Ammon Wrigley - "The Homestead"

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

The Homestead

Out on the hill in wind and rain,
Where lapwings plaintive cry;
Where lonely fields and sodden moors,
Sweep to the cold north sky:
Where stricken thorns brood mournful o’er
The empty grass grown lane;
There stands a sad forsaken house,
That clouds the hill with pain.
The weathered door with wooden latch,
The kitchen rafter-spanned;
The stone flagged floor is green with moss,
Once strewn with yellow sand;
The oven now so thick with rust,
Ne’er feels the fire’s blaze;
Or roasts the beef or browns the cakes,
Or e’er knows baking days.
There stood the chest that polished shone
With years of “elbow grease,”
A cover with the Bible on,
And ne’er a spot or crease;
The brass drop-handles on the drawers,
So quaintly shaped and bright,
That shone like gold against the wood,
In the red firelight.
The old oak couch with panelled back,
And neat print cushion hung;
And by the breadfleck’s dry oatcakes,
A rope of onions swung;
A sampler’s picture in coloured wools,
And in the corner nigh,
A long case clock with yellow moon
Upon its dial sky.
The press where hung a hunting coat,
With silver buttons gay;
And mother’s pride the Paisley shawl,
Worn on her wedding day;
And here and there rush-seated chairs,
With straight and spindled backs,
A pot shelf with its pewter ware,
And pitcher hooks and racks.
An oaken cupboard in the nook,
Above my mother’s chair;
Its shelves well filled with dainty stores |
Of fragrant spices rare;
And on the beam hung mint and sage,
In drying bunches tied;
An old horn lantern seen at night,
Along the dark hillside.
The mantelshelf with nicknacks set,
Strange things in bright array;
A tally iron and two pot dogs,
Brass candlesticks and tray;
And strung in straps across the beam,
The ramrod and the gun;
And copper kettles in a row,
A famous hound had won.
A castle grand with open doors,
And walls of tinted shell;
Where Jock and Jenny in and out,
The weather used to tell:
Old Jock was donned in breeches white,
And smock of deep snuff brown; he
And Jenny wore a scarlet shawl,
And lilac coloured gown.
The long dark hole where “boggarts” hid,
Behind the kitchen speer;
Where once the great brown bottles stood,
Full of the home brewed beer;
The hillside neighbours old and “foace,”
In weaving aprons blue;
Oft came at night to play at cards,
And swipe the good ripe brew.
There stood upstairs an old handloom,
Close by my parents’ bed;
A cuckoo clock with flowered face,
And heavy weights of lead;
The little jenny my mother span,
The skips and slubbing creel;
The “chovin dish,” the sizing pan,
The twelve staved bobbin wheel.
My father’s song went with his loom,
His right hand swinging free;
When warp was strong and weft was thick,
A lightsome heart had he;
Then all day long with lusty voice,
That shook the raftered oak;
He sang the songs of hare and hound,
And red faced hunting folk.
The “boggart” tales in whispers told,
That struck me cold with dread;
On wild dark nights with noiseless feet,
I trembling, crept to bed;
To lie awake and frighted hear
The north wind howl and roar;
The ghostly rustle of the blind,
The banging great barn door.
Three horse shoes on the shippon door,
To keep the hag away;
That “witched” the cows and spoiled the milk
In my grandfather’s day;
The queer old signs the holy cross,
Above each boose and stall;
The awesome shapes by rushlight seen,
Along the dark barn wall.
Their once dear homes are empty now,
Those old moorfolk are gone;
Their tales are told their songs are sung,
Their long day’s work is done;
Their graves are full upon the hill,
Where the generations lie,
For country folk they e’er must sleep,
Beneath their homeland sky.