The Factory Lass.


O LADY, lady, stop a while,
Until mi little tale aw’ve towd;
To-day aw’ve wandhert mony a mile,
O’er teighrin’ roads, i’ th’ weet an; cowd.
Ne’er shake your yead cose aw’m ill-clad,
For yo mistak mi aim, aw’m sure;
Aw’m noan a beggar – nowt so bad –
Aw’re aye to’ preawd, aw’m neaw to’ poor.


Aw’m seechin’ wark to help us thro’: -
Aw’d scorn a beggar’s cringin’ part; -
Bo’ sthrivin’ hard, an’ clemmin’ too,
It welly breaks a body’s heart.
Yo knawn what mills abeawt are stopt;
An’ beawt ther’s wark, what con one have?
Eawr two-three* things we’n sowd or popt –
An’ as for savin’, we’d nowt t’ save.


My feyther dee’d some six yer sin’,
An’ me an’ mother then wur left;
For these last three mi mother’s bin
O’ th’ use o’ her reet arm bereft.
Mi wage sin’ then, yo seen‘s kept two,
An’ so, yo ‘re sure we’n had no fat;
We’n ne’er complain’d, we ‘n made it do;
Bo’ could we save owt eawt o’ that?


Aw wortcht, mi mother stopt at whoam,
An’ did what wi’ one arm hoo could,
Hoo know’d what toime aw’r sure to come,
Hoo kept up th’ feigh’r an’ geet me food.
Hoo swept an’ dusted, an' sich things
Ut maks a whoam t’ look snug an’ breet,
Ut sich a lot o’ comfort brings
When every little thing's done reet.


Hoo’d set mi cheer i’ th’ warmest nook,
An’ hond mi bit o’ th’ sewin’ eawt;
An’ quietly then hoo’d get her book,
An’ some good thing hoo’d read abeawt.
When th’ Summer days come warm an’ breet,
Thro’ o’ th’ green meadow walks hoo’ll goo,
Wheer fleaw’rs are grewin’ rich an’ sweet,
An’ mony a bonny bunch hoo’ll poo.


Sich yallow buttercups ther’ll be,
An’ little daisies gowd an’ white,
An’ sprigs o’ sweet wild thyme for me;
For her a bit o’ blue eyebright.
Wild roses oft hoo co’s her pets;
Hoo likes a bonny breet bluebell,
Wood violets hoo ne’er forgets,
Nor th’ little charmin’ pimpernel.


To help mi mother, ut’s so kind,
Aw'm here an’ scechin’ wark so late;
As preawd a soul yo’ll hardly find,—
Hoo’ll ha no tootin int’ eawr state.
Th’ rich folk abeawt ull sometimes co,
They’n known mi mother mony a yer;
They’n towd her if hoo’ll let [em] know
When owt hoo wants, they’ll get it her.


It’s kind o’ them, to her it’s pain,
Hoo feels it keenly, if hoo’d tell;
Tho’ thankful for o’th trouble ta’en,
Aw couldna tak their gifts mysel.
Sally,” hoo’s said, when they’n bin gone,
An’ aw’ve turnt reawnd an’ softly smoilt,
“These great rich folk dun o’ they con
To kill us wi their pity, choilt.”


Owd folk betoimes are cross an’ sore,
An’ speyken sharp when things are weel;
So when they’re clemmin’ o’ th’ day o’er,
An’ cripplet too, they’re sure to feel.
An dunno’ think hoo wants t’ offend,
Bo’ being pitied maks her sore;
Hoo sometimes thinks her arm ‘ull mend,
An’ be just loike it wur before.


Bo then aw know it never will;
Aw tell her, when hoo’s that road bent,
We’st manish oather weel or ill,
An hoo mun rest hersel content.
It’s toime ut wortchin hoo did beawt,
An’ heaw mich betther things ud be,
If hoo’d bo sattle deawn witheawt,
An’ lyev sich like as that to me.


Aw want mi mother’s life t’ be beams
O' sunshine while on earth hoo stops;
Aw want her comfort t’ flow i’ sthreams,
Aw want her care for t’ come i’ dhrops.
Let her poo fleaw’rs i’ th’ woods abeawt,
An’ fix ’em t’ plez her i’ her pot,
Wi here an’ theer just peepin’ eawt,
Blue eyebright an’ forget-me-not.


Aw’m quite content ‘ut th’ facthory lass
Shall bear her mother’s weight o’ care –
Shall help her when hard thrials pass,
An’ in her quiet pleasures share.
Neaw, lady, mi short tale aw’ve towd,
If wark for wages yo can give,
Aw’d rather have it than your gowd;
Aw’ll bless yo for it while aw live.

Title:The Factory Lass

Author:Joseph Ramsbottom

1. John Heywood
2. Simpkin, Marshall, and Co.

Published in:
1. 143 Deansgate, Manchester
2. London

1. 1864
2. 1864

Keywords:charity, dialect, domesticity, morality, poverty, work


This poem has twelve eight-line stanzas (‘octets’ or ‘octaves’) which are numbered using Roman numerals. This often attributes a seriousness to the poem, or even suggests that the stanzas might stand alone as poems. In this case though, the numbered stanzas merely seem to represent different ways that the young ‘factory lass’ of the title addresses the presumably middle-class lady as she asks her for work. There is quite a regular iambic tetrameter to most lines and yet the alternating rhymes prevent the piece from sounding forced. You might notice that the spelling system (orthography) of the dialect terms here is different from other writers. In particular Joseph Ramsbottom tends to indicate quite distinctive and linguistically complex consonant sounds such as that in ‘dhrops’ and ‘sthrivin’. This might be the way that the poet hears speech and interprets it, but might just as well indicate regional differences in that Ramsbottom was very much a Manchester poet. Interestingly, that extra aspirant might have been influenced by the considerable Irish presence in Manchester. The sound persists in some Irish pronunciations but has vanished from Mancunian speech.

Joseph Ramsbottom’s Phases of Distress(1864) collection is almost all we have of his poetry but it displays a fine ear for dialect pronunciation and a particular talent for a labouring-class version of the dramatic monologues which Robert Browning was writing at around the same time. Each poem is written in a different voice and articulates the concerns of a particular element of society in relation to the financial hardships experienced during the Cotton Famine. The consistent element in this poem is the young speaker’s refusal to accept any form of charity, favouring instead the opportunity to work for her pay. This disdain for charity is quite a common trope in Cotton Famine poetry but there is an irony in the fact that this kind of pride also contributed to the general idea of the necessarily ‘deserving poor’, and so made charitable giving more likely.

- SR.