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Voices into the Dark



Voices Going Under

Stomach in knots…

A leap in the dark…



Will it be cold?

Will it be damp?


Will it be dark?



Not sure what to expect…


Curious what life was like,


Apprehensive! Apprehensive! Spine-tingling, apprehensive…



Voices Resurfacing

A leap in the dark,

Wow! Wow! And more Wow!

It was good…

It was cold…

It was exciting…

It was very noisy…


A leap down the shaft,

Dante’s Inferno,


Life I’ve never seen,

Couldn’t imagine a life like that,

Children working in the dark,

Hard living back in days.

Tour was very good,

Guide was funny,

Liked the Yorkshire accents



Back next week!

This poem has been made out of words and phrases from people waiting to go underground (1) and their reactions on returning to the surface (2) at the National Mining Museum, Wakefield.

Poem Constructed by: Claire Crossdale, Jean Hales and Dave Alton


A Proof of Colliers




Blue and green the woods,

Sunlight dancing through the trees,

It’s good to be alive…


A piece of land to call my own,

To nurture, to love, to shape.


Off t’tip again…

Yay! Bring it without and on,

Time and space to breathe.


Looking forward to better times,

But backward to what is lost.


Time for action plan,

Memorable moments: bring ‘em on.

Learn! Love! Laugh! Grow!



Long summer nights so awaited,

Spirits lifted like a mist.


Must go to Gala,

Book for Durham theatre…

Somme: Never forget.


Mother winding in the mills,

Memories of tales she told.


Beneath the green grass

Black fields are reaped and worked

Providing rich fuel.


Prance! Dance! Frolic! Cavorting!

Inhale   Exhale – Pure Freedom.



Reds and golds and greens,

Vibrant the colours she wears:

Spectacular show.


It creeps and seeps in everywhere

And makes your shoulders hunch.


Black mountains tower high,

Drifts of surplus coal matter

Scavenged for embers.


Ey up awd lad, what’s tha got?

Eee, it’s that flipping dripping.


Kicking up the leaves

Makes me feel happy, kicking coal

Makes me right mucky.



Winter’s too dark, to cold, too long,

The sky too low and heavy.


Take ‘em on – all comers,

Never give in; it’s no sin

To stand your corner.


Solidarity can arise

From discontent and fuel change.


When light dies – a cry,

Want mi dad to read to me.

Hold that lamp, we cry.


Time to move on, make a mark,

New beginnings need a spark.



Renga Poets:            Marian Barker

Claire Crossdale

Jean Hales

Renga Versewright: Dave Alton



My Disease



Latch onto my Flesh

Skin deep, injected Ink

Vessels burst, I sink


In Crimson Waters, I swim

The stench, cuts me to the core

Lost in translation; complications galore


In this place, you will have to stay

Until the Persecutor chops down, your rustic chains

Electrical volts, piercing precious veins


Like Denzel, I carry a Disease

A sandwich of words spoken; Toxic Paradiddles

Should I believe these filthy riddles?


Asphyxiated; I cannot breathe

For my Oxygen count, is severely low

And this Black Shadow, just won’t let go


Dislocated bones, no purpose served

Psychologically silent, unable to move

Embedded nails, lay in the groove


Have you caught it yet? Na da…

Invisible, I did never exist

Hallucinations added to the list!


Pitch Perfect? Hmm… Let me think

Yes… Only if you’re deluded enough to swallow

The words of those Sheep, you continue to follow


Gunshots fired; Blood trickles; feeling numb

It’s dangerous, being inside your own head

Excruciating pain, was it felt as you bled?


The Perpetrator it was always you

The Chilling Anthem, took maximum control

An Avenger in Battle, wreaking havoc to your soul


True or false? Fact or fiction? I ask

Oppressed are you? For wood chippings remain

Connections are yet to be, re-wired inside your brain


Left only with a smidgen of belief

As you have treaded Darth Vader’s Road

Lay down your ashes and destroy Da Vinci’s Code!


Quote: “Although bitten by a Crocodile; we’ll always be raised by the Sun”

{Bernadette O’Horo, 23/03/16}
















Half coiled, like a snake

In the grass

Prepared to strike.


Shaft cap capping

Uncut coal,

Lying beneath


Rural rump of

Haughland, weed

And weedy saplings.


Clearances are bound

To leave traces,

Remnants misplaced, missed:


Pithead beheaded

Brick by carted brick,

Winding gear


Wheeled away,

Gantry unstrung, but

A length of iron rope


Strands tightly wound

Around each other

To prevent their parting,


Tied tenuously

To reclaimed earth

By rusting knot.


Runners, riders, walkers,

Twitchers – none disturb

Its unnatural habitat.


Dave Alton

Easter Over Pendle


Is there still a mill,

Some weaving shed,

Warping and wefting cotton yarn

Into billowing calico

With which to shroud Pendle?


Like cotton,

Prevailing rain is an import,

Sailing over the Atlantic,

Undaunted by Ireland.

It settles to slick those old

Damp-cold millstone grit towns

That will never again weave a way

Into the fabric of national fortunes.


Blustering gusts,

As they play haunting croons

Through the Singing Ringing Tree

Planted on Crown Point,

Cannot blow down that shrouding cloud

Even as pace eggs are rolled free

By gravity.


Dave Alton



Hard blackness as brittle as bone,

Flame and smoke compressed between stone

And stone long before human eye

Looked into darkness. There, in-by,

Beneath the heavy undug earth

Were patient seams, holding their worth

Of heat and light, even while man

Scratched the surface as he began

To seek, to use, transmuting might

Of coal. No waiting for the right

Wind to blow, or the so slow, slow

Wheel turning in the race’s flow,

But power sufficient for demands

Once of gods brought to human hands.

