Joseph Cronshaw - Dingle Cottage

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BEFORE offering any excuses or making any apology for having ventured to place this volume before the public, I want to thank very sincerely the friends who have rendered me their valuable assistance in compiling this book of sketches and poems.

The ready way in which they have so kindly offered me their services has been most gratifying, more especially as they were gentlemen of experience, not only in writing prose sketches and poems, but in having had practical experience in the publication of their effusions in book form. They, therefore, knew a great deal more about the compiling and issuing of a book than I could know, concerning which I was entirely ignorant, my only experience having been to send occasionally a sketch or poem to some local paper or magazine, and latterly in the Manchester City News.

My dear friend MR. DAVID LAWTON, author of “Warty Rhymes for Warty Foaks,” who also writes under the nom-de-plume of “TH’ OWD WAYVER,” was the first to notice what he considered merit in my lyrics and sketches, and he has for a considerable time published one of my pieces each month in the Wheat Sheaf, issued by the Co-operative Society at Greenfield, of which body he is secretary and editor of their magazine.  The story “Dingle Cottage” I sent to him as I wrote it, before publishing it in the Burnley and Hyde papers.  He has also rendered me great assistance in helping me to select pieces he considered would be of general interest.  In many other ways he has always been willing to place both his time and experience at my service.  Whether walking with him along the beautiful Chew Valley, near to his home, or chatting with him at his own fireside, his conversation and advice have never failed to have an inspiring effect upon me.

Then I owe my thanks to MR. THOMAS BOOTH, Librarian of the Burnley Co-operative Society.  He has written much in prose and verse in, both the dialect and modern English, and is a thorough dialect enthusiast, having lectured over a hundred times on Lancashire authors; he is without doubt the greatest authority on this subject that I have met.  Like MR. DAVID LAWTON, he has given me every encouragement and advice.  For some time he has published monthly, in the Burnley Record, one of my sketches or poems, and also my story “Dingle Cottage.”

MR. THOMAS MIDDLETON, the Hyde historian and antiquarian, author of “Annals of Hyde,” “Old Godley,” and many other books, was one of the first to advise me to publish my efforts in book form.  He has placed many of my lyrics and sketches in the North Cheshire Herald and the Cheshire Post.  He has taken a keen interest in much that I have written during the last two or three years.  The kindly advice and experience of one who has written serial stories for the local press, and is the author also of many beautiful lyrics, some of which have been set to music, have been of great benefit to me.

Then, lastly, there is my friend MR. SIM SCHOFIELD, of Failsworth, author of that charming book, which has run through two editions, “Short Stories about Failsworth Folk.”  He has proved his worth to me in many ways.  MR. SCHOFIELD, who is the son-in-law of the late MR. SAMUEL LAYCOCK, assisted the poet greatly in the preparation for the press of LACOCK’S book, “Warblin’s fro’ an Owd Songster.”  Like MR. THOMAS BOOTH, he has had much experience in lecturing on Lancashire authors.  What MR. SCHOFIELD does not know about the dialect of South-East Lancashire is not worth the telling, for both he and MR. DAVID LAWTON have carried the “wallet,” being hand-loom weavers in their younger days.  MR. SCHOFIELD has ever been willing to assist me, and was the first to introduce my pieces to the editor of the City News, he himself being a frequent contributor to the columns of this well-known Manchester organ.

And now, dear reader, after all the good things that have been said of me in the following notes, it would be useless for me to say anything further about the contents of this book.  But I may just add that I am conscious of my many failings.  Had I been an educated man, some of the pieces would perhaps not have been so crude in their expression.  I do not claim to rank with such classic writers as WAUGH, BRIERLEY, or LAYCOCK; nor do I presume to place before my readers the dialect in its broadest sense, my only excuse being that I have lived forty-five years of my life in Ancoats.  The wonder to many is how I can write or speak the dialect at all.

It will be readily understood why I speak the dialect so fluently when I say that for over thirty years I have recited from the platform poems and sketches from WAUGH, BRIERLEY, LAYCOCK and other Lancashire authors.  Then my parents spoke the South-East Lancashire dialect to perfection.  And now I must leave my work to speak for itself, fully conscious that my readers will not judge me too harshly for any shortcomings or defects.





