Graves Memorial St David's Park

John Woodcock Graves and The Hobart Connection

The Cockermouth Poets

The New Bookshop, Main Street Cockermouth

My blogging style has become like that of the proverbial London bus. You wait for hours, days, weeks and then two come along together. Why is that? I have no answers as usual.

This is another looking back and ‘here and now’ post, this time about Dad’s anthology of the Cockermouth Poets, design and typesetting by Karen Sawrey. I don’t know if you remember if you have been reading this blog for a while but there were terrible floods back in November 2009., as now across Somerset, which hit the small market town of Cockermouth where Michael lives. I was reminded by seeing Prince Charles on the news that he too visited Cockermouth at that dreadful time.

The town of Cockermouth has a new flood risk management scheme in place which has been operational since 2013. This is a video of the new scheme from the perspective of David Duck at the Environment Agency. It has some interesting shots of the rivers Derwent and Cocker and a good description of the new scheme and you get to hear the distinctive tones of the Cumbrian accent and brings home how each situation is unique and needs a bespoke solution to its particular landscape.

Michael’s response when Cockermouth was getting back on its feet was to organize a poetry trail to brighten up the shop windows of Main Street which had been under so much water. 

The trail was a great success and many people asked if he could produce a book with the poems from the trail which he duly did with the help of Joan Petherington his co-editor and muggins here the typist and sub-sub-sub editor. The Guardian’s Northern correspondent Martin Wainright helped give the book some publicity and took it on holiday with him and wrote about it here, where it sat on a sandy beach many miles from home. The book has been reprinted now, the first run sold out and has done very well indeed for a poetry anthology, raising funds for the charities, Mountain Rescue and Save the Children.  Edit: Michael says to date they have raised £1500!

The Poets in Sydney by Celia of FigjamandlimeCordial

The Poets in Sydney courtesy of Celia @ FigjamandlimeCordial

The Cockermouth Poets visit Faaborg, Denmark, courtesy of Misky @ The Chalk Hills Journals

The Cockermouth Poets visit Faaborg, Denmark, courtesy of Misky @ The Chalk Hills Journals

Copies went to Sydney and to East Sussex and thence to Denmark and I was sent these sweet photos by Celia and Misky respectively which pleased the mighty editorix greatly.  

Michael however (never satisfied) hankered longingly after a photo of the book in Hobart, Tasmania.  Why?  Because one of the most famous poems in the book “D’ye Ken John Peel’ was written by one John Woodcock Graves,  who emigrated there and made a new life for himself as a sheep farmer. “It would be so nice” he said, with a far-off look in his eyes, ” if the book were there one day…”

And now we jump forward to the present day and across the world to a park in Hobart where we find Fran! 

Photo by Fran at Serendipity Farm, Tasmania

Photo by Fran at Serendipity Farm, Tasmania

There is a monument in St David’s Park to John Woodcock Graves and when I read that the glorious Fran of Serendipity Farm  had been to Hobart with her daughters and was planning a return journey in 2014,  I emailed her cheekily and asked her if she would maybe take the book to the park and take its photo at the monument. Fran embraced the project with her usual amazing enthusiasm and has sent me masses of photos. I wish I could have perched at the other end of the monument and basked in that hot Tassie sunshine for an hour!

This is my favourite of Fran's photos taken by her daughter Madeline

This is my favourite of Fran’s photos taken by her daughter Madeline

 I am going to surprise Michael with these photos later today.  

The Cockermouth Poets on John Graves Monument in St David's Park, Hobart

And a close up!

Thank you so much Fran and thank you Celia and Misky for playing ‘Pose the book’ ! You are all stars and treasures  and deeply kind people.

D’ye ken John Peel

D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so grey,

D’ye ken John Peel at the break of day,

D’ye ken John Peel when he’s far away,

With his hounds and his horn in the morning.

For the sound of his horn brought me from my bed

And the cry of his hounds which he oft times led,

Peel’s ‘view hullo’ would awaken the dead

Or the fox from his lair in the morning.

Yes I ken John Peel and Ruby too

Ranter and Ringwood and Bellman and True,

From a find to a check, from a check to a view

From a view to a death in the morning

Then here’s to John Peel with my heart and soul

Let’s drink to his health, let’s finish the bowl,

We’ll follow John Peel through fair and through foul

If we want a good hunt in the morning….

John Woodcock Graves (1795-1886)

I do not support hunting, but I am very fond of this song as Michael would sing it to us as small children along with ‘Molly Malone’ and ‘I went to the Animal Fair’ as part of a going to sleep settling down the children ritual. I can hear his deep almost mournful voice softly singing away in the dark as we snuggled down under the covers right now as I write. I have a feeling we all joined in with Peel’s ‘View halloo’ which was the dramatic climax of the song.

Funny the things you remember as you write a blog post. Here is a lovely recording of it being sung by Peter Dawson, not as good as Michael’s of course!

Did your parents sing to you when you were little and do you sing to your children and grandchildren if you have them? 

Joanna  – February 2014.

For the curious ….

