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Third series, episode 38

All 130 episodes are available here on the HebWeb.

In this episode there's a dirty water demo, tears at long lost families found, a tale from Turvin, hanging men and burning women, Ted hunting pike, an arty party and some mirrored reflections.

Top of the poops

I went to a dirty water demonstration on the packhorse bridge, where the Hebden trundles down to the Calder. The previous day, Extinction Rebellion had a demo outside the Eastwood Water Treatment Works in response to the Calder placing second in a Most Polluted Waterways in England league of shame. Table topper was the Severn, but that river is as long as Wales, so our water delivered more poops to the scoop.
That Saturday, demonstrators gathered support from steam punks and vintage car owners as well as the usual crowds. Petitions were signed, leaflets were accepted and the posters on the bridge demanded that Yorkshire Water should:

  1. Stop paying bonuses whilst the river is polluted;
  2. Stop spilling sewage from water treatment works into the river;
  3. invest profits in repairing and improving infrastructure to restore the river's health.

As the delightful duo the Dirty Scrubbers performed their scatological skits, I thought this is how ecological protests should be - not spoiling people's lives but getting them onside. There was no bullying of the public, and even when two community coppers arrived, they told me they were only 'the short arm of the law.'

Data compiled from the Environment Agency by dirty water campaign group Top of the Poops, shows that the River Calder was polluted with sewage spills a total of 2,954 times in 2022. It's Yorkshire's water we are swimming in and getting flooded by, and our fish are dying in, but Yorkshire Water's largest owners are the investment arm of the Singapore government, Germany's Deutsche Asset Management and a venture capitalist New York equity trust.

The same day as our bridge demo, three dozen triathletes fell sick after completing the swim section of a race off the coast of Sunderland. Levels of E Coli had been measured at 40 times higher than normal levels off Roker Beach before the race. Despite which, race officials decided that swimming through fouled water was a health risk worth swallowing.

But what's this? A class action has been launched and we might get some money back from Yorkshire Water! Professor Carolyn Roberts has said water companies have been under reporting sewage discharges. Customers have been overcharged by hundreds of millions of pounds.

But hang on. A spokesperson for Water UK has said, "This is a highly speculative claim. The regulator has confirmed that 99% of sewage works comply with their legal requirements." Which doesn't surprise me, as former Prime Minister and our one time Environment Minister Liz Truss, lowered the legal limits on sewage emission back in 2016.  

Long lost family

Sally Wainwright said recently that folks cry more when they get older. So it is with me, when I watch people being reunited with long lost relatives. In recent years, unadopted and adopted orphans in the UK have had the right to trace their birth parents when they reach adulthood. When the scattered families finally meet up I find my cheeks glistening with tears, which PW seems to find a hoot.

And yet recently, I've listened to friends who have been involved in such situations, and realised how delicately these initial contacts between strangers must be handled. I'm sure the programme researchers act very carefully. But, off the telly, the person opening the door to their long lost family has not always been forewarned. Sometimes, the person on the doorstep has never been told they were an adopted child. And sometimes, perhaps rarely, mothers who were once badly treated by a man feel good reason for shutting the door on that absent man's child.

A Turvin Tale

Jack goes courting

Around the time of the Cragg Vale Coiners, a magistrate said people in that valley were 'addled with inbreeding.'

Then, happen people in those parts mischievously retold an old tale …

Jack went to his father and said, "Father, I've been courting Mary Jane. She's a maid up at t' big house. Can I have permission to propose to her?"

Jack's father put down t' clipped coin he wor admiring and said, "Listen on our Jack, I cast my net wide when I worra lad, an' Mary Jane is thine own sister."

So Jack trudged sadly away.

After which, Jack wor so upset, it wor several days before he took up t' courting again. But when he got back to his carrying on, Jack went again to see his father.

"Father, I've been courting Tabitha Anne who works down at T' Hinchliffe Arms. Can I have permission to propose to her?"

His father carefully put down his coining tools, then said, "Now listen on our Jack. I cast my net wide when I worra lad. An' that Tabitha Anne, is thine own sister."

So Jack trudged sadly away.

A few days later, his mother found young Jack moping about in t' kitchen and said, "Jack, why's tha moping about at home lad; as tha got no coins to collect from t' rich merchants?"

