MS (8.4.1929 / Marton, Lancashire)

! 'It's Joost Not Furr! ...'

From my extended family,
the indignant cry rings out –
‘It’s joost not FURR! ’…

Whingers all? Ah – but listen
to the sound behind those words…
this is not the ‘Yokshire’ voice,
standing square on the earth
as if it always owned it…

this is the sound of centuries –
two at least - of men’s sense of injustice:
forced off the herding on the lovely hills,
the fresh cleansing air, or
the market gardens of Lytham and the coastal plain,

down to the water-valleys and the foggy, smoky air
of the mills; the cotton dust into wheezing lungs
shortening their lives as they listen bed-bound
to the clatter of the morning clogs:
the single early steps to set up the mills,
the rush, then the single hurried latecomers…

or the starving Irish, seeking work a bare potato’s throw
from the ships they came in, to the Mersey docks…

But listen again to that whinge, confident,
in its sense of injustice: hear the ‘good news’
brought by Nonconformist preachers,
Wesleyans and Methodists and Baptists too,
and all the shades of freethinking men and women,
in tiny ‘tin tabernacles’ as they were called,
out on the moors beyond town boundaries;
bringing the good news of a God
who was classless; beyond the reach
of ruling class or politics; a liberal God,
who dwelt in our joyful inner tabernacle…
and who was, it seems, on good terms
with the local ‘poor’ lodge as it was called,
of non-religious, and non-political Freemasonry:
bestowing a benevolent, right-thinking and all-seeing eye
on those proud 'working class' who understood
the virtue of good deeds for the poor,
by the poor…setting up the Co-operatives
to sell unadulterated food at decent prices;
in the room above the first one in Toad Lane,
attending evening class – now washed and tidy –
to, as they so proudly said, ‘better themselves’…

and on Saturday, before the endless prayerful Sunday,
attending, first, the classless ‘Rugby’ football,
playing in the ‘Hornets’ or some such team,
or later, ‘Soshie’ as they called it,
abbreviating ‘Association’ football…

cleansed on Sunday for the soul’s new week
while wives cleaned the house on Monday, washing day..
and in enlightened families, were free on Tuesday evening
to attend the same classes that their proud husbands loved…

towns who wore a badge of national pride
that after Robert Owen and John Bright and t'Co-op,
pioneers of a just society of work,
'Scott of th'Ob' had gone on from
the local paper to become the great editor
of the Manchester Guardian, voice
of liberal Britain..

I generalise… but listen to that sound
behind the voice of Lancashire upraised –

‘It’s joost not FURR! …’

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Comments (2)

Yes, yes, and yes again.
Will you EVER write a poem that I don't fall in love with? (Oh sorry teach - 'with which I do not fall in love') . :) Can't do the accent but hey, you did it for me. t xxxx