Durham & Tyneside Dialect Group / exit
The Pitman's Pay;
BY THOMAS WILSON
Or, A Night's Discharge to Care.
from the first collected edition of 1843
to check the meaning of a word, hover the mouse on it
WE'LL now return, a peep to take
At what JOHN BARLEYCORN had done,
Attempt a faint outline to make
Of all his feats and all his fun.
The remnant left's a motley crew--
The din they make a perfect Babel--
Contending who the most can hew,
With thump for thump upon the table.
The unsnuff'd lights are now burnt low,
And dimly in their sockets sweeling;
Whilst pots and glasses at each blow,
Are quickly off the table reeling.
There's 'drouthy TOMMY' in the nook,
For suction, hard his elbow shaking;
And PHILIP up from Derwent Crook,
Remarks the very drollest making.
There's DICK that married BARBARA BLAND,
More famous far for drink than hewing;
And PEEL as drunk as he can stand,
Reeling and dancing like a new un.
He barely can his balance keep,
Yet still he's "Play up, fidler!" roaring;
But TOMMY having dropt asleep,
JACK foots away to TOMMY'S snoring.
Some wicked wag his scraper greas'd,
And stole his rosin, (ill betide him!)
But what his arm completely seiz'd,
Was just the empty pot beside him.
Here lay a stool, and there a chair,
With pots o'erturn'd, and glasses broken:
Half-chew'd quids strew'd here and there,
And pipes no longer fit for smoking.
And though the yel's resistless power
Had silenc'd many a noisy tongue,
Two vet'rans still, 'midst dust and stour,
Conn'd o'er the days when they were young.
"Eh, JACK, what years ha'e passed away
Sin we were trapper-lads tegither!
What endless toil, byeth neet and day,
Enrugh yen's varry pith te wither.
Aw put the bait-poke on at eight,
Wi' sark and hoggers, like maw brothers;
Ma faither thinkin' aw meet steit
Ha'e day about alang wi' others.
The neet afore aw went te wark
A warld o' wonders cross'd maw brain,
Through which they did se skelp and yark,
As if maw wits had run amain.
Aw thought the' time wad ne'er be gyen,
That callin'-course wad niver come;
And when the caller call'd at yen,
Aw'd getten nowther sleep nor slum.
Aw lap up nimmel as a flea -
Or lop, amang wor blankets spangin';
And i' the twinklin' of an e'e
Was fairly ower the bedstock bangin'.
Wor lads, poor things,were not se gleg,
It tuik some time te fettle them:
Se stiff, they scarce could move a peg,
And fitter far to stay at hyem.
It was ne doubt, a cooen seet
To see them hirplin' cross the floor
Wi' anklets shaw'd, and scather'd feet,
Wi' salve and ointment plaister'd o'er.
The duds thrawn on, the breakfast tyen,
They're ready for another start,
To slave for eighteen hours agyen,,
Eneugh to rive atwee the heart.
Wor low rope let, a-field we set,
The trappin' trade quite crouse to lairn;
Poor mother, pairtin' wi' her pet,
Cried, 'Hinnies, mind maw canny bairn.'
'Tis mair than forty years sin syne,
Yet this upon maw mem'ry hings,
We met awd NELL and CUDDY'S swine,
Twee varry far fra sonsy things.
This boded ill tiv iv'ry skin,
And fix'd us a' like barber's blocks;
Yet faither nobbut brack his shin,
And lost his bran-new backy-box.
The men were puttin' in their picks
When we gat there; and just about
The time we gat maw faither's six
Put in, the first were luickin' out.
Aw star'd at iv'ry thing aw saw,
For iv'ry thing was new te me;
And when wor turn te gan belaw
Was come, aw went on DEDDY'S knee.
They popp'd us iv a jiffy down,
Through smoke, and styth, and swelt'rin' heat;
And often spinnin' roun' and roun',
Just like a geuss upon a speet.
(We're gawn te get a geuss te morn,
There's nowse aw get aw like se weel,
After they're grown, wi' stubble corn,
As fat and plump as ony seal.
Aw like her stuff'd wi' onions best,
And roasted tiv a single roun',
A' nicely scrimpt frae back te breast--
Not brunt, but beautifully brown.
Of a' the kinds o' hollow meats
That greasy cuicks se oft are speetin',
There's nyen aw tyest that ever beats
A geuss, 'the yess o' trumps' o' eatin'.