In submitting this second edition of “Dingle Cottage,” or “A Voice from Ancoats," I will now take the opportunity of expressing my gratitude to the many friends, known and unknown, who have admired the contents of my book so much as to make by their advertisement the sale of the first edition so easy of accomplishment in so short a time.

Not having before printed a smaller book or issued any of my pieces in broad-sheet or pamphlet form, to dispose of so large an edition has been most gratifying.

Many thanks are due to the Lancashire folk in America, not only for their patronage, but also for the kindly letters of appreciation sent to the City News and Oldham Chronicle, which the editors were kind enough to print in their respective organs.  It was also most gratifying to find the book was not over-looked by the various library committees, who thought it of sufficient merit to place along-side those of our late Lancashire worthies; nor have many Sunday School officials neglected to place it among their books for prize distribution.

Yours respectfully,





From Mr. David Lawton, Secretary Co-operative Stores, Author of “Warty Rhymes for Warty Foaks,” etc.

It gives me great pleasure to know that my friend Mr. Joseph Cronshaw has at last decided to publish his many excellent lyrics and pleasing recitations in book form, and so make them accessible to the public, who will find in them much to admire and enjoy and nothing whatever of a coarse or objectionable nature; for Mr. Cronshaw knows how to be both merry and wise; and whether grave or gay, his verse is as clear as at limpid brook, and as pure as driven snow.

It was my privilege to read “Dingle Cottage” in MS. as it left Mr. Cronshaw’s pen, and I was greatly struck by its originality of conception, and deeply moved by its tragedy and pathos.  The narrative is told in touching language, and the everyday joys and sorrows of the everyday folk who figure in the story appeal to the heart, and stir the imagination in a way that arrests and holds the attention of the reader from opening to close.  But Mr, Cronshaw is something more — something greater even — than a good story-teller: it is as a Lancashire Poet that Mr. Cronshaw appeals to the public; nor will he appeal in vain, for very much of his work will compare favourably with the best lyrics of either Waugh, Brierley, or Laycock.  In fact, one cannot help feeling that these departed worthies, if they were here, would be the first to welcome him to a high place on the roll of Lancashire bards.

Mr. Cronshaw is no mere imitator.  His songs are not echoes of other men’s works, but creations of his own vivid and elevated imagination.  He has gone to nature for much of his inspiration, and his descriptive verse is the spontaneous expression of a heart in sympathy with her varying moods.  He is at home amongst the birds, flowers, trees, and fields.  In proof of this, take the following stanzas from the poem, “Yon Bonnie Dell”: —

Ther’s a bonnie little dingle
    Abeawt a mile fro’ here,
An’ when mi wark an’ baggin’s o’er
    Aw’m welly awlus theer;
Ther’s a summat seems to draw me
    Where Nature weaves her spell,
That’s why aw like to wander in
    Yon bonnie little dell.

Th’ owd throstle greets me every neet
    Wi’ sitch a grand salute,
An’ th’ blackbird’s voice, soa sweet an’ nice,
    Seawnds like a magic flute.
When t’other brids run through their score,
    The harmony to swell,
Ther’s a Hallelujah Chorus in
    Yon bonnie little dell.

The foxgloves, tall an’ stately, bow
    An’ shake their purple bells,
While butterflees an’ hummibees
    Sip nectar fro’ their cells.
The primrose shy peeps slyly at
    The blue an’ heather bell,
While daffodils dance gaily in
    Yon bonnie little dell.

The mention of a throstle reminds me that of all the feathered songsters the throstle is evidently our author’s favourite, and so this herald of spring is accorded a poem all to himself.  This poem, by the way, is a good example of Mr. Cronshaw’s happy style: —

Neaw, lads, just yer yon throstle sing;
    Let’s ceawr us deawn awhile,
An’ hearken nature’s music
    Sung in a gradely style;
He’ll bother noan wi’ semitone;
    He’s noather flat nor sharp;
He’s just as sweet, booath morn an’ neet,
    As David’s famous harp.

Aw awlus like to yer him sing
    When th’ twilight’s growin’ dim:
When t’other brids are gone to roost
    He pipes his Vesper hymn;
He tries to cheer his little mate —
    Just watch him tak’ a peep!
He’s lookin’ if his little brood
    Are snug an’ fast asleep.

