Saturday, 10 December 2016

2 Poems for the NCMM Memorial

Lives Lived, Lives Lost
A wall of steel ageing with time
This sweeping arc stands sublime
Names of those who risks their necks
Etched forever onto coloured glass checks
Tokens of remembrance given with grace
A kaleidoscope of colour here in this place
Prisms in the sunshine shining so bright
Rainbows through the rain a wonderful sight
A lasting memorial to miners and mines
So much to read between all those lines
A seam forged with power; glass fused with care
Reflections and tributes for generations to share
Lives lived and lives lost though never in vain
Their memories live on and will always remain

© Marian Barker

In the Memorial Garden

Misty moments and misty eyes
Heads bowed beneath November skies
Family members young and old
Standing together in the cold
Mist wraps around just like a shawl
Gently enveloping us one and all
Names read out in reverence due
Music played softly through and through
The choir sang in harmony
Words befitting a eulogy
Silence fell; a wreath was laid
Some shed a tear; others prayed
Misty moments, misty eyes
Underneath November skies

© Marian Barker

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Baware Miners Beware

Beware Miners Beware

There was coal in stockpiles, coal from abroad

And dark blue lines drawn across the coal road.
Convoys of grim buses in greens and greys,
Prowling the length of British motorways.
Beware, miners, beware.

The rule of law, but the law is partial,
The rule is fear when the law is martial.
What matter then the ballot or the vote?
It’s who wields the baton in the last resort.
Beware, miners, beware.

It wasn’t policing some might celebrate,
Policing by consent, consent of the state,
And how much money so readily found
To keep centuries of coal deep underground?
Beware, miners, beware.

The pit was never a romantic place,
In the dusty dark, hewing a coal face,
In the dusty dark with the troubling damps,
Keeping wary eyes for the blue-flamed lamps.
Beware, miners, beware.

 It wasn’t, though, for welfare the pit closure plan,
It wasn’t for workers the shut-downs began,
It wasn’t for climate change they stopped the coal;
But break the miners’ union, break them all!
Beware, miners, beware.

There’s not a cob cut underground anymore,
With collieries fading into folk lore,
A heritage experience, and yet,
Without reminders, people will forget.
Be aware, miners, be aware.

                                                                Dave Alton

Monday, 14 November 2016

Black Dust

‘Oh’ Lament it keeps on whispering
Through the tunnels down below
With each resounding blow

Children waking from sweet slumber
Bleary eyed they all must dread
Footsteps in the Black Dust, they will have to tread

Eyes like a Panda: Tarnished and broken; coming up to the shore
I bet your head is aching?
And your feet are really sore?

For Black is the colour of Ill Health
Black is the colour of the Coal in Dust
And Black remains the colour in which, our lungs are sure to bust

Black is the colour of the clothes they owned
Imagine all the fatalities underground?
Imagine all the Fear by which, those precious children must be bound?

“We are the young children at work, down the mines
Opening and shutting the trap doors
Who are we that we should speak? And who will fight our cause”?

‘Oh’ to play in daylight amongst others
And feel the Sun shining upon our face
We do but sit and wonder: where is the Love? And Where is Grace?

Historical moments generations will remember
For Black were the thoughts of the ‘Children’s Call’
And Black are the memories prevailing; as Coal was mined for all.

                                                                                                         Bernadette O' Horo 

Monday, 17 October 2016

Taking the Pits

When coal was king way back then
Work was hard, boys became men
Each generation followed line on line
Fathers and sons went down the mine
Blood was shed and lives were lost
Families would have to count the cost
Of putting food upon the table
Earning as much as they were able
Digging deep in the bowels of the earth
Each man proud of his own worth
Then after all the years they grafted
They were well and truly shafted
The pits were closed, the work was gone
The miners wondered what when wrong
Their world was turned upside down
Life was changed in their hometown
They'd taken the pits along with their pride
On that dark, dark day the community died
The brass band played its very best
And the colliery was finally laid to rest
With a requiem solemn as befits
The mournful day they took the pits

© Marian Barker

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Thirty Shades of Black

Black the tunnels underground
Black the treasure that they found
Black is buried within the ground
Black drives industrial wheels around
Black gold is found at every turn
Black that makes the home fires burn
Black the coal dust in their hair
Black the clothing that they wear
Black faces leaving the pit head
Black water in the washing shed
Black the towels on the pegs
Black and blue those arms and legs
Black matter mined beneath the earth
Black diamonds now have lost their worth
Black the mood when word got out
Black news is what it was all about
Black the ink upon the page
Black the miners’ darkest rage
Black the look on every face
Black the shadows in this place
Black the cloud hung over all
Black depression began to fall
Black the list of mines to close
Black as night the miners’ woes
Black eyes shedding salty tears
Black future in their later years
Black the armbands that they wore
Black the words the miners swore
Black the colour of their spit
Black the day they closed their pit

© Marian Barker

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Chain of Colliers


At long last…light,
Time of renewal, relief, hope,
Looking forward to colour.

Blue sky, grey sky, herringbone.
Warm rain, howling rain, relief.

Getting rid of grime.
Clearing burdensome clutter
Gives sense of freedom.

Looking forward to better times,
But backward to what is lost.

Time for action plan,
Memorable moments – bring ‘em on!
Learn, love, laugh, grow.


It’s here! We’ve waited so long
To cast off winter’s burden.

Smells of grass and food,
People mingling, laughing, free
Briefly from routine.

Winding down – put toothbrush in
Carrier with spare knickers.

It’s hard to imagine
The grime, the crowds, the noise,
Now the pits have gone.

Incarceration was cruel,
Ponies slaving underground.


The colours are nice,
If only it didn’t get colder
And damp, grey and dark.

One over – I would have cried.
Year older – I’m older – Thanks!

Thoughts drift to summer,
To sunny days and light nights…
But winter comes next.

Now what will it be today?
Not bread and dripping again!

Nights are drawing in,
Time to start wearing me vest.
Thought summer wouldn’t end.


Quilt days, hoodie days, book days,
Thick socks, fleece throw, have go – right?

Scary the unknown,
How do we look forward in hope?
Present in turmoil.

Did Shakespeare write on mines?
A Winter’s Tale must come close.

Lighten the darkness,
Illuminating my world,
Lamp unto my feet.

Now the earth can be reclaimed,
Restored for a greener future.

Renga composed by Dave Alton
From verses written by Coalshed Poets:
Marian Barker
Claire Crossdale
Jean Hales

Friday, 2 September 2016

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