Sunday, June 10, 2007
Internet Ronin's comment on Northampton on my previous post started me thinking about local identity, mine in particular. At once two lines of verse came into my head - 'In a place you'll have 'eard of called Bury;/You know, where black puddings is made.' This is from a sublime piece of nonsense called Three Ha'Pence a Foot by Marriott Edgar. Edgar wrote comic poems for the performer Stanley Holloway and there was a book of them in my house, which was, indeed, near Bury. Neither Edgar nor Holloway came originally from the north-west, but their work together displays an astonishing grasp of the flat, slightly detached humour of the place. I used to know the best of these works - Albert and the Lion, Marksman Sam, The Battle of Hastings, Gunner Joe - off by heart. Reading them now, I see they are touched by genius - mere talent could not come up with 'Where they'd lions and tigers and camels/And Old Ale and sandwiches too', nor with the line with which Noah introduces himself to Sam Oglethwaite in Three Ha'Pence a Foot - 'Came an old feller fair wreathed wi' whiskers;/T'ould chap said,'Good morning, I'm Noah.' The story of this latter poem is a joy. Edgar's verse yarns still makes me laugh out loud. And they remind that I came from a real place that I shall never leave.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 6:15 am