Middlesbrough residents have been taking part in fun workshops to tell their stories about the town. We asked them to give their honest views, and because not everyone has the same opinion, we need to let you know that the views expressed on this page are only those of our participants, not the Council.
Adam Hussain – Mortal Coil
Humanity says if you love something
Just let it go
If I vanished right now
Would that be truly so
All around me
The agony just grows
I try to ignore it
But the misery still flows
At my breaking point
I give in to the sorrow
Now I lay in wait
Ready for my death blow
If they truly cared
Then they would let it show
While they are happy and peaceful
I am left to rot alone
I thought if you truly love something
You should let it go
If that is the truth
Could I be more loved than I know?
Keith McCabe – Hemlington Lake
When I first heard the name Hemlington Lake it invoked dark images of a small lake in a hollow surrounded by ancient woodland and mysterious derelict buildings.
To begin with I had no idea where or what Hemlington Lake was; I was pleasantly surprised when I eventually got around to visiting. Now it is a place that I regularly visit.
I park close by and within a minute I am looking over the expanse of water and the bird life that is supported by the lake.
This day was particularly quiet; it was mid-week and mid-term. My springer spaniel Sally, age twelve and curious, was with me.
Sally took several tentative steps toward the bank of the lake. I was looking through my binoculars; the small island had several birds roosting but there was no movement. I took up my camera with the idea of shooting some random pictures and looking at them later at home on my computer.
To my left I noticed movement. Two swans approached majestically; they cut through the surface of the lake with hardly a ripple. They certainly had my attention and I looked on, fixated by their beauty and elegance.
Sally was rooted to her spot as a small flotilla of mallards, coots, moorhens, and other species of water fowl followed the swans. They seemed to glide to a halt only feet from the jetty on which I stood. As they drew to a stop they began to hiss. I thought perhaps they were after an easy meal until I noticed they had turned their attention to Sally. The turn of the heads seemed to have been perfectly choreographed as the hissing got louder and more intense. Sally looked at me as if she was thinking “what’s up with them two”?
With no food forthcoming, the swans moved gracefully away; the flotilla of other birds came close expecting a free feed. The ducks and coots retreated to the middle of the lake, each one taking its turn to dip below the surface looking for food.
It is said that these graceful creatures are evolved from dinosaurs. I wonder if man will ever evolve to live in harmony as these graceful creatures have?
I stood listening to the various sounds that began to fill the air. The hissing swans must have stirred the tranquillity of the island; some birds took to the sky in fear of predators. It then dawned on me that theses birds seemed to understand each-other’s warning calls. It was not long before the surface of the lake was stirred into a frenzied cauldron of birds taking to the sky.
The swans remained unflustered as they headed to their next port of call somewhere around the lake. I waited until the various species returned and settled down to the peace and quiet of their home.
I now always take time to pause my walk with Sally to look around at the life that occupies our diminishing hedgerows and woodland. Middlesbrough has some beautiful walks that help wildlife thrive.
Take a camera and enjoy them.
Nathan Platt – The Band Stand (I Remember)
I remember back in my day
Watching the band play away
The sounds I heard coming from the stand
I remember so vibrantly first hand
I remember when it was first painted
I stood and watched, then I fainted
Because the fumes were so strong
It knocked me out for so long
When I awoke I wasn’t in the park
I was in the hospital; it was very, very dark
The next morning when I woke up
The nurse was there to give me a check up
She said “You’re fit and ready to go”
So up I got and stubbed my toe
“OUCH!” I screamed as the pain went through me
The nurse just laughed and said “you’re clumsy”
Eventually I got to leave and made my way home
To see my wife waiting, speaking on the phone
But now we’re in present day
I want to go back and dance away
The band still plays but not very often
Usually in summer, but not in autumn
Suddenly I hear something and it makes me think of a sound
About the time where the brass band would play around
I see the band stand stood in all its glory
But children nowadays will say it’s dorky
I remember when the band would play
Not in this stand so bare and frayed away.
Lucy Heron – The Shapes Carved on the Wall
The shapes carved on the wall,
Of pottery made in beautiful forms,
The sun is out so bright,
A perfect time to see the shapes
On the commemorative carving.
You only see red brick,
But imagine the shapes in colours,
Of blue, yellow, red and green.
The wind is quietly singing,
As there is often a peaceful silence,
People are visiting today,
Taking photos of the wall patterns.
Contrast is present,
The modern home living side by side,
With a small link to an old past.
The wall stands for a creative link,
Where pottery was once produced.
Have people come to see the wall,
Before I came to capture an image?
I cannot be the only one,
As there could be witnesses
To the wall’s commemorative event.
But what of the pottery workers?
Can we trace lost relatives
Working on the slip or glazing?
The wall is there,
The past gone along with the factory,
And yet, the legacy always survives.
A reflection of a creative pottery,
The history left behind.
The forms tells its tale
Of beauty being crafted,
Of how the factory provided work
To locals with busy hands.
The memory of Christopher Dresser,
Being there to guide creative folk
With ideas and designs.
The memory of his trip to Japan,
Brought inspiration back home.
The pottery factory was short-lived,
And yet, colours never fade.
Zannah Sprague – Case File: Arrest and Imprisonment of Statue of George Bell
From the period of 1887-1932 the suspect is reported to have killed between 150-500 people. His preferred method was to hold them down by placing all of his weight on the victim’s chest and covering their nose and mouth with his beard until they suffocated. He would then leave and wait for the body to be found. For years the police had no idea who was committing these crimes as the suspect would pose as an inanimate object. The suspect was finally apprehended after being seen killing his last by a witness. After the police were informed of the crimes they arrested the suspect. He was then sealed in an iron cage in the park where he killed his victims. It was deemed that it would not be appropriate to place the suspect in a normal jail due to its supernatural nature.
I had left the house without my parents’ knowledge, to meet with my lover in secret, when I saw the murder. A tall man in a long coat and a bowler hat walking along one of the nearby paths. I knew he was a business associate of my father so I hid to ensure he would not find out about my sneaking out. I then saw a statue fall on him. I was about to revel myself and rush over to help him and make up an excuse for my presence when I saw the statue move. It slowly began moving up his body towards his head. When the statue reached his face it lent forward and forced its beard down the throat of the man until he stopped moving. I froze and watched the statue move back into place. The police arrived a few hours later and I told them what happened, but they didn’t believe me until the statue moved again and tried to murder one of the police men. The other police men pulled the statue off the attacked man and arrested it.
Terry Read – Thoughts from Linthorpe Cemetery
What attracted me to this grave stone was the design engraved on it and also the good condition that it is in considering it has no shelter from the elements that it has been exposed to for over more than a century; other stones in the area that are about the same age or less have eroded a lot more than this one and you can hardly see the inscriptions on most of them. At the time the photo was taken the weather was dry and bright; in the photo there is a tree standing further back with its branches like bony fingers reaching out to take hold of the stone. Was the area it stands in chosen by the person who had it erected? Had they chosen the site because it was so bright and the sun shone on the people laid there? Who I wonder did erect it? Could it have been Susannah the widow of Frederick Hiser, and, if it was, who put Susannah’s name on the bottom when she died?
Frederick died aged fifty two on the 15th of April 1899. Did Susannah choose the way the stone was worded and also the elaborate cross and crown design which I think is the Salvation Army emblem? Or did the Salvation Army pay for the stone and engraving because Frederick was a salvation minister? Did they look after Susannah after her husband’s death? Is that why their children – Catherine aged 13 months died first in 1874 Peter aged12 died in1882 and Susannah junior who died coincidently age 13 months in 1884 – had their names added below their father’s? These deaths show how low the mortality age was in those days. Frederick may have been a manual worker, in which case he would probably be unable to look after his family through ill health brought on by the heavy type of work being done in Middlesbrough at that time. Also the pollution in the town; most houses were very close to the works. Some houses were actually inside the works, so is this why Frederick died?
