Welcome to the website of the Norman Nicholson Society. The site aims to provide information about Nicholson and his work and encourage the study and enjoyment of this remarkable man's writings. Here you will also find information about the NN Society which holds regular events and publishes the newsletter Comet. The Society is based in Millom, on the banks of the River Duddon and in the shadow of Black Combe (pictured), and has a worldwide membership.
New members are warmly welcomed.
Header picture of Black Combe
NN lines from 'Cloud on Black Combe'
Norman Nicholson was born in Millom, Cumbria, in 1914 and lived there until his death in 1987 with the exception of two years in his late teens when he was sent to a sanatorium in Hampshire to recover from tuberculosis - an event which shaped his subsequent life. His writing career lasted from 1930 until his death and embraced plays, poetry, novels, criticism and essays. He is best known for his poetry and was awarded the Queens Medal for Poetry in 1977 and the OBE in 1981.
NEWS, DISCUSSION AND CHAT
Carbide bombs and bee orchids
Evocative memories of boyhood at Hodbarrow feature in the latest blogpost by Dr Brian Metters. It's a lovely piece which links the history of his family with that of Hodbarrow and Millom, and finds real resonance in Nicholson's poem 'Hodbarrow Flooded'. Read it HERE. As Brian comments,
'Isn’t it amazing what a short poem written by an unsung poet, Norman Nicholson, has the power to bring to the front of our minds?'
Nicholson and Italy - and our AGM
Dr Antoinette Fawcett is to give a presentation about Norman Nicholson and Italy on Saturday April 1st in Millom, at an event which will also include the Society's AGM. If you thought that Nicholson was purely a parochial poet, this talk may cause you to think again. Antoinette has devoted a lot of time to researching the way Nicholson has been translated, and perceived, in non-English-speaking cultures and her talk will draw on fascinating and unexpected material she has unearthed from the John Rylands Library Manchester and the Whitehaven Archive.
The programme for the day can be found on our Events page.
The Society is very pleased to welcome Brian Charnley to the committee. Brian has been teaching English for over 45 years, both in the UK and abroad. He has spread the delights of our language and literature to students as far afield as Malta, Cayman Islands, Cairo, the Yemen, Spain and Gran Canaria. He has also taught drama, media studies and PE. He is a welcome addition to the Norman Nicholson Society committee.
My family and other minerals
Three generations bound together by an industry that in those days could look like the fires of hell had been let loose - NN Society member Dr Brian Metters reflects on the influence on his family of Millom and Hodbarrow on his blog The Two Doctors HERE. Brian's post also includes details of his own work at the Ironworks as an analytical chemist with the research project into Spray Steelmaking that should have saved the plant from total closure in 1968/69.
The lonnins of memory
‘The lonnins’ was a favourite haunt of courting couples, blackberry-pickers, and children, myself included - a response to Kathleen Morris' 'Word of the Month' HERE.
'A nuclear poem from Norman Nicholson'
The approaching 30th anniversary of Nicholson's death has prompted NN Society member Dr Brian Metters to revisit one of Norman's most famous poems Windscale on his blog. Brian, born in Haverigg, is founder of the charity Nepal Schools Aid. As the blogpost reveals, he has his own memories of the 1957 nuclear leak. Check it out here.
posted 27/1/17, edited 7/2/17
Word of the Month: Lonning
NN may not have used the word very often in his poetry, but when he does use it, it is in an affectionate and unselfconscious manner. Kathleen Morris explores Nicholson's use of the word 'Lonning' and explains its meaning here.
Millom Christmas Tree Festival
The Society's theme for the Christmas Tree Festival this year is 'Carol for the Watchers’, one of the ballads and carols from Norman Nicholson’s play, ‘No Star on the Way Back’, commissioned by Border Television and performed at Christmas 1963, with music by Thea Musgrave. It tells the story of the Three Wise Men who follow the star, their ears
‘…alert for a sign,
At the clink of a bell or the twitch of a line
Or the voice of an angel…’
to lead them to Bethlehem.
