cover size 210 x 148 mm (A5)

Editorial					Rick Gwilt 
For Whom Do You Write?      			Bob Cooney 
The Day of the Rat     			Jimmy McGovern 
He Never Complained   			Ralph Peacock 
Two Poems by    				Mary Casey
Running Early     				Mick Doyle
Before the Rape         			Arthur Adlen 
Children's Corner: Would it Matter?   		Winifred Froom 
The Tunnel Miners' Deaths    			Tom Durkin 
They Educate          				Pete Relph 
Those Were The Days         			Bill Eburn 
Sunday Times Photograph          		Ouaine Bain 
Pete's Misery        				Dave Barnes 
A Debt					Sue Shrapnel 
You will not simplify me when I'm dead    		Paul E. Piggott 
A Pair of Kings               			Ralph Peacock 
Chewing Point (Four letter words)    		Bill Eburn 
Poem to a Poster of Karl Marx			Phil Boyd 
Gay News              				Celia Roberts 
Sticky Food and Starchy Grub       		Mike Rowe 
Division   					Frances Moore 
Epitaph  					John Breheny 
Chile and the Scots     			Tommy Walker 
Dog Days   				Joy Matthews 
Inheritance   				Bill Eburn 
Hello, Are you working? A Review        		Rick Gwilt 
"Selling Yourself"       			Terence Monaghan 
"Creeping Paralysis" 				Dickie Beavis 
Today and Yesterday       			Henry Ashby 
Rising Tide      				Bill Eburn
A Tribute to Jack Frost       			Jack Frost 


"Any damn fool can get complicated. It takes genius to attain simplicity." This is in fact Pete Seeger paying tribute to Woody Guthrie, but at times I almost wish we could adopt it as a motto for VOICES.

There is a healthy working-class tradition of calling a spade a spade. The middle-class tradition might be more inclined to say:

"a sturdy, long, flat-ended rod,
with which he broke the unturned sod"

The latter is doubtless more "poetic". Does that make it better poetry ? Or does its pretentiousness make it ten times worse ? The answer will clearly depend on the reader's class standpoint and sensibility as much as his or her literary taste.

Economic distinctions between working-class and middle-class have indeed become blurred and are rightly under debate, but it would surely be wrong to expect a simple reflection of this at the level of culture. Even if the working-class is the dominant force in a process of political change, it must consciously reassert its own culture if this is to survive. Otherwise we run the risk that Lenin towards the end of his life became increasingly aware of:

"If the conquering nation is more cultured than the vanquished nation, the former imposes its culture on the latter; but if the opposite is the case, the vanquished nation imposes its culture on the conquerors."

As I have indicated, this view is very much a personal one. Not everyone will necessarily agree, the aims of Unity of Arts being pretty general. Some people may suspect a sort of inverted snobbery, while others will no doubt be genuinely concerned at the danger of throwing out the cultural baby with the middle-class bathwater. But there are a number of practical implications in this argument for those of us involved, in one way or another, with VOICES.

In selecting material, are we simply looking for "good writing" or for contributions to working-class culture? When so much of our poetry is like fancy wrapping paper with little inside it, are we even sure what we mean by "good writing"? What price do we put on technical expertise in the hands of people with nothing much to say?

In selling VOICES, are we aiming at patrons of arts centres or working-class readers? If it is the latter, then what are we setting up as models: pieces of "high culture" which invite either derision or sheer wonder? Or pieces that will make people say, "I've often thought that myself !" or "It's a bit like what happened to me !" When readers start saying, "Hey, I could write something like that !", my reaction is, "Great, why don't you ?" I got a 'phone call from a VOICES subscriber in Wigan. "I was amazed," he said, "to see that story from Liverpool, 'I Fought Norman Snow', because, you see, I did." Now I'm hoping we're going to get a sequel.

Recent events, such as the Ben Ainley Memorial Evening in Manchester, the Strong Words launching in Newcastle, and the "Pictures and Pints" exhibition in Glasgow, have undoubtedly chalked up successes for working-class culture, even if they have not always received due credit. For example, the Morning Star's report of the Ben Ainley Evening referred only to a tribute from Frank Allaun MP, who was not even at the meeting. In fact, the event consisted, not of speeches of tribute, but of readings from Ben's memoirs and from VOICES. If this had been mentioned, it would have turned the statement that "Ben's influence will live on long after his death" from a cliche into a concrete reality. A short letter pointing this out was not considered worthy of publication. Old habits die hard, I suppose And yet there was a time when poetry was common in the workers' newspapers.

Outside the Communist Party, other sections of the labour movement have, on the whole, been slow to take an interest, but there are encouraging signs. For example, an informal meeting with members of the Manchester District Committee of the AUEW a few months ago led to Ernie Howell taking on responsibility for VOICES there. Ernie has already built up a guaranteed order of 25, which shows what can be done.

We would welcome more stories, poems, illustrations, photographs. Writers should send copies of their work, not originals, as it takes some time for material to find its way around the editorial collective. All material sent with s.a.e. will find its way back eventually though. Everyone listed under Editorial Board has taken part in producing this VOICES, although for practical reasons not all the material has been seen by all the members. This editorial has been written in the belief that our selection policy should be a matter for open debate, and we hope our readers will write in with their opinions.

Rick Gwilt


Tell Me Mr Poet
For WHOM do you write? For me?
If you'd write for me, I have something to ask of you
You see I am a worker, I do not move in poets' circles
Maybe I should - maybe I will - one day
But it is not easy
You see I am a worker - I am not dull
My perceptions are quick
They HAVE to be - or soon I'd be redundant
But I work Hard - I come home tired
And could sleep
But that would not be life
And oh how I want to live
To be a cultured man . you can help me Mr Poet - if you will
Lenin said: "Shall we make fine cakes for the few
while the masses still lack bread?"
I am hungry for the bread of culture
You can help me . if you will
Give me your message
Don't wrap it up in something miscalled "Style"
All tangles - knots and snarls
I try to undo the knots
And only hurt my fingers . and give up in despair
wondering if there is a content - or if you're selling
me some trick-parcel
Help me Mr Poet
Have your style
There's beauty in style - sometimes
Beauty to draw me on
And lead me to the truths that poets tell
Have your style - but let it be a BRIDGE -and not a barrier 'twixt you and I
Do you want to be immortal, Mr Poet?
You CAN be immortal - I will tell you how -Write for me
For I - and millions like me -are building a new world
All that we are will go into that world
And you will be part of me
THERE is your way to immortality
Mr Poet

Bob Cooney


a 12-year-old remembers

I remember the day we found the rat in Billy Carey's lobby. The rat was grey and wet and it was moving its feet a lot and scratching the floor but it wasn't getting very far. Black stuff was coming out of its nose.

Jimmy Murphy went to Grammar School so we sent to his house for a ruler to measure the rat. It was six inches long, but its tail measured seven inches, and Jack O'Reilly said that if it had been another five inches, it would have been half a yard long. Five inches didn't seem a lot so we always afterwards described the rat as half a yard long. It wasn't a big lie and I always counted it on Fridays at confession.

None of us would pick up the rat. Gerry Rowan was the best at picking up because he could pick up a cockroach. I was second best, because I could pick up wood lice, but a rat was something else. It was a hundred times worse than a centipede (Gerry Rowan said) and even worse than an earwig, which could run up your sleeve and eat your eardrum away. In the end, we got some sticks and poked them at the rat. It's funny you know. We were in Billy Carey's lobby so he ought to have been in charge. Gerry Rowan said that Billy ought to charge our mates for having a look, but Billy didn't want to. He was scared of the rat and said that if it had been found in someone else's lobby, he would have enjoyed himself torturing it, but he didn't like the rat in his own lobby. He said that he was going upstairs to tell his old feller.

Billy's old man worked nights in the bakehouse at Rose Place. Billy's main used to say that she was proud of her husband working 84 hours a week on nights to keep her and the kids, and my mam used to say that my old man didn't know there were 84 hours in the week In any case, my main said, Billy's main was on the game.

We heard Billy's old man fizzing away upstairs until he could get the words out, and then he gave Billy a belt which we all felt. When his old man came down the stairs, we were scared stiff because he had only a shirt on and he was scratching his balls and we knew he wasn't expecting anybody to be in the lobby. We all spewed it before he could get the words out and the next time we saw him, he was coming out of the house with his clothes on.

We watched him cross over the street and pick up a brick and then he went back to the lobby and hit the rat with the brick, and all the black stuff splashed over his face. Then he put the rat in his pocket and marched off down the street. Billy's mam come out and folded her arms and waited for the neighbours to come out too.

We knew that Billy's old feller was going to see the Snotty Bitch and we had to trot to keep up with him.

When we got there, Billy's dad was in the queue. The Snotty Bitch was going on about points again and then she offered this woman a flat in Kirkby and then when the old woman kept on asking for a house, the Snotty Bitch started to tap her pencil and look sideways at her mate like she always did. We thought we'd have to wait about two hours for Billy's dad's turn when, all of a sudden, he just marched up to the counter. The Snotty Bitch asked him his present address and Billy's dad tried to get the words out but he couldn't. He was banging his fists against his legs but he still couldn't say anything and all the time, the people in the queue behind him were shouting "Frigging cheek", and all that kind of thing. The Snotty Bitch started to tap her pencil and look sideways and then Billy's old feller let out a roar and started crying and threw the rat over the rail.