Did Susannah and Frederick have other children who survived them both? Was it they who put up the stone? We can only guess about what went on in Susannah’s thoughts after losing her children and then her husband… how did she survive? There was no welfare state then; did she take up work or was she too frail to do work and did she depend on the parish for help or did she remarry and her second husband paid for the stone then added her name to it after she died? There is some lettering at the very foot of the stone but it is too hard to make it out clearly – could it be Susannah’s second husband’s name or is it the stone mason’s name?
We can only guess at this but one thing that is definite is that there are so many unanswered questions about this stone and others in this cemetery, and the only people to answer them have gone.
Aiden Parks – Wintertime in Dinosaur Park
The terrifying Triceratops was spray painted to an inch of its life, with midnight blue writing shaped around its body. Its nose was a dirty blue colour and poorly shaped. The dinosaur had been drawn on a lot and had been tagged by the graffiti artist. When it was raining, you could hear the raining pinging on the dinosaur. The wild wind was howling through the dinosaur’s mouth.
In the background, there were skeleton-like trees, reaching their limbs out through the snow. The clouds darkened the sky; it was hard to see.
Danny Gair – No Limits
I walk to the entrance of the park
I listen out and a dog starts to bark
It was 4 o’clock in the afternoon
Realising it will be night soon
I turn around and see green everywhere
I look up and start to stare
I see leaves falling from the trees
I get to the sand and fall to my knees
I get on the spring boards and start jumping
I do a backflip and my heart is pumping
I land on my feet in the soft sand
People look at me and clap their hands
The birds are whistling loud and clear
I look up; it’s just me standing in the mirror
I look at myself and decide to think
That I will need to take a long drink
I go to the place where I had that dream
I see a van to get some ice cream
I look at the spring board and think what could happen
I put my fingers together and start tapping
I decide to go home and leave it for the day
I awake next morning and get dressed straight away
I walk to the park early in the morning
It is that hot I am almost crawling
I get to the park with a smile on my face
See a guy running so I give him a race
Get to the spring boards and my head is thinking
I walk across the sand and my feet are sinking
I ready up and get ready, so ready to jump
Bend my knees and my heart starts to pump
I do the backflip, I am heavily breathing
Land on my feet and I wasn’t dreaming
I decide to walk home in good spirits
And now I realise I have no limits
Rebekah Ashcroft (Year 9 Ks3b) – The Winter Forest
The icy wind stabbed my face as I walked through the forest. It sounded like someone was following me but it was the light crunch of the snow on my feet. White little feathers fell, catching on my eyelashes, tickling my eyes. My once nice straightened hair was now a tangled mess. The white forest was calm, the only sound made was the wind howling through the bare naked trees. The once green leaves were now a frozen, crunchy bundle on the floor. I kept walking when I reached a bridge. There were glittering icicles hanging from the frost decorated rails. The clear river was flowing so slow it was almost completely still. I finally reached the end, to where I was, at my front door.
Yvonne Rate – Albert Park
Albert Park is a small oasis within a busy industrial town.
Nature and industry can live side by side, all we have we to do is encourage nature to stay.
Albert Park has an avenue of trees which line the main path. Halfway along the path is a fountain, carry on walking down the avenue and you will come to some steps. Walk down the steps and look at the lake and wild life.
Take the time to sit and relax in a busy world.
Trish Campbell – An Irish Gentleman
On 20th March 2011 a loving, caring, tie-smart comical man, Seamus/Jim Campbell sadly passed away at a good old age of eighty years in James Cook Hospital, Middlesbrough. Sadly leaving friends and family but also a legacy of achievements for his town.
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce you to him, who he was and how he helped to make Middlesbrough a better town. I would like to introduce you to an Irish gentleman – my Dad.
Our dad was born into an Irish farming family in Lisnakelly, Carrickmacross, County Monaghan and had two siblings, a brother Tony and a sister Mary, whom he cared for, being the eldest, after the early deaths of their parents.
Always an ambitious man, in 1951 he sailed over to England looking for work. He chose to come to Middlesbrough where employment was ripe. Dad gained employment with Dorman Long and worked for them until he returned to Ireland in 1955 where he met and married a beautiful lady, Mena Lowe – our mam. A year later our mam and dad together with their first daughter Mary left Ireland for good and sailed back to England. They settled in Middlesbrough where Dad picked up his old position in the steel works. He then later moved on to new employment becoming a process worker at ICI Billingham in the 1970s.
