1983 poem by A. Billingham on the closure of Round Oak #NationalPoetryDay

Round Oak Steelworks
Images courtesy of 68Cardon

In the late seventies and early eighties Brierley Hill witnessed the collapse of its local industries. With Marsh & Baxter, Round Oak, Baldwins and others – factories which had stood for over a hundred years – disappearing it was a time of terrible change. As the industry disappeared the social networks associated with them went too.

This poem, by A. Billingham, appeared in the Black Country Bugle in January 1983. I think it captures the mood of the time very well.

Th’Earl’s – Gone West
By A. Billingham

At six an two, an then at ten
Yoe’d ’ear et blow ter tell the men,
Ess time ter change the shift again
Yoe woe ’ear it no moower.

Ah’m on about th’Earl’s bull, yoe know
Et yewsta goo, cum rain, cum snow,
An them fiery ingots orl aglow
Yoe woe see them no moower.

Ef yoe goo by now, the gaetes am shit
On a notice, R.I.P. they’ve put,
Tried ’ard they have ter keep et, but
They woe open them no moower.

Iss like a graveyard, quiet an’ still
Ther’s no sparks a flyin’ in the mill,
Iss another piece uv Bri’ley ’Ill
As woe be used no moower.

Stacks a stonden, tall en proud
Spew forth a red oxide cloude,
Soon ter be covered in a rusting shroud
Fer they woe smoke no moower.

The powers that be, ’ow con they sleep
Orl them men, et meks yer weep,
Chock the lot on the scrap-heap
We doe want them no moower.

An now et’s gone wi’ great regret
Ter get Macgregor out uv debt,
Er monewment to toil an’ sweat
Et woe cum back now moower.

This famous town once Industry’s lap
Like the muffler en cloth cap,
Slowly being rubbed right off the map
Et woe be known no moower.

Baldwin’s en Marsh en Baxters am done
Woolworths the co-ope, and Boots ’ave gone,
The shaps am close, one by one
Never to cum back no moower.

Bri’ley ill’s lost most uv it’s pride, alas
But at least we’ver gorrer touch of class,
We’ve still got Royal Brierley Glass
That wull goo on some moower.

Men round ’eer am bred ter werk
Evolved through tryanny, toil an murk,
Ess in their blood, the never shirk
Why cor they work some moower.

Tossed on the slag heap, ter fall apart
Orl on the dole, left in the cart,
A shocken crime, et breaks yer eart
Et ay our world no moower.

Round Oak Steelworks RIP

The Beggar who connects Brierley Hill, Jane Austin and Charles Dickens #NationalPoetryDay

The Beggars Petition

As it’s National Poetry Day I’ve been looking at some poems which are Brierley Hill related. It’s fascinating stuff and there’s more out there than you’d expect. Perhaps the most famous of Brierley Hill’s poems was penned in the eighteenth century by Thomas Moss who was the first vicar of St Michael’s.

The Beggar’s Petition was so famous that it is even mentioned by Jane Austin (Northanger Abbey) and Charles Dickens (Nicholas Nickleby) in their works as explained by the Black Country Bugle.

Here is the poem in full:

PITY the sorrows of a poor old man!
  Whose trembling limbs have borne him to your door,
Whose days are dwindled to the shortest span,
  O, give relief, and Heaven will bless your store.

These tattered clothes my poverty bespeak,
  These hoary locks proclaim my lengthened years;
And many a furrow in my grief-worn cheek
  Has been the channel to a stream of tears.
Yon house, erected on the rising ground,
  With tempting aspect drew me from my road,  
For plenty there a residence has found,
  And grandeur a magnificent abode.
(Hard is the fate of the infirm and poor!)
  Here craving for a morsel of their bread,
A pampered menial drove me from the door,
  To seek a shelter in the humble shed.

O, take me to your hospitable dome,
  Keen blows the wind, and piercing is the cold!
Short is my passage to the friendly tomb,
  For I am poor and miserably old.
Should I reveal the source of every grief,
  If soft humanity e’er touched your breast,
Your hands would not withhold the kind relief,
  And tears of pity could not be repressed.
Heaven sends misfortunes,—why should we repine?
  ’T is Heaven has brought me to the state you see:
And your condition may be soon like mine,
  The child of sorrow and of misery.

A little farm was my paternal lot,
  Then, like the lark, I sprightly hailed the morn;
But ah! oppression forced me from my cot;
  My cattle died, and blighted was my corn.
My daughter,—once the comfort of my age!
  Lured by a villain from her native home,
Is cast, abandoned, on the world’s wild stage,
  And doomed in scanty poverty to roam.

My tender wife,—sweet soother of my care!—
  Struck with sad anguish at the stern decree,
Fell,—lingering fell, a victim to despair,
  And left the world to wretchedness and me.
 Pity the sorrows of a poor old man!
  Whose trembling limbs have born him to your door,
Whose days are dwindled to the shortest span,
  O, give relief, and Heaven will bless your store.