How Hall. Poetry and Memories. A Passion for Ennerdale by Tom Rawling Find!
Today is National Poetry Day and we had an event at Cockermouth Library this morning, with Michael Baron talking about the Ennerdale Poet, Tom Rowling.
Michael has edited, and also written the preface to, How Hall, which has just been published by Lamplugh and District Historical Society.
The book is a collection of most of Tom Rowling's poems along with some of his memories of life in Ennerdale - and what a treat this book is. A real gem in every sense of the word, and it encapsulates what the Reading Detectives project is about so perfectly.
Michael had mentioned Tom Rawling to me earlier this year, and I am ashamed to say that I had not heard of him. Until this morning's event I was also completely unaware of how wonderful his work is - as indeed are many other people, both within Cumbria and further afield. Michael first heard Tom's poetry about 12 years ago and has been actively promoting it ever since.
So who was Tom Rawling?
Tom Rawling was born in 1916. The How Hall of the book's title was where his grandmother farmed in the Ennerdale valley, and Tom and his parents lived there until they later got a house of their own at Ennerdale Bridge.
Tom always spent weekends and school holidays at How Hall, which had been farmed by generations of Rawling ancestors, with legal records showing that a yeoman called William Rawling had farmed How Hall as far back as 1607.
Tom's father did not follow in his ancestors' footsteps, becoming instead the head teacher at the village school, which Tom later attended. The father-son relationship, and indeed family life generally was quite difficult, as Tom's father had been badly affected by his First World War service.
From the village school, Tom then went to Whitehaven Grammar School followed by University College London, where he read history.
Tom was a soldier in the Second World War, after which he too became a teacher, working for 30 years with children with special needs, until his retirement in 1976.
When he retired Tom started attending poetry workshops at the Old Fire Station Arts Centre in Oxford, which were run by Anne Stevenson, the acclaimed poet.
Tom went on to have three collections of verse published, before he died in 1996. He never returned to live in Cumbria, but visited often to see family, and also to fish the waters of his native county - fishing being one of his great lifelong passions.
His poetry shows that, despite being an "ex-pat" Cumbrian, he never left the county in either his head or his heart. In so many ways his Cumbrian memories, his sense of place and his sense of his ancestry is his poetry....along with the farming and the fishing that was so obviously in his blood!
This can be seen in his poem "Ancestors":
Memorial and more;
There's inheritance in trods,
In dry-stone walls,
In the slow shaping of a quick hedge.
and also in the poem "How Hall":
Enough to hear
The names of the fells -
Herdus, Pillar and Red Pike;
Fields and flowers -
Broad Close, Wham and Fittimer,
Gowan, ling and cotton-grass;
Farms and their poeple -
How Hall, Hollins, and Howside,
Birkett, Rawling, Williamson;
Enough to know
I belonged to the place.
Stylistically, Tom's work has had comparisons drawn with the poetry of Ted Hughes (with whom he later became friends). It is not a twee, sentimental, or romantic type of poetry, and it comes across as very "honest".
As Anne Stevenson says in her introduction to How Hall:
"He wrote poems to tell the truth and in them rehearsed the daily rituals of life and death common to all farming communities".
He used to worry that his poems would not survive his death, and it is so very sad that his work never fully had the recogniton it deserved. For example when a collection of the new Lake poets was produced Tom Rawling was not included.
I was so taken with Michael's readings and also the recording of Tom Rawling reading some of his poems that I just had to buy the book and I rushed straight home to read it.
Apart from poems about fishing and his experiences in the army, I found poems about nature and wildlife, about aspects of Cumbrian life ranging from sheep shearing to Rum Butter - and Mary will be delighted to know that there is also a poem called: "Eskdale Dry-Stone Wall". There is even a poem about a privy!
After a first reading, my personal favourites are: "I can't put it all on a picture postcard"; "Sloe Gin"; "The old showfield"; "How Hall" and "Ancestors", but I suspect that this list will be added to with each re-read, for this is very much a collection to be treasured and read time and again.
