DIGGING IN THE MEADOW (Letter to the Genealogists)

Beneath this fallow meadow of compacted soil,

gnarled roots twisting, twisting in eternal toil

 

Remembrance for butterflies that once charmed you in flight,

and rekindling images of passion and delight

 

Of endless golden days and rolls in the grass,

just another shy dreamer and his favourite lass

 

Of when Manchester's skies shone honest and blue,

before the Tempest of progress rained down upon you

 

Waiting to reveal secrets of a harvest long past,

and grow new branches to your forgotten tree at last

 

To shed light on this neglected corner of foreign field once more,

a once mighty oak weighed down by heavy sandstone door

 

Yet demanding of a key to raise you from your state,

your carved epitaph signed and sealed by your fate

 

An inscription to those who followed and then left,

and to those who didn't stay leaving others bereft

 

This silent Orpheus in song of the battles once fought,

beside his legion of lost soldiers whom Charon had sought

 

Voices silenced by obols for crossing o'er the river,

their instruments laid down with no dirge to deliver

 

His Eurydice by his side in a cold fixed embrace,

softly sobbing and reeling from her own fall from grace

 

But by clearing the leaves which had hidden your glory,

we're igniting bytes of energy and revealing your story

 

Scraping back all the moss which grew over your name,

to the clatter of new looms, stitching you together once again

 

Revealing sadness and joy within woven cobweb scrawl,

and in old yellow tomes which recorded your fall

 

And you still entombed in the presence of now,

singing choral refrain of what, where and how?

 

An answer to prayer that your memory might live on,

and hoping we'll shine too in this place once we've gone

RichardPaulLong 2013

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ANGELS IN THE MEADOWS

Outflows the breaths infected by bad air

The Cholera of these times has taken hold

No font of vinegar can cleanse this space

nor values of puritan endeavour

Their bones fertilise these meadows of failed harvest

laid under flags to silence dissenting voice

You destroyed your altar with their sacrifice made

leaving fallow all hope for redemption

before moving yourself right out of their view

No more the rattling looms bring early death

for death here is a slower process and much less mechanised

RichardPaulLong 2011

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THE ANGEL MEADOW LESSON

Once: the Angelic Meadow

above which skylark sang;

And sound of Sunday's call

when Saint Michael's church-bell rang.

 

But then came a defilement

of cholera and grime;

Of poverty and squalor

and every sordid crime.

 

What brought about this cruel intent

of meadow-land defiled:

No skylark or church-bell

or vista that beguiled.

 

The pull that some call progress

impelling humankind;

Spreading brick and slate and mortar

without a decent mind.

 

And hordes of rural people

not knowing how to live;

In harsh and alien setting

that had nothing good to give.

 

Reject bad brick and mortar

where bird and flower should stay.

Let not Angel Meadow's lesson

be allowed to fade away.

William Kenneth Jones 2016

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I WAS ONCE AN ARAB BOY

 

I was once an Arab boy and lived on the street

without either stockings or shoes on my feet

And at night cold and hungry, in dirt and in rags

I have cast myself down and slept on the flags

Anon. Charter St Ragged School pupil (circa 1900)

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KING OF THE SCUTTLERS

He was born in a slum down on Angel Meadow

Grew up wild with even wilder oats to sow

An' in each street an' in every back yard

He had to prove himself tuff an' prove himself hard

With his belts an' chains, his knuckles an' his chivs

Gonna be a scuttler for just as long as he lives

Just as long as he lives

 

An' he joined in every fight an' he led the line

Never worried about police or about doin' time

From St Michael's flags all the way to Hanky Park

He'd knock them down an' he'd leave his mark

The King of the Scuttlers with his scarred up face

A cauliflower ear an' a nose that's outta place

A nose that's outta place

A Bengal tiger to the left

A Sanford to his right

A fella from Adelphi

Screamin for a fight

With his belt round his knuckles

His hat pulled down

He's King of the Scuttlers

The hardest man in town

One day in Gould Street he put on the captain's band

Went after the Bungall boys in a way they'd understand

He laid out their leader with a buckle to the eye

Took a chiv in the chest thought he was gonna die

He staggered to Ancoats in his blood soaked clothes

Seen the police arrive an' he took it on his toes

He took it on his toes

 

The Bungall boys were drinkin on London Road

The Captain's eye was patched the pain it showed

The King of the Scuttlers with his wound stitched neat

Walked in laffin' an' said "come out on that street"

The Captain he fled an' the Bungall boys lost face

An' his reputation as top boy was cemented in place

It was cemented in place

A Bengal tiger to his left

A Salford to his right

A fella from the Plattin'

Shoutin' for a fight

With his belt round his knuckles

An' his hat pulled down

He's King of the Scuttlers

The hardest lad in town

 