She screamed, but at first she didn't know it was a rat and then when she saw that it was a rat, she just gurgled and fell forward and her face smacked against the rat and she lay there for about five minutes.

Then these two geezers came out of the office and took her away and they phoned the Police and the Ambulance, and then they took Billy's dad inside and told him to pull himself together because he couldn't stop crying. I was glad Billy wasn't there.

Four days after this happened, Billy's mam got the offer of a new house in Cantril Farm and they took it. We all kept looking in the Liverpool Echo, for a report of what had happened but we didn't see anything. My dad, who is very clever and uses a lot of big words, said that the Echo wouldn't report it because of the implications. "Implications" must be very important because all that week there were lists of the names of the people who had been fined for not having a telly licence, and a big picture of a man who had worked at the same job for fifty years, but there wasn't even a mention of Billy's dad.

Jimmy McGovern

(Scotland Road Writers' Workshop, Liverpool)


Bing Crosby is dead and the papers decree
He was fifty-two years at the top of the tree
Fifty-two years of fame and command
And his country's media in the palm of his hand 
And he never complained.

He never complained to you or to me
About death or famine or poverty
He never complained to 'Uncle Sam'
About Bangladesh or about Vietnam
He appeared unmoved by the Kennedy's fate
(And Attica and Watergate)
He just never complained.

Jane Fonda can protest and Dylan can sing
But none of the problems ever touched Bing
Through the struggles and torments of Redskins and Blacks
He sang about Christmas and kept on paying tax
If this is a good man, I don't want to know
I'd rather have those who stood up and said No 
Those who complained.

He lived with his family in comfort and ease
While Calley's men slaughtered the Vietnamese
And never helped in verse or in song
The people who tried to atone for this wrong
He never admonished Bob Hope or John Wayne
For supporting causes where no one would gain 
No, he never complained.

And now that he's destined for heaven forever
Who'll move over ? Che ? Ho ? Martin Luther ?—Never!
They always complained.

Ralph Peacock


Will you stop your ruddy moaning
Get off your backside, please
And move the smelly mattress
Full of dogs disease
Hijack a Corpy muckcart
Dump all your rubbish in
Drive to the Lord Mayor's Parlour
And bung it in his bin.

Mary Casey 


Why can't they build houses like they used to,
Houses like we had in our Street,
With three little steps to the front door,
Steps we could paint and keep neat.
Steps we sat on in summer
and chatted to the women next door,
While watching the kids playing hopscotch
We knew they were safe and secure,
A parlour where Grandda could live in,
When he became bad on his feet,
With his bed by the open window,
He could talk to the folk in the street.
Houses with long lobbies that ended
with a wooden gate "me da" had made
where toddlers could play with their "mo mo's" 
away from the stove, when it rained.
 Street flags for the would-be artists, 
to play OXO and draw with some chalk,
Who worried about kiddies' graffiti, 
that the rain would wash off the sidewalk? 
Why can't they build houses like they used to 
instead of flats, upon flats, and then more, 
Where you can't have a "dog" if you want to, 
And you're a stranger to the women next door?

Mary Casey


The report of my running early
The report Sir, is quite true
For the draught that I took did me dirty
Worked at ten instead of half two.

My wife she has the experience
Of aperients and fruits that you stew.
So, when she passed me the glass that would clear me
I smiled and I said "here's to you"

The Yanks have a system of warnings
For each storm and each hurricane
I have but one system, a stomach
No man could imagine the pain

My face through a passing shop window
Like chalk, and sunken each cheek
If the Old Man was alive God forgive me
He'd shed tears of blood for a week

Sir, explain I can't any further
In relating I'm reliving the past
I'm sweating, though today it's like winter
And I'm damp where my pants touch the grass.

Mick Doyle
(Red Star Workshop, Liverpool)


Before the rape, when I was young 
and Wales was magic miles away, 
the childhood of our summers spent 
at bargain prices by the sea, 
and there below Talacre's hill 
we knew each other differently.

The sun would sow a bright red seed 
to grow in the rose-hung garden there 
and after breakfast, freshly scrubbed 
when face and ears were made to glow, 
with dinner wrapped in grease-proof paper, 
three generations we would go.

Down the road to the rock 'n' roll sea, 
buying hats and spades from a white-washed shop, 
there I was as green as grass
around the hilltops where I'd play 
happy as a sand-boy on
the beaches the eternal day.

Later while the hills were singing 
lullabies on a beery breeze, 
light prayers were rushed to a holy moon. 
The drowsy night would dream a train 
and as I closed my eyes to listen 
could hear it whistle again and again

In making now this fragile promise 
a summer's night is veiled in mist 
so suddenly I lose myself, 
too changed by distance and a death, 
in times I can't remember 
but never will forget

Arthur Adlen


When Roddy's mother told him they were moving his feelings were mixed. "We're going to live in another house" she told him one night, as he sat taking big bites out of his bread and butter. It was nearly bed-time, and they were on their own. Reg had gone to the club as usual. A lot of the children had mothers and no fathers; Reg wasn't his father he knew, but he didn't bother much about such things. Once he had heard his mother talking to a neighbour.

"Reg is very good to me" she had said, "He's part-owner of a club down town. They do very well, but the hours are awkward. Still, you can't have everything can you ?" The neighbour said

"No, you couldn't and it would be worse still if Reg was home all day and out all night, like the other one".

Moving day came, and they packed their few personal possessions into the boot of Reg's car. Inside the new house, his mother took him upstairs.

"There you are Roddy", she said. "How do you like that? a bedroom all to yourself. Reg and I are just across the landing". Roddy was rather glad to hear this, he wasn't used to privacy nor solitude, but going upstairs to bed was fun, and he spent a few minutes enjoying the sensation, on the uncarpeted stairs, until Reg told him to stop making such a racket

Out in the garden Roddy climbed a tree the better to survey the possibilities around him. Fancy having a garden with a tree in it ! He wished all his friends from the old street could come and climb it too.

On Monday his mother took him down the road to the local school. Roddy studied the Headmaster intently as he stood beside his mother.

"Of course" he was saying. "This is a predominantly white area". And in the classroom his teacher was glad to see most of the children accepted Roddy right away. Except one  

"It only needs one" came a menacing whisper. But Roddy was unaware of any pitfalls in his path, until Friday afternoon.

Several of the children lived in the same road as Roddy, and they trailed along from school, dropping off in ones and twos from the ragged queue. Roddy stopped to peer over a garden wall, and the two boys in front stopped too.

"You don't live there" said one.

"What you doing ?" demanded the other. Roddy's teacher would have recognised the "child who might"  

"Just looking at the flowers" replied Roddy mildly.

"You leave them alone, they don't like being looked at by niggers". Both boys giggled and continued up the road.

At teatime Roddy was quiet, so quiet, Reg noticed it. "What's a nigger ?" asked Roddy suddenly.

Reg and his mother exchanged a glance.

"Well" they both started to speak at the same time. Then Roddy's mother continued alone.

"It's what some people call somebody who's black. Who's got a black mother and father" she added significantly.

"One of the boys in my class, called me a nigger on the way home" Roddy told his mother.

"He didn't know any better" she said. "Anyway, you're not a nigger" adding "you've got a white mother".

"But even if you were black, would it matter ?" persisted Roddy, and the man and the woman looked at each other again. Later on when Roddy was asleep they referred to the remarks.

"You see" said Roddy's mother.

"Take no notice" said Reg.

"That child didn't think it up for himself' pursued Roddy's mother. "There's been some talk already".

"Take no notice" repeated Reg.

"It's all right for us" said Roddy's mother. She was right of course. There had been some speculation. There always was when a house fell vacant. The rest of the residents always waited anxiously to see who moved in, although rarely voiced their fears.

"Not that we've anything against a coloured family" was the most they said. And how could they have anything, anyway. They'd never met one.

"But customs vary" came a cautious rejoinder. But until they saw Roddy they had nothing to go on. "The little boy's coloured isn't he ?"

"But his parents are white"....

"If they are his parents"

"There's no doubt she's his mother"....

Backwards and forwards over the garden walls the remarks were tossed, and inevitably the children playing in the long summer evenings caught and held one or two. Most of the chatter went over

Roddy's head, and the children soon accepted him. All except Noel, who seemed to like making him feel different.

"That white man's not your father is he ?" Roddy looked at Noel. "How do you know ?"

"Because you're coloured".

When Roddy remained silent, Noel followed up with another question. "Where is your father then ? In a prison perhaps?"

Backwards and forwards like the remarks made by the adults the words went amongst the children. The majority soon forget, but Noel and a couple of his friends kept alive the curiosity. Even so, it might have all died down if it hadn't been for the disappearance of Mrs Peters' cat. Everybody knew Nero, the majestic black and white cat, with the red collar. Mrs. Peters was devoted to him.

