29 April 2016


Long Tailed Tit

I'm looking in your window
Tapping at your door
There are things inside your house
That I've never seen before.

Up and down the glass
You watch me as I fly
On wings that lift me upwards
To the blueness of the sky.

I live in the moment
But you are bound by time
Struggling to find a word
To end this little rhyme.

28 April 2016


The trouble with blogging for years is that you sometimes forget about blogposts you created long ago. In that regard, the"Search" box in the top lefthand corner can be very useful. It is impossible to remember everything we write and after all, this is my eleventh year as a blogger.

With a cup of Italian coffee to hand and snooker players McManus and Ding on the television, I thought I might write down some thoughts about swearing. Unsurprisingly, I discovered that I had devoted two posts to the topic back in 2007. Go here and here if you're interested.

But what I would like to comment on today is the habitual use of swear words in blogging. Most blogs I enjoy tend not to include any swear words - blogs like "Eagleton Notes", "Kitchen Connection", "Shadows and Light", "Adrian's Images", "From My Mental Library" and "Shooting Parrots". However, there are some blogs I like to visit where swear words crop up frequently - either in the posts themselves or in the comments that follow. Whenever I encounter this bad language, I just think "Why?" The swear words tend to jar and distract. They stand out like sore thumbs and as our parents may have said long ago, such words are generally unnecessary.

I know that there are lots of bloggers out there who will agree with me about this matter but others who will no doubt carry on spouting expletives like oppressed industrial workers. I guess it is their right to use foul language if they want to and of course one of the lovely things about blogging is that we can write pretty much what we want with whatever words we choose to utilise. 

With that very freedom in mind, I am now raising my head above the parapet to say to the swearers - please don't do it! Generally speaking, swearing isn't nice and if you must use a swear word please make sure that it is essential to the argument, comment or account you are in the process of expressing. I thank you in anticipation of your kind forbearance and humbly request that you do not use swear words in any comments you wish to add to this post.

27 April 2016


Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield - April 15th 1989 - 96 Liverpool supporters crushed to death in the middle pen at the Leppings Lane end of the ground.

Warrington, Cheshire - April 26th 2016. After the two year long inquest, in a specially constructed courthouse, the jury finally reach their verdict - the 96 were "unlawfully killed".

This is what "The Liverpool Echo" has to say about the matter today:-

"The thousands of Liverpool fans who travelled to Hillsborough on April 15, 1989 played no role in causing the disaster".

But is that entirely true? There were  essentially two Liverpool cohorts in Sheffield that fateful day and in my judgement it is wrong to bracket them all together. That's happened before and it is still happening now.
One cohort of fans got to the ground early. They were in situ long before kick-off - either in their assigned seats in the upper section of the stand or down below in the fenced terracing where in those days supporters were allowed to stand. They were excited and eager for kick off.

Little did they know that the second cohort of fans was still entering the ground. Some were ticketless and many had been drinking. They arrived at the ground far too late and after the Leppings Lane gates had been opened, far too many made their way to the central pen in the middle of the  terraced area. It was that that created the awful crush that killed so many members of the first cohort - the early arrivers.

It is true that there were very significant failings by the police and the emergency services that terrible day and with better planning they could have averted the disaster. The police were grossly negligent and later they were guilty of trying to cover up their mistakes. It is right and proper that they should take their fair share of the blame but let us not forget who did the pushing.

As I say, there were two groups of Liverpool fans that day. All the dead and injured belonged to the first cohort and they were totally innocent of any wrongdoing. Their families deserve all the compensation and sympathy they receive after twenty seven years of hurt. Their fight for justice has been remarkable but I still don't think that the full truth has emerged - just a convenient form of the truth. A truth in which all Liverpool fans are exonerated - not just those who were crushed to death but also those who pushed in at the back of the central terrace,  just to get a better view of the match.

There was plenty of room available in the pens to the left and right of the goal but still they kept pushing and it seems that the police and ground stewards were powerless to do anything about it.