‘Carol for the Watchers,’ the last carol in the play, takes us from the ‘first night’ of Christ’s birth, to the last night in ’umpteen hundred and eternity’, transforming to a glorious Christmas morning when ‘the Sun will rise and so may we’.
Our tree has again been decorated by Peggy Troll, Sue Dawson and Dorothy Richardson, who have divided the tree into ‘time’ layers, each distinguished by a colour: red, blue, purple or gold, and a line from the poem linked to one of the Wise Men.
The first and second layers at the base show Mary with the baby Jesus, linked by a red voile scarf to a Wise Man richly dressed in red:
‘The Wise Men found the Child and knew
Their search had just begun…’
The third layer is sombre, showing the Cross draped in blue by the Wise Man:
‘A dead man hung in the Child’s light
And the sun went down at noon…’
The fourth layer, with its purple scarf and Wise Man, and blank white masks facing each other over a globe of the now ‘empty’ world, gives way to the fifth layer at the top of the tree, bursting into the gold and glitter of a multi-faceted sun and star combined which, when caught in the light, appears to be on fire:
‘…And the Sun will rise and so may we,
On the last Morn, on Christmas Morn,
Umpteen hundred and eternity.’
We didn’t have a transcript so don’t know whether the Watchers of the title are identified in the play: are they the shepherds, Herod, the Wise Men, the audience? Perhaps… we are all Watchers ?
The usual venue for the Christmas Tree Festival, St George's Church, is not available this year because of work on the heating system. Instead, many trees are on display in Millom’s shop windows. The Norman Nicholson Society’s tree, along with some others, is in Holy Trinity Church which is situated beside Millom Castle on the A5093, just north of Millom, postcode LA18 5EY
TREES AT TRINITY starts on 14th December and is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am to 3pm.
Refreshments are available.
NB: The exhibition is now closed
Pictures by SUE DAWSON
Society appoints three Vice-Presidents
The Norman Nicholson Sociey is delighted to mark its 10th anniversary by awarding the title of Honorary Life Vice-President to three of our members who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion of Nicholson's work, and to the progress of the Society. They are:
Neil Curry, especially for his work as editor of Norman Nicholson: Collected Poems (Faber & Faber)
David Boyd, especially for his critical biography Norman Nicholson: A Literary Life (Seascale Press)
Kathleen Jones, especially for her biography of Nicholson The Whispering Poet (The Book Mill)
Certificates to mark the creation of the Vice-President positions were presented at the Society's Christmas lunch at Grange-over-Sands on Saturday December 3rd. Report and more pictures on our Events page.
NN Society member David Boyd is the owner of a copy of Nicholson's final volume of poetry (1981) Sea to the West which was given to him by the literary executor of Nicholson's lifelong friend and mentor George Every. David wonders if the rather touching inscription might be of interest to members. The book contains a dedication in the text to his wife, Yvonne 'in love and gratitude for twenty-five silver years, 1956-1981'. David says: "Poignantly, Norman was able to present it to her just before she died from cancer, and a copy of the book was buried with her in the grave in Millom churchyard to which Norman himself went on his own death six years later, in 1987".
Check out the latest addition to the website: Norman Nicholson timeline showing key moments, influences and publications HERE
Haverigg School project
The children in Year Two at Haverigg Primary School used Norman Nicholson’s poem Hodbarrow Flooded as the stimulus for their summer term project, 2016. This included not only local history but literacy, art and developing speaking and listening skills, which they achieved through asking questions of their families for more information about how Millom and Haverigg used to be when the mines and ironworks were both still open in the 1960’s.
Find out more about this incredibly valuable project on Our Page! HERE.
Neil to speak at Whitehaven
Neil Curry is to speak about the poetry of Norman Nicholson and his own poetry at the Beacon in Whitehaven this Wednesday, as part of the Elements festival. It's from 7pm to 8pm, free admission. And on October 24th the Elements Festival comes to Millom with an evening of readings from the work of contemporary local writers. This event is at the Bradbury Centre, St George's Road, LA18 4JE, 7pm-8pm, free admission.
