Alan Morrison

Four acrostics from

A Tapestry of Absent Sitters

(Waterloo Press, 2009)

ISBN 978-1-906742-04-1

Light Shining in Lanarkshire

i.m. Keir Hardie (1856–1915)

Knock, knock! The baker’s boy, sharp as clocks back,

Ear to the pithead’s cogs – upturned prams spun

In puddles. By ten, melts in with clogged ranks’

Resurfacing day-shadows scrubbing home to tubs.

His pit-lamp halos pin-scratched Pitman in lit

Anticlines. Cage-clattered up strata on a carbon

Ribbon to paper and Party.  –– In the after-

Damp of Parliament’s scalds, he signs off under

Inked portcullis; packs up his kit, books and cough;

Ebbs back to shadow. But his shadow casts a light.

[Mining terminology: anticlines arches or folds in

layers of rock shaped like crests of waves; cage

conveyance used to transport men and

equipment in a shaft; afterdamp a toxic mixture

of gasses left in a mine following an explosion].

Jack of the Bean-Straw

i.m. John ‘Free Born’ Lilburne (1615-1657)

Jack-in-the-Pulpit of political cloth, pumped

Out Puritan agitprop – lashed at a cart-tail:

He’d know the allegations in his mother tongue,

No trumpery in pope-speak for Free Born John.

Labelled agitator by parliaments of owls;

Inflammatory tracts and pamphlets, pettifogged.

Levellers, so-called, petitioned in his name;

Bonny Besses in sea-green dresses slinging hail-shot

Under Roundheads’ squibs. Root and branch ripped out.

Radicals dispatched at churchyards. Ribbons banned.

Nothing for it but a trade, burn of kelp and bean-straw:

England’s Birthright scrubbed by a soap-boiler’s hands.

[pettifogged: an old word for quibbling or chicanery.

Note: last line alludes to Lilburne turning to the

trade of soap-boiling (making soap), though he

later resumed his radical pamphleteering, ending

his days in and out of prison].

Alan Morrison © 2009 A Tapestry of Absent Sitters

Ragged Rob

i.m. Robert (Noonan) Tressell (1870–1911)

author of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (1914)

Robert who? Croker? Noonan? Tressell? Alter-ego

Owen? Journeyman between midstairs and


Blacklisted decorator of camouflaged class. Self-

Evicted from kin-in-kind to a landlord’s absent


Rough tobacco and adulterated tea: his tub-


Turps-tin epithets. –– O for a Sholes & Gidden:

Tortuous long-hand manuscripts rejected,


Ragged trails of scribbled drafts trousering his

bed to

Edited ends. Mugsborough mug, tached and

trilby’d in

Sixpence ha’penny suit, bannered on tubercular


Shabby genteel, rung-skidder anti-Kipps-wise,


Earned a dying: signwriter turned writer of the


Labour’s landslide, ’45: owed to his bold novel?

Laid to rest, not the less, with twelve tramps, in


[Note: Tressell lived for a time in South Africa, where he had a manservant of whom he was very fond, whom he called ‘Sixpence’. Turps:

abbreviation for turpentine. Sholes & Gidden was an early make of typewriter.]

Trampler in the Patchwork

i.m. Gerrard Winstanley (1609-76)

Grown from the common soil, crop-haired, green

Egalitarian, made of clod and light,

Rainbow-sown. A trampler in the patchwork:

Raking the scrublands only God the One True

Absentee Landlord could snatch from our hearts.

Recalcitrant in tracts, your flat-crowned, felt-


Diggers set to work to till the natural law.

Withstanding the dirt of labour’s nagged brow,

Impeachments of coin-palmed Parliaments,

Nettling barbs of vigilantes’ abuse – your

Spade-handed disciples disbanded,

Threw down their shovels on a chapter versed

Against the grain of transplanted times:

New tyrannies travelled on trade winds. True

Leveller, tripping your ungrounded age,

Elevated above the hedges, those berries

You reached for are ripening on the page.

[Rainbow is also an allusion to radical Thomas Rainborow, or Rainsborough, whose name varied in spelling.]

Alan Morrison © 2009 A Tapestry of Absent Sitters