26 April 2016


Human brains work in different ways. For instance, I have never been very good with numbers but I have always been good with words. I can never remember phone or PIN numbers but I know how to spell "liaison", "antidisestablishmentarianism" and "psychiatrist" without even a slight pause for thought.

My late mother often related the story that when I was three years old, I came downstairs one evening in my striped pyjamas and simply announced, "I want to know how to read mummy".  Instead of smacking my bottom and sending me back to bed, mum sat me on her knee with a children's book and taught me the rudiments of reading. And that was really the only lesson in reading that I ever had. Within a few days I was reading simple books on my own and only occasionally asking, "What does this word say?". It came so easily to me.

Consequently, it is probably little wonder that later on I  became an English teacher.

As an English teacher, I worked with thousands of children - helping them to advance their literacy skills and to find pleasure in words. Many of those children really struggled with the written word and sometimes my job seemed rather like stirring thick porridge. What had come so easily to me was like climbing Mount Everest to many of my pupils.
Nobody's prefect
Twenty years ago, I remember a child saying to me, "Sir, you talk like a book!" His classmates concurred. They suggested that if my spoken English was transcribed it would sound just like the written English they found in books. This was meant partly as a simple observation and partly as a compliment but it took me aback. I had never thought of myself that way and later I considered how my articulation might impact on others - both my pupils and the folk I met in everyday life. I guessed it might not always prove to be an endearing trait. Who wants to get pally with a human dictionary?

Meaning is what matters in writing but that meaning may be thwarted or hindered by faulty expression. The purpose of accuracy in spelling, punctuation and syntax is to facilitate communication. Correctness means that your reader doesn't have to work so hard. In my opinion, this has nothing to do with supercilious pedantry even though people who champion grammatical accuracy may often endure that sort of accusation. Perhaps a few of them deserve it as some lose sight of the fact that it is meaning that matters above all.

How many miles of red ink must I have left in children's exercise books and upon written assignments through the years? So many late nights and lost weekends. Enough red words and markings to encircle the globe. Every mark I ever made was intended to help them but occasionally some of these children mistakenly saw amendments to their work as personal sleights upon them. I have come across bloggers who react in the same way. Writing, intelligence and human worth are frequently entangled in people's minds though in my book it should never be that way. As I said at the beginning, human brains work in different ways.

Being a good writer certainly does not mean that you are a better human being. Even the most literate of us will make mistakes from time to time and besides the psychology of language acquisition is very complicated. The important thing is to strive for clarity and correctness whenever we write, knowing that this habit will greatly aid our readers. At least that's what I think. What about you?

25 April 2016


Who's that tapping on our French windows? Why, it's Billy the long tailed tit!

Throughout the past week this little bird has often  been at our dining room windows, briefly resting on the door handles or flying up and repeatedly attacking the glass like a miniature kamikaze pilot. Then he flies off to the hedge or feeding station but soon returns. Over and over.

Research has thrown up a few possible explanations but I am mostly drawn to the idea that Billy thinks he is attacking a potential rival in the mating game. Of course what he sees as a competitor is only his reflection.

Long-tailed tits are characterful little birds. In the last few years we have often seen them in our garden but this is the first time we have observed the window tapping phenomenon. You would think that Billy might injure himself but the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) website reassures us that he will come to no harm before he moves on to frantic nest building activity and, fingers crossed, parenthood.

24 April 2016


Does this happen to you? You encounter a complete stranger and before you know what's going on they have started to bare their souls - pouring out torrents of private information. The thing about these strangers is that they appear to be focused wholly on themselves. When the encounter ends you realise that they never sought any information about you and didn't appear to be interested either. It was all just "Me. Me. Me."

Yesterday, I had just one hour to spend in Barton upon Humber before travelling over The Humber Bridge ahead of Hull City's match with Leeds United. I pulled into the car park on the river's southern forehore and went to get my camera from the boot (American: trunk) intending to bag some pictures of a magnificent structure that was once the longest suspension bridge in the world.

