It’s Hard To Ceawr I’ Th’ Chimney Nook Samuel Laycock

It’s hard to ceawer i’ th’ chimney nook,
Fro’ weary day to day;
An’ no kind word, nor lovin’ look
To drive one’s care away!
Mi clooas are welly o worn eawt,
An’ neaw aw’m sich a seet,
Aw dunno’ loike to walk abeawt
Unless it’s dark at neet.
To get us bread, mi mother sowd
Eawr mattrasses an’ sheets;
An’ oh! it is so bitter cowd,
These frosty winter neets!
Two ladies kindly co’d one day,
An’ put us deawn some shoon;
They said they’d sheets to give away,
An’ we must ha’ some soon.
Eawr Mary Jane’s a bonny lass,
Wi’ two such rosy cheeks;
Hoo goes to th’ Refuge sewin’ class,
An’ has done neaw for weeks.
Poor thing! hoo’s badly starved, aw know,
Hoo’s scarcely owt to wear;
Aw do so wish ’at somebody’d co,
’At’s getten owt to spare.
Her petticoats are o worn eawt;
Her Sunday frock’s i’ holes;
An’ then her boots—hoos’s welly beawt—
They want booath heels an’ soles.
Aw wish mi feyther had a job,
He looks so strange an’ wild;
He’ll sit for heawers at th’ side o’ th’ hob,
An’ cry just like a child.
No wonder he should pine an’ fret,
An’ look soa discontent;
For th’ gas bill isn’t settled yet,
An’ th’ lon’lord wants his rent.
Mi mother’s bin to th’ shop toneet,
To fetch a bit o’ tay;
Hoo says they hardly looken reet,
Becose hoo conno pay.
An’ who con blame ’em? Nob’dy con;
They’re wur nor us, bi th’ mass!
Iv they’re to pay for what they han,
They’re loike to ha’ some brass;
We’n lived as careful as we con
Aw’m sure, but after o
A great big shop score’s runnin’ on,
For twothry pewnd or so.
Aw’ve etten bacon till aw’m sick;
Eawr Jimmy has an’ o;
An’ iv yo’ll ax mi uncle Dick,
He’ll tell yo’ th’ same, aw know.
Of porritch aw’ve had quite enoo,
For they dunno suit, aw find;
Aw conno do wi’ soup an’ stew,
They fill one full o’ wind.
Aw’m glad o’ every bit aw get,
An’ rare an’ thankful feel;
Aw’ve allus getten summat yet,
To mak’ misel a meal.
Thank God! we’n never ax’d i’ vain,
For folk are kind, aw’m sure;
God bless ’em o for what they’n gan;
One conno say no moor.

Title:It's Hard to Ceawr i' th' Chimney Nook

Author:Samuel Laycock

Publication:Manchester University Press

Published in:Manchester


Keywords:charity, dialect, family, poverty


This poem of eight octet stanzas is written in the traditional ballad metre with alternating iambic lines of broadly eight and six syllables. Apart from the odd strictly dialect term (‘welly’ [nearly], ‘twothry’ [two or three]) the spelling is quite easy to follow and the flow of the piece is smooth. The poem is written from an interesting perspective in that it is in the voice of one of the children of the family, but we are given no real indication of the gender or age of the speaker.

One of the notable social details is how this piece reveals the extent to which all elements of the neighbourhood are affected by the Distress. The mother reports being given disapproving looks at the local shop because she cannot pay her bills but the speaker suggests that the shopkeepers cannot be blamed for this attitude as they also need to pay their own bills. This is a useful context for the poem ‘A Droylsden Shopkeeper’s Lament’. This is one of eleven Cotton Famine poems which feature 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.

- SR.