The Lancashire Factory Girl. (An “Ower True” Picture.)

All, all are gone, I’ve nothing more
To pawn or sell for bread;
And soon there’ll be no home for me,
No place to lay my head.
Oh, none can tell the grief I’ve felt,
The tears that I have shed,
In parting with some little things
Presented by the dead.
Before my little brother died
He said, “Come hither, Winnie,
I’ll leave you my dicky-bird;
Be kind to it for Willie.”
Then little sister Nelly died –
And, oh, I loved her well;
She left me all she had to leave –
A little silver bell.
My father (poor, but honest man!)
Long struggled with affliction;
And, ere he died, with trembling words,
Gave me his benediction.
I loved my father, brother, all,
As well, as well could be;
But my poor sainted mother’s death
Was more than all to me.
She told me, when her end drew near,
To reach her leather pocket,
From which she drew, with tender care,
A little golden locket.
“My child,” she said, “this is a gift
Thy father gave to me:
A token of his early love:
I’ll leave it unto thee.”
A smile played o’er her features wan
As to her lips she pressed
Love’s early offering, and then
She gently sunk to rest!
Little Willie’s dicky-bird,
And Nelly’s silver bell,
And the golden locket which in life
My Mother loved so well –
All, all are gone, I’ve nothing more
To pawn or sell for bread;
First went my Sunday clothes, and then
The reliques of the dead!
Oh, blame me not, ye who have health,
And wealth and good position;
Perhaps ye might have done the same
Were you in my condition.
‘Midst all my trials I have kept
My honest reputation;
This oft to me, when troubles came,
Has been a consolation.
List to an orphan’s prayer:-
Help me to keep in virtue’s path,
Shield me from tempter’s snare!
Grant soon that peace may be proclaimed
Among our brethren o’er the sea;
And then our mills will run again,
And happy, happy we shall be!
Preston, Nov.25, 1862. H.M.

Title:The Lancashire Factory Girl (An "Ower True" Picture)

Author:H. M.

Publication:Preston Chronicle

Published in:Preston, Lancashire


Keywords:america, family, gender, pawn, poverty


This poem of fifteen quatrains remains in quite strict ballad metre throughout, with alternating iambic tetrameter and trimeters. The poem uses the four line stanzas to discuss different aspects of the subject’s life, and different characters from it, and though there is an occasional refrain of ‘all, all are gone’ there is a sense of narrative movement throughout. The speaker of the poem is the factory girl herself, and as a lyric poem we are encouraged to sympathise with the voice, but we have not yet identified ‘H. M.’ so it is not possible to ascertain whether this was written by a man or a woman, or to what extent the author identified with or was familiar with the issues being discussed here.

Faustus’s Paul Sartin has set this poem to music carefully transposing the mood of the original text into an appropriate melodic structure, and the centrality of the individual voice is emphasised by the harmonic framing. Though some of the text has been altered slightly for musical reasons, the emotional resonance of the original is maintained in full and the use of the first stanza, with its sense of a Cri de Coeur, is used as a chorus. One of the many interesting things about this text is its affirmation at the end of a positive image of working-class female morality, with the speaker maintaining that she has kept her ‘reputation’ despite temptations. The last stanza explicitly refers to the causal link between the American Civil war and the closure of the mills. – SR.