Dingle Cottage: Poems and Sketches
Clearly a great deal of planning, design and care has gone into the presentation of this volume: the cover has the strap-line, ‘A Voice from Ancoats’, the title page notes ‘Introductory Remarks by David Lawton, Thomas Booth, Thomas Middleton’, cover and page both beautifully presented, with the text bordered by flower patterns (two bright red Lancashire roses frame the title-page), while the back cover is blind stamped with an ornate ‘DC’ framed in a curtained window or stage with open curtains. Opposite the title page is a delicately printed photograph of the author, signed ‘Yours faithfully, Jos Cronshaw’. The volume is illustrated with line drawings throughout. (All this may be seen on the copy on the Massey page.) Behind this pleasing presentation, and the apparatus of a triple Introduction and authorial Preface, lies an intricate network of support: librarians, fellow writers in and on the dialect, co-operative societies, outlets for talks and recitations, local newspapers, and publishers willing to invest (for there is no subscription list). Behind the volume as a whole there is a tremendous sense of pride in regional writing, presided over by three spirits from the previous generation, the poets Edwin Waugh, Samuel Laycock and Ben Brierley, who are regularly namechecked in the preliminary materials. Indeed, one mixed prose-verse piece, ‘A Strange Dream’, uses the dream motif to discuss the consider of reading these three hallowed Lancashire dialect poets, and to underline this, handsome photographic portraits of each of them with names and vital dates, are interleafed with the poem (156-63). One of several frank, self-reflective poems in the volume, ‘Am I a Poet?’ (167-71) confirms one’s sense of, if not quite an anxiety of influence, at least a self-effacing, deferential and anxious desire to perpetuate and participate in the powerful popular and literary traditions the earlier poets represent. In his Preface Cronshaw proudly claims that ‘for over thirty years I have recited from the platform poems and sketches from Waugh, Brierley, Laycock and other Lancashire authors’. The first poem in the book, ‘Aw’m Lonely, an Weary, an’ Sad’, is sub-headed ‘(Sequel to E. Waugh’s beautiful poem, “Come Whoam to thi Childer an’ Me.”)’, and there are three other poems about coming ‘awhoam’ in the book. (One might somewhat mischievously compare this deeply respectful response to Edwin Waugh’s enormously popular sentimental poem, with Ben Brierley’s acidly parodic verse-riposte to the same poem: ‘Go tak’ the ragged Childer an’ flit’.) ‘Eawr Parson’ (72-3) says of the parson that ‘He ma’es one think o’ “Gentle Jone,” / An’ good owd “Roger Bell.”, with these names footnoted as characters/titles of poems by Waugh and Laycock. Among the other poems, ‘Lost in London, or the Dialect in Distress’, subtitled ‘(Supposed conversation betwixt an Author and his Book)’, reflects a desire to re-assert the local and homely over the overwhelming, corrupting power of the metropolis, and is something akin to Mary Leapor’s humorous poem, ‘Upon her Play being returned to her, stained with Claret’ (compare also Robert Bloomfield’s satiric diatribe against the ‘great whirlpool’ of London, in his poem ‘Spring’, in The Farmer’s Boy, 1800). ‘A Tribute to Morley Park’ (186-7) is a paeon both to a local amenity and to the author’s late parents (to whom the whole volume is dedicated). ‘Dingle Cottage ‘, the opening prose work, is a 60-page novella in south Lancashire dialect, and there is prose scattered elsewhere in the volume.