Skipsey Events

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Forthcoming event . . . .

Carols from the Coalfields – songs based on the poems of Joseph Skipsey.

To be held on Wednesday, 11th February, 1 pm at the

Newcastle Literary & Philosophical Society
23 Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear NE1 1SE.

Join Chris Harrison to hear his songs, poems of Joseph Skipsey which he has set to music.
Learn more about this fascinating 19th Century poet.

Please reserve your seat by calling (0191) 232 0192, or e-mailing library@litandphil.org.uk


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Photographs from the . . . .

JOSEPH SKIPSEY COMMEMORATION

. . . . which took place on Saturday 17th March 2012 at
The North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers,

Neville Hall,  Newcastle upon Tyne.
 

2012 provides several anniversaries of mining disasters.  To re-balance this, an event took place to celebrate the 180th anniversary of the birth of Joseph Skipsey, the Tyneside Pitman Poet.  The event included poet and M.C., Doctor Keith Armstrong (the coordinator of Northern Voices Community Projects), poets Catherine Graham, Dave Alton, Gordon Phillips and Robert Lonsdale; Chris Harrison, great great grandson of Skipsey, with Skipsey songs; the Sawdust Jacks folk duo; Northumbrian Piper Chris Ormston; along with readings from Skipsey’s poetry and an account of his life.  During the evening, the annual Northern Voices Joseph Skipsey Award was given posthumously to the late Gordon MacPherson (1928-1999) of Easington, County Durham, a Pitman Poet himself, and gratefully accepted by his daughter Heather Wood.




Poet and M.C. for the Skipsey event, Dr Keith Armstrong.
 



The Skipsey commemoration event at the Mining Institute, Newcastle upon Tyne with the Sawdust Jacks folk group beginning the evening.




Newcastle poet Catherine Graham reads her special poem on Joseph Skipsey.

The Pitman Poet
(Joseph Skipsey 1832 - 1903)


No light, bonny lad, bar the odd candle-end.
A trapper at seven years,
opening and closing, opening and closing the dusty door
from dawn to sunset, lending ventilation
to the hell-hole of the pit.

Tracing your finger in coal dust
you taught yourself to write:
copying handbills, passing endless black hours
before climbing the mine-owner's rusted ladder
to home and a bowl of nettle broth: eight bairns to feed;
her man shot dead: your mother, the love of his life.

Who would believe that you would grow up to quote
Shakespeare and Burns: to write poems from coal,
poems that endure like diamonds.


Catherine Graham

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Heritage Open Days' Skipsey 110th anniversary events
on Tyneside.


FOR JOE SKIPSEY:
T
HE PITMAN POET OF PERCY MAIN

‘He’ll tell his tale o’er a pint of ale,
And crack his joke, and bad
Must be the heart who loveth not
To hear the Collier Lad.’ (Skipsey)
 

To be a pitman poet
you drag words
out of the seam of a dictionary,
write against the grain
all the time
feeling the pain
of a small education,
scribbling in the dark
for a bright spark
germ of a poem.
Hewing
for rhymes,
ducking
in case the roof
of the verse
caved in on you,
Joe
it was bloody hard
to learn,
to craft a line
from the black pit
when the whole world
weighed down on you.
A man was forced
to sing,
to render a ballad
like a lamp in the tunnel,
scraping an education
from coal,
crawling along bookshelves
to find daylight,
Shakespeare,
Shelley
and melody
in the stacks
of an underground library.


KEITH ARMSTRONG

 

KEITH ARMSTRONG PERFORMING HIS JOSEPH SKIPSEY POEM AT THE HARTLEY PIT DISASTER MEMORIAL, ST. ALBAN'S CHURCH, EARSDON, WHITLEY BAY, SATURDAY 14TH SEPTEMBER 2013, AS PART OF HERITAGE OPEN DAYS EVENT TO MARK THE 110TH ANNIVERSARY OF SKIPSEY'S DEATH.

CHRIS HARRISON, GREAT GREAT GRANDSON OF SKIPSEY, PERFORMING SKIPSEY'S 'THE HARTLEY CALAMITY' POEM AT THE SAME EVENT.


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HARTLEY PIT DISASTER JANUARY 16TH 1862

‘What was it there on Hartley heap, caused the mother and child to weep?’ (George Cooke)


Cold January’s gripped our throbbing hearts and torn them.
Still the sea rolls on.

This earth’s bowells stink of our loved one’s deaths,
the air tastes foul.
Still the sea rolls on.

They don black gloves,
drag out the bodies one by one.
The death-stained faces seem to smile.
Still the sea rolls on.

We are the widows of Hartley,
our men and boys are dead,
our lives cracked open,
damp corpses in our beds.
Still the sea rolls on.

We clutch cold messages from Dukes and Queens,
we wipe the coal dust from our widowed eyes.
The coffin makers’ heavy hammers beat,
keep time with lapping parlour clocks,
and still
the sea rolls on,
still the sea rolls on.

Still the sea,
we are the widows of Hartley,
our men and boys are dead.

Take away your stumbling words and

GIVE US BREAD.

KEITH ARMSTRONG

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