Eawt o’ Wark.


It’s bo sad news aw send,
An’ aw dun know heaw t’ write it, aw’m sure,
For to tell folk o’ one’s own disthress
Con be no pleasant task for the poor
Bo eawr mesther has lockt up his mill,
An’ beawt wark, thae knows weel, there’s no brass,
An beawt brass there’s no mayt, so thae sees
Ut we’n getten far on i’ this pass.


We con get nowt fro’ th’ shopkeepers neaw;
They con thrust us no mooar abeawt here;
Bo they’n done very weel oppo’ th’ whul,
While this wark’s bin so awkward and queer:
For they stoode eawt as long as they could,
To help o’ ut ud pay, or ud thry;
An’ o’ thoose folk ut couldno, they fun
It wur dhreadful hard wark to deny.


Thae con think o’ what faces ther wur,
When he fust put up th’ notice to stop;
Childer laugh’d, feythers soikt, mothers wept,
An’ ther sich heavy hearts thro’ o’ th’ shop.
Me an’ th’ wife, when aw geet whoam at neet,
Had to talk it o’ o’er, un hoo said,
Ut if th’ wust coom to th’ wust we should then
Ha for t’ turn some o’ th’ oddments to bread.


Well, eawr faily Bible, wi th’ clasps,
An’ mi gronfeyther’s name in, we’n sowd,
An’ mi gronmother’s pray’r-book, ut wur
O’er a hundred an’ forty yer owd;
An’ that owd oaken dhresser’s gone too,
Wi’ thoose fine, fancy carvins o’ th’ feet;
Eh! it’s dhreadful wark sthrippin’ one’s whoam,
An’ it’s heartwringin’ too, mon, to see’t.


Neaw we’n not a red cindher i’ th’ grate,
An’ o’th’ childher gone hungry to bed;
To their sthraw, for their beds han bin sowd,
An’ their blankets, too, bless thee, for bread.
Heaw aw hush-a-be-bo’d little Bob,
An’ his mother, eh! Lord! heaw hoo soikt,
Wi’ great tears runnin’ wot deawn her face,
As eawr little thing yammer an’ skroikt.


Aw’ve bin us’d to walk th’ wuld badly shod,
When ther lots o’ sharp stones uppo th’ greawnd;
Aw known neaw what it is to want bread
Wi mi little brids o’ gapin’ reawnd;
Wi ‘em gapin an’ chirrupin’ too,
Wi a chirrup ut winno be still:-
It’s a vast ugly fix to be in,
Th’ cubbert empty an’ ballies to fill.


Som’dy sent Will an ar’nt th’ tother day,
An’ they gan him a cake to bring whoam;
So he shar’d eawt wi Nanny an’ Bob,
An’ a bit he put bye for eawr Tom;
An’ their mother an’ me while they eete,
Stoode an’ watcht, an’ so fed second-hond;
Niblin’ close enoof this side o’ th’ grave,
Let us hope for good pasther beyond.


When they’d eaten their meawthful apiece,
They’d a notion o’ mankin’ a bit;
Bo then Famine ud mate noan wi Fun,
An’ they couldno mak grim Sorrow t’ flit;
So they keaw’rt em deawn uppo th’ floore,
An’ they talkt abeawt th’ stoppin’ o’ th’ mill;
An’ they towd o’er their sthring o’ complaints,
As ther’s childher o’ergrown sometoimes will.


If ther wur bo some wark for his dad,
An’ his mam ud keep th’ things Will could do;
For his velveteen breeches hoo’d sowd,
An’ his jacket, his cap, an’ shoon, too.
Little Nanny chim’d in wi him here,-
“Aye, an’ my pratty frock’s gone an’ o’,
An’ mi boots, an’ white stockins, an’ cape,
An’ mi bonnet, an’ noice paleto.”

IX (sic) .

An’ o’ thattens their little tongues ran;
Bo sich prattlin’ o’ went agen th’ grain;
When misfortins are bad o’thirsels,
Frettin’ childher ull lessen no pain.
Heaw we look back to th’ past wi regret,
Wi a present so bleak an’ so dhrear;
An’ a future so dhreadfully blank,
Ut Hope’s deein while sthronger grows Fear.


Aw wur wadin’ lip deep i’ disthress,
Mi wife wastin’ wi clemmin’ an’ care;
O’ mi childer kept cravin’ for bread,
An’ mi sorrows geet hardher to bear.
For eawr sperits wur quite brocken deawn,
An’ o’ gone wur eawr family pride;
An’ we’d plann’d, an’ we’d schem’d, an’ we’d clem’d,
An’ we’d no honest shift left unthried.


We could still gwo to th’ board, an’ aw went, -
Towd mi tale wi’ great tears i’ mi een, -
“Yo’n a very hard case, John, they said,
Welly th’ hardest we’n yet ever seen;
Bo this awful condition o’ things,
An’ th’ wur state ut we’re fast comin’ to,
Maks admittance to th’ ‘Heawse’ John, for yo,
Abeawt th’ very best thing we con do.”


Theer aw stoode, an’ kept starin’ a whoile;
Aw wur gloppent wi’ th’ sentence they’d pass’d;
An’ mi heart leapt fair up int’ mi throat,
Till aw broke eawt a skroikin’ at last.
For aw know’d heaw aw’d powlart an’ teighlt,
An’ aw’d done o ut e’er a mon could;
Hopin’ t’keep mi boat swimmin’ thro’ th’ storm,
An’ aw neaw felt it sinkin’ i th’ flood.


Any mon wi’ a good lovin’ woife,
An’ wi’ childher o prattlin’ abeawt;
Wi’ a whoam, when ther’s wark, loike a heaven,
He may partly mi feelin’s mak eawt.
Aw’ve bin strugglin’ up th’ hill o mi loife,
An’ did hope better days aw should see;
But aw’st stick to mi whoam tho’ it’s bare.
For a bastille is no place for me.


So we’n nowt for it neaw bo clem on,
For aw darno tell this tale to th’ woife;
To their own, folk ull cling i’ disthress,
It’s so hard to be parted i’ loife.
Thea mun just fling a thowt neaw an’ then,
O’er to us ut’s sich reason t’ be sad;
An’ thea’ll bear mi good wishes o reawnd,
To thi woife an’ thi lasses an’ lad.

Title:Eawt o' Wark.

Author:Joseph Ramsbottom

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

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

1. 1864
2. 1864

Keywords:dialect, domesticity, pawn, poverty, unemployment, workhouse


The natural speech patterns in this poem are formed in the broadly nine-syllable lines by a metre which is largely anapaestic, being two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed one (‘For to tell folk o’ one’s own disthress’). The form of address here is indicated as epistolary at the beginning, with the letter addressed to the speaker’s brother, Jim. The addressee is even separated from the first line proper but maintains the syllable count, which shows real poetic awareness.

The fact that the speaker is writing to a close family member allows for a deeply emotional register towards the end of the piece, and Ramsbottom includes several elements of social observation, such as the speaker’s unwillingness to enter the workhouse despite the circumstances, and the selling off of the books, furniture, and fine clothes the family once had. This is a longer poem than some of Ramsbottom’s similar works, with fifteen octets, but then this poem functions as an account of both the social and emotional effects of the famine. That the speaker’s good wishes extended to his brother and his family at the end of the poem without enquiring after their circumstances suggests that his relative does not live within range of the Famine. While several Cotton Famine poems use intergenerational or inter-class conversations to illuminate contemporary issues this is an interesting example of family discourse, with the correspondents presumably of the same original social status but suffering very different fates.

- SR.