She myeks a real royal dish,
On which a king meet myek a myel:
Aw wadn't for a better wish,
Were aw te morn a king mysel'.
The oddments, tee, beat boil or fry,
Provided qeussy be a good un--
Eat famous in a giblet pie,
Cribb'd roun' wi' coils o' savoury puddin'.)
But stop, where was aw, thinks te, JACK,
When aw began this wild-geuss chase?
lt surely was a good way back:
Let's try to recollect the place.
We'd pass'd the meetings, aw've ne doubt:
Indeed, aw think, we'd reach'd the bottom,
After they'd bumm'd us roun'about,
For a' the warld like a teetotum.
Wor nose within the barn-styen set,
We stevell'd te the cabin, where
The men and lads their cannels get,
The seat o' power and pitmen's lare.
The durdum now there's nowse can beat:
'Haud, DICKY, till aw get a chow!'
'Here, aw say, WILLY, gie's a leet!'
'DICK, damn ye, ha'd about a low!' —
'Come, hinny BARTY, len's a hand
On wi' maw corf!' 'Ye snotty dog,
Put in yor tram, and dinnet stand
There squeekin' like a half-ring'd hog!'
The lads are huntin' for their trams--
The hewers for their picks and clay--
The heedsman little DICKY damns
And blasts, for gettin' off the way.
In bye they bumm'd me in a crack,
And left me i' maw faither's board,
Where he was buffin' at a back
As hard as whinstone, by the Lord.
He bray'd away byeth lang and sair,
Before the stannin' corf was hew'd:
Was droppin' sweet frae iv'ry hair,
And hidden iv a reeky cloud.
For what he gat was varry sma'
Frae out the kirvens and the nickens;
The myest of which was left belaw,
The rest like crums for feedin' chickens.
When DICKY'S corf was fill'd wi' sic,
He let his low, and stuck't agyend--
Ax'd DEDDY to lay down his pick,
And help him to the heedwis end.
Suin efter he gat crept outbye,
And me set down ahint maw door,
JOE had the wark a' cut and dry,
And ettled reet for iv'ry hewer.
This was not a'ways eas'ly duin,
As oft they turn'd out kittle maiters,
Myest like an eclipse o' the muin
Te wor poor cabin calculators.
Aw think aw see poor PETER now
Bamboozlin' on for hours tegither;
Cursin' a['] roun' him black and blue,
And fit to fight wiv ony feather.
There could not be a richer treat
Than seein' PETER at a pinch;
For as he blurr'd his wooden sheet,
His temper left him inch by inch.
Off went his specks-- the sweet ran down
A fyece wi' botheratlon curst--
His wig gawn like a pointer roun',
Now quite awry, then backside furst.
The baitin', tee, was deev'lish gallin'
Rogues axin' if he'd have a clerk;
Or in his lug for iver bawlin',
'Man, will ye niver place the wark?'
Aw've seen him i' this muddled mess,
Click up his chalk and wooden buick,
Hisell, the picture o' distress,
Hidden ahint some awd wa' nuik--
Where like a conjurur he'd sit,
His black airt at some cantrips tryin',
Till he gat iv'ry pairt te fit,
Then sally forth the dogs defyin'.
The wark now plac'd, and pit hung on,
The heedsmen, whether duin or nut,
Mun iv'ry man and mother's son
Lay doon the pick and start te put.
Now then the bitter strife begins;
All pullin', hawlin', pushin', drivin',
'Mang blood and dirt and broken shins,
The waik uns wi' the strang uns strivin'.
Aw mind a tram byeth waik and slaw,
Just streen'd te rags te keep her gannin',
Frae hingin'-on till howdy maw,
Ye hardly knew if gawn or stannin'.
Just pinch'd to deeth, they're tarn and snarly,
A' yammerin' on frae morn till neet--
JACK off the way, blackgairdin' CHARLEY,
For at the corf nut lyin' reet.
While CHARLEY damns JACK'S hoolet e'en,
His hick'ry fyece and endless growl;
And sweers, if he agyen compleen,
He'll splet his nell-kneed, wall-ey'd soul.
A shower o' coals wi' vengence hurl'd,
Suin rattl'd roun' the lugs o' JACK;
Wi' threets he'd to the tother world
Dispatch him sprawlin' iv a crack.
