A while back I saw this video of a salmon trying to make it up Aldwarke Weir near Rotherham shortly before going for a run through Salmon Pastures and the little maze of streets in Attercliffe between Staniforth Road and the River Don. It got me thinking about cobbles, scales and the past and present of the area and I wrote a little poem about it.
Glinting in bright winter sunlight, cobbles
reappear, wet, through cracked tarmac. A
Halal butcher, a strip joint and the
Office of the Diocese huddle against
Workshops whose sounds and smells have filled the air
Since obnailed boots scratched sparks along these lanes
And pithead gears auled ancient istory up
From underfoot to fuel forge fires at Firth’s.
Flexing furiously against the force
Of weir water and centuries of works’
dirt, silver scales shimmer. Soon they will be
at Salmon Pastures, proving that the past
Presses into the present as sure as
The rich cannot enter heaven.
I was well chuffed that Now Then printed it alongside the winning Off the Shelf short story entry, Sarah Peacock’s excellent ‘After the Fire’.
It’s the first time I’ve had a poem published and I’ve been overwhelmed by the response. One of the great – and unexpected – results has been people sharing their knowledge and memories of the area. Here are a few examples:
- indentures stated that ‘little mesters who had their workshops in Salmon Pastures weren’t allowed to feed their apprentices salmon more than three times a week‘
- ‘Oh Sheffield and Rotherham used to be aglow, I’d park my little Renault 4 for a few minutes to watch white hot ingots of iron cooling outside a foundry on my way home on a winter’s evening‘
- ‘I liked watching the rolling mills, long red hot snakes yards and yards long‘
- there was ‘a wee train loaded with hot pig iron crossing the road at Brightside‘
- sturgeon were caught in the Don up to the late 1800s and fish passes are now being installed on the weirs to help fish return upriver
Thanks to everyone whose comments I’ve shamelessly pilfered from Facebook! Please do comment below or drop me a line if my poem sparks any memories for you.
A salmon trying to make it up Aldwarke weir