Behind the walls of a literary landmark
Discovery Centre role for Norman
Norman Nicholson, in hologram form, is to greet visitors to the Millom Discovery Centre once a £160,000 revamp is complete. Full details on the NW Mail website HERE
'Lovely to be there'
Grevel Lindop has blogged about the weekend at Cockley Moor. Grevel writes: "It was lovely to be there with almost thirty lively, knowledgeable poetry enthusiasts to discuss Nicholson and the artistic heritage of Cockley Moor". The blog is here: http://grevel.co.uk
Discussing Nicholson at Cockley Moor
Poets Grevel Lindop and Phil Houghton led the impressive line-up of speakers at our wonderful study weekend at Cockley Moor, over the weekend of October 8th/9th. Thanks to our speakers and all who attended, and special thanks to the current owner of Cockley Moor, Hilary Rock. Report and more pictures on the Events page.
National Poetry Day
Mauve as Michaelmas daisies, bide
Our while and summer's. Let the viscous sun
Percolate the turf. Let small becks run
Yellow for ever with shine, and the floor of this moment
Hold back time and shut the gate.
Wait, tide, wait.
- from 'September on the Mosses' by Norman Nicholson, published in 'A Local Habitation' (1972)
More than 'Seven Rocks'
Professor Brian Whalley, a member of the NN Society, gave a talk at an event organised by the Royal Geographical Society at Brantwood, Coniston, on Thursday (September 29th). Brian spoke about the role played by geology in Nicholson's poems, but did not restrict himself to that sole aspect of Nicholson's work, ranging over a number of significant topics. The talk, introduced by Tim Foster of the Blencathra Centre, was warmly received by an audience which included several members of the NN Society.
'Sea to the West' - a musical interpretation
A CD inspired by Norman Nicholson's poem Sea to the West is to be released next month. The disc is the inspiration of London-based composer Christopher Fox who has a lifelong affection for Nicholson's writings. Sea to the West is the title of both the CD and the opening track, in which Christopher says he has 'fused Nicholson's memories with my own, memories of my father and of long-ago family holiday excursions to the Cumbrian coast.'
The composition is sung by the Irish soprano Elizabeth Hilliard and was originally performed in Dublin in 2014.
The CD, published by Divine Art Ltd, is released officially on October 14 and will then be available at £12 from the company's website: http://www.divine-art.co.uk/forthcoming.htm, from record shops, or from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sea-West-Elizabeth-Hilliard-Divine/dp/B01LB2OWUY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1472727242&sr=8-1&keywords=sea+to+the+west+hilliard)
Traffic to our website trebled following Melvyn Bragg's quoting of Nicholson's poem 'Cornthwaite' on Radio 4.
Of tveit and dal and fjell
Good to hear Melvyn Bragg highlight Nicholson's poem Cornthwaite in part 3 of his current series on BBC Radio 4, The Matter of the North. The programme explored Viking influences on the north and the poem was quoted to demonstrate the multiplicity of Norse place-names in Cumbria:
"Of tveit and dal and fjell,
He scratched those words on the rocks,
Naming the Cymric cwms in a Norse tongue."
First sight of 'new' Nicholson poem
The new edition of Comet includes the very exciting discovery of an unpublished poem by Norman Nicholson, which is printed in full. Women's Picnic at the Standing Stones has been unearthed by Mary Robinson in the course of researching an article about Nicholson's links with Jacquetta Hawkes, the archaeologist, ornithologist and writer (1910-1996). The poem does not appear in Nicholson's Collected Poems and so far as we are aware has not appeared anywhere outside Nicholson's private correspondence with Hawkes in 1951. It has come to light as a result of Mary Robinson's examining the Hawkes archive at the JB Priestley Library at the University of Bradford.
