Tag Archives: Ian Chamberlain

Exciting News

Cover imageIt has been a little while since the last post mainly because I have been busy putting together a selection of these poems into a book “Pebbles on the Shore”, which is currently at the printers.

Poetry and Song have long been a traditional way of recording stories of people and events, as an alternative way of remembering.  So, with that in mind, each piece of verse in the book has a brief story attached to tie it in to its place in the shaping of Teignmouth and the surrounding area.  I have also worked with a local artist, Maureen Fayle, who has illustrated the various pieces.  Her superb pen and ink sketches lend so much more depth to the stories that unfold.

Fresh to Bleed 13-cropThe selection goes back almost 400 years but there are a few contemporary pieces as well so thanks to the ‘modern-day’ contributors for allowing me to include their work:  Ian Chamberlain (one of the co-founders of Poetry Teignmouth), Kim Edwards, Bob Freshwater (and the Back Beach Boyz), Deborah Harvey, Barbara Hine, Don Pearson and Tacy Rickard.

Teignmouth 27 - cropped1This project started just over two years ago with a thought and a question. Walking up the cliff path through the beautiful Mules Park in East Teignmouth I saw a poem, The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy, posted on the noticeboard. Who put it there I don’t know, but it struck a chord. My thoughts drifted to Keats. Teignmouth is proud of its association with John Keats even though he stayed here only three months whilst looking after his brother Tom who had come earlier in hope that the sea air would alleviate, if not cure, his consumption. Then came the random question – were there any other poems or poets associated with Teignmouth? And so this project was born.

The journey to this book has been like a walk along the beach, occasionally finding interesting pebbles whose shape, texture and colour define the shoreline like poems marking time in the history of Teignmouth.



Night Ride to Teignmouth with Keats

Graham Burchell reciting his poem outside the New Quay Inn

Graham Burchell reciting his poem outside the New Quay Inn

I’ve changed the order of the poems about Keats because we did a poetry walk around Teignmouth on Wednesday this week and this was one of the poems recited.

The author, Graham Burchell, read it to us outside the New Quay Inn where the verses from one of Keats’ pieces of ‘doggerel’ is writ on the outside wall.


(Graham Burchell, 2012)

On top of the coach, wedged between the fabrics
of others and packages in wicker, leather and wood,
there is room only for breath, rain and the wind
that draws discomfort like a purse string.

I touch his arm, smell the damp in his greatcoat
through my fingertips. He’ll never know. I am ghost.
I’ve clawed back time to see his skin in the night –
smooth and cold – stones in a streambed.

I hear the harsh compression of his lungs,
sense melancholy behind eyes that flicker.
His and all the other heads are bowed.
Those seats could be pews in a roofless church.

Inside, in the dry, a corpulent man smokes, reeks
of powder and porter. He rubs against a woman
clutching a bible that she’ll not open,
even when the white sky of morning comes.

Opposite, a Wesleyan priest with a fixed scowl,
journeys with a younger man whose nose needs dabbing,
who may be a relative. They do not converse
but sometimes growl, like coach wheels riding stones.

All complain when those same wheels drop into ruts.
A wife across from the poet, sleepy in the rain,
tightens the grip on her child. Her husband
digs deeper into the scruff of a fresh dead hare.

Want to know more?  Check out:

Poetry Walk …..

Letters from Teignmouth – Our Ball

ball 2aAs this blog progresses it is exciting to see the connections which start to develop. I suppose that’s not surprising given that the blog is quite focussed on a single theme – Teignmouth.

Obviously there will be ‘physical connections’ through the geography of the place but what is more interesting for me are the connections of social history. It reminds me of an earlier post of the poem “Mesh” by Ian Chamberlain which reflects an interconnectedness of place, people, time and that is what the essence of a town is all about I guess.

Winthrop Mackworth Praed

Winthrop Mackworth Praed

The last post was a commentary about Charles Babbage and Tennyson. Charles Babbage’s father, Benjamin, was a banking partner of the Praeds who owned the Bitton Estate in Teignmouth. Do you remember Winthrop Mackworth Praed, an early nineteenth century Teignmouth poet who appeared here a couple of months ago?

Here is another piece by him, written as one of his ‘Letters from Teignmouth’. I think it’s a nice pastiche of the lives of the social elite at that time; the ‘Ball’ could have been the ‘County Ball’ which was a feature of the time of ‘Recess’ when there was an exodus of the wealthy from London to savour country life for a while.  Thanks to some ferreting around by Tacy Rickard though it is evident that there was quite a social whirl of Balls in Teignmouth!  So maybe it was one of those.


(Winthrop Mackworth Praed, 1829)

“Comment! c’est lui? que je le regarde encore! C’est que vraiment il est bien changé ; n’est-ce pas, mon papa ?” — Les Premiers Amours.

