Like many rural communities, Weardale over the centuries has recorded its history in song, a process that goes back millenia to the Norse Sagas and before. Here are a selection I have discovered so far:
This wonderful evocative story about fighting off a band of Border Reivers gives a real taste of the hard life of the farmer in these parts. The full text is on the Rookhope Ryde page. In this we hear of the Bishop’s Bailiff leading the Weardale men against the raiders in an epic battle. You can hear a modern recording by a local singer in this Soundcloud post:
The Bonny Moorhen
This poem is about the hardships of local folk and how their resorting to taking of ‘Moorhen’ from the surrounding fells led to another battle, this time against the landowners’ Bailiffs. The full text is on the Rookhope Village page of this website.
Rhymes of Northern Bards
There is also a wonderful collection of Weardale and regional ballads available as a free eBook. This contains such gems as Barnard Castle Tragedy, The Sedgefield Frolic and Elsie Marley (an alewife of Picktree!).
Sir Walter Scott
The great Walter Scott was inspired by the Weardale area, and famously was the collector of the Rookhope Ryde chaunted by George Collingwood. He was also inspired by the bleakness of the moors in his own work.
There is an earlier post about Auden‘s place in Weardale’s poetic history, with specific reference to his visits to Rookhope, particularly Amor Loci.
Carolyn Ramsbotham’s grandfather left us a couple of lovely verses from the 1920s on Tunstall and The Moor, which she published on her Pasture Gate B&B website.
Its good to hear poetry is still a living art in the dale with the relatively recent series of recital events in 2013 by Jules Clare. This was recounted in the Northern Echo at the time, but read more of his work in his Writecloud posts – the words of a Wolsingham Tale are on the Northern Pies blog. It is good to hear the public sharing of verse continues almost 500 years from the time of the Rookhope Ryde.
Please let me know of any other poetic events in the dale coming up and I’ll make sure visitors are made aware.