Mr. Cronshaw is not only a lover of nature, but be is also a lover of human nature, and a keen observer of men and things. So, when he turns from the birds and flowers, he is equally happy in his pourtrayal of the homely folks amongst whom he has spent his strenuous life.  Here, too, he is natural and unaffected.  His characters are real, not painted puppets, but happy types of sturdy Lancashire manhood, and true, hearty, healthy Lancashire womanhood, who command our admiration and win our esteem as soon as we make their acquaintance.

In the narrative verse it is frequently the husband who addresses his wife.  The two pieces, “Goin’ Off” and “Comin’ Whoam” are good examples.  The husband urges his wife to go away for her health to the sea-side, and confidently assures her that he will be quite able to manage the children and the house.  When he has had some three weeks of housework, he details in the second piece the many misadventures which have brought home to him the fact that house-keeping is by no means the sinecure he had thought it to be before he tried it for himself, and, half whimsically, half pathetically he writes to his absent spouse :—

Theau’ll hardly know me when theau comes,
    Aw’ve gone so pale an’ thin;
Ther hasna bin mitch wark, mi lass,
    Between mi nose an’ chin.
Folk shake ther yeds, an’ whisper low—
    Aw feel aw’m gradely ill,
An’ iv theau doesna come back soon,
    Ther'll be a doctor’s bill.

Neaw mind theau doesna miss thi train,
    Aw’ll meet thi iv aw con;
Do catch it, lass, or else, bi th’ mass,
    Theau’ll want another mon.
Aw’ve had three week — aw’m satisfied —
    A day’s abeawt enoof;
Before aw’ll tak’ it on ogen
    Aw’ll hang misel’ i’th’ cloof.

In the poem, “When Thee an’ Me wer Yung,” Mr. Cronshaw touches a very high note.  Here again it is the man who speaks to his wife, and pictures the days of their happy courtship, when he whistled and she sang as together they plied their looms.  Then he lightly sketches their married life, and closes with the following masterly touches : —

We’n seen eawr precious little bairns
    Pray softly at thi knee;
We’n felt their warm an‘ lovin' kiss;
    We’n watched ’em droop an’ dee.
Ther’s little een ’at’s watchin’, lass.
    Wheer neet is changed to noon;
Their little honds oft beckon us
    To that breet lond aboon.

Come, dry thi een! theau munnot let
    Eawr darlin’s see thee cry;
Aw know full weel they’re watchin’, lass;
    We’st meet ’em by-an‘-by.
When God sees fit to co’ us whoam
    To that sweet lond o’ bliss.
Aw know eawr precious little lambs
    Will greet us wi’ a kiss.

In this poem Mr. Cronshaw excels himself.  In genuine pathos, beauty of thought and expression, it has few equals in any author’s works.

His women, however, are not all silent — it would be a pity if they were.  In “Social Reform” it is a homely, sensible Lancashire matron who speaks her mind in vigorous style:—

Aw’ve just bin a-seechin’ eawr ]ack,
    Aw fun’ him drunk as a foo’;
He’re sit wi' a rook o’th’ same mak’,
    Enough to sup a whole brew.
They made sitch a clatter an’ din,
    Ther notions aw couldn’t weel gawm;
Till Clinker sheawts, “Lads, let’s begin
    An’ go in for Social Reform.”

She describes the muddle-headed talk of the tap-room politicians, and roundly declares at the close :—

If aw live while yon mon comes i’ seet,
    Aw’ll bet he’s noan lung eawt o’ bed
Ther’s summat bin waiting o’ neet,
    At’s itchin’ to get at his yed.
If yo’ see eawr Jack lookin’ bad —
    He happen may walk a bit lawm —
Just tak’ it fro’ me ’at he’s had
    Th’ fost lesson i’ Social Reform.

