Sunday, November 25, 2018

John Kirkpatrick: A Shropshire Lad

Coming back through Oakengates yesterday I was naturally reminded of John Betjeman's poem A Shropshire Lad. In it, the ghost of Captain Mathew Webb, the first man to swim the English Channel, returns to his old haunts:
There wasn’t a man in Oakengates
That hadn’t got hold of the tale,
And over the valley in Ironbridge,
And round by Coalbrookdale,
How Captain Webb the Dawley man,
Captain Webb from Dawley,
Rose rigid and dead from the old canal
That carried the bricks to Lawley,
Rigid and dead, rigid and dead,
To the Saturday congregation,
And paying a call at Dawley Bank
On his way to his destination.
Musically, the poem is best known from the setting by Jim Parket. It is great, but Sir John's reading of his own poem does suggest the Dawley and Ironbridge are somewhere in the north of England rather than Shropshire.

John Kirkpatrick, whom I saw playing with the Band of Hope in Leicester many years ago, lives in Shropshire and uses the right accent for the district now occupied by the new town of Telford.

These days you can hear A Shropshire Lad sung in folk clubs.

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