We are very lucky that people like Michael Baron and the members of Lamplugh and District Heritage Society are keeping Tom Rawling's poems alive as well as bringing them to new audiences.
8 October 2009 from Helen
- On Lindale Hill
- Grange-over-Sands: The Story of a Gentle Township
- The Silent Traveller: A Chinese Artist in Lakeland
- Red Ike
- Cumbrian Privies
- Ethel Fisher's West Cumbrian Dialect titles
- The Embalmer's Book of Recipes by Ann Lingard
- Nella Last's Peace
- Riding the Stang by Dawn Robertson
- Life on the Fell - a pictorial chronicle of a Lakeland community
- About Scout Scar
- William Wilberforce - A Summer Diary 1779
- Beatrix Potter - the unknown years
- Smoke over Shap by Margaret Potter
- Songs of a Cragsman by George Basterfield
- The Grasmere Dialect Plays
- The Grizedale Experience: Sculpture, Art & Theatre in a Lakeland Forest
- An Atlas of The English Lakes
- How Hall. Poetry and Memories. A Passion for Ennerdale by Tom Rawling
- Stumpy, Hero of the Lakes
- The High Places by A. Harry Griffin
- The Highest House in Wathendale
- Kendal by Roger Bingham
- Secrets and Legends of Old Westmorland
- Reminiscences of Wordsworth Among the Peasantry of Westmorland by Canon Hardwicke Drummond Rawnsley
- Little Gods by Jacob Polley
- A Lakeland Summer
- Hunter of Harter Fell by Joseph E Chipperfield
- And Nobody Woke Up Dead
- An accessible paradise
- The Fleming Family novels and Graham Sutton
- Excursion to Loweswater. A Lakeland Visit 1865
- Writing on the Wall
- Beyond Scafell by Alan Robinson
- Rogue Herries by Hugh Walpole
- Kendal In The Nineteenth Century by A Wainwright
- In There Somewhere
- The Bondwomen by W G Collingwood
- "Ah'd Gaa Back Tomorra!"
- A Cumbrian Copper by Ray Huddart
- The Arsenic Labyrinth by Martin Edwards
- Old Will Stories by Dudley Hoys
- The Shield Ring by Rosemary Sutcliff
- T'Bacca Queen by Theodora Wilson Wilson
- Furness and the Industrial Revolution
- The Shadow of Black Combe
- The Painted Letters of Percy Kelly
- Ivver Sen
- Lakeland in the 1830s
- Wasdale Climbing Book By Michael Cocker
- Riding High by Barbara Sneyd
- Deborah in Langdale
- Early Recollections of Grange
- Hazard's Way by Roger Hubank
- Yan, Tan, Tethera
- Talk of the Town
- Capturing the Mountains
- Hope On, Hope Ever
- Mildred Edwards: Our City Our People 1889 - 1978 Memories
- Lakeland Limericks
- Surrounding loveliness
- Haweswater by Sarah Hall
- Coast to Coast by Jan Minshull
- Sunshine To The Sunless
- Geese, cattle wallopers and secret Irish paths
- Anarchists, Angels and wet Bank Holiday Mondays
- A more unconventional kind of find...?
- Skiddaw Summit by Kathleen Jones
- Thorstein of the Mere: A Saga of the Northmen in Lakeland
- Wednesday Early Closing
- Smoke Across The Fell
- The Sand Pilot of Morecambe Bay
- The Chronicles of Boggerthwaite
- Carrock Fell
- Feet in the Clouds
- Hercules and the Farmer's Wife
- Shepherd's Warning
- The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices
- I've been so busy reading I haven't had time to blog!
- Reading Detectives film
- Thank you!
- Coffee and books at the Bluebell Bookshop
- Mary learns to blog!
- Lucky 13!
- Grange over Sands get reading
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