A mother is the speaker in “Dunno’ be a Foo’,” and she gives her son some excellent advice; but we must hasten to notice the winsome lass who is the speaker in “Whistlin’ ‘Waitin’ Here.’” This piece, a good sample of Mr. Cronshaw’s sly humour, reminds us of Waugh’s little gem, “The Dule’s i’ this Bonnet o’ mine.” In both poems the speakers are in the same state of excited half-confident expectation of a proposal, and are equally ready to accept the hoped-for offer.  But here the comparison ends, for Mr. Cronshaw’s heroine is in quite a different set of surroundings from Waugh’s.  One is half-tempted to suspect that the father’s threat to “shoot that furrin’ brid” is not made in earnest; whilst it is quite evident that the mother knows all about the whistler outside, and is in full sympathy with her daughter’s feelings.  At the close of this excellent little comedy, the girl sensibly consoles herself with the reflection:—

Aw dunno’ think he’ll be so lung
    Afore he axes me:
He nobbo’ use’t to want one kiss,
    Neaw he tak’s two or three.
He wouldna need to stand i’th’ cloof,
    Nor whistle “Waitin’ Here”;
Just let th’ owd parson tee that knot,
    He’ll find me awlus theer.

Space fails, or more than passing mention might be made of such moving poems as “When We Buried Little Jack,” “Aw winno’ Stir To-neet,” and some others; but enough has been advanced to prove Mr. Cronshaw’s right to take a high and honoured place amongst the bards of his native county.



From Mr. Thomas Booth, Librarian Burnley Co-operative Stores, Author and Lecturer on Lancashire Poets.

I WAS pleased to hear that my friend Mr. Joseph Cronshaw intended to publish his poems in book form, and I could not refrain from writing a line or two in commendation of the project, and in appreciation of the many beautiful lyrics that have come from his pen.

The first of Mr. Cronshaw’s poems to attract my attention was the one entitled “I’m Lonely, an’ Weary, an’ Sad,” which may be described as a sequel to Waugh’s well-known “Come Whoam to thi Childer an’ Me.”

It goes without saying that if Waugh had never written the latter, Mr. Cronshaw would not have been inspired to pen his delightful sequel; and this implies no depreciation of the poem, for “I’m Lonely, an’ Weary, an’ Sad” is in every way worthy of the one which inspired its production.  Mr. Cronshaw has indeed caught the spirit of the master.

In this poem the idea permeating Waugh’s lyric is carried a step further, and the old man, left “lonely an’ weary,” still seems to hear the voice of his loved one calling to him from a brighter sphere, “Come Whoam to thi Childer an’ Me.”  As he sits by his fireside he sees the “empty chair,” and listens to the lonely ticking of the clock; he sees the “trumpet an’ drum” he brought from the fair for Dick in the days gone by, and an angel’s voice whispers, “My lad, arto ready?  Come Whoam to thi Childer an’ Me; ” and, as he sits musing, feeling that life’s eventide is fast falling, and that his days are now “in the sere and yellow leaf,” he feels that his good dame will not have long to await his coming, for he replies: “Aw conno’ come yet, but aw’m comin’-- theau’ll noan have so lung, lass, to wait.”  The whole poem is a delightful picture, and has a happy conceit running through it from beginning to end.

I have dwelt somewhat at length upon this poem, but others of Mr. Cronshaw’s productions are worthy contributions to Lancashire literature.  One and all have a quaint pathetic humour running through them, such for instance as “We want yon Lads Awhoam,” “Little Billy’s Crutch,” “When Thee an’ Me were Yung,” etc.

In his search for subjects on which to exercise his poetic fancies, Mr. Cronshaw never goes far afield; the home and the fireside, the lovely glens of his native county, or the toils and cares of the dwellers in our work-a-day towns are the themes which please him most.  He has the happy knack of extracting the poetic essence from the humblest scenes and incidents of every-day life.  But this power is the poet’s wand of enchantment which transforms the common-place scenes of life, and invests its humblest attributes with a halo of imaginative beauty that deepens our interest in the “world of God around us,” and thereby purifies and elevates the “world of God within us.”  By the exercise of this power the poet fulfils the noblest behests of his high calling, and life is made brighter to the earth-pilgrim by the “summer land of song” which is made to blossom around him.

Just listen as he sings of “The Sunny Month o’ June” —

Aw like to roam at early morn
    I’th’ bonny month o’ June,
When hay lies shorn, an’ rising corn,
    Looks up to th’ sky aboon;
To hear the thrush pipe in the bush,
    It puts one’s heart i’ tune,
Where daisies sweet grow at one’s feet,
    I’th’ sunny month o’ June.

                         .    .    .    .

