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.

To the mining towns of the North-East

Olden days way back coal slack
Derelict mines chimney stacks
Biting winds-the sand is black
Pinched and poor we ain’t got jack.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

This is a Tanaga for d’Verse, it consists of a quatrain made up of 7 syllable lines with same rhyme.

We are in the North-East and it is a post-industrial landscape, and this is a tribute to the blood, sweat and tears of the colliers who contributed to making Britain the First Industrial Nation. #northernspirit  #northernsoul

From cargoes to wasteland.

The first poem that ever really grabbed me was Cargoes by John Masefield, I was about 7 years old. I think my dad could recite it off by heart and it sounded so delicious, the words were so lyrical and dripped off the page like honey and then there was the dirty British coaster and it made me so proud to be a northerner, whilst we didn’t have the opulence of the Orient, we played an important role in the world. This was when I started to write poetry but I struggled for a while as I preferred to write poems that didn’t rhyme and I didn’t know anything about structure either and had no-one to teach me.

As a teen I moved into the realms of The Wasteland and had a wonderful teacher who made the Thames maidens come alive- I can still hear the Weialala leia- and loved the references and the voices, the languages, and the tempo and timbre changes. I discovered Sylvia Plath and devoured Ted Hughes, he lived in Heptonstall for a while and I used to play there at the whit walks with the Brass Band and walk down the steep cobblestones playing my trombone. Then I stopped writing and only really started again in November 2016 as my 50th birthday present to myself, and I discovered d’Verse. I love the challenge and the words and the learning and the community. It has been a wonderful voyage of rediscovery and I love giving a voice to the past, then the stories can live on.

Winter storm

We take to the road

Spring’s adrift.

©Alison jean Hankinson

This is for d’Verse where we have been asked by Toni to explore where our inner poet was inspired and nurtured.

 

Manchester-moments and musings on the Lancashire cotton mills and the cotton famine. 1862.

These red bricks, these tall chimneys,

Coloured by their blood, shaped by the hands of their children

Carried on their rugged shoulders and working class calves.

We don’t look up enough, we don’t marvel at what they gave us.

These edifices echo with their pain and suffering

Voices of our forefathers, sinewed souls of our ancestors

They built their empires in cotton and coal so that we could enjoy

The fruits of their labours and be forever known as the workshop of the world.

 

Salford, Stalybridge, Manchester, Blackburn, Wigan-working that weft

Darwen, Accrington, Chorley, Preston, winding that bobbin up.

And the roll call falters, unemployment, hunger, desperation, and impoverishment

They stood together arm in arm, hand in hand, through protest and starvation,

To demonstrate their love and pride for another brother in another place.

We should stand tall for we stand on the shoulders of giants

They gave us humility, compassion, work ethic and pride.

True northern spirit and true northern soul.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

Featured image from the public domain labelled for reuse. Horrockses Cotton Mill Preston.

Other images are my own.

This journey into the cotton famine was a soulful journey and I am very proud of the stance taken by the Lancashire millworkers and the sacrifices they made. We were encouraged to look at soul for poetics at d’Verse. 

I have edited this and made some changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The legacy of a superhero.

Hopes and dreams like ripples across the water,

The moon casts it light surreal across the surface.

An abundance of voices remember and connect.

Your existence and your inner beauty left a shadow on my life

You reach beyond the grave and you continue to create your magic

Through my footfalls and my hands.

And through the light that continues to shine in the eyes of all those whom you touched.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

We had a prompt on d’Verse and it was about “super” and of course I think our lives and pasts are actually littered with so many superheroes and I think they leave a living legacy in that they touch our lives and change who we are and what we become.

I learned about the heroes of the cotton famine this week, and it made me proud of my ancestors, we stand on the shoulders of giants, and it is sad to say goodbye to Prof Hawking who has been a true superhero to so many. This poem was written about Princess Diana. The images at the bottom relate to the heroes of the Cotton Famine the Lancashire Cotton Mill workers.

The image of Diana was from the public domain and able to be reproduced.

My own flock of birds…

Here they silently speak my language

Share my passion for puns

Take pride in a past that is a portrait

Of my heritage and the story of my blood.

 

Here I belong

The names of the rivers and valleys and mountains

Are etched as clearly in my mind as the rugged landscapes

That call out my name on wild and windy mornings

and stir my restless spirit from its slumbers.

 

Irwell, Ribble, Eden, Lune

Here the waters wash away my whispers

Pendle, Cribden, Criffel, Shap

Here the shale and slate smooths away my fears.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

This is for d’Verse poetics.