"And he understands every word I say" Twice a day she fed him minced meat or fish, and in between gave him milk to drink. They lived in the house next door to Roddy and his mother and Reg, and

left to herself, Mrs Peters wouldn't have noticed her neighbours. She was too absorbed in Nero and his welfare. So long as people didn't upset Nero, they didn't upset her.

But one day Nero was missing.

"He must be shut in somewhere" she said, and went up and down the road, calling him by name, and listening. She asked all the children if they'd seen Nero, and they had, but couldn't remember when. Except Noel.

"He was sitting on the wall of the house next to you" he informed Mrs Peters, So as soon as she got the chance she asked Roddy if he'd seen Nero. He was climbing the tree at the time, and at first couldn't make out where the voice came from.

"Little boy, little boy". It piped from somewhere on a level with him, and then he saw Mrs Peters calling him from the window of the small back bedroom.

"Have you seen Nero little boy" she said. "He was seen sitting on your garden wall yesterday."

"No, I haven't seen him" Roddy told her. "Have you lost him ?" "He hasn't been home for his tea or his breakfast today'

"He must be hungry then" said Roddy, to whom all meals seemed long overdue. "Perhaps he's shut in somewhere ?"

"That's what I fear" admitted Mrs Peters. "But the gardens are full of potting sheds and outhouses. He could be in any one of them."

Roddy surveyed the landscape from his tree.

"I can see about twenty from this tree" he announced.

Depressed at the thought, Mrs Peters withdrew her wispy grey head. Roddy felt quite sorry for her.

On Friday afternoon he strolled up the road from school, looking not at the flowers in the gardens this time, but the sheds and outhouses. Noel and his friend waited for him to catch up to them.

"What have you done with Mrs Peters' cat ?" asked Noel.

Taken by surprise Roddy looked almost guilty.

"Nothing" he faltered. "Why ?"

"The last time it was seen alive, it was sitting on your garden wall" said Noel.

His friend looked at him hopefully.

"Wouldn't be surprised if you'd got it shut in somewhere", then letting his imagination soar he continued, "I know you people. You'll probably kill it and skin it, and ... and .. - eat it ..."

The two of them strolled on up the road leaving Roddy standing still, unable to think of a reply. Reaching his own gate he was glad his mother was out for once. He wanted time to think, to think what to do, to prove his innocence. And the only way to do that was to find Nero. Sitting on his doorstep he tried to get inside Nero's skin as he put it to himself. What would a cat do, a well-fed cat, with a comfortable home do for a bit of a change ? A bit of an adventure, another interest in life .... Surely he'd try to catch a bird, or a mouse. Being summer, most of the birds could fly by now, not like a couple of months ago, when fledglings were falling out of their nests and being snapped up before they could be rescued. But a mouse, there was no particular season for mice so far as Roddy knew, and by now he was quite well-acquainted with some of the families of them who dwelt down by the compost heap at the bottom of their garden. He'd seen them sometimes, before they saw him and vanished like thin grey streaks between the heap and the old sandstone wall. There was an outhouse leaning against the wall too. Although Reg said he thought it had been an outside toilet at one time. The remains of a rusty cistern still crouched on a shelf above Roddy's head.

Thoughtfully Roddy rose from the doorstep and going through the side door of the house, made his way down the back garden path to the compost heap. He didn't know quite what to expect, but you never knew. A faint mewing sound came from inside the disused toilet. To make quite sure, Roddy stopped outside the sagging door, and listened. Yes, there was a cat in there ! Usually the old door leaned halfway on one hinge towards the compost heap, but today it leaned the other way. effectively blocking any exist from the old toilet. Awkwardly, Roddy tried to open the door, but it was too heavy. The only thing to do was to make it lean a little more so that a gap widened between the door and the floor .... the next thing was Nero pushing his way through the narrow space as if he were swimming ! But if it hadn't been for the red collar, Roddy wouldn't have recognised this dusty, rusty, grimy, cobweb-clad animal as Nero. Neither would have Mrs Peters he decided.

Before the cat could escape in the direction of its home, Roddy caught it in his arms. Here was the evidence of his innocence in the matter of Roddy's disappearance. Whispering endearments and encouragement Roddy made his way to the house next door. As Mrs Peters' appeared on the doorstep, Nero leapt from Roddy's embrace and flew into the house. It was his teatime ! Mrs Peters disappeared too, and Roddy could hear the rattle of plates and saucers in the kitchen.

Unsure what to do, he almost turned away, but Mrs Peters suddenly appeared again, and wouldn't let him go until he had recounted the whole story of Nero's reappearance.

"Well, I never" she exclaimed. "So he was next door all the time ...."

She thrust a block of chocolate into Roddy's hand, and excused herself.

"Better see if Nero's had enough to eat".

But later on, when Roddy was having his supper, she called to see his mother.

"I just had to come and thank your little boy properly for finding Nero" she told Roddy's mother. "I shan't forget it, you can be sure Mrs .... Mrs ...." Her voice trailed away.

"Oh, call me Jenny" exclaimed Roddy's mother cheerfully. "After all, we're neighbours, aren't we”

Back in the house, Roddy ate his bread and butter, thoughtfully, turning over in his mind the events of the last few days. When his mother returned from her chat with her neighbour he had finished his bread and butter.

"Had enough to eat ?" she asked him.

Absently he said he had. Nero was still uppermost in his thoughts. Such a fine black and white cat. Was it his mother, or his father who had been white?

Winifred Froom (Red Star Workshop)



The deaths of four tunnel miners in early January at the Littlebrook Power Station serves to again show the tragic and bloody toll industry takes daily of working men and women, those who produce the nation's wealth. The four miners have left behind them four sad and sorrowful homes and eleven children who will never greet a homecoming father again.

Prior to the four deaths when a lift cage hurtled out of control to the bottom of a 160 feet shaft, there had been three previous deaths on the site and many injuries. The call of the T&GWU, the workers on the site and the Greater London Association of Trades Councils for a Government enquiry into safety hazards and conditions on the site should receive the widest backing.

Almost at the same time of the tunnel miners' deaths, John Laing, the boss of the giant building and civil engineering firm, died quietly in his cosy bed in North West London suburb, aged 92 years.

The extent of the toll of working people's lives and limbs taken daily in industry is shown by figures for 1974-the year of the Safety in Industry Act.

Deaths in factories, docks, sites, mines, shops, rails and farms 745, over 2 daily. Accidents and injuries of various kinds in the same period totalled 342,000 in the bloody industrial battlefield.

Tom Durkin


Four miners had been joking
As they stepped upon the lift.
None had the faintest inkling
That they'd never start the shift.
For the lift was all eroded
It was eaten up with rust.
And now had reached its breaking point
So crash it surely must.

Smooth it went for a little way
Then dropped with rocket speed.
Hurtling down the iron rails
The brakes it would not heed.
Down, down it clattered madly
Like some monster gone berserk.
A tangled mass of twisted steel
Encased them like a crude hauberk.

The joking men now smashed to death
Like human pulp upon the deck.
Mid mangled flesh and shattered bone
Their blood now dyes the rusty wreck.
Four homes left shocked and shaken
Eleven kids left stunned and sad.
With Mums who cannot stem the tears
Nor ever say "here comes your dad".

In pit and depot, dock and site
Each day exacts Its bloody price.
Of life and limb of working men
For every day with death they dice.
And little do the bosses care
For dead men's shoes they quickly fill.
There's plenty signing on the dole
To take the place of those they kill.

The building boss don't ride the lift
He's snoring in his cosy bed.
A Wimpey, Laing or Nuttall chief
You'll never find among the dead.
Past time to end this slaughter
This toll of life and limb.
For we're the ones who shed our blood
Amassing greater wealth for them.

It's time to build a better life
Where men are brothers all.
Where life and limb are sacred
And the weak don't go to wall.
Farewell then, brother miners
No more like a human mole.
Will you burrow beneath the river
And feel glad you're not on dole.

You've gone and left a sadness.
You've left us angry too.
Determined to stop this slaughter
It's the debt we owe to you.
Farewell, our lamented brothers
By your graves we make a vow.
To end these deaths and slaughter.
We pledge and mean it NOW.

Tom Durkin


The seasoned beech stave smashes flesh 
and bruises bones
During the Forest night.
As two brute men in keepers garb attired
Exercise their feudal right- 
And Educate.

The "guilty" poacher with one pheasant in his hand
Receives each traumatic blow and with each a lesson learns
About injustice, trespass and the sacred rights of property and law.
Beaten like an animal amongst the forest ferns
-They Educate.

Pete Relph


What I remember most 
about our hospital 
was the burning cauldron 
of instruments 
jumping up and down in 
their anxiety to get at you.

Perhaps it was hoped 
that the mere sight of them 
would cause rotten teeth 
to leap from rotting gums 
and pus from swollen thumbs.

But invariably
sterner measures
proved necessary.

Bill Eburn


So another shutter goes down
On another tenement slum shot
Human habitations still
Though they've given up the ghost
Cliffs of crumbling sandstone
Grizzly old age. This full page spread
Puts it across.

