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I wrote ‘Memories Clear – Images of Holmfirth’ as a result of researching ‘Questions In Time’ a journal article for the magazine ‘Open Writing’. The focus of the article being the traditional choral folksong ‘The Holmfirth Anthem’- a long-time favourite of mine, and others - the research, started in the days of the floppy disc and completed in the digital everything age was long overdue. The town of Holmfirth overlooks the Holm Valley in the West Yorkshire Pennines.
I have personal recollections of hard Pennine travelling, battling traffic and snow in the days before the motorways. Heading east in the early morning and into the rising sun or heading west in the late afternoon and into the setting sun always made for a long day. I remember Woodhead and Saddleworth and of course I remember Holmfirth.
Memories Clear - Images Of Holmfirth’ appears in its original three verse form in the ‘Open Writing’ article, ‘Questions In Time’. However, after presenting this short work as part of poetry readings at Strathfield Poets, Sydney NSW, and at The Screw Soapers Guild, Liverpool NSW, I have revisited, revised and enlarged it in order to capture even more, to me at least, indelible images of Holmfirth
One series of images I could not resist including are those of the local coal merchant’s horse and cart wending its way through cobbled streets, past the Co-op, to deliver its cargo door to door. The Advertising emblazoned on the cart reads ‘The flames of desire from Hinchliffe’s Coal’. Clearly, this is a coal marketeer years ahead of his time and with fire in his belly.
Set in September 1939 these scenes appear in ‘Compo Drops In’, episode two of the second and final series of the prequel ‘The First Of The Summer Wine’, an engaging introduction, after the fact, to the long running series ‘The Last Of The Summer Wine’, a poignant reminder of life in pre-war working class Britain.
Memories: clear to mind, bold images,
mark the time of the fast passing years,
in a place ready for late springtime rain
to bless lanes of cobbles and bluebells,
at the advent of a Holm Valley summer.
Nearby green Pennine Ways to wander,
through long valleys and on rolling hills,
bright autumn days, all chill and tingle.
Wool bonnets, with ear muffs, for sale,
from Aunty’s Shop in old Barrack Fold.
Indian summer seeking a golden autumn,
all too soon to discover a waiting winter,
as the great artist forms a season’s pallet,
and fills the silvering skies with turmoil,
anxiety, and with so many shades of grey.
Street scene: horse strains, harness groans,
rubbed brass reflects rays of late sunshine.
Wheels grind cobble grit under metal rims,
to carry precisely filled bags of anthracite,
flames of desire… from Hinchliffe’s Coal.
Fog… flint tipped rain and freezing sleet,
glacially frosty mornings, ice-capped pools,
breath-taking wind and flailing snowstorms,
welcome warmth, with kindle and coal fire,
as winter wanes, snowdrops promise spring.
I will claim this set of images as a second cousin to ‘The Holmfirth Anthem’ and dedicate it to the writers, directors, producers and players of the 295 episodes of ‘The Last Of The Summer Wine’, to the two short seasons of ‘The First Of The Summer Wine’, to The Watersons, to The Holm Valley Beagles, to The Dransfields, to Peter Hinchliffe - editor of ‘Open Writing’ and, of course, to Holmfirth.
August 2103 – revised January 2014 © Dermott Ryder
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