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Tale of the Works Trip
A poem by Eddie Lawler

Eddie Lawler's poem tells the story of a trip to Gordale Scar, undertaken by workers from Salt's various Bradford mills - though this was before Salts Mill came into being. The trip is documented in the Bradford Observer, August 23, 1848.

Eddie Lawler writes:

Over 2,000 travelled from Forster Square to Bell Busk, in two trains, the longer one with 41 coaches and two engines. Everyone took a picnic-basket. The farmers of Bell Busk and thereabouts were amazed, indeed baffled, to see such numbers skipping about their countryside. “The band” played before departure, and led the five-mile walk to Gordale Scar, playing in front of the waterfall and finishing with “Auld Acquaintance”. A few hundred, not everyone, managed the whole walk. Those who did make it were caught in a heavy rain-shower, though some did have an umbrella……


It became tradition (condescending, you might say)
To take the factory hands out on a summer’s day
Just once a year, a Saturday of course
For five were weekdays and the other one was God’s
And everyone put on their best, including all-day smile
And boarded special trains to seaside, such as Filey
Scarborough, Brid, to east, Morecambe, Blackpool, west

Well, Saltaire claims that Titus Salt was first
With “workers’ treat”, not to the coast but up the lovely Dales
And the story is so stunning we invite you to complete the tale
For the destination was a place called Gordale Scar
And if you don’t know where that is, we’re not telling yer
Except to say the planet offers just a few locations
Where humans get an inkling of creation
Where rocks shape water, water breathes,
And slowly sculpts a feature of geology
Where humans stop, and stare, and say nowt, maybe smile

Well – let’s not get too soft, too philosophical
Just try to think back seven-score years and ten
And sort out how they fettled this back then
There is no film, you’ll need imagination
To see three thousand folk board train/s at Saltaire station
But how it goes from there remains a simple mystery
Calling for a bit of wisdom from a wizard of history
Who can work out just where they stopped – Gargrave, or Bell Busk?
Then how they got to Gordale Scar – it’s many a mile on foot
So did they hire a couple of hundred horses and long carts?
How many picnic baskets did they carry? How many hands did work?
And having marvelled at the scene (assuming it didn’t rain!)
Did ladies get their hems all wet from walking up the stream
How many bold young mill-men clambered up the fall
How many screams and giggles echoed up the craggy wall
Who slipped on the stepping-stones to blushes and guffaws
Who cracked a joke when sheep said “Baah!” from high above the scar?
For no photographers recorded what took place
And if there was an artist there, his work has been misplaced
For this is not Munchhausen, it’s 19th century fact
That might teach us a lesson or two in how we ought to act

All we know is (bit like the Mill) there was no disaster
It seems that all came back alive, not happily ever after
But we can surmise, a touch enriched
By this and many other railway trips
Twixt place-of-work and beauty-spot

Until of course they stopped

But there is a moral here, and our conviction -
When it comes to telling tales, reality beats fiction.

Hands down.

© Eddie Lawler, 2006


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