About me, Poetry & Writing, The Cork Board

What did you get from your father?

My father is not a vocal man, as a rule, except that he can still be fired up by the excesses of politicians or, on occasion, the injustices shown to fair minded men. Indeed, when I recall any in-depth conversation we might have had over the years then these are the topics which crop up most and produce the most ire. As a young man he was a farm labourer, as was his father before him, before he tragically died at the age of just 37, from a brain tumour, when my father was just 7 years old. But in his schooling my father was lucky, and it would seem, quite an intelligent boy, since he was bright enough to attend the local grammar school, when they had such things. Though, as I say, he left to farm and provide for his mother upon reaching 16.

So, what did I get from my quiet, unassuming, father? Any number of traits and beliefs, I suspect. But I have long credited my father with creating in me, knowingly, or accidentally, my love of poetry.

We were not a well-off family by any means, living in a two-up two-down terraced house in a mining village in Derbyshire, working and waiting for “the eagle to fly on Friday”. But I remember one day I found in our bedroom (the boys bedroom) a heavy bound copy of The Complete Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


My father said that a friend of his was throwing it out of an old house he was clearing and so he’d claimed it, thinking I might like it. The strange thing is, the book just appeared. There was no ceremony, no presentation. Just – there it was.

At first, being very young, I found Longfellow impenetrable, and reverted to my favoured copies of The Victor.

The Victor (from 26pigs.com)

(This image shows the issue from 30th April 1966. There is NO DOUBT that I read this copy at the time   🙂   )

But sure enough, when The Tough of the Track

Alf Tupper - The Tough of the Track (from 26pigs.com)


and Sergeant Sampson could hold me no more, I fell under the spell of The Song of Hiawatha.

(extract from the introduction to The Song of Hiawatha)

“And the pleasant water-courses,
You could trace them through the valley,
By the rushing in the Spring-time,
By the alders in the Summer,
By the white fog in the Autumn,
By the black line in the Winter;
And beside them dwelt the singer,
In the vale of Tawasentha,
In the green and silent valley.
“There he sang of Hiawatha,
Sang the Song of Hiawatha,
Sang his wondrous birth and being,
How he prayed and how be fasted,
How he lived, and toiled, and suffered,
That the tribes of men might prosper,
That he might advance his people!”

The Victor still reigned for a while but I believe that it was from that judicious punt by my father that the seed of my love of poetry was sown. How different my life might have been if he hadn’t “claimed” a discarded book.

A life long gift – just because he thought I might like it.

I must tell him.

17 thoughts on “What did you get from your father?”

  1. My Grandmother knew this poem by heart. She would recite it to me often, telling me how important it was for people to memorize poetry and speak it aloud, as it was meant to be shared, a notion that has stayed with me always. I hadn’t thought of it in years, so thanks for the memories.

    1. Wow…it’s a monster poem, as you know. It must have been fantastic to hear it narrated to you. What a memory…and your Grandmother was right. I learned “The Sun Rising” by John Dunne some years ago (because I love it) and now speak it with mock-Shakesperean grandeur now and again. I think I rob it of it’s majesty though.

  2. I don’t read a lot of poetry, but I’m glad you do, and wish I did too. Loved your story and can relate to it because we didn’t have a lot of money growing up either, so books were a rare treasure indeed. Libraries filled the void of not owning many. (love the smell of old books in libraries!) But the ones we did own (my sisters and I) we read repeatedly, over and over, till we knew their contents inside out.
    My regards to your father 🙂

  3. Al, got this message clicking on your last post 10TH March sorted:

    ~ Just another WordPress.com site
    Not Found!

    What you were looking for doesn’t exist or isn’t here anymore. We are sorry 😦

    Please return to the home page or use the search box above


    1. Yes, sorry about that. I was typing a draft for my other blog (Kempsford Literary Festival I’m helping organise) and typed Ctrl+P by accident – that meant complete gobbledy gook was posted to the wrong blog. Doh ! Sorted now.

  4. Your father gifted you a very precious gift. I find poetry very delightful, I just love reading poems and writing too. The Song of Hiawatha is very beautiful.

    I’m trying to read all your posts in your ‘about me’ section. I can say, you are a very interesting person, sir.

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