You've given us
An expert exposure,

But damn you for your
Japanese technology
Your-wide angle lens gives grace
To this doleful facade- The stylish sweep of a
Georgian terrace- There's a distracting
Symmetry in the stairway buttresses
And spindly rhones.
The eye travels up and away.
And your crafty artistry
You've made a village pond
Of this flooded back court;
Debris floats with serene reflection
Across your sensitive frame.
Shafts of sun are streamlined,
Tins and tyres make
A fine composition
In silver and black

The light's
Just right

And damn you, damn you
For that wee lassie
Off-centre, foreground
Leaning against a
Well-placed dustbin- The pathos is
You've made her look Compliant, damn you!

Ouaine Bain  (Glasgow)


A hundred breakfast smells, fresh and crackling, spiced the morning as Pete passed the last string of Cafes on the Woolwich Road before swinging right under the flyover and up onto the motorway. Normally they acted as a spur, lopping ten or fifteen minutes off his journey time, causing him to race across the City and back in time to catch a breakfast before the dust and diesel soured his appetite. But it was already dead. Numbed by a night of worry that had chased him into the morning, nagging him all the way to work.

It wasn't yet seven but already his hands were tacky against the wheel and his trousers beginning to stick to his skin. Coming out of the tunnel north of the Thames he blinked back a sudden flash of sun and crashed through the gears for the steep incline galloping towards him. The cab shuddered, snatching at the trailer desperate to haul it over the brow. Pete began to sweat, aware that the thick plume of black smoke squirting from the side of the tractor would be leaving a trail right back to the Police post at the mouth of the Tunnel. The Ministry had slapped a GV9 on him already because of the smoke and he was starting work an hour early each day in the hope of avoiding them. He had, of course, reported it to the company, a small family concern, but the boss had nearly exploded when handed the report. "What about the bloody Buses and Taxis", he roared, tossing the paper aside. He had carried on to such an extent that by the time he had finished, poor old Pete felt as if it was his fault the lorries weren't up to scratch.

Once he was safely past Bow Station he relaxed. From here he would ease up on the throttle and let the load gather impetus and push him down into Hackney. As the severed city flashed by on either side he allowed his mind to drift back to his problems. It wasn't so much his job that worried him, although if he kept on nagging about the state of the vehicles he might soon find himself looking for another, and if he tried impressing prospective employers with his concern for the standard of his previous employer's equipment, he may well be knocking on doors for months to come.

However it was his housing conditions that were really driving him up the wall. He rented two rooms from a private landlord in a house that had seen the grander times of a past age and was now rotting with decay and neglect.

"You see, you haven't got nearly enough points. In fact, to be quite frank it could be some years before we are in a position to offer you alternative accommodation", droned the nice young man from the council.

Pete gazed around the office only half-listening. He'd heard it all before. Then remembering the months of begging and scraping it had taken just to get this interview, he was determined to have his say:

"Now look", he interrupted, "There's four of us, two adults and two kids stuck in that poky two-roomed hovel, where we've put up with leaking roofs, dampness and all the rest for the last five years, and now you say we've got to lump it for another five. You must be joking".

"I'm afraid it's not a joking matter", smiled the man.

"You're bloody right, it isn't", snapped Pete. "But then you and yours don't have to live like the rest of us, do you

The man balked. He wasn't used to such abuse from his subjects. "Now it's no use getting personal", he croaked. He thought for a second, then was struck with inspiration. "What about the health department. Have you tried them ?" he offered. Pete could hardly believe his ears. "Five bloody years", he stormed, "and still the roofs leaking. They're about as useful as you lot". Feebly the man tried another tack. He would try to reason with him, then once he got him pacified he could make some excuse, terminate the interview and nip upstairs. "Do you realise", he said, getting himself all puffed and important looking, "that this borough have demolished more houses during the last year than any other in the London area".

"You're telling me", said Pete. "I think I'm living in one. Besides, what's the good of knocking down all the houses when there's people desperate for a place to live".

The man indulged himself in an oily grin. What fools people are, he thought. "We do rebuild you know, we rehouse people".

"Yes", stormed Pete "you rehouse all the people whose homes you knocked down in the first bloody place

The man was crestfallen. He was surrounded by philistines who refused to be awakened by the great and beautiful tread of progress. He moved to the window, his heart beating heavenly throbs as he gazed out at the magic and mystery of his beloved Tower blocks.

The first heavy drops from the suddenly greyed sky intensified Pete's misery as his load groaned and roIled across the east cross route through Hackney towards Islington. His marriage was breaking up. The kids were always sick and moaning, and talking to the council was about as useful as talking to the ducks in Clissold Park; and now on top of it all was the worry of keeping his job and more importantly his licence.

By the time he reached the New North Road, the rain was pelting, isolating him in the mistiness of the cab. The only sound he was conscious of was that of the tyres sluicing through the water, lulling and detaching him.

At the last moment he saw her, a tiny figure wavering halfway over the crossing. He stamped his brakes and panicking threw his 'deadman'. The wheels locked, his mind saw thirty ton of steel rushing from behind as the unit and trailer began to jack-knife.

It seemed hours before they pulled him from the cab. Half the people of London seemed to be crowded around, pushing and struggling for a look. "It's alright", said one, "you missed her, you missed the kid". "Are you alright", said another. Pete glanced around, "I think so" he whispered. He started to shake and someone threw him a blanket. He looked up to where his trailer lay on its side blocking the road and realised with a greater shock than caused by the accident itself, that he was finished.

Dave Barnes (Hackney Writers) 

HACKNEY WRITERS' WORKSHOP. The two pieces included here are from the groups anthology, which can be ordered for £1.00 from Centreprise, 136 Kingsland High Street, London.


This happened in Kirkby, a rough town, holding that reputation even in Liverpool which takes plenty of risks of its own. It was built around the promise of work and space; the work came and went away, taking with it several millions in tax concessions, machine tools and used humanity, and the space, although heaven after a tenement, was walled in by non-existent transport and unapproachable farmers' fields.

Outwardly, the brick streets are still raw after twenty years, or rotting again already. A woman once took me to her kitchen balcony to see a courtyard, eight houses square, all tin, broken glass and ripped tiles, and the drying and playing green in the middle lost under rubble, prams, dissolving plasterboard. But I heard this story in a house with as much comfort as you get from any four walls, the family and the dog all over the sofa, food and drink always offered, a house where people stop to leave the children for an hour. Rose believes in God, in human nature, and in the love of her mild husband and four strong sons, who bring their friends home to laugh with her.

Not even so are you guaranteed safety, of course. Jimmy, Rose's husband, was coshed for the take on his milk float. And in the next street, a knock on the door let in to the carpeted security a woman bleeding from a gash on the head, looking for help for her husband left dying in the house opposite after she had clubbed at him with a glass ashtray.

We were making tapes about Kirkby; we were going to talk about it on the local radio. About the good of it as well as the bad, people kept saying. All you hear is unemployment, vandalism, violence; let us tell about our children that we're proud of, and the neighbours that are kind, and the laughs we have, and the signs we can give that this is like any human place, making and continuing social life and not at war with it. So that was what I had brought the machine to hear, in Rose's back parlour with the household treading peacefully over the lino in the passage, and in front of my eyes the sideboard with fluted glasses in it, which I stared at as you do stare when your mind is somewhere else. It's hard to remember now that what I heard is not what I was told. This wasn't what Jean had to talk about; it came out bit by bit.

Jean is Rose's friend; like her, a quiet Catholic and a lover of family life, but unlike her, childless. She's fostered children all her life, and this particular summer she had five children who had lived with her for a long time, and two quite young ones for a short stay. It happened that there was a strike at English Electric, where her husband worked, and although he wasn't in the union on strike, there was no work for him as a maintenance man. So he had a break from scraping corrosion from the inside of hot boilers.

Bills kept coming in, though, and they got an electricity bill for £25. They couldn't meet it. The red reminder came in, and Jean went down to the Citizen's Advice Bureau. She was seen by a woman who said, 'Well, Mrs Grayson, it's well into summer now, you won't be needing the electricity that much!

With seven children in the house ? And the hot water, and the ironing, and the TV-and the reconnection charges? So Jean went to the Department of Social Security, 'Not asking them to pay the bill,' she says, 'Just to see if they could lend us the money till Tom was back at work'.

They sent a visitor-a young man, about 22, flicking his hair out of his eyes and gripping his briefcase. 'As far as I'm concerned, Mrs Grayson,' he said, 'your husband has a job to go to-he'd better go to it, and not try to sponge off the state.' She tried reasoning, but not for long. 'Who are you to come snapping and snarling at decent people?' She saw him off. She's upset by her loss of temper.

Well, there was nothing for it but to get a job. Tom was fine with the children, and he had to be at home all day anyway. So she set off round the industrial estate.

