Doris Darbyshire

King Teddy’s Reign

We had no television, we had no radio,
We had no Public telephone, we had no video.

We had no Brownie Camera, we had no cinema,
We had no roller skating, we had no motor car.

We had no recreation ground, we had no tennis courts,
We had no ‘Penny Farthing,’ we had no wheels of sport.

But we had lots of pleasure, in the early century years,
The ‘Boer War’ was over, ’twas not a time for tears.

King Teddy sat upon the throne, he was a gay old beau,
He made merry with his subjects, from the highest to the low.

The rich spent of their wealth, and money flowed around,
Making trading very good, jobs for the poor were found.

So, the poor made merry also, they worked hard and then they played,
Toasting the health of the new monarch, as they’d done for the ‘White Cockade.’

In the humble streets of cotton towns, life was far from dull,
What leisure time their labours left, folk lived it to the full,

All went early to their beds, for early did they rise,
The ‘Knocker Up’ man tapped the Pole, and the weather he’d advise.

Soon, clog-irons on cobbled streets, with strange metallic sound,
Like a muffled ‘Tom Tom,’ would echo miles around.

And as the mill gates opened, they swallowed up their prey,
For the many clog shod workers, began another day.

The Lamp Lighter was next to come, he turned out all the lights,
Which he had lit for workers, returning home last night.

The Milkman next with horsedrawn float, and in the float he sat,
Measuring out into your jug, from a fresh milk vat.

The streets weren’t quiet very long, as Hawkers made their way,
To sell their wares, they shouted out, what they had got today.

The ‘Cockle-Mussel’ man arrived, clad in oilskins and Sou’Wester,
A donkey pulled his cart along, he was more fun than a jester.

The ‘Rag and Bone’ man never missed, he’d give you rubbing stones,
In exchange for rags, and bottles, for old iron, jars, and bones.

The Lump Salt Man, would push his cart, making the morning gay,
As he sawed a great big lump in two, ‘salt is sweeter than sugar’ he’d say.

Then a woman selling crumpets, meal cakes and muffins new,
Baked that very morning, they were as fresh as dew.

As well as food along would come, haberdashery on a tray,
Ribbons, cottons, needles, tapes, spread out in fine display.

The Scissor Sharpener brought his wheel, to sharpen at your door,
Your knives and scissors, making them, much smaller than before.

On Friday came the Fish Man, for Friday was fish day,
He’d have every sort from kippers, to halibut and ray.

Oh, in those days we did not need, or want a super-store,
For everything we needed, was brought up to our door.

And in the early evening the ‘Hurdie Gurdie’ came,
The boys and girls would rush outside, to play the dancing game.

The older folk as well would join, they’d jig and waltz and sing,
Then give the man their ha’pennies, for a joyous half hours fling.

The local inns, in true tradition, served the thirsty workers,
Who by their labour earned their pints, tho few afforded liquors.

Churches, chapels, flourished, folk were faithful to their creeds,
Finding Spiritual Help, and social pleasure for their needs.

So, with the 20th Century, hastening to its end,
You, who are born to great inventions,
And labour saving trend,
Think highly of your forbears, of the early century years,
With their simple joys and pleasures,
Their laughter and their cheers.


Notes on this poem

Written in 1986.

For those of us interested in the world of mill towns circa 1900 this verse is simply a treasure. Here are a few explanatory notes for non-locals: