WORD SHARING!

WORD SHARING!

12.6.11

A TOAST TO THOMAS SPENCE!



IT'S THE BIRTHDAY OF NEWCASTLE RADICAL THOMAS SPENCE (1750-1814) ON TUESDAY JUNE 21ST.
SPARE A THOUGHT FOR HIM IN HIS HONOUR, VISIT THE NEWLY INSTALLED PLAQUE IN BROAD GARTH, QUAYSIDE, NEWCASTLE AND READ SOME OF HIS UNIQUE WRITINGS.

'In 1793 Spence was imprisoned three times. Then in May 1794 he was one of twelve London radicals arrested. Charged with 'treasonable practices', he lingered in Newgate for several months without trial. So alarmed were the respectable members of the Newcastle Lit and Phil that they sent a statement to the Annual Register and the Gentleman's Magazine disclaiming any connection with the original Philosophical Society, where Spence had given his notorious lecture, and stated as their fundamental rule 'that Religion, British Politics, and all Politics of the Day, shall be deemed prohibited Subjects of Discussion.'




















THE HIVE OF LIBERTY

THE LIFE & WORK OF THOMAS SPENCE (1750-1814)

Edited by Keith Armstrong, with an introduction by Professor Joan Beal and a new essay by Professor Malcolm Chase

Published with the support of Awards For All and the Lipman-Miliband Trust

Soon after Spence moved to London, Thomas Bewick’s brother John wrote home that Spence was ‘as full of his Coally Tyne Poetry as ever’.

This reprint is a celebration of that noted pioneer of people’s rights, pampleteer and poet Thomas Spence, born on Newcastle’s Quayside in turbulent times.
Spence served in his father’s netmaking trade from the age of ten but went on later to be a teacher at Haydon Bridge Free Grammar School and at St. Ann’s Church in Byker under the City Corporation. In 1775, he read his famous lecture on the right to property in land to the Newcastle Philosophical Society, who voted his expulsion at their next meeting. He claimed to have invented the phrase ‘The Rights of Man’ and chalked it in the caves at Marsden Rocks in South Shields in honour of the working-class hero ‘Blaster Jack’ who lived there.
Spence even came to blows with famed Tyneside wood-engraver Thomas Bewick (to whom a memorial has been recently established on the streets of Newcastle) over a political issue, and was thrashed with cudgels for his trouble.
From 1792, having moved to London, he took part in radical agitations, particularly against the war with France. He was arrested several times for selling his own and other seditious books and was imprisoned for six months without trial in 1794, and sentenced to three years for his Restorer of Society to its Natural State in 1801. Whilst politicians such as Edmund Burke saw the mass of people as the ‘Swinish Multitude’, Spence saw creative potential in everybody and broadcast his ideas in the periodical Pigs’ Meat.
He had a stall in London’s Chancery Lane, where he sold books and saloup, and later set up a small shop called The Hive of Liberty in Holborn.
He died in poverty ‘leaving nothing to his friends but an injunction to promote his Plan and the remembrance of his inflexible integrity’.

The Thomas Spence Trust has successfully campaigned for a commemorative plaque on the Quayside in Newcastle. It was unveiled on 21st June 2010, Spence's 260th birthday, with a number of talks, displays and events coinciding with it.

Newcastle City Council has endorsed the Trust and Commissions North allocated £1000 as a seeding grant.

PRICE £5

ISBN 1 871536 16 2


ORDERS (ADD £2 POSTAGE PER COPY) TO: THE THOMAS SPENCE TRUST,
93 WOODBURN SQUARE, WHITLEY LODGE, WHITLEY BAY, TYNE & WEAR NE26 3JD, ENGLAND. TEL 0191 2529531.

a huge congrat

to the brilliant keith!

jkb

GATHERING NUTS: AN ESSAY BY THOMAS SPENCE

In order to show how far we are cut off from the rights of nature, and reduced to a more contemptible state than the brutes, I will relate an affair I had with a forester in a wood near Hexham alone by myself a gathering of nuts, the forester popped through the bushes upon me, and asking what I did there, I answered gathering nuts: gathering nuts! said he, and dare you say so? Yes, said I, why not? would you question a monkey, or a squirrel, about such a business? And am I to be treated as inferior to one of those creatures? Or have I a less right? But who are you, continued I, that thus take upon you to interrupt me? I'll let you know that, said he when I lay you fast for trespassing here. Indeed! answered I. But how can I trespass here where no man ever planted or cultivated, for these nuts are the spontaneous gifts of nature ordained alike for the sustenance of man and beast that choose to gather them, and therefore they are common. I tell you, said he, this wood is no common. It belongs to the Duke of Portland. Oh: My service to the Duke of Portland, said I, nature knows no more of him than of me. Therefore, as in nature's storehouse the rule is, "First come, first served," so the Duke of Portland must look sharp if he wants any nuts. But in the name of seriousness, continued I, must not one's privileges be very great in a country where we dare not pluck a hazel nut? Is this an Englishman's birthright? Is it for this we are called upon to serve in the militia, to defend this wood, and this country against the enemy?

