avail, the Scots advanced and now in disarray
The royalists retreated south, to Durham, then away

The battle won but not the war this matter then dragged on
King Charles was so intransigent that many wished him gone
And Cromwell, tough Old Ironsides, was waiting in the wings
A man who held in much contempt the divine right of kings



WINLATON COAL
Coal mining here on Tyneside goes back a long, long way
To medieval times and even Roman days they say
But whereabouts did this all start, well here's a story true
That gives some indication if you're looking for a clue

Chorus - - -
The coal we hew, the corve we fill, then haul it to the shaft
Another load heads down the hill, another days hard graft

In thirteen sixty seven good King Edward's request came
Six hundred tons of coal required and ordered in his name
To use for burning lime to make the mortar for the stone
Repairing Windsor Castle, so the archive deeds have shown

Winlaton coal mines were the source, they'd sent supplies before
A thriving industry was there and coal was at its core
Pitmen and keelmen working hard with danger all around
Men, women and their children who were working underground

The coal was taken by packhorse to staiths down on the Tyne
At Blaydon and at Stella too, the keel boats all in line
The keels down river took their load to where the big ships lay
Transferred the coal into their holds, they did this night and day

The loaded ships went off to sea to London and beyond
While huge increase in coal demand caused mining to respond
And soon pits opened far and wide, a new age they would bring
Winlaton's mines helped pave the way and coal would now be king

The coal we hew, the corve we fill, then haul it to the shaft
Another load heads down the hill, another days hard graft



BLUEBELLS
I wandered lonely, thoughts in mind
Beyond the woods the sullen fell
When all at once what should I find
A swathe, a swarm of shy bluebell
Beneath the trees, in dappled shade
Spread out as far as eye could see
No beauty such could be man made
And no-one there, just them and me




OWER YONDER
Ower yonder there’s a place
That often comes to mind
A friendly and familiar face
To greet, and calmness find
Ower yonder leafy lane
Bedecked with nature's wild
The skylarks join in sweet refrain
To soothe the meek and mild
Ower yonder farmers plough
Nearby a warbler song
This troubled world remote seems now
Serenely stroll along
Ower yonder stillness, space
So seek and ye shall find
For just to find this quiet place
That brings such peace of mind

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