The following two poems by local authors encapsulate the different shades of Barrow’s past and look forward with hope to the future:
A Breed Apart
A Barrow lad’s just mongrel stock, forebears from other lands,
Hired to work this barren waste with other foreign gangs.
There’s no such thing as a Barrow lad, he has no pedigree,
He might speak about his great granddad but then he’s from Inisfree.
His great grandma, she’s not from here she hails from a Cornish town
Her dad, he came to work your shafts where the rich red ore was found.
No, a Barrow lad’s a mongrel, not from pure bred lines,
But brought in here to do the job, in your treacherous iron mines.
So, a Barrow lad’s a mongrel without a pedigree?
Well take a look around this town and tell me what you see.
Compare this town to anywhere, wherever in the land.
These Barrow men in one hundred years had formed a solid band.
These skilled and granite artisans entirely on their own
Carved out this jewel in the north and worked it stone by stone.
Though famine and disease they toiled and two world wars they gave
A son, a dad, a brother, their finest and their brave.
Listen to a Barrow lad boast of his abbey’s vaulted trees
Let him tell of God’s own country surrounded by the seas.
Pause and let him fondly muse of Lakeland fells beyond
Where Wordsworth, Coleridge with Southey roamed and forged a fraternal bond.
Feel for him as he speaks with pride about historic Piel
About their gallant lifeboat crew those hardened men of steel.
Called only when there’s danger from tempest storm or tide,
And count the many lives they’ve saved and valiant friends who died.
Those shipyard men and ships they’ve built, craftsmen of world renown
The skills passed down are the skills that made this little Barrow town.
You spoke of ore what cost to life, that nugget began it all
From majestic town hall seen for miles, to gigantic Dev Dock Hall.
Beware, take care, don’t ridicule, before you know these people
Those diamond folk who built our town, in the shade of Hindpool’s steeple.
Don’t dare to call them mongrel, they care not where you’re from,
For every inch of this great town was built by its own son.
They’ve justly earned their pedigree
They’ve earned it with their blood
They’re proud to be a Barrow lad,
And bloody well they should.
JAMES F DUNN
THE PHOENIX OF FURNESS
A mythical, huge, bright-coloured bird, – red, purple, blue and gold
In Arabian desert, lived alone, the Phoenix, so we’re told.
When it had lived five hundred years, it built a nest on sand,
Of wood and aromatic gum, which with its wings it fanned.
The massive pile burst into flame and soon became a pyre
And the phoenix burnt itself to ash in the all-consuming fire.
Then from the ashes there arose, a phoenix – life retained,
To live again for many years, as its youth was now regained.
Now as a symbol of new life, it is often seen today.
Here in Barrow it could be used, and have a part to play
In the changing lifestyle of our town, from its past industrial glory,
To one attracting tourists – a completely different story.
From the middle nineteenth century when iron-ore was found,
Cornish miners came here to live, to dig it from the ground,
The village grew – the railway came – to the docks they ran the lines
Taking slate from Furness quarries, iron-ore from local mines.
A steelworks, where the rails were made, was next to be erected.
And homes for many workers which the growing town expected.
The docks were soon increased in size to cope with extra trade
And a large shipbuilding yard was built where many ships were made.
Liners, tankers, submarines and even aircraft-carriers –
For Barrow’s largest workforce, their skill had known no barriers.
The thriving town, in recent years, has seen some downward trends.
The efforts of our council now, should help to make amends
By converting our spacious dockland into a place for leisure
It will hopefully bring local jobs and give a lot of pleasure.
With marina, Festivals of the Sea, and water sports in mind
As a tourist centre it could be a very special kind.
Furness Abbey’s impressive ruins are our most attractive asset.
The Dock Museum’s fine displays add a most instructive facet.
Our lovely park’s Victorian style, we are trying to restore –
Then hopefully, like the Phoenix, our town will rise once more