Ghosts of Heysham past…

Heysham

Vikings village

Basking, Brawling, Battling

Deathly deeds at Brunanburh

Vanquished.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson.

The Vikings at Heysham may well have allied with the Scots and Britons at the Battle of Brunanburgh but the English were the victors.

Three minutes to midnight-1984 revisited.

In 1984 at BRGS I was the editor of our School magazine “Squirrel”. I wrote a nihilistic editorial referring to Orwellian disaster, and the truth was the clock was sitting at three minutes to Midnight, something not to be taken lightly.

I suspect most of my friends in the same or similar age-group reflect back on what were perceived to be good times of the eighties despite its obvious flaws. The information age was just beginning to emerge and everything we did in the eighties was bigger and better than it had ever been before. The eighties gave us Top Gun wings and we flew, Gloria Gaynor and Sylvester Stallone made sure we would survive even if times were hard. I sent more than one failed relationship out the door in my pink legwarmers. I didn’t get swept off my feet by some Richard Gere, Officer type but I had fun trying. I am still convinced I owe a little bit of my own fortitude and resilience to Goldie Hawn’s performance in Private Benjamin and accepted my own quirks and foibles because of characters like Ally in the Breakfast Club.

Perhaps the ra-ra skirts and Club Tropicana were our own way of shaking off the pervasive doom that had settled on us throughout the previous decade,  which had been punctuated by strikes, unrest, fuel shortages and the three day week. We had come together as a nation to celebrate the Silver Jubilee, to protect our territory in the Falklands and to see our magical Princess wed her Prince and yet still the Cold war raged and the doomsday clock ticked on.

The dystopian nightmare of the nuclear propaganda machine, the make-shift attempts at fall-out shelters for Panaorma documentaries and the secret world beneath our cities seemed to be a dark shadow of a murky past once Gorbachev came to power in 1985 as I moved away to University. The cold war was over and just after my 23rd birthday, the Berlin wall came down, to me the very symbol of the spies and lies and iron curtain and all that we had feared.

Have we now come full circle, is this the return of the nightmare that was. What time is it now Mr Wolf?

©AlisonJean Hankinson

Link to the original Squirrel 1984.snip_20180416191113

There is only one video clip I can think off to celebrate/acknowledge both then and now:

 

 

The Perfect Storm…reflections on the storm of 1953.

It was England’s worst natural disaster of the twentieth century. A combination of a winter windstorm and high spring tides brought disaster and flooding to Scotland, England, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Between January 31 and February 1st a storm tide in the North Sea raised the water level by as much as 5.6metres above sea level in parts of the East coast. There was catastrophic flooding on a massive scale and huge loss of life.

In the Netherlands there were approx 1836 deaths, In England in the east coast counties of Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Essex 307 lives were lost, a further 19 in Scotland and 28 people lost their lives in the Flanders region of Belgium. A further 230 people lost their lives at sea, on small craft, fishing vessels and with the sinking of the MV Princess Victoria. Many of those on shore were drowned in their beds as they slept. Thousands of people were made homeless.

The entire crew of 13 from the fishing trawler the Michael Griffith from Fleetwood were lost to the storm along with two crew from the Islay rescue lifeboat. They had set sail on the Thursday from Fleetwood under skipper Charles Singleton with the youngest crewmember being the deckhand George Palin. The boat vanished south of Barra Head in the early hours of Saturday morning following a stark radio message in morse- “Full of water – no steam – helpless”. Eleven women were widowed and 20 children were left fatherless.

The car ferry MV Princess Victoria, travelling from Stranraer to Larne was also lost of Saturday 31st January. Just 90 minutes after she left Stranraer a wave burst through the stern doors and despite all efforts the car decks were flooded. There were 44 survivors but 133 others perished. Not a single woman or child survived the disaster. They had all been put together in one lifeboat and it was lifted by a wave and smashed against the hull of the ship and they were all lost to the water. Portpatrick, Donaghadee and Cloughy lifeboats all made attempts to locate and help rescue those aboard. The Donaghadee lifeboat, the Sir Samuel Kelly joined the frantic search for survivors after the ship went down finally at approx 13.58 with her Captain still bravely at the helm. Its crew eventually plucked 33 men to safety. Bravery medals were awarded to many for their valiant rescue efforts that day.

This still remains one of the most little-known tragedies of the twentieth century. Thank you dad for telling me about it.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

399px-A_tribute_to_the_Lifeboatmen_of_Portpatrick_-_geograph.org.uk_-_26385

The featured image is from Wikimedia and is in the public domain- By Wrecksite (www.wrecksite.eu) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

the other image is the memorial at Portpatrick again in wikimedia- andy [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Guardian, the storm in pictures

Basking in the boundless light of thy bitter love.