Dad had many hobbies during his life and was a very active man whilst being a loving husband and father to five children. He did a lot of volunteering work in Middlesbrough. He learned First Aid and went on to become a trained St John Ambulance officer. One of his duties was to attend Middlesbrough FC matches – he was a devoted fan. He was always ready to attend any crowd injuries or run onto the pitch as the sponge man or stretcher bearer. The late Queen Mother presented him with the brigade’s highest honour ‘Order of Serving Brother’. He also devoted time to running the Middlesbrough Irish Centre, providing support for Irish residents of the town.
Our dad was first elected as a councillor in 1973 for the Thorntree ward until 1985 when he took early retirement from his job as a control room supervisor for Northern Gas. He was then elected Deputy Mayor and then Mayor of Middlesbrough in 1986. His door was always open to the residents of Thorntree and Park End. As Middlesbrough Mayor it was Dad who welcomed the players and new board of Middlesbrough FC to the Mayor’s Parlour for the announcement that the club had been saved from liquidation.
During this time our dad was the chairman of the Environmental Health Committee and I remember him saying that he regarded this as his greatest achievement, by helping to clean the town’s air.
After our dad’s passing his former colleagues described him as diligent and hardworking, with a great sense of justice. A man who wouldn’t rest until he had done everything possible to represent his constituents’ rights.
My dad was an exceptional role model to me and I am personally proud to say that I have taken after him in several of his traits. I will always miss him and love him. He had a brilliant character and sense of humour and was a very fair man. Our Dad was an Irish Gentleman.
Natalie Scott – In Centre Square, Middlesbrough
Transporter Bridge takes a back seat
as the stage is set on Centre Square.
Geraniums, blurred but purposeful, dominate
the foreground. It’s midday and people are venturing
sheepishly out of the courts for lunch. The sun
peeks through cracks in the cloud. Upstage is awash
with red and white. The colours of Middlesbrough.
Saturday afternoons tramping on through.
A mast like a chimney sweep’s brush stands tall
above the bridge; all seeing, all knowing, keeping us all
in check. Keeping them on their toes.
The view from there is shifting. People are spots
of colour blending into one another.
Theatrical stage changes to artist’s workshop
and the bridge becomes a cat’s cradle. Loops
of blue string hanging, always knotted together.
To the right, the colours end with the flowerbed
sinking down to the pavement, which carries the hopeful,
the bored, the expectant, the able. All
are relatively content in the sun as it peeks
through the cracks of cloud. How far have they walked?
From down the road and the other side of the world.
Fading into shade as the clouds take over, tracing
the pavement edges, on their way out of town.
Natalie Scott – By the Fire Pit at Nature’s World
Sticks of wood support each other
in the freshly dug pit, triangular,
one charred from the last burning;
pocked with woodworm, dead
and dried up long ago, but always
there in the marks they leave behind.
Russet red ring of kiln fired bricks
evokes comfort, openness, belonging;
in a circle, we share something of ourselves.
The fire roars to life, crackles and fizzes
like sparklers on Bonfire Night;
toasted marshmallows sugar the air.
Dry sticks placed so neatly in a triangle.
Threefold power where fires will burn
and stay burning, keeping our bodies warm.
Natalie Scott – Newport Bridge at Sunset
a heavy star
slowly falls to sleep
in the river its reflection
white light dazzles
their features turning
distant traffic blares
over a sister bridge
the younger sibling
but its clatter
can be ignored
the water’s ripples
are strokes of a brush
black acrylic washed
with the sun’s dying image
crossing the tees
a seal’s smooth skull
breaks the surface
for a moment
takes a deep breath
then sinks back down
leaving just a trace in the water
a wink of yellowing light
a heavy star
slowly falls to sleep
in the river its reflection
Views expressed on this page are the views of the individual authors only. They in no way represent the views of Middlesbrough Council or the Arts Council.