Fisher-Bendix were on strike. Delco weren't hiring. Otis had no unskilled work, two other factories had just closed. She went to Kraft Foods but the gatekeeper said, 'I wouldn't bother going up if I were you, love-they won't look at anyone over eleven stone'. She's a big built woman, and forty-three. In the end it had to be Nelson's jam factory at Aintree, where the grandmothers of Kirkby remember going for their first jobs when they still lived in the city. It meant leaving home at five in the morning for a six-thirty start, and eleven hour days, and humping bags of sugar up ladders to tip into the vats, and mopping and scrubbing and rodding drains where the gluey waste collected. But the bill had to be paid.

Jean hadn't been too well that summer; abdominal pains that had sent her to the doctor. 'Overweight', he said. She went again and told him she'd missed periods, 'Anxiety,' he said. He could see something, to see that seven children and a husband laid off were facts in her medical history. But he didn't look far enough. One Monday, Jean couldn't go to work; she was doubled up with pain; and they took her to hospital, where this childless lover of children gave birth to a six-months stillborn boy.

She said to the nurse, 'I want to see him.' 'Oh no,' said the nurse, 'better not, it will only upset you.' 'Bring him to me,' said Jean. So they brought the dead, unfinished child, and a basin, and Jean touched him with the water and named him Paul.

'Get people talking about their experiences, not their opinions', I kept saying when we were making the tapes. 'I've had enough opinions to last me a lifetime.' But people must say what they want to say. To me, this is a story that carries and reveals the structure of Jean's oppression. To her, it is not even a story; it may be full of the incidents and circumstances of her life but it carries none of its meaning. Its meaning is in the victories of decency, privacy and sober enjoyment. We talked about how the burden of family life is shared between wife and husband. She said: 'I obviously don't know this-that is something that goes on within your own four walls--I haven't come across it much, that the wife's tied in, or the husband doesn't care about the children, I've found that both the parents-both father and mother- come along to the school to discuss the child's work; and especially when they have a sports day, or if there's a fancy dress parade, you'll find that the fathers that are on shift work, or through no fault of their own are out of work, you'll find that they come along, even though they're out of work and may be-you know-they feel ... inadequate, and that, you know, they still come along and see how their children are going on, and they do take an interest in their children. I honestly find this, anyway. I've never found this any different.'

So people can speak even when the war is being waged against them.

The £25 was paid by the parish.

Sue Shrapnel (Hackney Writers)

Paul Piggott writes:

Alan Brown, who has published quite a lot of my writings, has suggested that I submit to your publication. I do so now, if not for the obvious reason; it might help to define your 'thorny question' What is working-class writing?"

I am a regular soldier. Have been for thirty odd years. Started as boy soldier and now I'm a major. I graft with great pride in my profession not for reasons 'loyal and blue' but because there is no better social fraternity than this service. The loyalty and camaraderie, the sense of purpose and pride in our 'business' is something we are losing rapidly in some walks of life. One day, when our opinions and concern is represented, others may come to understand.

Frankly I don't believe that anyone much cares about us unless they are in the shit. Oh I'm a worker alright and so is any soldier worthy of his shilling.

If you want to use this piece, please do so.

You have a good magazine. Don't let go.

(Dedicated to soldiers who will die in Ulster)

I don't want you to remember me when I'm dead 
I can't be simplified.

Nor can my actions be more basic than the bullet 
Or whiter than the lily.

What I have been from womb to Ulster's bloody shop 
Is not simplifiable.

Not that you will remember me.
My opinions did not matter to those who shaped them.

The struggle of those who murder me will be remembered. 
Those who blasted their hate into granite epitaphs.

They will be celebrated for their reasons.
Kerb-stones will not acknowledge my blood.

I am too complicated to be simplified.
A poppy mass produced, in plastic, like memories.

You will not remember me when I'm dead.
You will not simplify me.

Paul E Piggott
(February 1978)


I have often wanted to write this down. It's not of any great importance but the very different circumstances of the two incidents keeps them in my memory. The incidents are the deaths of two of our Kings, George V and George VI. I must have been only four years old when George V died but I can remember the day clearly. I was playing in the back room of the basement shop my mother ran in 127 Buckingham Street, when a neighbour entered and with great emotion told my mother of what was obviously a great and personal tragedy. I can still feel the atmosphere in that room and decided that it would be better if I retreated to some quieter place to carry on playing while the adults went through the ritual of reminding one another what a fine person the man had been. My place of refuge was under the table and cloaked by the draped table cloth, I sat there thinking how sad it was, the sadness was deepened when the wireless was put on and a dismal voice announced that owing to the terrible news that had stunned all the nation normal service would be replaced by suitable music. The whole scene depressed me terribly. The music, the mumbling adult voices, the gloom under the table and the wondering where you got another King from. The whole neighbourhood went into mourning. I realise now it was probably because we lived in the heart of the "Orange Lodge" area and with all the tongue in cheek loyalty that goes with that organisation they had to put a show on. This was January, 1936 and the next time a person of equivalent rank died was fifteen years later, February 1952.

By this time I was nineteen years old and in the army. Our base camp at the time was Hodgsons Camp, a tented camp inland from Post Suez and on a point on the Post Suez-Cairo road where the Jewish army and Egyptian army signed their last peace treaty. In February 1952 the point where the army drew its water from was a large army water works, run by civilians from UK and guarded around the clock by whichever units were stationed outside the town. The road to and from the works passed through very thickly populated areas of the suburbs, and the guards and materials needed for running and security of the works were a common sight as they passed in various forms of transport. The journey always interested me, the multi-coloured houses and vehicles, donkeys , camels, hundreds of children and men and women in garments that could have come from any century.

At this time the "Moslem Brotherhood" party decided to remind the British that we didn't really belong there and their method to me anyway, didn't seem too horrific but just unpleasant. They used to throw cans of acid at the vehicles and into the lorries from the upper windows of the buildings and threatened us with worse attacks, but the reprisals of the army HQ made you think we had been atom bombed. The whole area which surrounded the road, half a mile wide and three miles long, was to be evacuated. There must have been thousands of people living there, to say nothing of all the work places and shops they worked in and the churches they worshipped in. But orders are to be obeyed and about two thousand people and their belongings were forced out of their abodes. I never heard anyone ask where they would live now or who would compensate them for their houses and businesses and most of all their unhappiness. Sadly I was one of those who never asked at the time. I thought it was exciting and the type of thing you were in the forces for anyway.

I was in the regiment who were given the job of occupying the area and making sure no one ever returned. I with my corporal and three other soldiers chose a house by a small square for our home and lived there for a month. We patrolled day and night in turn with other squads and got to know the area quite well. Some nice bars, churches, houses of a better quality than usual in Suez but, alas, all now empty except for a few chairs, beds and odd items which the owners hadn't been able to carry. In an off duty moment I was leaning against the door of our house when a bren carrier on its way to the water works stopped by me, The driver's head was level with mine and he said with no sign of tears or upset "the King died today". I said "Did he", and that was that. It was then I first thought what a difference it was from the last time I heard those words.

Next week the whole regiment was called onto parade and told that there would be three days drilling and then a remembrance parade for George VI. No excuses, everyone would parade. Cooks, Petrol men, Clerks, Pay Clerks, the lot. We were going to show these Arabs how much we thought of our King said RSM Greenaway. RSM Greenaway was the most fearsome man I had met in my life and me and everyone else went to great lengths to keep out of his way. He had the habit of screaming at anyone whatever they were doing however much in the right they were. All this taken into consideration the three days' drilling were absolute mental strain of having this maniac shouting endlessly. At one time a man in the front rank, Private White, was straining waiting for the word 'march' at the end of "open order march" when Greenaway instead shouted "as you were". Everyone heard but White, and being tall and long-legged he seemed to leap yards from the parade into the wilderness of the massive parade square. The verbal battering he received from the RSM must have frightened everyone present and convinced them whatever happened in the future he wasn't going to have the chance to attack them. I started hoping that the parade would be a smash hit and really show the Arabs like the RSM wanted.

The great day arrived. Every man of the first Border Regiment was on parade. Clerks, Drivers, Medical Men, Cooks, all the traditional bad drillers of the battalion. We were in KD and formed up along the side of the square ready to "advance in review order" as the order states, that is three lines about three hundred men long marching fifteen paces onto the square after the inspection. The band would play the first fifteen steps of the "British Grenadiers". To show the importance of the occasion we would drill with bayonets fixed. This is where the trouble started. The man in front of me was the petrol storeman and he wasn't used to drilling at all, never mind with fixed bayonets which tended to make the rifle top heavy and wave a bit. This it did and it caused the bayonet to go up the next man's shirt sleeve and come out the top of his shoulder on the order "slope arms,,. Bad enough in itself but the arm in the skewered sleeve could not get across to grasp the rifle which the man had already started to slope. In panic he grabbed the butt, but the rifle with bayonet fixed fell forward and the bayonet stuck in the thigh of the man in the front rank who happened to be the same White who had suffered in the "open order" affair of the previous day. Before anything could be done the parade began and much to the credit of the men involved in this little group they all carried on. The petrol storeman looked like a Siamese twin to the pay clerk. This was alright until the first about turn when the trapped bayonet almost ripped the pay clerk's shirt off his back; as it came free the pay clerk in turn was dragging his rifle behind him and private White's thigh was bleeding like a tap.