The latest Comet, edited as usual by Antoinette Fawcett, contains a rich variety of content including contributions from Peggy Troll, David Boyd, Chris Pilling and Christopher Donaldson. Elissa Robinson reflects on the writers' workshop which the Society organised in May, Antoinette herself reports on our AGM and our Summer Event at Haverigg, the Member Profile is with the poet and writer John Killick, and Kathleen Morris reveals her professional connection with Norman Nicholson - as a telegram deliverer! Plenty more as well. Comet is mailed out free to members.
'Forcing the mind to think the impossible'
Norman Nicholson was 'the only major modern writer of the English Atlantic edge' - but why does he refuse to look outward from that edge? And in which direction does he look instead? Interesting and challenging lecture by Professor Andrew Gibson of Royal Holloway, University of London, can be heard on a podcast from University College Dublin HERE. A transcript is also available to download. The lecture was originally recorded in Spring 2013.
Melvyn of the North
The Society's president, Melvyn Bragg, is to present a 10-part series on Radio 4, The Matter of the North, starting on Monday August 29th at 9am and running at the same time each morning for the rest of that week and the next (Mon-Fri). More details HERE.
NN is back on Big City Lit
The online New York literary magazine Big City Lit recently refreshed its online archives, meaning that David Boyd's introduction to the poems of Norman Nicholson "Verse Rooted Like a Tree", the Cumbrian Poetry of Norman Nicholson, is available to access once more. David says: "Although eight years out of date (note the old Calder Hall cooling tower photo!) and fairly savagely edited, it's I think a reasonable intro to NN for those from other lands especially". Find it HERE
Haverigg: reflections and images
International stage for Neil Curry
Neil Curry, one of the Society's founder members and the editor of Norman Nicholson's Collected Poems, is to appear at the International Poetry Festival in Genoa, Italy, this week. Neil's participation in the event at the Palazzo Ducale on Tuesday is well-deserved international recognition for his wide-ranging output which includes a critique of William Cowper's work, published last year.
Pictures of the Society's display at a special event to celebrate the 90th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen at St George's Church yesterday. The display included images of the Queen's Medal for Poetry which was awarded to Norman Nicholson in 1977, and a selection of wild flowers which reflect local links to Nicholson.
pictures by SUE DAWSON
The Queen's Medal for Poetry
As part of Millom's celebration of Her Majesty's 90th birthday on Saturday June 11th, Peggy Troll will give a talk about the Queen's Medal for Poetry which was awarded to Norman Nicholson in 1977 - the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee. This will part of an afternoon of celebrations at St George's Church, Millom, starting at 2pm.
The Society's former chair Dr Ian Davidson celebrates after being presented with an engraved whisky glass as a token of appreciation for his hard work. Illness prevented Ian from receiving the award at our AGM in April. Committee members Peggy Troll, Sue Dawson and Dot Richardson had the pleasant task of making the presentation.
pictures by JOHN TROLL
'A great poem by Norman Nicholson'
NN Society member Mike Alldred writes: As a keen walker I am a member of the Ramblers Association. In the Summer edition of the RA magazine, "Walk", there is an interview with broadcaster & writer Stuart Maconie. In addition to references to Walt Whitman (positive) & Wordsworth (less so) he also mentions "a great poem by Norman Nicholson, in which he writes about washing up in his kitchen and seeing Scafell Pike as he looks out of the window....". He goes on to describe what Nicholson fans will recognise as the poem "Scafell Pike".
It's encouraging to discover references to Nicholson, such as this, which might result in more people choosing to seek out his writing. And, who knows, maybe seek out the Norman Nicholson Society.
Writing workshop a great success
The life-writing workshop led by Kathleen Jones on Saturday, 14th May 2016, was a great success. The event, which explored connections between our Selves and our Environment, was a joint collaboration between the Norman Nicholson Society and Kendal Library. It was called ‘A Local Habitation’, not only as a reference to Nicholson’s 1972 collection of the same name, but also in honour of Shakespeare, whose 400th anniversary we are celebrating this year.
