Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Hard work in the past!
To Windermere yesterday from Wensleydale. First of all to Hawes and then a sharp turn South along the road to Ingleton and the lovely green pastures of the Trough of Bowland.
The Hawes to Ingleton road goes through some very wild country almost empty of habitation apart from the odd isolated farmhouse. It is wonderfully scenic and wonderfully bleak, especially as it goes over Blea Moor. Here, suddenly, the Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle Raillway comes into view. The Viaduct spans Batty Moss - a huge boggy area and has the scenic, snow-topped Whernside (one of the Three Peaks) in the back ground.
Mike harding talks about the viaduct in his book "Walking the Dales". This line was the last one to be built by hand rather than using machinery - of as Mike puts it, by "handraulics".
When it was being built this wild, empty landscape was home to three thousand people living rough. When we stopped to look at it yesterday it was bleak but then the winters were a lot worse and it is no surprise that over two hundred people died in the building of it. Many of those who died, itinerant navvies, were only identifiable by their nicknames - Wheelbarrow Jack; One-eyed Charlie and the like.
It took seven years to build and each navvy was supplied with 4 pounds of beef and 14 pints of ale a day as part of their wages. Mike quotes a lovely old navvy song he found in Manchester Central Library some years ago, called "Navvy on the Line" and I quote it here in memory of all those men who put up with appalling conditions such as we can barely imagine to build what is now seen as little more thana tourist attraction. My maternal great,great grandfather was a navvy. He appears on the census in the eighteen hundreds at various places as he moved with the railway builders. Then suddenly you can't find his name on any census anywhere.
So here's to you William Everton, wherever you ended up. Let's hope your life was bearable and that you didn't come to a terrible death in the bleak, boggy Batty Moss.
Oh I am a navvy bold
And I tramp the country round, Sir,
Seeking for a job of work
Where any can be found, sir.
I left my native home
My friends and habitation
And went to seek a job of work
Upon the navigation.
Chorus I am a navvy don't you see
I love beer in my prime
Because I am a navvy
That is working on the line.