There’s a rake for every bonny lass,
    A fork for every lad;
There’s mony a smile ’ats free fro’ guile,
    An’ mony a heart ’ats glad.
It makes one think, to see ’em wink,
    There’ll be some weddin’s soon;
For love grows strung when hearts are yung,
    I’th’ sunny month o’ June.

About such a poem as this the glint of June sunshine seems to play; one can almost smell the blossoms and new-mown hay, and one’s heart seems to dance to the rustle of leafy woods stirred by the soft breezes of “incense-breathing morn.”  The same phase of feeling runs through his poem “My Bonny Lass,” when he says —

Aw never yerd yon throstle sing
    Like he’s sung o’ this day;
Aw never seed yon hawthorn bloom
    Look hawve as breet an’ gay.
There’s music fro’ yon little brook,
    An’ th’ sky looks breet aboon,
Aw’m certain sure its Mary’s love
’At keeps this heart i’ tune.

                         .    .    .    .

When comes sweet spring, the thrush will sing,
    An’ June bring hawthorn spray,
But Mary’s love an’ mine shall last
    Until life’s closing day!

And then our author asks the question: “Am I a poet?”  But he must excuse us if we differ from him when he answers the question himself as follows: —

Am I a poet?  Well! I rather think not;
    True poets, though dead, sir, are seldom forgot.
Am I a poet?  Come now, don’t make me laugh?
    I like a good joke, but I’m proof against chaff.
As to stringing my thoughts in homely-put rhymes.
    “Thy, then, I confess, I am guilty sometimes:
Just to please a rude fancy, in my leisure time.
    I’ve formed the bad habit of trying to rhyme.

But further on in the same poem he writes :—

I’m fond of wild flowers that grow in the dell,
    The daisy so modest, and bonny blue-bell —
Where the pale timid primrose peeps from its nook
    At the foxglove so stately that bows to the brook.
Where the hawthorn so sweet, resplendent in bloom.
    Fills the soft balmy air with fragrant perfume.

And yet in spite of the poetic fancy running through these latter lines, Mr. Cronshaw modestly says:—“I’m right glad to own, and well pleased to know it, there’s a gulf, sir, divides the rhymster from poet.”  As to whether our author is a poet or no, perhaps he himself is not the best judge after all.

Mr. Cronshaw is also imbued with a love of human nature, as deep and abiding as his ardent love of external nature, as witness the tender pathos of his poem entitled “Little Billy’s Crutch.”

This poem, descriptive of “two little mites in Ancoats Lane, marred by affliction’s touch,” will awaken a tender chord in any heart that is not callous to all the kindlier attributes of our human nature. When little Nell lay dead—

Someone placed a bunch of flowers where little Nell lay dead;
Someone knelt and said a prayer beside her tiny bed;
No one saw him creep down stairs — it did not matter much;
No one saw him dry those tears, but they heard a little crutch.

And then, when little Bill grew too weak to visit his playmate’s lonely grave, the angels came to summon him away —

The angels took his pure white soul from that dark cheerless room;
The guardians took his crippled form, and laid it in the tomb;
But when he met his playmate Nell, she’d no consumptive touch,
She’d left her pain in Ancoats Lane, with little Billy’s crutch.

Of Mr. Cronshaw’s humorous productions we are not going to speak here, but he has indeed a keen sense of the humorous, and in his published volume humour and pathos will he found delightfully blended.

The wonder to me is that smoke-begrimed Ancoats should produce men of such tastes as our author, men with such a keen appreciation of the beautiful in nature, for he has indeed “found love in huts where poor men dwell;” and all who peruse his book will find delightful pleasure in his “rude rhymes, roughly wrought in an unlearnèd loom.”

THOS. BOOTH.                           

Fern Cottage, Burnley
         May 4th, 1908.


Author of “Legends of Longdendale; ”
“Poets, Poems, and Songs of East Cheshire;”
“Annals of Hyde,” etc., etc.

ADMIRERS of what is called “Lancashire Dialect” poetry and prose are often heard to lament the loss of Waugh, Brierley, and Laycock, in terms which seem to imply that with the decease of these two masters, the decadence of dialect writing has come to pass. It is a mistake to drop into this pessimistic vein. The old adage is still true: Le roy est mort. Vive le roy. And although we mourn the absence from the literary world of to-day of men like Waugh and Brierley, yet we ought not to shut our eyes to the fact that other writers have stepped into the gaps left by the disappearance of the veterans, and that the best traditions of Lancashire literature are still maintained by living scribes.