You’ll come to our Ball; — since we parted,
I’ve thought of you more than I’ll say ;
Indeed, I was half broken-hearted
For a week, when they took you away. –
Fond fancy brought back to my slumbers
Our walks on the Ness and the Den,
And echoed the musical numbers
Which you used to sing to me then.
I know the romance, since it’s over,
‘Twere idle, or worse, to recall ;
I know you’re a terrible rover ;
But Clarence, you’ll come to our Ball!

It’s only a year, since, at College,
You put on your cap and your gown;
But, Clarence, you’re grown out of knowledge.
And changed from the spur to the crown;
The voice that was best when it faltered
Is fuller and firmer in tone,
And the smile that should never have altered —
Dear Clarence — it is not your own;
Your cravat was badly selected;
Your coat don’t become you at all;
And why is your hair so neglected?
You must have it curled for our Ball.

I’ve often been out upon Haldon
To look for a covey with pup;
I’ve often been over to Shaldon,
To see how your boat is laid up:
In spite of the terrors of Aunty,
I’ve ridden the filly you broke;
And I’ve studied your sweet little Dante
In the shade of your favourite oak:
When I sat in July to Sir Lawrence,
I sat in your love of a shawl;
And I’ll wear what you brought me from Florence,
Perhaps, if you’ll come to our Ball.

You’ll find us all changed since you vanished;
We’ve set up a National School;
And waltzing is utterly banished,
And Ellen has married a fool;
The Major is going to travel,
Miss Hyacinth threatens a rout,
The walk is laid down with fresh gravel,
Papa is laid up with the gout;
And Jane has gone on with her easels,
And Anne has gone off with Sir Paul;
And Fanny is sick with the measles,
And I’ll tell you the rest at the Ball.

You’ll meet all your Beauties; the Lily,
And the Fairy of Willowbrook Farm,
And Lucy, who made me so silly
At Dawlish, by taking your arm;
Miss Manners, who always abused you
For talking so much about Hock,
And her sister, who often amused you
By raving of rebels and Rock
And something which surely would answer.
An heiress quite fresh from Bengal;
So, though you were seldom a dancer.
You’ll dance, just for once, at our Ball.

But out on the World! from the flowers
It shuts out the sunshine of truth.
It blights the green leaves in the bowers,
It makes an old age of our youth;
And the flow of our feeling, once in it,
Like a streamlet beginning to freeze.
Though it cannot turn ice in a minute.
Grows harder by sudden degrees;
Time treads o’er the graves of affection;
Sweet honey is turned into gall;
Perhaps you have no recollection
That ever you danced at our Ball!

You once could be pleased with our ballads, —
To-day you have critical ears;
You once could be charmed with our salads —
Alas! you’ve been dining with Peers;
You trifled and flirted with many, —
You’ve forgotten the when and the how;
There was one you liked better than any, —
Perhaps you’ve forgotten her now.
But of those you remember most newly,
Of those who delight or enthrall,
None love you a quarter so truly
As some you will find at our Ball.

They tell me you’ve many who flatter.
Because of your wit and your song;
They tell me — and what does it matter ? —
You like to be praised by the throng;
They tell me you’re shadowed with laurel;
They tell me you’re loved by a Blue;
They tell me you’re sadly immoral —
Dear Clarence, that cannot be true!
But to me, you are still what I found you.
Before you grew clever and tall;
And you’ll think of the spell that once bound you;
And you’ll come — won’t you come? — to our Ball!

Want to know more? Check out:

Winthrop Mackworth Praed …..
Mesh …..
Teignmouth Balls …..


The Hooks in Teignmouth

The Hooks in Teignmouth

It’s interesting the impressions that different people have when thinking about and describing Teignmouth.

Adding to earlier posts of verse by Patrick Wolf and Don Pearson here’s an alternative view, ‘Mesh’, by Ian Chamberlain.  As with Don Pearson’s earlier poem it was inspired by a workshop with Barbara Sealey-Bowers.

Ian is one of the founders of ‘Poetry Teignmouth’


(Ian Chamberlain)

The churn of tides and Teign
stirs up a clinker-build
of brig and saltern, lime and herring
streets divided, steam and diesel…
life stories bogged in overlap.

History hunter comes to fish:
names, dates, information.
Tale catcher, scale remover
threads inquisitive nets
among the town’s foundations.

Passion of the seeker rakes the silt.
A long tongue of river speaks
of earth, fire, wind. And water
elemental in the sediment
of Sealeys, Hooks and Boynes.

(Sealey, Hook and Boynes are names of old fishing families in Teignmouth)

Want to know more?  Check out Poetry Teignmouth for more information about Ian Chamberlain

Other related poems by:

Don Pearson, and
Patrick Wolf