Harry Rutherford's
Festival of Britain Mural

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Poem By James Leigh

O'er The Heights Of Werneth Low

I'M a captain in the army, and a famous man I be,
And in all the British Army there's no braver man than me;
But of my warlike deeds, without a doubt you know,
I once marched with my regiment o'er the heights of Werneth Low.


We there endured great hardships amongst those rugged rocks,
My men were seized with a disease the doctor called smallpox,
So we built a wooden shanty down in the plains below,
A temporary hospital, to put them in, you know.

We had them vaccinated, at least the doctors had,
But, dear o' me, the nasty stuff it almost drove 'em mad ;
With arms as thick as sugar loaves their very hair they tore,
'Twas just a month before my troops were on the march once more.

The anti-vaccinators were loud in their protest
Against this vaccination, and vowed they'd never rest
Until 'twas non-compulsory, for every rank and station,
They said that vaccination was enough to vex the nation.

Now, anyone who disbelieves the story I have told,
Just take a walk o'er Werneth Low, and there you may behold
That grand and noble structure at the foot of yonder hill,
An everlasting monument of architectural skill.

We then besieged the palace of King Frederick the Great,
That tumble-down old building on the Back Bower Estate,
But not a "Godl(e)y" soul we found in that ungodly place,
So we razed the building to the ground, and left of it no trace.


We then marched through the city of Gee Coss, but, strange to say,
The city's ancient glory has long since passed away ;
The only ancients that we saw, beside old Freddie's whims,
Was Robin and his brother Jam, the famous Gee Cross twins.

We halted on Mount Pleasant, and as we gazed around
We felt that we were standing upon historic ground,
For at the foot of Treacle Hill stood gloomy, dark, and grim,
The ruins of a temple, His Majesty's first Whim.

Each warrior bowed his crested head above the Stone Pit wall,
And thus each one soliloquised upon the city's fall.

Oh, city of the ancients, we gaze upon thee now,
Shorn of thy former glory how desolate art thou ;
Thy Market Hall, without a roof, is crumbling to decay,
Thy public park and pleasure grounds have long since passed away.


But soon we noticed that the sun was sinking in the west,
And whether it was time or not, of course the sun knew best,
But we ourselves were weary, though only half-past nine,
The heat is so oppressive in that Oriental clime.

We sought a refuge for the night at Doorbar's famous inn.
The grapes upon the vine without told of the wine within ;
The landlord, though a Doorbar, said we might rest secure,
Against such gallant soldiers he'd never "bar his door."


Next day we marched through Bredbury, and over Haughton Green,
And there our scouts reported some Zulus they had seen ;
My men became quite frightened, and their duty tried to shirk,
But the Zulus turned out colliers that were coming from their work.

We then kept on advancing till we got to Apethorn Sound,
We there embarked on board a ship that was for England bound;
But as we lifted anchor, and were sailing from the quay,
One of old Bennie's boilers burst, and blew our mast away.


We had to put in for repairs at Gibraltar Rocks,
A sort of place that I should call old England's sentry box ;
When our repairs were finished, they fired a great big gun,
In honour of the glorious deeds my regiment had done.

When out upon the open sea a gale began to blow,
The vessel soon went mountains high, and then went mountains low ;
The captain cried, "Put on more steam, for we are sorely pressed,"
When the driver shouted from the shore, "The horse is doing its best."

When we got into port that night Old Joss was striking ten,
We all were proud to set our feet on English soil again ;
My men were all fagged out, and hungry, too, as well,
So we ordered beds and supper at "Isaac Eyre's Hotel."!

My army I've disbanded now, I've had enough of wars,
I am resting on my laurels, like a valiant son of Mars ;
My men now wear a medal each, for deeds of great renown,
They were struck off by a friend of mine, a currier in town.

But now, my friends, I'll say adieu, I've said enough forsooth,
And some of you, no doubt, may think I haven't told the truth ;
However, be that as it may, if you'll be honour bright,
You'll say I'm not far wrong if you but understand me right.


Tom said...

I would have liked to have included other pictures in between the verses, but I couldn't find anything suitable.. The Smallpox Hospital would have been a good one.. even a drawing would have done.

Referance to the Eagle and Oak.. was because the landlord was once called John 'Godley'.
John Doorbar was once the landlord of the Grapes Hotel.
Bennie's Boiler relates to the boiler explosion at Benjamin Ashton's mill at Apethorn..
Old Joss.. The Town Hall Clock.
Isacc Eyre's Hotel.. was a 'Herb-Beer shop in Ridling Lane.
I'm sure I might have missed other referances and if so please fill in the blanks...

Hydonian said...

That's quite a fantastic poem - I can imagine it being children that have been out for the day having adventures ,pretending to be soldiers - Great stuff,Tom!

Hydonian said...

Frederick Whittaker's Whim which stood facing the Werneth Hotel is what is referred to as "..The ruins of a temple, His Majesty's first Whim..."
Frederick Whittaker was the self-styled "King of Hyde".

Anonymous said...

Great Poem