And then the stranger spoke to me. Steve was sitting in an old but very shiny black Ford Fiesta and was forty five and a half years old. I know that because Steve told me. It was amongst many things Steve said in the next fifteen minutes. I learnt about his sister's death and her recent funeral, I learnt about Steve's own health issues. Steve even lifted his sweater to reveal the surgery scars on his lower belly.

Steve showed me his disabled parking badge and he told me the details of the Ministry of Transport test recently carried out on his beloved vehicle. I got the story of a difficult meeting at The Job Centre just after he had come out of hospital and of course I learnt about his favourite pizza toppings.

And all the time I was nodding, attempting to show polite interest as Steve rambled on. He learnt nothing about me. It was as if my own life was of such very tiny significance that there would be little  point in even asking. 

My precious hour at Barton was disappearing like sand in an egg timer. Steve paused to take a breath and I leapt in to say that I'd love to hear more of what he had to say but I needed to get my photos now. Steve seemed a little downcast but I shook his hand and wished him good luck and went on my way.

When I got back to the car, I noticed that Steve had accosted another innocent visitor to the car park and he was now engaging her in one sided conversation. Perhaps Steve waits there all day, ensnaring folk with his everyday tales. I got into my car without Steve even noticing and drove on to Barton town centre.

Later, as I drove over the bridge, I reflected on how very many times I have found myself listening and nodding to people like Steve. I seem to attract them like a magnet when very often I just want to switch to "repel".
Former police station front door
Barton's high street

22 April 2016


At the early evening birthday gathering, I looked around and realised that everybody there was old. The two young waitresses at the wine table were observing a gang of people who appeared to be but a few years away from becoming permanent residents in old folks' residential homes - "The Willows", "Shangri-La". "The Knacker's Yard".

Silver hair and silver-framed spectacles. Faces creases and etched. Mostly retired people with investments. Home owners in comfortable shoes and decent apparel. People who could remember the sixties and "Look and Learn" and "Spangles". And I was one of them.
Like most cities, the city of Sheffield is a place with extremes. There's poverty here and citizens who wonder where their next meal is coming from or how they will pay the electricity bill. In contrast, there are fabulously rich people who live in secluded mansions with swimming pools and send their kids to private schools. And then  there are the in-between people - like those at the birthday gathering. People who reside comfortably in the south western suburbs. People like me.

I have never much enjoyed parties or large social gatherings. I would rather talk with one or two people than a milling crowd. But sometimes you just have to do it when duty calls.  Frankly, it would have been nicer to be back on top of Pike Lowe, sitting alone on an old rock, admiring the view and the silence. However, I got through it. I didn't spill my complimentary glass of wine, my flyhole was zipped up and my shirt was tucked in. Shirley was not embarrassed.

I even managed some polite small talk. I wonder if  there are evening classes you can attend in order to improve your polite small talk. Sign me up for the beginners' class! By the way I think I left one fellow quite gobsmacked when I asked if he was Peter Thompson's son. Peter was a geography teacher when I got a job in a south Sheffield school in 1980.Apparently, he is now eighty seven and still going strong but I had never met his sixty something son before. Talk about spitting images!

There was no food at the soirée so heading back up Ecclesall Road we ordered a takeaway curry meal from "Pippali" and had a beer in "The Banner Cross" before picking up our order. And very nice it was too - chicken bhuna, vegetable rice, ghobi aloo and chapattis. No time for polite small talk when scoffing such a feast.

21 April 2016


Grouse shooters' cabin in Sugden Clough
On the day of the mountain hares, I was up in an area of moorland which was once used for training tank regiments. That was in World War II but even today evidence of those times remains. Somewhere there's even a rusty old tank still stuck in a bog but I didn't see it.

