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Poem for the Day

Posted: 21 September 2013

But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white-then melts for ever;
Or like the Borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the Rainbow's lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm. -
Nae man can tether Time nor Tide,
The hour approaches Tam maun ride;
That hour, o' night's black arch the key-stane,
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in;
And sic a night he taks the road in,
As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.

The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last;
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallow'd;
Loud, deep, and lang, the thunder bellow'd:
That night, a child might understand,
The deil had business on his hand.

Weel-mounted on his grey mare, Meg,
A better never lifted leg,
Tam skelpit on thro' dub and mire,
Despising wind, and rain, and fire;
Whiles holding fast his gude blue bonnet,
Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots sonnet,
Whiles glow'rin round wi' prudent cares,
Lest bogles catch him unawares;
Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh,
Where ghaists and houlets nightly cry.

By this time he was cross the ford,
Where in the snaw the chapman smoor'd;
And past the birks and meikle stane,
Where drunken Charlie brak's neck-bane;
And thro' the whins, and by the cairn,
Where hunters fand the murder'd bairn;
And near the thorn, aboon the well,
Where Mungo's mither hang'd hersel'.
Before him Doon pours all his floods,
The doubling storm roars thro' the woods,
The lightnings flash from pole to pole,
Near and more near the thunders roll,
When, glimmering thro' the groaning trees,
Kirk-Alloway seem'd in a bleeze,
Thro' ilka bore the beams were glancing,
And loud resounded mirth and dancing.

Inspiring bold John Barleycorn!
What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
Wi' tippenny, we fear nae evil;
Wi' usquabae, we'll face the devil!
The swats sae ream'd in Tammie's noddle,
Fair play, he car'd na deils a boddle,
But Maggie stood, right sair astonish'd,
Till, by the heel and hand admonish'd,
She ventur'd forward on the light;
And, wow! Tam saw an unco sight!

from Tam O'Shanter
Robert Burns 1759 - 1796

Poem for the Day

Posted: 20 September 2013

Yes, I remember Adlestrop -
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop - only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Adelstrop
Edward Thomas 1878 - 1917

Poem for the Day

Posted: 19 September 2013

1200 people were waiting at the pithead when they were told that even though 47 men were still missing the mine was going to be flooded.

Some of the people that were there, mining women mostly with children wrapped in shawls and held tight against them, some still in slippers and curlers, cried out in despair as they felt their widowhood creeping up on them.

For four days men worked, pumping the mine free of the torrent of water that had been poured in to put out the fire, and four days later they brought out the first of the dead. That day 41 women became widows, 76 children fatherless and a whole community lost the will to carry on.

So now where have they gone, all those brothers and sisters who made our lives rich and safe? Gone, perhaps, but never far away, and never really dead, for they are all still alive in our memory, a living truth as surely as we live ourselves.

Are the rescue workers dead, then? Those brave men who toiled for hours in a black Hell to bring life and hope to those who waited above the ground. Are the priests and ministers dead who stood praying with the mourning, and who took turns to descend into the mine to bring what comfort they could? Or the Salvation Army women, who came with soup and compassion, proving with simple faith that the strength of women is greater than the muscles of men.

And are they dead, the forty-seven who perished? Are they not still there now, with short handled picks and cans of tea and short stemmed pipes held tight between their teeth, still cutting coal, and laughing and singing as they walk to the road end and home.

Hear the miners heavy tramping,
See the loading of the coal.
Feel the coal dust as it settles
In your lungs and in your soul.
I can see their hands are bloody,
I can see how hard they tried.
But one day all the lights went out,
And forty-seven died.

The pit wheels stopped their turning,
Like they knew they’d been condemned.
And all that day the news came down,
From Chryston to Bridgend.
I travelled in my memory,
To where the women cried.
The day that all the lights went out,
And forty-seven died.

They all heard the confusion,
They ran to the pithead.
The Salvation Army handed out
Tea and soup and bread.
Mothers, wives and sweethearts,
Asking questions, none replied.
The day that all the lights went out,
And forty-seven died.