John Peel the Huntsman celebrated in the song was a real person who was buried in Caldbeck, Cumbria:-

25 thoughts on “John Woodcock Graves and The Hobart Connection

  1. narf77

    SO glad you liked the photos. I was worried they wouldn’t be good enough :) A very interesting eventuality that came from a great idea to rally the troops in the face of adversity, a wonderfully British thing to do and one that we antipodeans have taken on as our mantra and spread the British love around even to today :). As you so rightly say, every situation where a body of water feels the need to invade higher ground needs a customised solution. We have a similar problem here in Launceston where 3 rivers all converge into one body of water (The Tamar River) that used to flood alarmingly and occasionally in a very damaging way until they instituted flood levies around the city. Glad I could be of help spreading the love and what excellent blogging company I am in! I feel like a nobody on a red carpet with the stars! :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      It’s a bit of a leap from my usual sort of blog post but I have had a very happy time writing it and enormous pleasure from seeing your photos and hope that Dad will be just as delighted as I am ! love, Joanna xx

  2. ardysez

    You took me to places I would have never thought about with this one. Sadly, no singing in our family, except I sang ‘Hush little baby, don’t say a word..’ to our daughter when she was a baby.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks for reading it Ardys, I suspect many people will say ‘wot no bread?’ and disappear hastily :) I can imagine you singing somehow :) Both my parents sang to us, my mother sang in Danish or Swedish, traditional songs similar to Hush Little Baby like Sor du Lille Vide Ung (which translates as sleep little pussy willow bud). My father’s choices were more traditional English folk type songs.

  3. heidiannie

    What a treat this post has been!
    I hope your father is happy to see the direction his book has taken- and to know the good it has done for those charitable institutions!
    I have and do sing to children/grandchildren at bed time- their favorites being “johnny I hardly knew ye” and ” I gave my love a cherry” and ” All through the night”.
    Thanks for this, Jo- two posts of cheer!

    1. Joanna Post author

      MIchael is always delighted when the book gets a bit more publicity and goes travelling. It is quite unusual for poetry books to sell that well, but I think people visiting the Lake District and stopping in the bookshops for postcards and mementos are at least in part responsible for the good sales. There is a very fine cafe in the New Bookshop in Cockermouth, I have spent many a happy hour in there :) Is ‘I gave my love a cherry’ a variation on “I will give my love an apple’ or do you think they are different songs? I might go and have a look up and see what I can find. ‘I will give my love an apple’ is one of my favourite songs. I wish I could hear you singing xx

      1. heidiannie

        It is an American version of the song. I once saw a video of Benjamin Luxon and Bill Crofut singing the two songs back to back- I loved them both. My singing voice is good for little boys and lullabies- and sometimes a quick song of worship- not something worth sharing on the internet, I promise you. LOL! But my youngest son could not go to sleep for years without my singing to him. When he turned 8 I made him a cassette of my night time songs and he would listen to it after I had sung him just a few- otherwise bedtime rituals were lasting 45 minutes+ !

        1. Joanna Post author

          I will try and look them all up one day soon. I like the counter tenor Andreas Scholl version. I always pretend I can sing like him.(hehe) I felt very cheered up singing the songs I had sung to me as a child yesterday. I think that is lovely that you did that for your son, practical and loving at the same time :)

  4. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Joanna I loved this post and I think your dad will be tickled pink seeing where the book has got to, (and I couldn’t think of better bloggers to help you with it.)

    1. Joanna Post author

      I am glad you enjoyed it – I was telling Dad about the South Cumberland Islands this morning, which I discovered yesterday, there’s a Cockermouth Island, a Keswick Island, it made us smile :)

  5. Ann

    Lovely post – I always like hearing about your Dad and Cumbria. What a great idea to have a poetry trail.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks for reading Ann! The trail had a variety of poetry, with the theme of water, long dead poets, contemporary poets, school children, there was something for everyone. It was really a great success :)

  6. hotlyspiced

    I hope you do get to Tasmania one day in the height of the summer and that you have the book with you. How good of you to organise the photo! I love the poetry xx

    1. Joanna Post author

      As I haven’t been so much as across the Channel for a good few years I think my chances of getting to Tasmania are slim but one can always be hopeful! Would love to visit you all :)

  7. Misky

    It’s so lovely to see this book travel the world. As for singing, no, my parents never sang to us. I do read to my grandchildren in a very animated way. I think words should come alive in the reader’s voice so that children can dive in and play with them as if they’re friends.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Now I want to hear everyone’s voices telling stories and singing songs. I love the blog conversations but they are so very silent, maybe I should get that video upgrade thing and be brave, or maybe not…. I like the rhyme of alive and dive ;) xx

  8. Elaine

    As someone who has a copy of this book it is lovely to see it taken far and wide. Your words around songs brought back memories of my mother singing ‘Golden Slumbers’ to me at bed time and I then sang the same song to Sarah and Brittany. I hope they continue the tradition when (and if) they have children.

    1. Joanna Post author

      You might have to sing it to me next time we meet :) I am getting greedy for people’s voices all of a sudden, reading these comments today.

    1. Joanna Post author

      I think the blogoverse is a mystery to Michael but that is OK isn’t it? The things we do to please eh? ;)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Greetings from Waterworld! Any dry sunny spot would do at the moment for us, cool, hot, we would take it – more rain forecast this week – thanks for popping by !

  9. Sue Allan

    Wonderful blog and fab photos! Michael emailed me a link to it, as I helped with the text of the John Peel song (he’s family: my great-great-great-great-great uncle apparently!) and I’ve written at length about the song as part of my PhD on Cumbrian folk songs. Michael’s anthology is brilliant – like everything he else he touches (I’m a devoted fan!) and it’s so good to see the book on its travels, and especially to see it by the monument to John Woodcock Graves (we always put the Woodcock in his name here in Cumbria …).

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thank you Sue, how kind of you to read it and I love getting comments so you have made me very happy ! I have probably got the text of the song wrong at the bottom of the post haven’t I? Michael just emailed me about the gay/grey thing, I didn’t go back to the anthology when I added it here. I will check and amend it. And I have changed where I have put John Graves in the text to his full name. Quite right! Is your PhD online somewhere or in part? I would love to see it one day :) All best wishes, Joanna

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