Among the men who are worthy to rank with the great Lancashire writers of the past must assuredly be placed Mr. Joseph Cronshaw, the Ancoats Bard; and it comes as a tonic to those who have long been acquainted with his prose and verse efforts to see that the Manchester press is at last beginning to recognise his worth. Mr. Cronshaw is not as other writers; his career is a veritable romance, and ought to be written at length. It has been a battle against hardships and odds, but Mr. Cronshaw has won. Born in Newton Heath on September 20th, 1851, of poor but respectable parents, Joseph Cronshaw had a rough bringing up during his early boyhood, but by the time he had attained the age of 13 years, his parents had made for themselves a good position as provision dealers. At this time the future poet was sent to work by his father for a gutta-percha shoemaker, but as this business proved injurious to the lad’s health, he was taken from it; and, to use his own words, he there and then determined “never again to work for a master.” To the consternation and disgust of his parents, he hired a hand-cart and began selling salt, his capital — one shilling and nine-pence — being raised by the sale of a quantity of old iron which he had gathered at various times from a neighbouring rubbish tip. Thus, as a hawker, he laboured, sometimes for ten to twelve hours per day, for nine months successfully fulfilling the conditions that his parents — thinking to discourage him — had imposed, namely, the making for his mother of a clear shilling per day out of the business.  Besides this, he was able to put by a few shillings occasionally for himself, and when his savings at last reached £1, he attended Acres Fair, Knot Mill, on October 1st, 1865, and spent his capital in the purchase of a donkey.  In the space of twelve months from the purchase of the donkey, he had a sum of £9 to his credit in the savings bank, besides having paid for a second-hand donkey cart.  Two additional donkeys and carts were soon added to his stock-in-trade, and these he hired out, thus making more interest on his money than the bank could pay him.  Even at that early age he had developed the keen acumen which has since made him famous.  He never missed an opportunity of making money honestly.  Advised to take a holiday to Blackpool for the sake of his health, he bought several donkeys, which he picked up cheap, and walked them home to Manchester; and the idea now entered his head that money might be made by keeping a stud of donkeys on the Blackpool sands during the season.  Thus first one idea and then another was worked out by him.  Eventually he established himself in business as a grease refiner and salt merchant on a large scale, and he is well known as a successful business man in most of the big towns of Lancashire and Cheshire.

In an article of this description, a few personal points will not be out of place.  I have known Mr. Cronshaw for some years, have been often in his company, and can write with confidence concerning him.  He is quite a character, and his business shrewdness is proverbial.  It is a treat to stand within the walls of his business yard, and see him deal with the many rough and queer folk whom he is called upon to meet in the way of trade.  His business place is the Onward Salt Wharf, in Ancoats, Manchester; right in the most crowded, and certainly not the most savoury, part of the city.  But it is here, in the heart of all that is gloomy and prosaic, amid all that is practical and serious, that the poetical spirit of our author has been born and nurtured.

As though proving the truth of the saying that “the busiest men have always the most time,” Mr. Cronshaw has followed several pursuits apart from his business. In his younger days he was an amateur actor, and to-day as a successful reciter he has few equals. He is a born humorist, and it is utterly impossible to imagine anything more grotesquely funny or more mirth-provoking than his comical impersonations. I have seen audiences convulsed with laughter all the time Mr. Cronshaw was on the stage.

Since he took to authorship, Mr. Cronshaw’s pen has never been idle, and he has written scores of pieces, both in verse and prose.  His prose sketches are well written, and they rank among the best descriptions of Lancashire life.  It would be hard to find characters more true to life than the homely Lancashire worthies depicted in his story “Dingle Cottage.”  Of his verse much might be said; it will, however, suffice to state that he is one of the most successful of modern dialect rhymsters.  His poems of this description are numerous, and it is difficult to make a selection; but could one ask for a truer sketch of two old-fashioned Lancashire worthies and their rural surroundings than this? —


Owd chitty wer a merry brid,
    His voice wer alus ringin’;
Booath neet an’ day he’d pipe away —
    Th’ owd lad wer alus singin’.
Owd chitty lived wi’ Polyant’,
    At th’ eend o’ Daisy Lone,
An‘ as they’d noather wife or choilt,
    Th’ owd couple lived alone.