What must I say to the French, if they come? If they jeeringly ask me what I am fighting for? Must I tell them for my country? For my dear country in which I dare not pluck a nut? Would not they laugh at me? Yes. And you do think I would bear it? No: certainly I would not. I would throw down my musket saying let such as the Duke of Portland, who claim the country, fight for it, for I am but a stranger and sojourner, and have neither part nor lot amongst them.

This reasoning had such an effect on the forester that he told me to gather as many nuts as I pleased.





FOLK SONG FOR THOMAS SPENCE

(1750-1814)


Down by the old Quayside,
I heard a young man cry,
among the nets and ships he made his way.
As the keelboats buzzed along,
he sang a seagull’s song;
he cried out for the Rights of you and me.

Oh lads, that man was Thomas Spence,
he gave up all his life
just to be free.
Up and down the cobbled Side,
struggling on through the Broad Chare,
he shouted out his wares
for you and me.

Oh lads, you should have seen him gan,
he was a man the likes you rarely see.
With a pamphlet in his hand,
and a poem at his command,
he haunts the Quayside still
and his words sing.

His folks they both were Scots,
sold socks and fishing nets,
through the Fog on the Tyne they plied their trade.
In this theatre of life,
the crying and the strife,
they tried to be decent and be strong.

Oh lads, that man was Thomas Spence,
he gave up all his life
just to be free.
Up and down the cobbled Side,
struggling on through the Broad Chare,
he shouted out his wares
for you and me.

Oh lads, you should have seen him gan,
he was a man the likes you rarely see.
With a pamphlet in his hand,
and a poem at his command,
he haunts the Quayside still
and his words sing.


KEITH ARMSTRONG



(from the music-theatre piece ‘Pig’s Meat’ written for Bruvvers Theatre Company)

9.6.11

back in amsterdam


4.6.11

FOOTBALL POETRY











PIGGYBACK

My father took me piggyback
to the people's game.
I felt the surge of the Gallowgate end
beneath me
like the sea roaring
off Tynemouth.
I sensed the solidarity
of those football-mad days
and my little heart
swelled with a Magpie pride.
Black and white love
came to me early,
inherited down life's straining seasons.
The throbbing crowd
lifted me
over tough shoulders,
the passion
surging with me
to the front
where I could share
the yearning dreams
for just a little glory.
Those terraces lit up,
made the blue star glow.
We young and thirsty Geordies
learnt quickly
to get drunk
on the back
of flowing football.





I REMEMBER IVOR ALLCHURCH

Golden Boy,
I remember you
made me queue
with all the other Geordie lads
in one straight line
down the car park
for your autograph.
Patiently,
one by one,
you signed for us.
A Swansea son,
footballing gentleman,
all those years ago,
you impressed me
with your calm consideration:
a measured passer
of dignity
through generations.




*Ivor Allchurch (1929 -1997) played for Newcastle United 143 times between 1958 and 1962 and scored 46 goals.




'DAZZLER'

(in honour of Robert "Bobby" Carmichael Mitchell, 19/7/1924-8/4/1993)

Mine Host
of the twinkling left foot,
wing-raiding Scot,
this Border Reiver
was a man of magic,
made full backs disappear.
"Dazzler" we called him,
he tied the ball to his toes,
took it for a walk.
Wor Bobby bobbing along,
criss crossing
patterns
through flat defences.
His waving hair
streaked
under the waves
of "Popular Side" crowds:
classic moments
flickering on film,
roars on a soundtrack,
Cup goals laid
on a plate.




LEN IN BLACK AND WHITE

(in memory of Len White, 23/3/1930-17/6/1994)

Len White
was a hammer.
He rammed in goals
like rivets into a ship.
Len in black and white,
belter of a heavy ball,
whacker of leather bullets
with crafty head and clever feet.
Me and my old schoolmate Peter
saw you lash the Wolves,
sending a screamer
through the posts
to ignite Gallowgate
and set the Magpies chanting.
Uncapped hat-trick scorer,
153 goals merchant,
you deserve
a statue
of your own,
dedicated
to the Skellow lad
who became a Geordie
and will always be.






SUN OVER ST. JAMES' PARK

Sun sets on Empire,
a football sinking in the sky.
Dreams are gone,
the kicks we had.
I see their ghosts in The Strawberry night:
Len White and George Eastham,
Gordon Hughes and Liam Tuohy,
Alf McMichael, Jimmy Scoular.
Roaring Boys of one hue or another:
Alan Suddick and Jim Smith,
John McGrath and Dick Keith,
Dave Hilley and Andy Penman.
Stalwart lads from an industrial past,
hold on to those memories.
Golden Balls of light
shine on the surface of The Tyne,
ripple in the mind.
Great times were had
and peanuts tanner a bag.
Swaying lads on the Popular Side,
Oxo down our throats.
Chuck us a cup,
we're thirsty.

KEITH ARMSTRONG

These poems were published in the Newcastle United fanzine 'True Faith' as part of my poet-in-residence stint with the magazine

1.6.11

back to marsden


the jingling geordie

My photo
whitley bay, tyne and wear, United Kingdom
poet and raconteur