I made my way past the grouse shooters' cabin in Sugden Clough and then up to the summit of Pike Lowe. Its impressive cairn sits atop a Bronze Age burial site. By now, there were no paths - just open moorland with tussocky grasses, heather, rivulets and spongy  bogs. Fortunately I had brought a compass to guide me across the area as I sought to capture more squares for the geograph project.

At one point, my right leg sank into a hidden bowl of  peaty porridge - right up to the knee but bravely I struggled on, passing long broken walls that were probably targeted by passing tanks seventy years ago. I saw the remains an odd, fairly modern structure by Ewden Height and went over to investigate. Later I discovered it had once been a specially constructed target facility.
Remains of the tank target facility
On this walk I saw no other people but, in addition to the two mountain hares, I did see a lizard and several grouse. When disturbed, the cackling birds suddenly rise up out of the heather and give you quite a shock. Little do they know that their days are numbered before tweedy men with rifles blast them to smithereens before returning to the shooters' cabin for glasses of fine whisky and  boastful banter. "I say Archibald, how many did you bag today?"
Approaching the cairn on Pike Lowe
Pike Lowe cairn - the very top stone is mine
Evidence of former sheep farming
Sometimes featureless - the moors have a subtle beauty
End of the walk at Upper Midhope

20 April 2016


Why did she die? The night before had been chilly for April with snow flurries on the high moors. She snuggled down in the lee of a wall above Hordron Farm and died. Perhaps there was a complication with her pregnancy. Perhaps she just got old and it was her time to go.

That's not the way that I want to depart - curled up by an old stone wall in the middle of a cold night and on my own, never to see another dawn. Nearby two other sheep were watching me as I caught her image with my camera. I wonder if they felt anything at all about her passing.

Then yesterday as I rambled over the Midhope Moor to Pike Lowe, I had a joyous moment when I disturbed a mountain hare. It ran off through the rocks with the unmistakable whiteness of its underside showing. They are extremely rare in England but have been here for several millennia - much longer than the smaller brown hare which arrived during The Iron Age. This was the first time I had ever seen a wild mountain hare and I was thrilled.

Later, I descended the moors towards Gilroyd Lane and Midhope Reservoir. I passed several grouse butts. Then by the gate I saw my second mountain hare but she was stone dead. I guess she had been dead for three or four days because there were some flies around her and her innards seemed swollen. I turned her over looking for signs of a bullet hole. Perhaps she had been killed by a grouse shooter or gamekeeper but there were no signs of injury. I am guessing that she was hit by a passing vehicle on the adjacent country road. Either that or she was poisoned. The grouse shooting brigade don't like mountain hares or falcons or anything else that allegedly interferes with the doubtful pleasure of blasting small brown birds out of the sky.

The joy of the first sighting had given way to a feeling of sorrow and loss. We human beings are privileged to live on a planet that includes such varied and fascinating fauna. She may not have been a rhino or a tiger but the continued existence of mountain hares remains equally uncertain and challenging. If these beautiful creatures join the long list of the extinct then who is to blame?

Anyway, that's my nearby countryside. Not all evocative ruins and lunky holes and frolicking spring lambs and daffodils. Sometimes The Grim Reaper waves his scythe. Farewell Mrs Sheep and goodbye Ms Hare. I bet you both never imagined that you would make the blogosphere and live on just a little while longer. Rest in Peace.

18 April 2016


Sunday April 17th was a good day for a walk. I parked just south of "The Flouch Inn" and donned my boots ready for a ramble that would take me up onto the nearby moors. Mostly the sky was blue with sharp spring sunshine illuminating that wild countryside but half way through the walk, while I was mooching around the ruins of Hordron Farm with its magnificent Georgian sheepfold, a mass of grey cloud drifted eastwards threatening rain. Fortunately it didn't fall and I continued following The Little Don River in bright sunshine to an ancient crossing point through which countless gallons of recently fallen rainwater were surging. 