They’d a little cot a storey heigh,
    Weel covert o’er wi’ thatch;
It had little teeny windows,
    An’ th’ dur a wooden latch.
Shepsters neested under th’ thatch,
    Sparrows built i’th’ speawt,
While swallows, through a hole i’th’ wo’,
    Kept dartin’ in an’ eawt.

They’d th’ nicest garden reawnd abeawt;
    Yo’ talk abeawt perfume!
It swarmed wi’ bees an’ butterflees,
    When th’ posies wer i’ bloom.
They doated on that little plot,
    They knowed each tree an’ plant;
It wur like a little paradise
    To Chit an’ Polyant’.

Much of Mr. Cronshaw’s dialect verse is devoted to expressions of his fondness for bird life and for nature; and there are few dialect writers who have surpassed him in the treatment of these subjects.  Here is a fragment — a little gem — from his poem on a “Throstle.”

Yo’ talk abeawt th’ owd chapel choir,
    Or th’ philharmonic band;
Yo’re madam this or signor that —
    They arno’ hawve as grand;
He doesna need invitin’ lads,
    He starts off free an’ bowd,
An’ he maks no lawn excuses
    For havin’ catched a cowd.

Many of his dialect pieces touch a rare vein of pathos, and two of his latest and best productions are of this class, namely: “We want yon Lads Awhoam,” and its sequel: “Eawr Lads are comin’ Whoam.”

Mr. Cronshaw has also written largely in English, and many of his verses possess the spirit of true poetry.  Want of space unfortunately prevents lengthy quotation, but the following lines, in which the author deals with the question, “Am I a poet?” will give evidence sufficient to show that Joseph Cronshaw is not unworthy to take a place by the side of some of the best of the Lancashire bards.

Now should I stroll out in the gay summer time,
My heart fills with rapture at nature sublime —
The hills and the valleys, the moorland and clough,
And the clear rippling streams are subjects enough;
Though lacking in poesy, I think it no crime
To tell what I feel in a simple crude rhyme,

I’m fond of good music; the sweetest I’ve heard
Salutes me in spring from the wild singing bird:
The blackbird so sweet, and the throstle so coy,
Respond to the notes of the lark in the sky;
And should it be winter, with snow or frost rime,
The voice of the robin compels me to rhyme.

I’m fond of wild flowers that grow in the dell,
The daisy so modest, and the bonny blue bell —
Where the pale timid primrose peeps from its nook
At the foxglove so stately that bows to the brook;
Where the hawthorn so sweet, resplendent in bloom,
Fills the soft balmy air with fragrant perfume.

Vain critics may blame for the license I take,
When I tell of sweet maids, with fork and hay rake,
And the reapers’ refrain so jolly and blythe,
Keeping time to the music of sickle and scythe;
Though lacking in poesy, and my writing’s but rhyme,
To the sickle and scythe my heart’s keeping time.

I’m thankful to God for these bright sunny hours
Spent in the woodlands, ’midst birds and wild flowers;
For the cornfield and meadow, so plenteous in wealth;
For raiment and food, and a store of good health;
With a heart ever grateful, I think it sublime
To praise my Creator in blank verse or rhyme.

In a brief sketch it is impossible to give anything like an adequate review of the many excellencies of Mr. Cronshaw’s work.  Suffice it to say that he covers every phase of human thought and emotion from grave to gay, and is always effective in the treatment of his subjects.  His claims to authorship are of course based upon his merits as a writer of Lancashire verse and prose, and as such he holds a high place among modern scribes, — indeed it would be hard to find among the writers of to-day a better representative of the school of Edwin Waugh, Ben Brierley and Sam Laycock.  Mr. Cronshaw cannot be called a young man, but it almost seems as though his best work was still to come.  If anything, his writings increase in power and interest, and his latest productions seem to promise even greater and more interesting things for the future.  That this promise may be fulfilled will be the heart-felt wish of thousands of Lancashire artisans, who have for many years been delighted with the songs and sketches that have come from his pen.

THOMAS MIDDLETON.                     

                May 18th, 1908.




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