JACK didn't like the journey then,
And tried to shun the deedly blast
By joukin' down-- nor shew'd agyen
His fyece till a' was ower and past.
The bits o' lads are badly used--
The heedsmen often run them blind--
They're kick'd and cuff'd, and beat and bruis'd,
And sometimes drop for want o' wind.
Sic, then, was the poor putter's fate,
Wi' now and then a stannin' fray,
Frae yokens, cawd pies, stowen bait,
Or cowp'd corves i' the barrow way.
Aw tuik for some time day about,
And when aw wrought, myed fippence sure;
Besides full mony a curse and clout
Aw gat for sleepin' at the door.
A better berth turn'd up at last--
The wages still but varry sma'--
For sixpence did not seem a vast
For carryen' LUKEY'S aix and saw.
But, then, at half-wark aw was duin,
And niver hardly gat maw thumps;
Yet he was hettle-- out of tuin--
And often gar'd me stur ma stumps.
Wi' grease-horn ower maw shouthers slung,
And pockets stuff'd wi' waxy clay,
Wi' half-shoon at maw bait-poke hung,
Just fit me for the barrow-way.
Aw neist tuik DUMMY by the lug,
The putters' purgatory here,
At which they daily toil and tug,
Blackgairdcd by some growlin' bear.
Whene'er aw DAN THE DEEVIL had--
Or some sic hell-hound-- for a marrow,
Maw life, aw's sure, was full as bad
As ony tyed's belaw a harrow.
The slav'ry borne by Blackymoors
They've lang been ringin' i' wor ears;
But let them tyek a luik at wors
And tell us which the warst appears.
If ony, then, of Blacky's race
Ha'e harder cairds than wors te play,
Wey then, poor dogs, ower hard's their case,
And truth's in what wor preachers say.
Thou knaws for weeks aw've gyen away
At twee o'clock o' Monday mornin',
And niver seen the leet o' day
Until the Sabbath day's returnin';
But then, thou knaws, JACK, we are free;
And though we work as nyek'd as them,
We're not sell'd inte slavery,
Far, far away frae friends and hyem!
Yet was aw at the point o' deein',
And meet maw life leeve ower agyen,
Aw wadn't, JACK, aw think, be 'greein',
Unless this pairt was out on't tyen.
For what's in sic a life worth hevin',
Still toilin', moilin', niver duin,
Where the bit good weighs not a shavin',
The load of bad a thousand ton.
But heavy puttin's now forgetten,
Sic as we had i' former days
Ower holey thill and dyels a' splettin' :-
Trams now a' run on metal ways.
This was wark for tryin' mettle--
Here iv'ry tuil his level fand:
Sic tussels nobbut pluck could settle,
For nowse less could the racket stand.
And had wor bits o' yammerin' yeps,
(That wowl about wor barrow-way)
Te slave and drudge like langsyne cheps,
They wadn't worsel out a day.
God bliss the man wi' peace and plenty
That forst invented metal plates!
Draw out his years to five times twenty,
Then slide him through the heevenly gates.
For if the human frame te spare
Frae toil and pain ayont conceivin',
Ha'e ought to de wi' gettin' there,
Aw think he mun gan strite to heeven.
Aw neist te half a tram was bun,
But gat a marrow gruff and sour.
A heedsman, then, they myed me, suin,
And efter that, a puttin'-hewer.
Another lang and slavish year
At last aw fairly struggled through:
Gat fettled up a set o' geer--
Was thowt a man, and bun te hew.
This myed me maister for mysel',
Wi' shorter wark and better pays;
And at maw awn hand didn't fyel
To suin get bits o' canny claes.
Here, agyen, had awd langsyners
Mony a weary, warkin' byen,
Now unknawn to coaly-Tyners,
A' bein' mell-and-wedge wark then.
Aw've bray'd for hours at woody coal,
Wi' airms myest droppin' frae the shouther;
But now they just pop in a hole,
And flap her doun at yence wi' pouther.
A 'back' or 'knowe' sometimes, 'tis true,
Set doon maw top wi' ease enough;
But oftener far we had to tew
On wi' a nasty scabby reuf.
Here's just a swatch of pitmen's life,
Frae bein' breek'd till fit to marry;
A scene o' ceaseless pain and strife,
Hatch'd by wor deadly foe, AWD HARRY:
For there's ne imp iv a' his hell
That could sic tortur hev invented:
It mun ha'e been AWD NICKY'S sel--
He likes to see us se tormented.