I decided not to cross.

During the walk I saw many lovely things. Lunky holes in stout stone walls. Evocative ruins. A baby rabbit sitting stock still in that wonderful old sheepfold, a sleeping newborn lamb that woke to find me towering over it like Gulliver, a peregrine falcon hanging in the breeze, northern lapwings scouring a sheep pasture and those brooding moors rolling like dark ocean waves towards The Derwent Valley.

What a joy to be out there, tramping the miles. And I would like to report to my concerned Queensland correspondents that  SuperPud's sore right hip held up well and didn't give me any extra gyp. Hopefully, I will be out again plodding tomorrow (Tuesday) as good walking weather is predicted once more.

By the way, a lunky hole is a colloquial term for a hole set in to a stone wall in sheep farming country. Its purpose is to allow controlled movement of sheep without having to use faraway gates.

"I want my mummy!"
"I want my mummy!"
Georgian sheepfold at Hordron Farm
Marker stone on Hordron Road
The Little Don River with a tumbledown sheepfold
A peewit or northern lapwing
A lunky hole with view to Swinden Lodge

17 April 2016


British toilet bowls have seats. When a woman visits the toilet to urinate, she needs the seat to be down. In contrast, men need the seat up. In toilets that are used by both sexes, men often need to lift the seat and women often need to put it down.

I have heard women cite failure to put the seat down as one of the most irritating failings of the male gender. For example, on Friday, when I was working at the Oxfam shop, I overheard one of the women workers suggesting that a note should be put up in the newly refurbished unisex toilet urging male volunteers to remember to put the seat down. She was being serious! I have heard identical sentiments being expressed on both TV and radio - sometimes jokingly but always with an underlying sense of mild outrage. Oh these awful men - how dare they leave the seat up!

I just don't get it. To begin with - what the hell does it matter? And secondly, why aren't we men complaining about women who leave the seat down? How thoughtless of them - we men need the seat up thank you very much! It works both ways and if a note does go up in the Oxfam toilet I may be tempted to put a second note alongside it - "Dear Lady Volunteers - Please remember to put the seat up after use. Thank you. Have a nice day!"

16 April 2016


In this rational world, we are  often fed the illusion that everything is explainable. Frequently, we are asked to give reasons for our thoughts and actions as if logic should underpin everything that we say or do. But in fact reason does not govern the entire panoply of life. Some things are driven purely by feeling and may in fact be illogical.

I am an atheist but in the end I have to admit that this standpoint is down to feeling. Even if I wanted to become a churchgoer or a born again Christian it would be impossible. Sure I could fake it but inside me my atheistic feelings would  still be strong, telling me that my sudden conversion was but a charade and that I was right all along - there is no God

Last night, down at our local pub, I watched my beloved Hull City beat Wolverhampton Wanderers with a free kick in injury time. I yelped with delight and raised my arms and for a moment the tap room went quiet. Perhaps, momentarily, they all thought that someone had been assaulted. But if either Sheffield Wednesday or Sheffield United had scored that last minute goal, half the pub would have been rocking with instant joy. Long ago I tried to support Sheffield's big  teams but the feeling was never there. When they scored there were never those moments of pure exhilaration that Hull City have given me through the years. It's down to feeling.

Happiness is the state that everyone seeks day by day and year by year. Happiness is much nicer than unhappiness or that limbo state where you feel nothing at all. But you cannot just switch happiness on. It comes and goes and though you might try to hang on to it when you have got it, happiness is as slippery as a fish. It is easy to lose for it is also the child of feeling.

In life you meet optimists and pessimists - the glass half full and the glass half empty people. But nobody chooses to be one or the other. We cannot help our dispositions or change them. As in love and hatred and preferences and allegiances, we are all the hostages of feeling. Even when nagging voices inside us or the persuasive efforts of friends or family try to turn us, it is feeling and not logic that drives so many strands of these lives we are living. And I apologise if you feel that I am stating the bleeding obvious...