There’s a woman by the railway
With a baby in her arms.
Dressed in black and mourning,
She is weeping for her man.
There’s a line of coffins waiting
To be buried, crucified.
The day that all the lights went out,
And forty-seven died.

The mine never did re-open,
It died as well that day.
Death took its breath, then took his leave,
And the people moved away.
Now I’m looking from my window,
And I remember those who cried.
The day that all the lights went out,
And forty-seven died.

The Day That All The Lights Went
from Along The Miners' Rows
Bill Adair

Poem for the Day

Posted: 18 September 2013

What price do you put on a bag of coal? Far more than the eight and
six you hand over in cash. The real cost is measured in all the days,
weeks, months and years of hoping and praying that a moment like
this will never come. Then suddenly, without any warning it happens,
and he’s gone.

And gone is the joy and the laughter. Gone is the smile and the love
of a good man, dark-dusted and weary. The one who made living
worthwhile.

And gone is the love you thought would last forever, and you are lost
in your own world. Each person that passes is no more than a
stranger at the gates, and you have no desire for them to enter, for he
is still large in the house with his boots in the kitchen and his pipe on
the mantel.

And the faith you believed would go on and on has left you empty and
alone, fearful for the children you carried, their future uncertain.
How fragile is life in the depths of a mine. How heavy the price of a
bag of coal

The life has been torn out from me,
My heart is breaking.
My children’s father sacrificed,
My soul is screaming.
The joy that once surrounded me
Has left me now, I’m mourning.
I am the miner’s widow
Bereft and just surviving.

Today a wounded sun arose,
Its rays were bleeding.
The coal dust thick upon the grass
To shroud the dying.
In widow’s garb, black as coal,
I join the grieving.
The silence round the pithead gate,
A stark lamenting.

Last night I heard my sisters cry,
A bleak petition.
Too late to save those buried there,
No late salvation.
I think on yesterdays long past
When they were many.
I fear that soon will come the day
There are not any.

I am the miner’s widow
And this my hymn of sorrow.
All life inside of me has died,
I face a cruel tomorrow.
To end it all, life’s final call,
Would take me from this slaughter.
But from the grave I could not aid
Or guard my sons and daughters.

The Miner's Widow's Lament
from Along The Miners' Rows
Bill Adair

Poem for the Day

Posted: 17 September 2013

On the morning of the 18th September 1959, bogies taking miners to the coalface at Auchengeich Colliery in the small Lanarkshire village of Bridgend ran into dense smoke and carbon monoxide from a fire caused by a faulty electrical fan. Of the squad of 48 men only one survived. Later that day a decision was made to flood the mine in order to extinguish the fire, thereby closing the mine and destroying a community. Over the next three days the poem for the day will be extracts of narrative and some of the songs from the 50th anniversary production of “Along The Miners’ Rows”.

…..watching out as the cage fell through the air as if the ground had fallen away from you, with the wind of the fall screaming round your ears, and the black darkness covering you, so completely, like a thick blanket, that it felt for a minute like you had gone blind.

Watching for each other as one cut and stripped out the coal and the other pushed the great lumps down the chute to be loaded into bogies and away. Watching, watching, watching. As hour after sweating, blistering hour, you cut coal, only able to stand up straight when you were lying on the flat of your back.

Where can a miner go?
When they tell him the pit is to close.
For all of his life he’s been digging the coal,
Where can a miner go?
Where can a miner go?

Where does a turner turn?
When the steel works are closing their gates.
When the ashes are cold and the furnace an urn,
Where does a turner turn?
Where does a turner turn?

What can a shipwright say?
When the stocks are laid empty and bare.
When the last of liners have all sailed away,
What can a shipwright say?
What can a shipwright say?

Where will our children go?
With factories and industry gone.
No shipyards or steelyards, no digging for coal,
Where will our children go?
Where will our children go?

Where can a miner go?
When they tell him the pit is to close.
For all of his life he’s been digging the coal,
Where can a miner go?
Where can a miner go?
 

Where Can A Miner Go?
from Along The Miners' Rows
Bill Adair

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