The storytelling project that we have developed most recently, in partnership with Burnley Borough Council, is called Stories of Sandygate. Here are some of the stories, poems, songs, memoirs and plays that were written as part of the project.
A Song for Sandygate (Listen to the song here)
Down Ashfield Road the weavers strode
To labour at the mill
Though they are gone, we think upon
The lives they led here still
Boats laden down came to the town
To unload cotton there
Before they go with calico
For all the world to wear
Not long ago we used to sew
And weave with our own hands
My business shirt, my dancing skirt
Now come from distant lands
The noise of looms filled dismal rooms
Where weavers toiled all day
And breathe they must the cotton dust
That steals their lives away
With coal to burn and steam to turn
The great mill engine round
The chimney tall would cast a pall
Of smoke that choked the town
We see the mill standing so still
We breathe the air that’s clean
A million trees unfurl their leaves
As Burnley turns to green, to green
As Burnley turns to green
Henry Peacock 2011
The Leeds and Liverpool Canal
Barges pass along me, smooth, streamlined, pulled by horses.
They carry cotton from Liverpool and take back woven cloth.
I hear the clip-clop of horses’ hooves
The quiet whispers of lovers
The howling of winds down from the moors
The loud pitter patter of raindrops on barges.
The barges creak loudly.
At night I hear foxes, badgers snuffling around
And the squeaking of mice and overhead the hooting of owls.
During long days I hear the clatter of mills on my banks.
Joyce O’Reilly 2011
Children: (‘A Farewell to the Millers Arms 1978’ – 2008)
Every night my father spent some time in the ‘Millers’ before making his way home. Each Friday, payday for the brickyard, my mam sent my oldest sister, Sheila and I to the pub. Sheila was eleven and I was two years younger. Dad would have been in the pub since opening time at 5.30 and we arrived there about an hour later. There were always other children milling around there too, rain, snow or blow.
Sometimes I pulled myself up on the window ledge and peered through the frosted glass. The letters on the window pane spelling out ‘Massey’s Burnley Brewery’ flickered as they diffused the bright lights of the room beyond. I could make out the glow of a heaped coal fire, and shadows of men around it. There were loud hearty voices and occasional hoots of laughter… I fancied I heard my father now and then, but it couldn’t be him. I never heard a cheerful note of any kind emanate from that surly, grey-faced man.
Sheila remained faithfully at her post beside the open pub door and waited until someone was about to go in then she said, ‘Please will you tell mi dad…’ She rarely got further than that.
The man, it was always a man, would say, ‘You’re Jimmy’s lass, aren’t you? ‘Course I’ll tell him.’ A few minutes later father came out. Sometimes he walked straight past us and we scampered after him. These were the best times. There were no rows because most of his wage would be intact. But more often than not, he came to the door and thrust some money into Sheila’s hand saying, ‘Tell her it’s been a bad week.’ And then he went back into the pub.
My walls have sheltered many hard working families.
Like siblings Tom, Sarah and Alice, uprooted
From the dark valley of Todmorden.
Like John Ogden who left the crisp air of Haworth
To settle here amongst strangers
To keep the Malakoff Tavern.
Strangers became friends.
Marriages are made in Holy Trinity.
Families become part of the fabric.
SANDYGATE - A Play
Patten Street. ARTHUR is trying to fix his broken down ice-cream motor-cycle cart when BETTY aged about 12 comes up to him.
BETTY What you doing mister?
ARTHUR What’s it look like?
BETTY What’s up with it?
ARTHUR How should I know? It won’t go.
BETTY Can I have an ice-cream?
ARTHUR Tu’penny or thre’penny one?
BETTY I’ve only got a penny.
ARTHUR Well you’ll have to get another penny.
BETTY It’s all me dad gave me.
ARTHUR Then get your dad to give you some more.
BETTY I can’t, I don’t know where he is. Go on mister a penny.
ARTHUR D’you think I’m made of money? You cheeky monkey.
BETTY He were in Waterloo.
ARTHUR Then go to Waterloo.
BETTY He might be in Neptune.
ARTHUR Go there.
BETTY Or the Nelson, or Angel or Trafalgar.
ARTHUR Gets about your dad.
BETTY I’ve never seen an ice-cream motor bike before. Where’d you get it?
ARTHUR I used to have an horse.
BETTY What happened to her?
ARTHUR Him. Goliath, he died. Dropped down dead on Railway Street.
ARTHUR How do I know? He were old. Took six coppers and me to get him on a lorry to take him to knacker’s yard. So I got this, this unreliable thing.
ARTHUR Nosey aren’t you? What’s your name?
BETTY Betty White.
ARTHUR I know your dad. Jim isn’t it?
BETTY How d’you know?
