FRIENDS ARE FEW WHEN FOOAK ARE POOR.
BY W. BILLINGTON.
Title:Friends Are Few When Fooak Are Poor
Publication:The Blackburn Times
Date:November 21, 1863
This dialect poem by the great Blackburn poet William Billington relates the social consequences of unemployment through the voice of a mill worker made redundant during the Lancashire Cotton Famine. This had actually happened to Billington so there is real authenticity here, even if it is filtered through a poetic voice. Dialect poets like Billington (Edwin Waugh, Joseph Ramsbottom, Samuel Laycock, William Cunliffe) were very important during the crisis in that they appeared ventriloquise the concerns of ordinary people in their own modes of speech. Although this might appear to be a kind of literary exclusivity (albeit emerging from an oral tradition), in fact dialect poetry was read and enjoyed much more widely in the mid-nineteenth century than it is now. – SR