Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ducks, Dogs, Cathedral, Titanic, Romans, Great Uncles and Ghosts.

Heather - Tuesday 3 November 2009

Whittington is quite an upmarket village and the canal has many barges. Whilst walking along the canal we were greeted and followed by a most friendly duck who swam along the path we were walking to keep us company. I was chastised when I walked too far ahead of the duck. In the end, I walked with the duck so to speak along the canal whilst Paul was ahead and enjoying the view of railway line and Midlands express which frequently passed.

Whittington Wharf Coventry Canal

Whilst in Whittington we took a look at the outside of 8 Babbington Close where Paul resided for the first 6 years of his life and primary school, now an education advancement centre.

The Old School

The street where I one lived

Coventry Canal, Whittington

Looking down main Street towards The Dog

We were also approached by a local dog walking his owner. The dog was so happy to see us he refused to let us pass until we had appropriately greeted and paid him attention. The English really do appreciate their dogs. In the whole time we have been in the UK, I’ve only heard two dogs bark. One playing in the park, and the other was an adolescent overcome by exuberance at being walked. Shops permit dogs and there are signs for owners to carry their canine companions up and down escalators.

Leaving Whittington we returned to Lichfield for the Lichfield Cathedral and saw the Lichfield angel with its vast history and the resting pace of St Chad.

Lichfield Cathedral

Lichfield Cathedral

The Sleeping Children

The sculpture is of two children who both died 1 year apart the daughters of the Reverend William Robinson, who died prior of tuberculosis and Ellen-Jane Robinson. The eldest also named Ellen-Jane in 1813, died from the complications of burns when her nightdress caught fire while she was preparing for bed. her sister sickened and died in London in 1814. Francis Chantrey was commissioned by their mother and the sculpture was installed in the South- East corner of the Lichfield Cathedral in 1817 and remains there to this day.

In 1826 the poet, William Lisle Bowles wrote a poem about the sculpture:
Look at those sleeping children; softly tread,
Lest thou do mar their dream, and come not nigh
Till their fond mother, with a kiss, shall cry,
'Tis morn, awake! awake! Ah! they are dead!
Yet folded in each other's arms they lie,
So still--oh, look! so still and smilingly,
So breathing and so beautiful, they seem,
As if to die in youth were but to dream
Of spring and flowers! Of flowers? Yet nearer stand
There is a lily in one little hand,
Broken, but not faded yet,
As if its cup with tears were wet.
So sleeps that child, not faded, though in death,
And seeming still to hear her sister's breath,
As when she first did lay her head to rest
Gently on that sister's breast,
And kissed her ere she fell asleep!
The archangel's trump alone shall wake that slumber deep.
Take up those flowers that fell
From the dead hand, and sigh a long farewell!
Your spirits rest in bliss!
Yet ere with parting prayers we say,
Farewell for ever to the insensate clay,
Poor maid, those pale lips we will kiss!
Ah! 'tis cold marble! Artist, who hast wrought
This work of nature, feeling, and of thought;
Thine, Chantrey, be the fame
That joins to immortality thy name.
For these sweet children that so sculptured rest
A sister's head upon a sister's breast
Age after age shall pass away,
Nor shall their beauty fade, their forms decay.
For here is no corruption; the cold worm
Can never prey upon that beauteous form:
This smile of death that fades not, shall engage
The deep affections of each distant age!
Mothers, till ruin the round world hath rent,
Shall gaze with tears upon the monument!
And fathers sigh, with half-suspended breath:
How sweetly sleep the innocent in death!

Minster Pool and Lichfield Cathedral

Lichfield Cathedral two months later - January 2010

The guild hall was closed however we did see statue of the captain of the Titanic.

Captain Edward John Smith

Whilst in Lichfield we found out how to use the local phone boxes. Just as expensive as Australia.

From there we sent onto wall (Letocetum – Roman for Wall) having the ruins of the bath house and hotel for travellers. It was a greatly appreciated opportunity to see the ruins and streets. Wall was the interception of the three main Roman roads built across England. It gave pause for thought to think that we were travelling on roads to Wall that belong to the Roman age. (The roads in Australia only feel as though they were constructed  2,000 years ago).

From Wall we headed for Dudley via the back roads in order to enjoy the scenery and avoid motorways and tollways. Even the minor roads are sealed and guttered. 

Brownhills Miner

Paul's edit - The Brownhills Miner. This stainless steel statue is almost 12 meters high created by sculptor John McKenna and is situated at the top of the high street in Brownhills. A contest was held a couple of years after the artist 's sculpture was erected in 2008 and the winner was Jak Groves a local schoolboy, who suggested "Jigger" the nickname of his Great-Great Grandfather, in tribute to those who had worked in dreadful and dangerous conditions, sometimes paying the ultimate sacrifice.

In 1951 Jack "Jigger" Taylor was critically injured when the roof of Walsall Wood pit collapsed. He died after an emergency operation failed to save him, leaving his wife, Ivy, and children John, Jill and Valerie. Jack and his family had lived lived in Bridge Street, Clayhanger and "Jigger" rests at St James Church in Brownhills.

Jack went down the pit in 1929 aged 14. 

I found out later from my Cousin Jayne that Jack Taylor was my Great Uncle.

Was Yer Ferther A Miner?

Was yer ferther a miner like mine
Did he work in the dirt and the grime
Went to work on a byke, used a bow saw and pike
To dig out black diamonds that shine?

Was yer ferther a wrecked body like mine
Through working in dust, no sunshine
His shuky was his light, damaging God’s given sight
Deep in the dark bowel face of the mine?

Did he take a piece of best Sunday cake
Ter give to the pit pony, whose poor limbs ached
As he dragged a pit tub through rubbish-sludge
So mine owners their profit could make?

Did he bath by the fire in a tub
Un yer mother his marked back did scrub
Scratch caused by low roof, scars plain making proof
Of the days of pit-props and horse hoof?

Did he often sit and tell the old tale
Of disaster and pain that prevailed
When the roof tumbled in – rock ripped at the skin
And sight of widows – children their faces pale?

But if you asked this old ferther of mine
Ter tell yer about it, his old eyes would shine
No sad tale to tell, of the Muck – the Hell
But would proudly boast
‘Ar them days of hard work were mine’.

We booked in at the Station Hotel in Dudley which had a rather attractive bed and breakfast package only to find when we arrived there that it was rather well known in the UK as being haunted. I have no idea of the history of the haunting and intend to find out after we leave the hotel. As far as I know no respects were paid to us by the resident spirit (s) for the two nights we were there, unless it was the snoring which we heard from the next room and the creaking of the floors in the late evening and early morning. The hotel itself was faded and the room was a look into the glory days gone by. The shower was definitely interesting as hot and cold temperatures appeared to optional extras at the whim of the pipes and this also included the water. 

"Originally built in 1910, the Station was demolished in 1936 in order to build a larger Hotel. This became particularly popular with theatrical artists playing the Hippodrome Theatre, once situated opposite. Laurel & Hardy, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and George Formby are amongst the famous names who have stayed at the Hotel."

All text and photographs are Copyright ©2009 Paul Anslow. All rights reserved. www.anslow.net