14 April 2016


After a month's break for refitting, the Oxfam shop where I work every Wednesday is scheduled to reopen on Saturday so I was in the shop yesterday afternoon helping with the restocking. Before then I had a spare hour to saunter within the boundaries of nearby Bingham Park. Above you can see the embankment of daffodils near the park's Rustlings Road entrance. And here's a gang of backlit blooms:-
In the park there are a couple of millponds that hark back to past industry in the valley. Across one of these ponds I noticed a grey heron patiently seeking nourishment. These are the most widespread predatory birds in the British Isles and are generally very skittish, flying away the minute I get my camera out. But this one carried on with its hunt for unsuspecting pond creatures.
Same heron given the HDR treatment
Sitting on a rock in the middle of the babbling Porter Brook I spotted a lady duck doing what most ladies do - busily preening herself:-
On slopes to the north of the brook there are numerous vegetable gardens or allotments with ramshackle huts and other tumbledown constructions. I spotted this allotment tenant taking a cigarette break in the spring sunshine. Perhaps his name is Frank Lloyd Wright:-
By the little River Porter (Porter Brook) there's a very old mill complex. It is known as The Shepherd Wheel and it first started milling corn through water power in the sixteenth century when Sheffield was just a village and the south western suburbs were but farmers' fields, woods or rough moors. In the nineteenth century the mill's power was used in metal industry:-
And so back along the valley path where joggers, cyclists, pensioners with walking sticks and young mothers with pushchairs were travelling, enjoying the warm spring morning. Soon I was back at the park entrance before my afternoon shift at Oxfam:-

13 April 2016


"How may I live without my name? I have given you my 
soul; leave me my name!" - John Proctor in "The Crucible"

For years I have been fascinated by the names that people choose to give to their children. It is something I have blogged about before. As a schoolteacher over some thirty six years, I witnessed changing fashions in naming. Some of the new names seemed quite horrid to me, often drawn from the world of celebrity or television. I felt even more sorry for girls who had been saddled with names like  Kylie or Madonna than I felt for boys called Cary or Shane.

My beloved daughter's boyfriend's father is a vicar. He is one of the governors at our local primary school. Scanning through the names of pupils currently on roll, he discovered that there was not one biblical name. To me this was a rather shocking discovery. No James or Peter or Thomas or John or Simon or Benjamin or Jacob - not even a Goliath or a Judas! And amongst the girls no Mary or Rebecca or Sara or Ruth or Eve - not even a Jezabel or a Zipporah (wife of Moses).

Three young couples we know have recently become parents for the first time. The babies are all boys and they are called Charles, Evan and Jasper. All three names earned nods of approval from me. They are not silly, frivolous names but solid names to be borne proudly through life.
I think my own parents did fine calling their four sons Paul, Robin, Neil and Simon. We always liked our names and grew into them like favourite old jackets. And when Shirley and I picked names for our two children we wanted individuality without unusualness so we came up with Ian Philip and Frances Emily. Ian wears his name like an old jacket too but in the past Frances sometimes doubted our choice because it is frequently confused with the male version - Francis. Happily, she is much more comfortable with it now.

Spelling can be an issue with names. Lord knows why some parents insist on strange spellings. Take Matthew for example. To me it should always have a double "t" in the middle but these days a lot are registered with a single "t". Why? 

One name and its variants that used to really bug me in school classrooms was Keeley - or was it Keilly or Keally or Keelee or Keyleigh or Kayleigh or Kelly. Why the hell they couldn't just stick to one spelling of the awful name? I am sure that half the time it was to do with semi-literate parents turning up at the register office with only vague notions of how their new babies' names should be spelt. 

When choosing names, different parents seek different things. Some want solidity. Others want modernity while yet others want uniqueness. To me they should always pause for a while and remember that the helpless babies in their cots will grow up and travel through life and in 99.9% of cases the names they are allotted will remain with them through the years, becoming part of their identity and how other people view them.