At last the parade ended and when I took a look around not one Arab had watched us. As RSM Greenaway said: "Ungrateful bastards those Arabs. Don't know a good parade when they see one." I remembered they had even complained when we threw them out of their houses.

Ralph Peacock



Enquired one citizen of another "One man, one vote. What does that mean ?" "Simple" said the other. "One bloody man, one bloody vote." "Then why" asked the first, making the obvious point, "doesn't it bloody well say so?"

Which shows how meaningless swearing has become. Or does it? I used to scorn drivers who abused others. Now I join in and feel better for it.

For many people swearing is a habit, perhaps a necessary habit. Was it always so? Anyone who has dipped into Partridge's "Shakespeare's Bawdy" will know that many who swoon over him would have a fit if words carried the same meaning now as they did then.

But those were unenlightened days. Is it really necessary to set down in public what we say in private ? Can't the exact words be left to the reader to fill in ?

We seem to be very good at this. 'Water closet' has in turn been elevated to 'lavatory', 'toilet', 'loo' etc. etc. and no-one is in doubt what is being referred to. The fact that the offending word is changed so often would suggest that any resemblance between what is named and the object itself is offensive.

But so long as we live in an artificial world in which animals 'sweat', men 'perspire' and young ladies 'glow' it may be that we sometimes need to remind ourselves that man born of woman, neither beast nor god, is essentially human. So long as he kept his feet on the ground Anteus, the mythical Greek hero, could never be defeated.

Swearing may yet turn out to be man's instinctive urge to retain a hold on reality.

Bill Eburn


Yeah, I read your book
- y'know, the big one 
the one your mate completed
after you'd passed on 
And I was impressed 
But then how could I fail to be 
when you ran such rings
round Smith and Bentham and the rest of them
- who I've never read

Tell me, how does it feel 
to write a bestseller ?
- quite a feat when you write 
such lousy prose
And now the band-wagon's rolling 
and all the zealots have climbed aboard 
was it worth it ?

You know your trouble, don't you ? 
You look like a bloody saint 
or an Old Testament prophet 
with your white hair swept back 
and curling round your ears
and your beard 
bushing out from your chin
and your forehead so high and clear and creaseless
- was writing it really so effortless? 
and your eyes staring serenely through me 
into the future

You're a ready-made icon 
a natural superstar 
that's what you are

Why the hell weren't you born a hunchback? 
With a birthmark blotched across your face ?
- but you'd look like a martyr 
with your bloody stigmata
and that'd be worse

You see, you make it all too damn easy. 
Why was your logic so impeccable 
the force of your analysis so unstoppable ?
but then if you weren't 
you'd be another Bentham 
or Smith
and I wouldn't be having this 
absurd conversation 
with your picture 
on the wall

You tried to unravel the strands 
that tied the workers
to the bosses
but you ended up writing a Bible

You're too bloody great
that's your trouble.

We couldn't follow you 
so we learnt you off by heart
and when we had to think for ourselves 
it went wrong
most of the time

Why don't you say something ?
Why don't you tell me where we went wrong ?

But maybe it isn't your fault ? 
You likely didn't want to be there 
on the wall
And maybe if I met you in the street 
and called you 'sir'
you'd laugh 
and then I'd understand

Phil Boyd 


He came over and parked his trim 
But ageing body next to mine 
As I sat typing
"I've just been speaking to that boy", he said 
Looking over his shoulder
And down his nose at the same time. 
I saw the young boy working in the corner. 
"I went to have a word with him about 
Last month's sales batches.
And suddenly he starts enthusing over 
Some slick guy he met at a party.
Says he's been off women since he broke up with Andrea 
And is thinking of giving men a try.
He went on for half an hour 
On what he did and what he said.
I've heard him giggling over the 'phone to him 
Making a date".
He turned his body as far away from the corner 
As he could without falling off his chair.
"It's all so sordid and disgusting. I won't go near him again." 
"But you're gay yourself', I said puzzled. 
"Yes," he replied indignantly, 
"But I don't go round enjoying it."

Celia Roberts 


When, for reasons known better to herself, Trudie wants to wind me up, all she has to do is remind me of one of the two following facts (a) I'm getting old (b) I'm putting on weight. The former I can't do much about. After one passes twenty-five, all one can do is resign oneself to growing old gracefully. (Who am I kiddin', I'm determined to grow old, permanently in BAD grace.) But the latter I can do something about. Like I can stop consuming sticky food, and starchy grub.

Last winter we had a strike over the heating conditions. It was bloody freezing in the Main Shop, although it was OK in the Auxiliary Shop where I work, as all the heaters in there were working.

The Shop Stewards' Committee had made several requests, throughout the summer, to the management regarding the repairing of the hot-air heaters in the Main Shop.

The management kept assuring us that 'They'll be ready for the winter switch on.' But they weren't. It was a very cold November, and there wasn't a heater working. The lads stuck a week of it and then they asked the Steward to call a full meeting.

Monday dinner-time we held a full meeting in the canteen. It was really grim in the Main Shop, and some of the lads were getting a bit paranoid about being attacked by Polar Bears. We decided that we'd done enough futile requesting so we voted to down tools, and out, until the heaters were repaired.

As we were trooping out through the factory yard we passed one of the Directors getting out of his Rover.

"Where are you lot going ?" he asked.

No-one answered him.

We set up the strike headquarters in the Transport Cafe at the bottom of the road from the factory. A lot of the lads used the cafe at dinner-times, so the proprietor was co-operative with us. I myself never used the cafe, as I once had occasion to take dinner there and found it extremely greasy, and unpleasant. However, whilst the strike was on, I made a habit of getting there early in the morning, so that I could play a couple of records on the juke-box before the others arrived. (One thing in the proprietor's favour, he kept a good juke-box).

On the second day of the strike we decided to call the General Secretary of the Union in. When he got down to the cafe, he told us that we had acted 'rather hastily', but seeing that we were in no mood to go back to the Antarctic conditions, he suggested that we should aim for a speedy settlement.

The Secretary and the Steward from the Main Shop, went as a delegation to see the management. They were back inside half-an-hour. The Managing Director had put a flea in the Secretary's ear for not keeping his minions in order. He also told them that nothing would be done on the heaters until the men went back to work.

The Secretary was blazing mad at the rebuff he had received. He told us that if we recommended the men to return to work he would call the Factory Inspectorate in, as he was sure that even the most incompetent of Factory Inspectors would slap an immediate 'Improvement Order' on the heaters.

We told the Secretary that no-one was stepping back inside the Factory until the heaters were fixed, and asked him to call the Factory Inspectorate in anyway.

The Factory Inspector came after dinner. He went to see the management first, then he came into the cafe to see us. He declined my offer of a cup of tea, with a wave of his hand, and sat down on the end of the table we were sat at.

'Right lads,' he started. 'I've been into the factory and checked the temperature, and apart from the Main Shop everything seems reasonable.' 'What's the temperature in the Main Shop ?' one of the lads asked, before he went any further.

'It's thirty eight degrees Fahrenheit.' he answered.

I already had the Factories Act out. 'So, they're breaking the law then ?'

'No.' he replied, shaking his hands. 'They would be if people were working in there, but, as no-one's working in there, they're not breaking any laws.'

'But it was as cold on Monday, and we were working in there then,' moaned another of the lads.

'But I wasn't there on Monday, so I wouldn't know, would I returned the Factory Inspector.

'So,' I said, 'If we were to go back to work, they would be breaking the law?'

'Ah !' said the Factory Inspector. 'If you were working on the machinery in there they would be, as by law the area around woodworking machinery has to be at least fifty five degrees Fahrenheit. In the rest of the shop there is no minimum temperature set by law. Although the Factory Inspectorate Commission has recommended that a temperature of around fifty degrees should be aimed for.'

'Recommended ? What does that mean ?' I asked.

'What it says.' he replied. 'It's a recommendation.'

'And there's nothing backing it up in law ?'

'No, unfortunately, there's nothing to back it up, only commonsense.'

'Well you won't get much of that out of our management !' the main Shop Steward butted in. 'Anyway, what's the management said about fixing the heaters ?'

'He said that if you all went back, he'd have them fixed.' 'But if we all went back, we'd be working in unlawful, to say nothing of exceedingly dangerous conditions.' I groaned.

'And he's been saying that he'll fix the heaters for the last twelve months,' chipped in the main Shop Steward.

The Factory Inspector stood up. 'But if you all went back to work, I could serve him with an order to fix the heaters, and also I could recommend him to maintain a permanent temperature of fifty degrees in there.'

Sensing that we were all beginning to get pissed off with the guy, I asked if we could confer between ourselves for a minute, and we gathered in a huddle around the juke-box.

We had a quick discussion amongst ourselves, and decided that we weren't going back until the heaters were fixed, the temperature was up to fifty five degrees around the saws, and a thermometer was installed in the factory so that we could all know the temperature all the time.

When we announced our decision, the Secretary went off to see the management, and the Factory Inspector went home, telling us to phone him when we were back at work.