Be still my beating heart

In this boundless light I bask

In his bountiful love I bear witness

I wear love’s malleable mask.

 

Be still my beating heart

For fear of battles feigned in vain

And swordsman on his shining steed

Did my fragile heart reclaim.

 

Be still my beating heart

For he doth love another

And all the magic in the world

Will not ease my slumber.

 

Be still my beating heart

I must hide my shame and guilt

Give me strength grace and fortitude

And let my broken dreams be rebuilt.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

This is for napowrimo Day 8, the prompt was to write in the spirit of Shelley, which was perhaps a bit challenging at 7am, anyway this is as much in the spirit of Shelley as I can muster.

The image is of St George…I imagine this to be the fair damsel in distress once the rose petals have faded.

It was in the public domain on wikimedia-  attributed to circle of Lucas Cranach the Elder [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

The Angel of the North.

Emerging from the darkened voiceless void beneath

Embracing weathered wings span the Gateshead skyline

Reflects our transition from industrial to information age

Celebrates the toil and labour of those beneath who mined.

 

Above ground we breathe the air and grasp the light

200 tonnes of weathering steel guards our future still

Hope rises from coal’s scarred and savaged wounds

As we pay homage to the Angel on the hill.

Deep-rooted in its megalithic mound

And anchored down by love and stone.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tanfield Railway.

We spent Easter visiting the NorthEast. Whilst many schools seem to be cutting the Industrial Revolution from their KS3 curriculum, perhaps they find it dull, for me it is the opposite. I was born here in the North. This is my cultural background and my rich and proud heritage, amongst the dark hills and moors, the deep valleys whipped by wind and rain. My families ancestors toiled and worked to create a brave new industrial nation. Many of them came from Ireland, places like Tipperary and settled along coal and mill routes of the great northern counties. They worked as navvies, labourers, mill workers, spinners, seamstresses and my husbands family moved north working as a stationmaster on the railroad. I felt compelled to visit Tanfield on this journey and post-industrial pilgrimage to the north-east.

It is believed that there has been some form of railways connecting the Tyneside coal to the ports of Blyth and the Tyne since the 1600’s. At first the tracks would have been wooden and the carts/wagons would have been pulled by horses. There may actually have been tracks and a railway at Tanfield during this period. However, it is believed that the Tanfield main railway line was first built around 1725 and therefore almost 100 years before the first steam locomotive.

It was sleeting and Good Friday, there were folks in Victorian clothing carrying Birds of Prey and local clog-dancers performing in one of the sheds, it was a very typical country affair, we donned decent walking shoes to brave the mud and went in search of some interesting pieces of history and of course to see, hear and smell the beautiful steam train, chug-chugging in and out of the station to the sound of a couple with an accordion and a fiddle- with no doubt frozen fingers.

 

It was a thoroughly enjoyable hour and we were able to wander down the derelict sidings and see the workhorses of the past in their final resting places. There were engines being maintained and preserved in sheds along the way, and everywhere scattered haphazardly remnants of the great industrial past and the steam-train era.

 

I wondered how many souls had travelled aboard these carriages and whether their journey had been pleasant and if they had reached their destinations safely. We take so much for granted in our lives and being here reminds me that in those early days of locomotive travel, lives were particularly hard, it wasn’t just the coal and steam, but every aspect of working-class lives, and yet the locomotives went on to give us greater freedom to move at will and were clearly instrumental in enabling working people to travel to growing seaside resorts like Tynemouth, South Shields and Whitley Bay. By 1871, with the passing of the Bank Holidays Act thousands had begun to use the rail network to travel to the seaside. You see all of our history is entwined, the grimy bits, the bits we sometimes choose to forget but it is all part of the same story that has given us what we have now, and made us what we are now. The Industrial revolution is a significant part of our history and heritage and it is important to acknowledge all that went with it to do justice to all of those souls who came before us, the ones that lived, loved and died, often under dark skies in order that we might enjoy the fruits of thier labours and I stand proudly on their shoulders.

Own photos of Tanfield and Tynemouth.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

 

 

Pilgrimage in a post-industrial landscape.

 

Morpeth mopes amidst the mildewed mounds

Of coke and coal and grime hewn by hungry hands.

Derelict Silos silhouetted in a moonlit sky

Iron beasts and barren landscapes

Whilst Angel spreads her wings on hillside high.

 

Deep scars and seams of people slain

In Tanfield beneath the sleet and driving rain

The worlds oldest railway dilapidated in dormant sidings dies

Testament to Britain- the first industrial nation,

An epithet built on poor peoples’ lives.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

 

We spent Easter in the wind snow and rain, touring the North-East. This is for d’verse where we were asked to consider pilgrimage. To me this was a true pilgrimage. It was a journey I felt compelled to take. We stand on the shoulders of giants.