Publication:Ashton And Stalybridge Reporter
Date:June 28th 1862
This dialect piece in eight eight-line octets is presented anonymously in this newspaper publication context and with the title ‘Lancashire Distress’, but is actually an early publication of ‘Philip Clough’s Tale’ which would later feature in Joseph Ramsbottom’s 1864 Phases of Distress collection, and in Brian Hollingworth’s Songs of the People: Lancashire dialect poetry of the industrial revolution (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1977), the most significant anthology of such works during the twentieth century. The form of address is interesting here in that it begins in first person plural, articulating a collective voice for the newly improverished workers, but then shifts to the singular first person in order to provide several examples of the effects of the economic hardship. The piece ends with a stanza which articulates an intensely personal reflection on the circumstances through the frequent use of ‘anaphora’ – the repeated use of the same term or phrase to begin lines – in this case ‘Aw’ (‘I’).
As ever with Ramsbottom’s poetry, the piece is packed with little examples of acute social observation, but one of the most interesting comes at the beginning. There is a clear distinction made between ‘honest workin’ folk’ and ‘cadgers’, highlighting the tensions between different elements of Lancastrian people when the economic situation acts as an unpleasant social leveller. The loss of financial independence is keenly felt to the extent where at one point the speaker suggests that the only reason they seek relief is for the sake of their family, their own continued existence means little to them. – SR.