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
Nicholson chapter in OUP book
A chapter on Norman Nicholson is part of a new book published by Oxford University Press, 'Coastal Works - Cultures of the Atlantic Edge'. The relevant chapter is entitled 'At the Dying Atlantic's Edge - Norman Nicholson and the Cumbrian Coast'. The author is Andrew Gibson, research professor of modern literature and theory at Royal Holloway University of London.
Autumn Event update
The Society's Autumn Event on Saturday October 7th will be held at the Blencathra Centre near Keswick, CA12 4SG. Full details about the event will be posted here in due course.
A poet's view of railways
Members of the Norman Nicholson Society gathered at Millom Discovery Centre for the Society's annual Summer Event, which this year took as its title 'No Poetry in Railways'. This was also the title of a talk delivered by Norman Nicholson on BBC radio, when his theme was to query the way poets of previous generations turned their backs on industrial change. 'Most of the nineteenth-century poets were completely bewildered by the new machine age,' he stated. Our own programme began with a presentation by local historian Marshall Mossop who explained how the railways were crucial to the development of Millom - not just by providing a means of transport for iron and iron ore, but also by creating, through the railway embankments, a perfect environment to hold back the marshland which otherwise would have encroached on the developing town. Marshall explained how different rail companies competed with one another and speculated that iron ore might never have been discovered at Hodbarrow had one scheme gone ahead, because the approaches to a proposed viaduct over the River Duddon would have blanketed the very spot where iron ore was first located.
Having heard the history, members then explored the reality, retracing the line of the former track which linked the main line with the ironworks, led by Sue Dawson. Beautiful weather made this a most rewarding experience, with crystal clear views of Black Combe and the distant fells. Those who preferred not to walk were able to explore the Discovery Centre and were also given a photographic presentation by Marshall of the locations which the walking group was visiting.
After a break for lunch, the afternoon was dominated by discussion of four Nicholson poems in which railways feature prominently: 'Coastal Journey,' 'Scarf Gap, Buttermere,' 'Ravenglass Railway Station.' and 'The Riddle'. Two groups were led by Antoinette Fawcett and Glenn Lang. Feedback from the groups will appear in the next edition of 'Comet'. Tea and cake (kindly provided by Peggy Troll) was accompanied by a briefing by Jade Hughes of the Discovery Centre regarding their successful bid for Lottery funding, a matter which was naturally of great interest to the NN Society members. One piece of news was that the Centre's aim to include a hologram of Norman Nicholson in their very detailed and informative Nicholson Room has had to be dropped for practical reasons.
Chair of the NN Society, Charlie Lambert, thanked the Discovery Centre for their excellent hospitality, and all those who had contributed to a very successful day.
slideshow of pictures from the Summer Event by BRIAN WHALLEY, posted 11/7/17
Heard it on the Grapevine
The new edition of the magazine Grapevine, which is seen mainly by people connected to Methodist churches around Ulverston and Coniston, contains an article about Norman Nicholson. The article has been written by NN Society member Ann Thomson, and ranges from the importance of Nicholson's Christian faith to the current work of the Society. More information about Grapevine here.
Our Summer Event
Our Summer Event - 'There's No Poetry in Railways' - took place at Millom Discovery Centre yesterday. Report to follow.
'There's no poetry in railways'
Railways, especially in the age of steam, have always exerted a powerful hold on the imagination of many, and the extent to which the railways featured in the the poems of Norman Nicholson will be discussed when we hold our Summer Event in Millom this Saturday (July 8th).
The rail system around Millom was once much greater than it is today. The ironworks, and the mines at Hodbarrow, required substantial servicing by rail and inevitably the poetry of Nicholson, who lived close to the station, was influenced by the sights and sounds of the railways. Nearly all the old tracks have now disappeared but the memories live on, notably in poems like ‘Hodbarrow Flooded’, in which Nicholson recalls that ‘bogies bounded along hummocking tracks’ before the mines closed and sea inundated the land.
Saturday’s event starts at 11am at Millom Discovery Centre LA18 5AA where members will hear a presentation by Marshall Mossop, followed by a walk along the path of the former tracks which linked from the main line to the ironworks. There will also be a chance to look around the Discovery Centre which includes a room dedicated to Norman Nicholson. Lunch is not provided but members can bring their own, or buy lunch at the Trackside Cafe (tel 01229 208398) which is part of the Discovery Centre complex. In the afternoon members will split into discussion groups, with the event ending around 4pm. Cost is £5. Non-members are welcome to join the Society on the day; annual subscription is £12, or £18 for couples and £6 youth.
Nicholson headlines in Oldham
The Oldham Chronicle yesterday published an article by NN Society member John Gilder. John's personal take on the rewards that come from reading Nicholson's poetry has given both Nicholson and the Society welcome exposure away from our usual heartland. John hopes that it might prompt other Nicholson enthusiasts to come forward in that part of the world. "Am I the only one?" he asks!
Our Lottery bid has been submitted
Today we formally submitted our application to the Heritage Lottery's 'Resilient Heritage' fund for the money to commission John Coward Architects of Cartmel to carry out a full survey, feasibility study, costings, and concept development in connection with the Norman Nicholson House project. We should know the outcome within eight weeks.
There's more information about this on the project's blog.
Our commemoration event in pictures: part one
A slideshow of images from the Society's event at St George's Church on June 3rd 2017, commemorating the 30th anniversary of Norman Nicholson's death.