The cafe proprietor, who had been sympathetic to our cause all along, offered the four of us free dinner apiece. Everyone accepted, excepting myself, as I still remembered the memory of the last one consumed there.

An hour, or so, later the Secretary came back in with a broad smile on his face. He told us that the management had agreed to call in a firm of Maintenance Engineers, who were going to work on the heaters, day and night, until they were fixed.

On the Thursday we went into the factory with a thermometer and checked out the temperature in every nook and cranny. We found it to be satisfactory.

We were back in work again on the Friday. We lost a nice few quid in wages, but hopefully we won't have any mither over the heating again.

Shortly after that the Health Inspector had a surprise swoop on the Transport Cafe, and shut it down on a number of counts.

Mike Rowe


They make us scrap and scratch 
whom nature draws together, 
fomenting us to fratch 
while tightening our tethers.

We're separated still 
from workmate and from neighbour 
according to what skill 
the boss exploits as labour.

Worker and worker's wife, 
whose miseries are common 
fall into bitter strife 
between the man and woman

Our fraught disparity 
prolongs their master hour 
that solidarity 
would hustle out of power.

Frances Moore












John Breheny 	(Manchester)

Everything you always wanted to know about building sites but were afraid to ask:
TAMP:	a roughly constructed long-handled plank for levelling concrete.
KICKER: a wooden frame for pouring concrete into.
VIBRATOR: a pneumatic poker for shaking air out of wet concrete


No skirl o' pipes or swinging kilt 
could rob you of the badge of guilt 
that stained football and brought to shame 
the honour of auld Scotland's name.

Oh ploughboy restless in your grave 
your talent and your pen I crave 
that words may form like shafts of light 
to penetrate the darkest night.

No! not for pleasure now you play 
the Tyrants gave the game away 
Amusement now is screams of pain 
as one by one they go insane

They tell me I have Scottish blood
I wish it on no other
my eyes are downcast at the thought
No-one would call me brother

Make sure that you enjoy the day, 
for fate has yet its game to play 
In history you will have fame 
as Judas of the football game

Your sentence will go long and hard
your names ne'er be forgotten
A sour note from every bard
A place with all that's rotten

At this late hour of you I beg 
Keep football just for pleasure 
of brother man who loves you most 
not tyrants at their leisure.

Tommy Walker


"Why do dogs sniff each other's bums ?" I asked Father, who was taking us for our usual Sunday walk.

"Well I'll tell you" replied Father, swishing his walking stick and beheading the stinging nettles, on each side of the path. "Many years ago when the world was new, or nearly new, all the dogs everywhere had bums they could unzip."

"All dogs ?" I asked.

"Yes" said Father. "Every living kind of dog."

"Wolves too ?" asked my youngest sister, "and coyotes and dingoes ?"

"All dogs Father has said," I chanted dancing up and down. Father smiled and went on.

"It was to be a special occasion. A party for all the dogs in the world; in honour of a spaniel named Bess, who had after much heartache produced her first puppy. The dogs hired the biggest hall in the world.

"They all came, large and small, all different kinds. They each bought a present of either a tree to pee upon, new bones with plenty of meat on, old bones with no meat at all. But as the spaniel said 'It's the thought that counts'.

"As it was the custom in those days and considered good manners, all the dogs unzipped their bums and hung them neatly on the pegs in the cloakroom.

"But at the party was the usual practical joker, a spotted Dalmatian named Dick, who mixed whisky in the fruit punch."

"That was very naughty" said my sister.

"Yes it was" agreed Father. "Because all the dogs became very drunk. The party finished in great disorder and the dogs got ready to go home. But because they were so sloshed"

"Sloshed ?" said my sister.

"You know" I said impatiently, "drunk, sick like Uncle George'

"Oh I know" said my sister.

"And because they were sloshed" went on Father "they each picked up the wrong bum. And it was not until the following morning, when the dogs awoke with aching heads and dry throats, they realised their awful mistake. So since that terrible day all the dogs everywhere are looking for their own bums. That's why they fight each other sometimes. One dog thinks the other has his bum and fights to get it back."

"I like that story" said my youngest sister.

"So do I" I said, and we went walking down the chalky lane. And Father swung his stick.

Joy Matthews


"No sense in killing myself'
said my old man;
"they'll still be here
when I'm gone."

Surveying the
now neglected garden
I glance heavenwards.
"You can say that again."

Bill Eburn


A warning about this book-it's 100 pages long, and once you pick it up you'll not put it down again till you've finished, so leave yourselves time.

Working-class autobiography is not automatically good or interesting. At one extreme there is a sort of socialist evangelism or "preaching to the converted". At the other extreme it can be just plain boring: the interviewer-editor imposes his or her own conception of neutrality on the proceedings and the significant is submerged beneath a mass of incidentals. Some recent examples of this approach might well have adopted as their motto: "The politicos have already tried to change the world; the point, however, is to talk about it." But there is none of this faffing-about in this latest publishing venture from Tyneside, which is perhaps why they call themselves "Strong Words".

Editors Keith Armstrong and Huw Beynon have successfully avoided the pitfalls of both extremes, largely because of a commitment to the working-class that has none of the ambivalence of the Orwells of this world. The working-class is seen as a subject for liberation, not an object of intellectual fascination.

Men and women describe their recollections of the 1930s in the NorthEast, often recalling minute detail and exact conversation, and yet nothing in the book is trivial. Every personal memory is related to an awareness of society. The sixteen contributors are clearly all very different individuals, with varying opinions and levels of involvement in trade union and political activity, and yet overall a clear sense of history gives the book an immediate relevance to the present day.

As the editors observe, "Unemployment, the talk of 'scroungers' on the Dole, of Social Security 'snoopers' and the threat of fascism and the National Front are all important reminders of a past that will not stay locked away in the cupboards of historians."

Contributors, like Hilda Ashby, tell their stories simply in everyday language, without any attempt to reach up to the "high shelf' in search of a literary style:

I was going to the grammar school at Blaydon during the 1926 strike. We had to walk to Westwood Station to catch the train, and I can always remember sitting in the carriage full of girls -we were all miners' daughters. I was twelve and we were all talking about the strike and one of the girls said, 'I hardly dare tell you this ...' And we were just getting to know where babies came from and we said 'Are you going to have a baby ?' And she said, 'No-my father's going to be a blackleg.' Very shamefaced you know. I remember running home to tell my father. 'Mary Wilson's father's going to blackleg,' and my father saying, 'By he's a card joker, he'll get nae coal oot.'

'Upstanding'-that was the thing. 'Upstanding jobs', you know, where you had your pay if you were off sick. Oh, that was it, that was the Mecca. I lived in Chopwell right through the 'thirties and all the colliery houses there had earth closets (a hole in the wall where you threw all your rubbish) and the Council men had to jump in there and then shovel all this out. Well, you had to be in the know to get one of these jobs. To have a Council job-oh, that was something ! In Chopwell they had a Labour Council and they had this scheme where you got your turn at ten weeks' working on the roads. Ten weeks when you knew you were going to have a pay. That was a big thing.

Often different contributors arrive at the same theme from different directions. Many relate how the Means Test broke up families:

Because of the Means Test there were men who were leaving home to live in sheds in the allotments in Cornforth-in order to get the Dole (George Bestford).

After 26 weeks on unemployment pay one had to apply to this dreaded court. They would inspect one's belongings: piano, watch, all had to go before one was allowed a few shillings ... A great many young married couples had the terrible ordeal of having no money offered but only two tickets-one for the male workhouse and one for the female workhouse (Charles Graham).

And Len Edmondson adds a sharp reminder that the 'Thirties did not just end with the War:

In the immediate post-war years I was a member of the National Insurance Tribunals, being a trade union nominee. Those who had been unemployed for twelve months or more were interviewed by the Tribunal to ascertain that they were co-operating with the Employment Exchange to obtain work. Frequently men over forty years of age would appear and it was evident when they entered the room that they were suffering mental anxiety, fear could be seen in their expression. They had the fear that it was a return to the conditions of the 'thirties when their only income could be taken away from them.

And again with encounters of not such a close kind: 

Down the pit twenty-one tubs was the score. We always had to put (Or fill) twenty-one tubs for the score-twenty tubs and one for the royalty to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners ... Lord Londonderry and the Bishop of Durham and people like that had a very good living, all the money that really should have belonged to the miners.
(Dickie Beavis)

I went for a weekend school at the University of Durham. Up in the Castle there. And in the Hall was a big painting of Lord Londonderry. And I looked up at him and thought, 'Ah, you bugger.'
(Fenwick Whitfield)

In the 'thirties, Hello, Are You Working? was the normal greeting. It expressed people's way of seeing things in their own words, which is what this book does. It is not just an attempt to teach workers history. It is an attempt by workers to understand history through their own lives and words. It might also be seen as a step towards re-discovering the lost art of popular story-telling. As creative writing, it certainly raises questions about more famous writers who have been called the voice of the 'thirties: whose voices were they, and who were they speaking to?

