Ammon Wrigley - "Castleshaw Valley"

The following is a transcription of a work by Saddleworth poet Ammon Wrigley (1861-1946).

Castleshaw Valley

The dear old days like jewels bright
They sparkle around me still,
And shining through my inmost core,
My eyes begin to fill.
With memory now I wander down
The valley of the past,
And as each picture fades,—it leaves
One fairer than the last.
So, to begin with I shall skip
Just where the humour takes me,
And roam about and wander till
The rhyming mood forsakes me.
By farm and cot and watermill
By moorland stream and clough
By meadows lying fair and green,
And pastures brown and rough.
Thro’ Cudworth runs the sheep wall still,
And o’er the Foxstone height
Above the bullet riddled bank
The ancient target’s site.
And now the spade has just revealed
A truth half guessed before
A group of ancient furnaces
With partly smelted ore.
Two moorland streams came splashing down
The cloughs by Oaken Hill,
And wedded were, below the slope
That looked on Broadhead Mill.
It was a plain three storeyed block
A dam bank high and steep,
The very site now lies beneath
The waters dark and deep.
A famous place in bygone days
For rosy speckled trout
They took one once so history says
Twelve pounds or thereabouts.
Three days it lay at Broadhead
Upon a great white dish,
And all the countryside came down
To see the kingly fish.
And leaving here the brook went on
Well fed by many a rill
And winding thro’ a willow nook
Went gaily past the lower mill.
A black and lonely ruin then,
Where boggarts met at night,
We used to pass its frowning walls
And shudder with affright.
A packhorse bridge across the stream
A narrow strip of stone,
And just above a sheltered bank
With strawberry overgrown.
And up and down the Broadhead cloughs
The wild rose and woodbine grew
And all among the hazel boughs
Their scented blossoms threw.
And here at least so history says,
And history ought to know
That Billy Firth once kept a school
Some eighty years ago.
Here oft has many a laggard youth
Who took his learning slow,
Had all his lessons hammered in
By Billy Firth’s clog toe.
At Oaken Hill the garden fence
A row of battered trees
A tale of desolation tells
To every passing breeze.
And up across the benty fields
The ruins of the Lee,
‘Tis strange in twenty years or so
What changes there can be.
Lowgate below the four lane ends
A lonely ruin stands,
A merry place it once o’erlooked
Its breezy pasture lands.
A chamber full of busy looms,
When work was never “dree”,
And there they wove the finest cloth
After a hunting spree.
And Wood so famed in olden time
For rare old English cheer,
An open door was kept for all
The neighbours on Friarmere.
A buttery full of “souly” meats
A cellar full of ales,
There are none such homesteads now
In all the Saddleworth dales.
And here began a Sunday school
The first the valley knew,
Before the school at Castleshaw
Beside the moorland grew.
A little room with crooked walls,
And not o’erstocked with light
Where little neighbour lads and maids
Were taught to read and write.
And ever when I wander down
Its long green avenue,
The scene around is hallowed with
The happy days I knew.
Straightway down the meadows stand
The waters deep and still
And half the grassy road is there
That led down to the mill.
Woodtop was then a homely row
The haunt of gradely men
Where Bonker brewed and Mally wove
There stands a long sheep pen.
The ragged thorn so weather worn,
The well across the lane,
Are all that speak of far off days
That ne’er will come again.
The hollies down the driving gate
With winter berries red,
Like all the kindley neighbour folk
Are withered, bare and dead.
And lower down a field away
Three little grassy dells
Where fairies danced on harvest nights
And rang their tiny bells.
And Moorcroft woods lay just below,
A warm and pleasant nook,
With meadows sloping gently down,
And fields across the brook.
And round about its gables ran
And sparkled many a rill,
That gathering by the hedgerow side
Went down by Moorcroft mill.
The ivied gable green and thick,
The hawthorn hedges rich,
The little pools with cresses strewn,
The foxglove down the ditch.
A place old custom ne’er forsook,
But dwelt there all its days,
The sturdy yeoman stamped his foot
On all new fangled ways.
Up and down the mill folks went,
Ever passing to and fro,
With woven ends and “pokes” of weft
“Brawson” weavers walking slow.
Two slubbers meeting at the door
And “stroddlin” there together,
Taking snuff and talking loud
Of cattle, work and weather.
Now all are gone and swept away,
No stick or stone are left,
Nothing now to show where stood,
That busy place of warp and weft.
And what a cheery spot it was,
The merriest in the dale,
When one looks back, it only seems
A simple fairy tale.