12 April 2016


Trip Advisor have launched a new facility that allows travellers to create quick videos that showcase their travel photos. It's called "TripWow!". I played around with it, inserting some of my pictures from Huddersfield - taken last Saturday. It took me about ten minutes to put together. At times, the picture quality is somewhat flawed but the process was easy and fun. I guess it's a clever way of promoting the Trip Advisor cause. You need to click on the arrow in the middle and then click a second time to be taken to the video at the Trip Advisor website. Don't worry, the show only lasts a couple of minutes.

10 April 2016


Rooftop pub sign
Huddersfield is one of England's largest towns. It was the birthplace of rugby league and in the early nineteenth century a hotbed of industrial unrest. Here the so-called "Luddites" rose up against powerful millowners whose new technology in the woollen industry was putting men and women out of work, resigning them to destitution.

I was up there  yesterday for a football match - the Yorkshire derby match between Huddersfield Town and Hull City. Before the game, I had lunch in "Herbert's" bar  after a nice stroll around the town centre.

Huddersfield railway station is a magnificent mid-nineteenth century structure, built in a classical style. It looks out over the plain expanse of St George's Square where in 1999 a statue was unveiled of one of Yorkshire's most influential sons - Harold Wilson.

Born and educated in Huddersfield, Wilson was the leader of our Labour Party and prime minister in two spells - 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1976. He led our country through the most swinging period of the sixties and was a true moderniser. One of his greatest achievements was to launch The Open University that gave so many more people access to higher education. It is easy to be cynical about politics and politicians but looking back I would say that Harold Wilson was this country's greatest leader since World War II. It is fitting that he should have such a prominent statue in his home town.
Wilson supported Huddersfield Town F.C. and if he had been at The John Smith's Stadium yesterday he would have jumped out of his seat in the fortieth and ninetieth minutes when his team scored. Fortunately, two of our lads - Hernandez and Diomande - also managed to get the ball in the net and the game finished 2-2.

On the way home, I took Clint down the M1 motorway for the first time. He seemed to enjoy the experience for he purred like a tiger as I listened to the endless football chatter on Radio 5 Live. 
Hull City's manager Steve Bruce signing autographs before the match
The Gas Club on Gasworks Street
Sikh festival in a corner of St George's Square. Huddersfield has a significant
and vibrant Sikh population - a legacy of the textiles industry.

7 April 2016


Signpost to Mompesson's Well
William Mompesson (1639- 1709)
When I was tootling around Derbyshire the other day, I passed through the village of Eyam which is widely known as "The Plague Village".

Back in 1665/66 when bubonic plague was sweeping through Europe, a bundle of cloth was sent up to Eyam from London. It is believed that this cloth contained plague-bearing fleas. Soon several local people were infected and as death began to strike Eyam, the local vicar, William Mompesson, urged his fellow villagers to accept a self-imposed quarantine which they duly agreed.

Entering Eyam
At least that is how the story goes. The truth about what happened was probably somewhat different.

For fourteen months it is said that Eyam was cut off from the outside world, preventing further spread of the dreaded plague. During that time around 250 villagers died, leaving less than a hundred survivors. 

On the northern side of the village heading up to Eyam Edge there's a natural spring or "well" that had been an important source of water for as long as anyone could remember. It was to this place that outsiders brought precious supplies during the plague months. Coins for payment were left in stony hollows filled with vinegar. 
Mompesson's Well near Eyam
Years later this well was given the name "Mompesson's Well" in honour of the vicar. By the way, though his first wife died, Mompesson survived and towards the end of the century he became the vicar at Eakring parish church in Nottinghamshire - some thirty five miles away. By chance, I visited that church last year and was surprised to see William Mompesson's name on the list of past vicars. Until that moment I had not realised there was a connection between the two places.
Clint -  the new car near Mompesson's Well