Hello, Are You Working ? needs and deserves an enthusiastic response from the labour movement. We are printing three short extracts below. The book itself is obtainable at 50p (plus 2Op p&p) from:

Erdesdun Publications, 10 Greenhaugh Road, South Wellfield, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Wear. NE25 9HF.



As soon as I'd finished serving my time as a fitter I was out of work. When I was about 22 years of age I got employment with Electrolux and underwent a week's training to sell water softeners. It was something that extracted the chalk from the water supply. The cheapest one was about £8 or £9. And people hardly had money for a loaf then. Well anyway, you had to knock at houses. And you had first of all to go to the public library and you had to procure from there the voters' register and you had to get all the names and addresses to cover enough streets for you to canvass in a week. You went to the door and you knocked at the door and you'd say 'Mrs Nugent' or 'Mrs Monaghan' and immediately it broke the ice. But they didn't know it had been preconceived, that you'd been to the public library. You got no wage. Only commission on sales and a stamp on your card. Now, it must be remembered that after a certain number of stamps on your card you were in benefit again. So it was important for you to get these stamps on by hook or crook. Business was bad. People hadn't money for bread, let alone the luxury of a water softener. Sales were not up to expectations and a circular was distributed throughout the Newcastle area for all personnel to attend a meeting in the City Hall at a certain time and date. I attended and the room was very full of men, covering all age groups from early sixties to early twenties. When everyone was settled a very big man stood beside the blackboard. And he said 'Now this is what I think of you gathered here.' And on the blackboard he wrote in very large letters in white chalk the word 'SHITS'.

I looked around the room and not one moved or uttered one word of protest. Not one word. Not one man stood on his feet. The men of that period were completely demoralised. Needless to say I informed the office in leaving that I knew we were down but there was no reason why we should also be kicked, and I would be handing in my demonstration gear the next day. The speaker was a big chap whose name was Mr Bullen. I've never seen him from that day in the early 'thirties till now but if I had ever met him, no matter where, I would personally assault him.

He criticised the whole assembly for lack of sales. Not enough drive. Not enough canvassing. We were not pulling our weight. We'd have to do something about it. He was a very tall, burly man, impeccably dressed, and looked well fed. Some of the men in the room didn't look well fed.

Terence Monaghan



The men were very demoralised during the 1930s. They had stood together in 1926 and held out for almost a year but they had to go back to longer hours and huge debts. The older men would never again trust anyone. It was as if they lost faith. And from then onwards Durham became politically dormant. Creeping paralysis I've called it!

When you look back the union was very weak in the pits. They were more like collaborators. Looking back now I wouldn't tolerate them for a moment. They were all 'yes men', more liberals than anything. They seemed to be a cut above you. They didn't like to be interfered with. When I started to go to the Lodge meetings I used to ask questions. I remember one day this chap said to me 'Oh-you're the little fella that dared attack Joe Sutch' because I had dared to stand up and criticise the outstanding Lodge Secretary who was a very prominent person at that time I said, 'I didn't think he was right, that was a11 I used to shout my mouth off I suppose.

There were demonstrations against unemployment in Durham though. And one of our outstanding leaders at the Dean and Chapter - a lad called Billy Todd - was active in the unemployed movement. He was leading a demonstration and he was attacked by the police. I've talked with some of the lads, who were at the head of the banner and all the parading police said, 'That's him there !' And Billy Todd was struck down-it was a peaceful march. And they say it was from that blow -the repercussions afterwards- that he had died in 1946. They will always believe that it was that blow that led to his early death.

We used to talk about all those things though. At the shaft bottom, the men from all over the pit, may be a hundred and fifty men, would meet at the end of the shift at what they called 'the steps'. They would sit there and put their clothes on and wait for a few minutes before getting in the cage. And that's where the different men would argue and put the pros and cons of this and that. I was discussing this day with an old Welsh man-Teddy Jones was his name-I always admired him for his views; he was a very straightforward man. And I said to him 'What's your opinion of Ramsay MacDonald? What did you think when he turned away and went on to the National Government?' And he looked at me and he said: 'He should have been hung on the back of the Brockwell cage and sent up coal work.' And those words are as true today as ever they were.

Dickie Beavis


There's something different now amongst the trade unions and that. I think they're more united than what they were then. During the time after the strike in 1926, the leaders were victimised. But now if you have a dispute the men will stand by the leaders and if the leaders are sacked on some pretext the men will just down tools. The management can't pick the ring leaders out and give them the sack now, with the ease that they could in those days. Management could always find some fault with a worker and use it as a reason to give him the sack. And do it with impunity. But they can't do that now. He'll think twice if he knows the whole lot will stop for a week or two.

Many a time during the 1930s I'd look at the rent man with dark thoughts in my mind. But I never did anything, nor did other people. There was very little robbery during that time, but I'm sure there would be now if people were reduced to such a state. People today just wouldn’t stand for it. Life is better now than what it was then. We can live a normal life now as pensioners while, then, anybody in our position, who had finished work, could hardly live. People have struggled for this, we don't just get these things given to us. My father worked down the pit until he was fifty and he had rheumatism, he couldn't work any more. He was on the sick, and his sick benefit was 15/- a week. After he'd been on it for a certain time, it was reduced by a half to 7/6d a week. And that's all my mother had to live on for the rest of her life. Seven and six a week. He had a few hens and a couple of gardens. Without that he wouldn't have survived.

Nowadays I sit and read and sleep. About eleven o'clock at night I think about putting on my pit clothes and going off to the pit. I think I don't have to do that now. I used to be a stone man and you had to get the face ready for the hewers to come in. And it was all so arranged that you had to work like hell right to the last minute to get the face ready for the next shift For the wages you got when you finished, I choke when I think about it. I used to say 'We must be mad, nobody with any sense would do this I' Lying at the face, about two foot high in the wet with all the water raining down on you. Soaking wet and working like mad.

There were three men in the pits-brothers-they were great workers. The colliery manager used to say 'If I had a dozen like them I could close the pit.' I was working on this face one day, it was about one hundred yards long and these brothers used to put the machinery up. And this particular place was only about eighteen inches high and the rain was falling down. So this fella was coming along. You couldn't creep, you just had to pull yourself along on your stomach, ease yourself along. Well, he was coming along, water was streaked down his face, like little streams. And this was in 1940 and they had a big campaign on 'Send your sons into the mine; make mining your career'. And his face came up to about a foot off mine and he said: 'Send your sons into the mine. Make mining your career'. I'll never forget that Asked him once 'If you had your time to begin again, do you think you'd go down the mine ?' And he said 'If I thought I had to go through all this again I'd cut my throat now !'

Henry Ashby


came the sea, 
scouring clean 
where it made entry.

quiet and still 
it chuckles at the thought
of the oncoming gale

Or the next day
it will return 
with renewed energy,

and every barnacle
encrusted notion	
will be swept clean 
into the ocean

Bill Eburn


Tess Brougham, Jack Frost’s sister writes:

My brother was writing this verse over a period of forty years, inspired during the years from 1920 to 1961, moved by the hardship and suffering in the days of depression.

He was a man with a strong sense of humour and a ready wit, but also a sense of pathos. He reached the heights of experience and emotion but also suffered and was engulfed many times in the depth of depression because of lack of appreciation of his ideals.

But he was a Marxist and Communist. Such philosophy enabled him to climb out of his sadness and fight in rebellion against a system which created conditions of frustration.

He was an artist in every sense. Despite having many friends, he was essentially lonely, restless because he was forced to earn his living as a Grocer. Instead of training in Art School he could only give expression to his talents by being moved around various branches of his firm, in demand for window dressing, sign and ticket writing.

However, any person reading this collection of his verse will I am sure have some deep feeling and some understanding of the kind of man Jack Frost was.

He died tragically from lung cancer at the age of 56.


In stinking pomp the King rides past, 
and addle-pated watchers cheer 
And rent the air, "Long Live The King",
-I have no words-tis not his bier.

Jack Frost 


"I wandered lonely as a cloud" 
Your Wordsworth was a jester. 
He never saw a lonely cloud, 
At least, not in Manchester

Jack Frost

(famous last words)

"Up boys and at 'em" 
The brave old warrior spoke:
"Up boys an ATOM"- 
And all went up in smoke.

Jack Frost 


A worker, I conceive no learned ode,
No song of famous Greece's Ancient lore,
No fairy tales of elfin sprites' abode,
No tale of fond Leander's native shore.

Of these fair themes, and others I could tell
Pens, greater than my own crude thing, I have told,
But were they sung again, aye ! thrice so well
Their sorrows and their joys would leave me cold.

If for a theme you songsters bold should seek,
Then leave the dead to settle in their graves,
Renounce your ancient gods-forget your Greek- 
And teach my class to scorn at being slaves.

Sing songs of factory workers, and their lives,
In words that burn into their very heart,
Sing of the chains 'gainst which the toiler strives- 
Till dropping-old-yet fighting from start.

Sing songs of struggle, songs of toilers' might,
Not in the past or in the days to come
But now ! SING NOW I Sign of the workers' fight
The fight that MUST and WILL be fought, 

Jack Frost