Industry, iron and steam, foundry,

Factory and mill, folk set free

From the land for a new estate

And living by an hourly rate.

A world shrinking in proportion

To advance of locomotion,

Until even the sea’s defeat,

Sail furled by pistons’ steady beat.

Transformation for once and all,

Just possible because of coal,

Picked out from the dark damps below

By hewers and hurriers, glow

Of their lamps making slight impress

In otherwise perfect darkness.

Now, though, it seems where colliers worked

In those stygian realms, there lurked

A grim demon, an evil one

Haunting us, whose name is Carbon.

Teeth of the coal-cutter being pulled

From the face, climate change annulled

The marriage between anthracite

And progress: back into the night

Coal has been turned once more. And then

It’s the wind’s turn to turn again,

Leaving carbon captured, confined,

Seams of common wealth undermined.


Dave Alton


Seamless Change


Standing on this hill, this mounded culm, chucked

Out from hollowed earth, where darkness sucked

Men down into its precious depths, pressed them

Beneath pages of rock hard to the seam,

The black seam and all its different damps,

To pick out, despite scarred backs and leg cramps

And the wheezing of props, their value in coal.

But then, another blackening, the fall

From favour, the locking of gates, sealing

Of shafts, with a bitter present stealing

The future, leaving only heritage.

So very difficult these days to gauge

From atop this hillock of rough-grassed spoil

Where the headstock once stood. That patch of soil

And clay, fenced and sapling planted, must be

The site of the bathhouse. Not much to see

Now for joggers and dog walkers, strollers

And fly-tippers, those casual callers

Whose fleeting footfalls leave barely a mark

And no echoes deep, deep down in those dark

Galleries settling beneath a country park.


Dave Alton

Darkness Unhurried


How darkness echoes having been buried,

Absence of hurriers, darkness unhurried,

While depths of earth being no longer measured

By stomach churned seconds, and the long leisured

No longer count their leisure. Deep, deep down

In an undrawn drawer, rolled in old brown

Paper, the silver-set pendant is not jet,

But polished Barnsley hard, shining as wet

Even after all these years. Grandad fashioned it

On days between pickets, so impassioned it

Is difficult to recall the pressing need,

Urgent need for precise faceting. Freed

From necessity for one idle day,

She’d stood by the kerbside on Pithill Way

Watching the Anthracite Sisters process,

Barefooted and in closed ranks, to confess

Their calling to redundancy, the shock

At their closing order, to the headstock,

Unwound winding gear bound with steel hawsers

For scrap. Since then, or so she supposes,

The nominal value in that shaped shard

Of silver-set and hand-worked Barnsley hard,

Should remain as an echo, left buried

In her drawer, in darkness unhurried.


Dave Alton

In Our Own Words


“In Our Own Words” is the latest exhibition at the National Coal Mining Museum for England, at Wakefield. It is an exploration and celebration of coal mining’s unique language, developed over the centuries as the industry itself developed.

This is, of course, a wide ranging topic, drawing out a number of linguistic surprises. For instance, the word “collier” didn’t, it seems, originally refer to a coal miner. Rather, it was charcoal burners who were known as colliers.

As, over time, the word became applied to miners, those still working with charcoal came to be called “wood colliers” or, in Sheffield, “ground colliers”.

When coal mining began to develop as an industry there was no lingo specifically for it. Words had to be borrowed and adapted from agriculture and other industries. Also, when new techniques were brought to the South Yorkshire coalfield from other mining areas, so contributions to the local dialect came with the men bringing those techniques.

Miners from Lancashire, the North East, Derbyshire and other such areas came to South Yorkshire as the industry grew in size and importance. This meant a Barnsley collier’s speech might have much in common with the “pitmatic” spoken on the Durham coalfield, as well as local differences.

This reflects a feature that emerged during the industrial revolution, that industry in general welded the regions and countries together to form a united Britain, with its national working class. Regional differences can be maintained, even celebrated, but they all form a part of a whole.

This is an exciting exhibition for poets, for all who love words, showing the creativity of workers in evolving a language through which they could effectively communicate and express their solidarity and community. Whatever the privations coal mining brought with it at times, it was always linguistically rich.

“In Our Own Words” runs at the National Coal Mining Museum for England, at Caphouse Colliery, New Road, Overton, Wakefield, WF4 4RH, from 8th February to 8th May 2016.

Barnsley is the Best


Barnsley is the best

The hospital on Gawber Road

They wait in there for hours on end

Folks go in there very sick

But the strange thing is

They all come out

Looking very fit !

Yes Barnsley is the best.


Barnsley is the best

Right next to the Town Hall

Shambles Street it is called

Lights are dancing up & down

Every time the water falls

Children skip here when its hot

Hearts are warmed as drivers pass

Sure Barnsley is the best.


Barnsley is the best

At the Carlton Bowling Center

I heard this news myself

Balls are rolling faster

With the U3A laughter.

We have to all agree

Barnsley is the best.


Barnsley is the best

There’s a place called Cundy Cross

Sounds bit rude I always thought

Lights turn green & red too

Right is wrong & left is right

But straight  ahead I travel on

This is what I always do

And home it tends to go.

Yes Barnsley is the best.


Barnsley is the best

In a town called Wombwell

A strange name you might say

But let me tell you this my friend

The bathrooms there are simply great

You will find the very best

Taps & tiles & all the rest

Yes Barnsley is the best


Barnsley is the best

In this place called Mapplewell

Eat it here or eat it there

The Chinese food is yum yum

The staff there bow down to you

Bit of eastern culture too

Yes Barnsley is the best


Barnsley is the best

The Metrodome on Queen Street

Where young & old you see

You go in there with promises

They say it makes you fit

But if you come out too soon

You havn’t changed a bit !

Now I will say this once again

Barnsley is




Indu Kumar

Oct 2015