ARTHUR He had a sister. Drowned in canal a few years back. June she were called. Sometime in May, can’t remember year. Near Hope shed. Your mum, she ran off with Tackler at Trafalgar Mill. No wonder your dad took to drink.
BETTY My dad’s not a drunkard.
ARTHUR I just said he drinks, that’s all. I’m trying to fix this.
BETTY What’s your name?
BETTY Well Arthur if I give you a hand can I have an ice-cream?
ARTHUR You’re only a girl.
BETTY Let’s have a look.
ARTHUR Get off. You’re not a mechanic.
BETTY I’ve got a penny take it or leave it. It’ll melt.
ARTHUR No it won’t. If I could get dammed thing to garage.
BETTY Which one?
ARTHUR Holden and Hartley’s.
BETTY If I help you push it can I have an ice-cream?
ARTHUR Like I said you’re only a girl. I can manage.
ARTHUR tries to push the bike. He fails. BETTY starts to help him and the bike starts to
BETTY See. An ice-cream when we get to garage?
ARTHUR It might melt by the time we get there.
BETTY I’ve got an incentive then. It’s not that far. Just at the end of Patten Street, turn left onto Trafalgar and it’s a few yards on right. Easy.
ARTHUR Tell you what, if we get to garage and ice-cream hasn’t melted, I’ll give you two.
BETTY With raspberry?
ARTHUR You drive a hard bargain Betty White.
ARTHUR and BETTY push the ice-cream motor-cycle along the street.
For a Mother’s Love
Ada slept fretfully on her narrow iron bed. Despite the heaviness of the blankets and the eiderdown, she shivered. If only her mother would let her light a fire in the bedroom grate just once.
“Wasteful”, her mother said, “sinful.”
She rolled over onto her side, pulling the blankets over her head, and winced with the pain in her right arm as it took part of her weight. Must have sprained it on Saturday afternoon, she thought, hanging out the washing. She rolled onto her back, which held a dull ache, and thought back to that day.
After weaving in Belle Vue Mill on Saturday from 6.30 till 1, she was struggling to hang up damp heavy sheets on a line strung across the front sheet. There were no front gardens in most of the town around Sandygate, not like the posher streets beyond, like Todmorden Road. Alf Lomax happened to be passing.
“Hello, Alf. On tha way t’match?”
“Aye, Ada. Blackburn Rovers are playing Burnley at Turf Moor this afternoon. Here, let me give thee a hand.”
His hands touched hers briefly as he took the sheets. He smelt of manly soap, clean like her sheets. His hands were big, muscular and calloused from hewing coal down Bank Hall Colliery, yet his touch was sensitive, delicate even. As often as she could she watched him play the piano for the latest silent films at the Empress Picture House. He had the sort of hands that Michelangelo would have drawn, she mused, not that she knew that much about Michaelangelo, but she had seen a book of his drawings at the Mitchell Library on Trafalgar Street. She had not dared bring it home for her mother to see. How she longed to touch the rest of Alf at least once. She wondered idly what it was like to go with a man, to be married to someone like Alf, to sleep in a proper double bed. Someone to keep her warm and hold her close to him when she shivered. The rest was a bit of a mystery. She knew women made babies that way.
“Tha needs fattening up, that knows,” Alf said pulling up the heavy line and securing it to the wall of the house. “I’m worried about thee. Tha’s not looked well of late. Tha cheeks seem pale.”
He stared down at her pinched face. For a long moment she had the impression he was going to stroke her cheek. Then her mother appeared at the front door.
“Ada, tha’s got no time to stand there gossiping. Come inside and scrub t’scullery floor.”
“Alf was helping me, wasn’t tha, Alf?”
Before Alf could answer, Ada’s mother said haughtily, “Get thy mucky hands off my daughter, Alf Lomax. She’s not for the likes of thee.”
Alf looked angrily at her and clenched his fists. Nay, what was he coming to? He had never clouted a woman in his life. He daren’t. He could easily have felled Mrs. Clegg with one blow. Once before he had felled a man twice her size down’t pit.
“It seems no one is ever good enough for thy daughter. So long, Ada.”
He turned and disappeared behind the washing, which was billowing in the strong wind that blew down from the moors. All Ada was left with was the loud ringing of his clog irons against the cobble stones. Then she caught a last glimpse of him just before he turned the corner. His back was haunched and tense. His head was bent forward at a grim angle echoed by the contour of the moors beyond the town.
“It’s no use cocking tha hat at him, Ada Clegg. Look at thee. Flat chested, like tha dad’s sister. Tha’s just like his side. And they never had brains of their own. They had to marry into families with brains.”
Mrs. Clegg sniffed. She should have married someone better. That William Brindle, for example. Yes, he had admired her, before she went and married Jimmie Clegg.
She remembered how he had once brushed against her ample bosom,
accidental on purpose like.
By Joyce O’Reilly