Marston, and indeed Northwich in general, is criss-crossed with miles of old mines, long abandoned and, apparently, full of chemical nastiness from the chemical works that took it’s place as the town’s main industry. They dug mines under the town itself, causing entire streets to actually collapse at times (some heads must have rolled for that!). My grandad wrote this poem to commemorate those days and, at the end, he even goes into his feelings toward the state of the world back then.
As I walked along the road
I saw an old chap standing there,
His belly resting on the fence
And his feet in the dark shadow of his gut.
I nodded and he acknowledged that
And went to stand there at his side,
To ask about the old rock mines
And he answered with pride.
“I can remember, lad” he said
“When all the rock pits were hard at work”
He waved his long arm all around
Where bushes grew and where now foxes lurk.
“Those were hard times, when work was scarce”
He stopped, then shook his head from side to side,
“And men couldn’t afford to be ill at home
For they could never pay the doctor’s card”
“The old Pool Pit and Crystal Shaft
Were spitting rock up by the ton
And dropping it into narrow boats,
Lad, you should have seen the fun.
Blasting out the rock lench in the glim of candlelight
Big fellows, small chaps and ponies kicking out,
Scratching there and scraping, sweating all like bulls
And queuing at the paydesk, for almost next to nowt”
“At twelve years old a lad left school
And they shoved him down the shaft,
To bore a hole six feet long in a wall of solid rock.
And when his hands were blistered and three feet still to go,
He’d think of school
And his mates playing there.
And wish he was up in the cool fresh air
Instead of in this hole”
“At the end of the shift, he’d lay down his spike
And walk to the cage that would take him up
To a different world than he’d seen below,
All green fields and painted barges.
Then home he’d walk, head held high
With dirty face and innocent heart.
For now he was a workman earning his pay
And by, he certainly looked the part.
Oh Marston, how well you’ve worked
Your rock and salt did the barges fill,
And robbed yourself when all was done
So some could count the monied till.
But that is life, we all know that
It goes on the world around.
Some work and suffer, skin to bone
For the hearing of the money sound,
And when older, a man does grow
He’ll stop and take account,
Why should he slave for other folk
No! Let him steadily his pleasures mount,
Why have their worries thrust upon
His shoulders, already laden at home.
He thinks ahead to future years
For this life is but a loan