"I can't set my mind to it mother!" Jack blurted. "I asked father if I could propose to Mary as works at t' big house, and he said he cast his net wide when he worra lad and she wor my sister and then I courted Tabitha Anne from t' Hinchliffe Arms and I asked father if I could propose to her and he said he cast his net wide when he worra lad and she also wor my sister."

"Oh, don't take on so, our Jack." His mother replied. "I cast my net wide when I worra a lass, an' tha father's not tha father."

Hang the men and burn the women

There were coin clippers up and down the land around the time of our celebrated Cragg Vale gang. In 1789, the last woman to be burned to death in England was one Cath Murphy, down Nottingham way, for the treasonous crime of coining.

All eight men in Cath's gang were hanged for coining, including her husband, but the law decreed that in matters of treason women should be burned at the stake.

Thankfully, it wasn't all bad.

According to The Times, Sir Benjamin Hammett, Sheriff of London, gave instructions that Mrs Murphy should be strangled before being burned. And, partly through the testimony of Sir Ben, the act of burning women was abolished in the Treason Act of 1790.

Ted in Heptonstall

There's a talk about Ted Hughes by Steve Eley in Heptonstall Museum this weekend. The first Hughes poem I read was Dick Straightup, about an 80 year old Heptonstall legend. It was shown me at my Sec Mod by Oxford educated English teacher, Paul Kenny, a relation of the suffragette.

Reading other Hughes poems, it was his clear eyed, brilliantly captured responses to the natural world that startled me back then. Now what surprises me are accounts of Hughes's belief in the occult, in his faith in such as horoscopes and seances. This belief in the supernatural does not seem to fit with his unflinching descriptions of the animal world.  

From Pike (1960)

Three we kept behind glass,
Jungled in weed: three inches, four,
And four and a half: fed fry to them –
Suddenly there were two. Finally one

With a sag belly and the grin it was born with
And indeed they spare nobody.
Two, six pounds each, over two foot long.
High and dry in the willow-herb –

One jammed to its gills in the others gullet …

Pictures at an exhibition

Buoyed by the lionesses win against Colombia, I dropped into the closing day party for The Dogs exhibition at Artworks gallery in Halifax, and got my book signed by Michael Stewart, whose own dog Lunar was in attendance. Then, wandering round taking photos, I unintentionally walked through a piece of floor art brilliantly contrived out of dog biscuits by Winston Plowes of this parish. Fortunately, canine visitors to the show had already started to dismantle the exhibit.

Afterwards, I bought a print of Louis Benoit's portrait of a dog in high heels, then went down to the Paris Gates pub, aka The Shears, for a refreshing pint. Was pleased to see one of the younger members of the party, probably half my age, ask for a real ale, but then spoil the effect by asking for lemonade with it. When challenged he defended himself by claiming he had a hangover from the night before.

Pink Pepper … and others

Great food at the Pink Pepper in Mytholmroyd, which seems to be a bit of a secret judging by the rows of empty tables when we visited, despite being voted the best curry restaurant in West Yorkshire in 2022. Two good sized main courses and glasses of house red came to £35. Service was prompt and friendly and the Host chatted about his hopes for the restaurant and him and PW talked about tennis. Then he gave us some vouchers for £10 per table from Monday to Sunday.

As a vegan friend was coming over for a night I asked on a local website where we should take him.  Great was the praise for The Retreat, The Nelson, The Oregano, The Nelson, Leila's, The Nelson, Mooch and for places with mixed menus as three of us ate dead meat. So, come Wednesday night, we went to that bustling curry restaurant in Sowerby Bridge where you can take your own refreshments and there's plenty of vegan options.

PS: PW chose it.

Mirror writing

I was delighted to receive a mirror drawing specially for me from the sparkling Winston and Gaia duo, with some rules attached. On reflection, I thought I would share it with you and techniques for creating your own image with a close friend.

Winston: "Here are some notes on our methodology …

In these mirrored simultaneous automatic drawings we let the design evolve without any planning apart from choosing what to make marks with and on. Both drawing at the same time, we populate an approximate quarter of a circle finishing when we are both ready. The design is then mirrored digitally in four quadrants to create the finished design. As well as being a satisfying and mindful process the finished pieces often contain surprise details that we had no idea would emerge."

Murphy's Lore, the book, is available to order here

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See the Murphy's Lore home page for all 130 episodes.