On the steets of Manchester his name got known

Fight after fight well he won them on his own

The girls they loved him, in the meadow revered

Walkin' down Rockdale Road and everybody cheered

One night against Adelphi an' his belt took four

When he got through it was a blood covered floor

The blood it covered the floor

The police needed witnesses but nobody dared

Salford an' the Heath' an' Ancoats runnin' scared

The McElroy mob would flinch at his name

Where ever there was a scuttle he got the blame

 

But fate it was against him an' a bolt from above

He met a factory girl an' then he fell in love

The Scuttler fell in love

A Bengal tiger to his left

A Salford to his right

A fella from Fairfield

Ready for a fight

With his belt round his knuckles

An' his hat pulled down

He's the King of the Scuttlers

The hardest lad in town

 

Well she was an Irish girl from Cheetham Hill

Who worked in the card room at Murray's Mill

He was head over heels an' he wanted no other

Put on his Sunday best an' went to meet her mother

But she was a catholic who had seen the light

She told the Scuttler that he must never fight

The Scuttler must never fight

 

Walkin' home by Red Bank lost in his dreams

He heard a fight an' a young man's screams

The lad was from the Meadow so he went to his aid

Stood over the lad's body on the cobbles it laid

Lifted his belt heard the words of his would be wife

An' froze in his tracks an' was killed by a knife

He was killed by a knife

Bengal tiger to his left

A Salford to his right

As they carried his coffin

Nobody wantin' a fight

With his belt round his knuckles

An' his hat still on

He was King of the Scuttlers

But now he is gone

Mike Duff 2007

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THE BALLAD OF OWEN CALLAGHAN

(some time Captain of the Meadow Lads)

 

Owen "Owny" Callaghan

With his face scarred mean

Workin' fifty odd hour weeks

Loadin' up a cardin' machine

The pride of the Meadow

Just a child of the night

Lost to John Joe Brady

In a twenty shillin' fight

Callaghan took it to heart

Cos you gotta understand

The can't be no second fiddle

When you wear the Captain's band

 

He never feared the Adelphi

Or the Tigers this is true

He took on the Bungall boys

An all the Deansgate crew

Dint know how to walk away

Had to stand his ground

A chip off the old block

An' as sound as a pound

He fought them all gamely

With his belt round his hand

Cos there ain't no second fiddle

When you wear the Captain's band

 

The night it blew crazy

An' blood was in the air

Screams an' cries of neighbours

An' scuttlers everywhere

Owen went after Brady

Stabbed him to his death

Laffed at the dyin' man

As he breathed his last breath

The Meadow never mourned

Owen had made his stand

Cos there ain't no second fiddle

When you wear the Captain's band

 

Owen "Owny" Callaghan

Wanted on a murder charge

The posters in the City sayin'

"this man still at large"

They cornered him in Bradford

An' they put him in a dock

"twenty years' penal servitude"

He nearly died of the shock

He came out insane an' beaten

No longer in demand

But you can't be second fiddle

When you wear the Captain's band

Mike Duff 2009

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THE MANCHESTER ANGEL

It's coming down to Manchester to gain my liberty,
I met a pretty young doxy and she seemed full of glee.
Yes, I met a pretty young doxy, the prettiest ever I see.
At the Angel Inn in Manchester, there is the girl for me.

Then early next morning, just at the break of day,
I went to my love's bedside, my morning vows to pay.
I hugged her, I cuddled her, I bade her to lie warm;
And she said: "My jolly soldier, do you nean me any harm?'

"To mean you any harm, my love, is a thing that I would scorn.
If I stopped along with you all night, I'd marry you in the morn.
Before my lawful officer, my vows I will fulfil."
Then she said, " My jolly soldier, you may lie as long as you will.'

Our rout came on the Thursday, on the Monday we marched away.
The drums and fifes and bugles so sweetily did play.
Some hearts they were merry, but mine was full of woe.
She says: "May I go along with you ? " " Oh no, my love, oh no."

"If you should stand a sentry go, on a cold and bitter day,
Your colours they would go, love, and your beauty would decay
If I saw you handle a musket, love, it would fill my heart with woe
So stay at home, dear Nancy." But still she answered, "No!"

"I'll go down to your officer, and I'll buy your discharge,
Ten guineas I'll surrender if they'll set you at large.
And if that will not do my love, along with you I'll go,
So will you take me with you now?" And still I answered:"No."

"I'll go down in some nunnery and there I'll end my life.
I'll never have no lover now, nor yet become a wife.
But constant and true-hearted, love, for ever I'll remain,
And I never will get married till my soldier comes again!'

 

From The Penguin Book of English Folk Songs, Williams and Lloyd
Collected from S. Gregory, Dorset, 1906

In 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite Army camped by the River Irk by Scotland Bridge on their way to try to seize the English throne.

The Angel Pub mentioned was close to the cathedral and it is their ownership of the fields around St. Michael's Church which gave the name to the area.

 

 

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