The three hours passed very quickly, but there was time for participants to produce two pieces of writing and to share these with the group. Kathleen set Nicholson’s work within the context of current thinking about home, exile and story-telling, linking these themes to contemporary eco-writing, both creative and critical. We were also encouraged to think about memory and truth, childhood and trauma – sources both of pain and inspiration for poets and writers.
As well as reading and thinking about Nicholson’s poem ‘The Elm Decline’ (Collected Poems p. 283), we considered Heaney’s ‘The Barn’ and Riemke Ensing’s ‘Fictions’. At the end of the workshop we came away not only with our own two pieces of writing – the basis perhaps of further work – but full of the kinds of thoughts and feelings which mean you’ve been provoked in the right way.
'A highly knowledgeable exploration'
AGM held in Millom
The Society's AGM took place at Millom Network Centre on Saturday and was followed by a talk by Dr David Cooper on New Contexts for Nicholson's Writing. There was also an exhibition to mark the Society's 10th anniversary. A full report can be found on our EVENTS page.
Part of the Society's 10th anniversary display
posted 18/4/16, updated 21/4/16
Nicholson exhibition on the move
The exhibition dedicated to Norman Nicholson at Millom Discovery Centre has been refreshed and updated, and moved to a different location. This is the result of a wider reorganisation within the Centre. The move has involved a lot of work by NN Society committee members and helpers, taking down everything on display in the old room and then re-hanging and displaying all the items in the new room. There isn’t room for everything to be on display at once so the items in the room will be refreshed from time to time.
View the slideshow below:
Millom Discovery Centre admission charge is valid for one year so once paid people can visit as many times as they like during the following 12 months.
There is a selection of NN books available for sale at the Discovery Centre.
photos by SUE DAWSON
'Fire of the Lord' - signed copy
We've been notified that a signed copy of Nicholson's first novel The Fire of the Lord is available to buy. The inscription reads: Rev. S. Taylor from Norman Nicholson Millom Cumberland Sept. '44
The book is in good condition, but lacks a dust jacket.
Cost is £45, including postage. From NW Book Fairs. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicholson family links
Can you help Richard Rees-Jones who has contacted us with this query:
In his book Greater Lakeland NN talks about his grandparents coming from Cartmel. I am researching my own family history which links with the Nicholsons at Collinfield, Cartmel Fell. I'd be interested to know if our two families are connected. Is there anyone in your group who could help me?
If you have any information please let us know via our Contact Form and we will forward it to Richard.
A new book about Nicholoson has just been published. Norman Nicholson's Nature is written by conservation campaigner Ian Brodie, price £12.50.
Publishers Wildtrack say: This book looks afresh at Nicholson's writing and suggests that we need to regard him as a much greater committed nature writer than previously recognised. The book explores the writer's relationship between people, place, nature, industry and geology and concludes that in Nicholson's writings we can find the basis for a contemporary conservation ethic. Ian Brodie has spent a life in campaigning for access, landscape conservation and, more latterly, nature conservation. Before retirement he was on the staff of Friends of the Lake District and lectured on Lancaster University's Lake District Studies Course. He was formerly a member of the Lake District National Park Authority. His recent publications include, Thirlmere and the Birth of the Landscape Conservation Movement and Why National Parks?
The book is available from the publishers here. It's also available in bookshops in Cumbria. We've spotted it in the Tourist Information Offcie in Broughton and we'll add any other stockists if anyone can notify us via our Contact Form.
Contact Us / Become a Member
New members of the Norman Nicholson Society are warmly welcomed. Annual subscription is £12, or £18 for couples and £6 youth. Please contact us via the Contact page
Who, what and when
Norman Nicholson timeline HERE
Norman Nicholson's Cumbria
We're on Facebook and Twitter
Keep in touch and join in the chat. Log onto Facebook and type into the Search box Norman Nicholson Society.
Follow us on Twitter @NNicholsonPoet
Inspiring youngsters today
This photographic interpretation of Nicholson's poem 'Windscale' by pupils of Millom School shows how his writing inspires young people today. See more in 'Our Page!'
For previous posts please visit our News Archive.