Thursday, 29 June 2017

I love writing Ballads.

If you research what a poetic ballad really is, you will discover that they are usually written about and dedicated to a heroic figure. As a school child I read and did comprehension exercises about Samuel Taylor Coleridge's,  Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  The ballad itself is astonishing.  It is hypnotic, both in its imagery and the telling of the story. I still recall many of the details fifty years later. Wow that says something doesn't it.

No wonder then, that when I started to write poetry, the idea of a well written 100 verse ballad was always there waiting to be developed.  One day, I had a piece of creative writing to submit for an exam portfolio. I had decided to write a ballad but at that moment was struggling to find a suitable hero. On arriving home, the usual pile of junk mail met me, as I opened the front door. I leafed through, as I always do, in case a letter was hidden between and there was a request from the RNLI for funds to buy equipment for lifeboat men.

Suddenly I had the material for my epic poem, The Ballad of The Lifeboat Man. It helped me towards a distinction in the exam, took six weeks to write and tells the tale of a local man and boy who run into difficulties sailing from the Wyre Estuary.  While I was writing the poem, a helicopter crashed into the Irish sea off the Blackpool coast when delivering fresh crew to a gas rig. Despite the bravery of lifeboat crews from all local stations, all those aboard the helicopter died.  Their bodies were all brought to shore by the RNLI volunteers. My completed poem was given to the North West RNLI with a final memorial verse.

The Irish Sea around Morecambe Bay can be a very dangerous place. In 2015, I was asked to get involved with the restoration of  Euston Park in Fleetwood. With the help of research by Lynn Asgar from Fleetwood museum, I wrote a ballad for two brave, young Fleetwood men who have a memorial obelisk in the park. Several weeks later, I was asked by the designer, to select 333 characters from my poem and these were carved into a stone circular seat that now sits around the obelisk. I am very proud to have part of a poem as a permanent fixture in the renovated park but I am also humbled to have been asked to memorialise their heroism.

The Ballad of Greenall and Abrams

In the reign of Queen Victoria,
November 1890, a violent storm played havoc
with the ships in Morecambe Bay.
The lifeboat from the ‘Child of Hale’
rowed into a force ten gale,  to rescue
thirteen men aboard Norwegian barque ‘Labora’.
Each man  was dragged aboard the boat,
from lifebuoys keeping them afloat,
in freezing waters of the Irish Sea.

Later on that dreadful day,
the lifeboat ‘Edith’ made her way
to aid ‘New Brunswick’ floundering
in the bay. Robert Wright’s heroic crew,
using lifeboat Number Two,
safely brought back every hand
to the haven of the land.

But still the storm did not abate
and the hour was very late
when a Fleetwood fishing smack
was struggling to get  safely back.
There was a schooner in distress.
‘Jean Campbell’ was about to sink,
all hands would fall into the drink.

Wild and free the storm winds blew,
high and higher great waves grew,
yet the fearless ‘Osprey’ crew
left the safety of their ship,
rowing out to sea, they risked it all
to answer fellow sailors call.
And soon the schooner’s crew of three
were hauled into the little boat.

Tragically, in towering waves,
it swamped. They sank to watery graves.
Only one brave man survived,
hauled aboard ‘Osprey’ as he swam alongside,
George Greenall and James Abrams gave their lives.
In memory of the two who died,
we deck our Euston Park with pride.
A ballad to the bravery of all who answer, fearlessly,
cries of “those in peril on the sea”.

Adele V Robinson
[Wyre Poet in Residence 2015] 

Please give generously to the RNLI if you get the chance. Thanks for reading. Adele