Then ye that sleep on beds o' doon
And niver JACK THE CALLER dreedin'--
Gan finely clad the hyell year roun',
And a'ways upon dainties feedin'--
Think on us, hinnies, if ye please,
An it were but te show yor pity;
For a' the toils and tears it gi'es,
Te warm the shins of Lunnun city.
The fiery 'blast' cuts short wor lives,
And steeps wor hyems in deep distress;
Myeks widows o' wor canny wives,
And a' wor bairns leaves faitherless.
The wait'ry 'wyest', mair dreedful still,
Alive oft barries huz belaw:
O dear! it myeks yen's blood run chill!
May we sic mis'ry niver knaw!
If ye could o'ny tyek a view,
And see the sweet frae off us poorin'--
The daily dangers we gan through,
The daily hardships we're endurin'--
Ye wad send doon, aw ha'e ne doubt,
Some cheps on what they call a 'mission',
Te try if they could ferret out
Somethin' to better wor condition.
They wad, wi' layin' tbeir brains asteep,
Suin hit upon some happy scheme,
(Which meet be duin, aw think, quite cheap,)
To myek us kirve and nick by steam.
Wor factories now gan a' by steamin',
Steam gars wor boats and packets sail;
And now, they say, they're busy schemin'
Te myek him run the Lunnun mail!
How nice and funny it wad be,
Te sit and see yen's jud myed riddy;
For then we'd ha'e nowt else te de
But get his geer sharp'd at the smiddy.
He grunds the corn te myek wor breed,
He boils wor soup (yence thought a dream):
Begock! aw's often flay'd te deed
They'll myek us eat and sleep by steam!
A' this he diz wi' parfet ease,
(The sting o' gallin' labour pouin'):
Then, hinny maisters, if ye please,
Just let him try his hand at hewin'.
Eh, man! aw's dry: hand here the pot:
Aw's just wi' talkin' fit to gyzen;
Nor will maw tongue move on a jot--
It's dry wark, varry, moralizin'.
Then reach thy hand, awd honest truth,
An' let me gied a hearty shakin',
An' may the friendship o' wor youth
Be ne'er in hirplin' age forsaken:
And may the bairns o' byeth wor hyems
Prove 'honest men and bonny lasses':
The former handin' doon wor nyems,
As patterns to the workin' classes:
The lasses choosin' sober men,
But seldom seen the warse o' nappy;
Blyth, kind, and good tiv ivry yen,
And myekin' a' about them happy.
It is nut geer that myeks the man,
Nor fine broad claith the clivor fellow:
A fuil's a fuil, howiver gran'--
The pouther'd pyet is often shallow.
For happiness is not confin'd
To folks in halls or cassels leevin';
And if wor lives be good, ye'll mind
There'll nyen ax how we gat to heeven.
We labour hard to myek ends meet,
Which baffles oft the gentry's schemin';
And though wor sleep be short, it's sweet,
Whilst they're on bums and bailies dreamin'.
There is a charm aw cannot nyem,
That's little knawn te quality:
Ye'll find it in the happy hyem
Of honest-hearted poverty.
Yor high-flown cheps oft fyel and brick,
But we hev a'ways yet been yable
Te keep the wheelband i' the nick
Though oft wi' but a bareish tyeble.
0 dear! but they lead wicked lives,
If a' be true that's i' the papers:
Oft kissin' yen another's wives,
And cuttin' other idle capers.
They run up debts they cannot pay--
Whiles pay off PAUL wi' robbin' PETER —
But, thank God, JACK, there's nyen can say
We iver wrang'd a leevin' creatur.
Aw dinnet mean te brag o' this--
It's but the way we a' should treed;
But where the great se often miss,
We may luick up when we succeed.
For, raither sic disgrace te share,
An' bring a stain upon wor freends,
We'd work, on breed-an'-waiter fare,
Till blood drops frae wor finger ends.
Besides, when a' is fadin' fast
That cheer'd the droopin' spirits here--
When we luick backwards at the past,
Te see how we'll at last appear--
'Twill form a breet and sunny place
On which the mind may rest wi' pleasur;
And then de mair te help wor case,
Than hoarded heaps o' yearthly treasur."
ON to Pitman's Pay Part Three