Our commemoration event in pictures: part two
Remembering and celebrating
We marked the 30th anniversary of Norman Nicholson's death in the best possible way: reading and listening to his poetry in a place that was so special to him, St George's Church, in his home town of Millom. Members of the Society read their own choices of poems, on the theme of Mortality and Immortality, giving us a total of 18 Nicholson poems ranging from his blunt war poem 'Cleator Moor' to the familiar 'Sea to the West' and the children's poem 'I Don't Believe in Ghosts', read by Haverigg Primary School pupil Sophie Milligan. We also heard an extract from Nicholson's autobiography 'Wednesday Early Closing', and Phil Houghton reading his own poem 'Echoes', which imagines a viewer loooking back from the fells to Nicholson in his attic eyrie in Millom.
Our special guest, Christine Boyce, enchanted the audience with her recollections of her work designing the wonderful Nicholson Memorial Window. She pointed out many key details in the stained glass and showed us her diagrams from the planning stage of the project.
We celebrated a different form of writing by singing a hymn written by Nicholson in 1983, 'Come, Workers for the Lord,' with Barbara Andrews on the church organ. Then, after closing words from Nicholson's biographer and vice-president of the Society Kathleen Jones, we dispersed to the sound of the organ raising the roof with one of Norman's favourite hymns, 'Hills of the North, rejoice'.
The 30th anniversary of the death of Norman Nicholson
It's 30 years today since Norman Nicholson passed away the age of 73. He left a vibrant legacy in his literature, especially his poetry, in which his empathy with working people and his deep concern for the planet were expressed in the most compelling language. Kathleen Jones, Norman's biographer and vice-president of the Norman Nicholson Society, provides her take on Nicholson in her blog: http://kathleenjonesauthor.blogspot.co.uk
Star actor Kevin Whately backs our 'splendid project'
Kevin Whately, star of the ITV crime series Lewis and Morse, has thrown his weight behind the Norman Nicholson Society’s plan to buy and renovate Nicholson’s former home in Millom - an intervention which caught the eye of the NW Evening Mail (click on the picture).
The Society is bidding for money from the Heritage Lottery Fund to take over the house in St George’s Terrace and turn it into a worthy memorial to the poet who lived there throughout his life from 1914 to 1987.
In a joint message to the Society, Kevin and his actor wife Madelaine Newton said: ‘Do please add our names to the list of supporters for the Heritage Lottery Fund application. This is a splendid project and one which we are very happy to support.’
Kevin, who played Robbie Lewis in Lewis and Morse after first capturing the limelight as Neville in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, is a strong admirer of Nicholson’s work.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, when asked if there was a poem which touched his soul, he replied: ‘Scafell Pike by Norman Nicholson. It’s about the highest mountain in England, and how it will remain long after humans have been wiped out.’ Kevin gave a reading of Scafell Pike at a concert of music and poetry at Champs Hill in Sussex in 2015.
Madelaine Newton appeared in the 1980s TV series The Spoils of War which was largely filmed in Millom. She has also apeared in When the Boat Comes In, and acted alongside Kevin in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Morse, and the children’s series Geordie Racer in which she played Kevin’s on-screen wife. They join an impressive line-up of patrons of the Norman Nicholson House project which already includes the broadcasters Stuart Maconie and Eric Robson.
30 years since Nicholson's passing: a special event in Millom
Please join us at a special event to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Norman Nicholson. An afternoon of readings, music and conversations on the theme of Mortality and Immortality will be held at St George's Church, Millom, on Saturday June 3rd, 2pm to 4pm. Our special guest will be Christine Boyce, designer of the spectacular Nicholson Memorial Window within the church, and others who have confirmed attendance include poets Phil Houghton and Canon Dr David Scott. Refreshments will be available. Full details on our Events page.
Norman passed away on May 30th 1987, aged 73. His funeral took place in St George’s on Friday, June 5th.
Wonderful archive of Norman in 'Songs of Praise' - catch up if you missed it
The 'Songs of Praise' programme gave a wonderful treatment to the Nicholson story in today's BBC1 programme. The interviews came across really well and it was a treat to see the amount of archive footage of Norman himself. If you missed it, catch up on the BBC I-Player.
Our sincere thanks to producer Garry Boon, presenter Pam Rhodes and the whole SoP team.
BBC TV confirms transmission details
The feature on Norman Nicholson's faith and poetry, which was filmed in Millom last month, will be shown in tomorrow's (Sunday May 14th) edition of 'Songs of Praise', BBC1 at 5.15pm. The Society has been advised that there will be two separate sections on Nicholson, and that the contributors are the Society's president, Melvyn Bragg, and chair, Charlie Lambert.
Songs of Praise films the NN story
The BBC's 'Songs of Praise' team, headed by producer Garry Boon and presenter Pam Rhodes, spent the day in Millom yesterday, filming for a feature on Nicholson to be shown on Sunday May 14th. This followed a successful recce earlier this month when our committee member Sue Dawson showed Garry and PA Becky Collins around a selection of potential locations. The main interview, in which Pam spoke to our chair Charlie Lambert, took place on the Ironworks site (picture above). This was followed by further filming in St George's Church where refreshments were provided by our committee members Peggy Troll and Dot Richardson, and Society member Barbara Andrews. The crew then filmed at Norman's birthplace, 14 St George's Terrace, before moving on to record footage in the Whicham Valley and Silecroft. The BBC team, who liaised with the Society throughout the planning and production phases, were delighted with the way the day panned out. More details and Charlie's personal reflections can be found on the NN House Project blog HERE. Photos below are by SUE DAWSON.
Word of the Month: Haematite
Brian Whalley's exploration of the word 'haematite' in Nicholson's poetry - and fascinating background information about mining at Hodbarrow - is our Word of the Month.
BBC TV to film in Millom tomorrow
A production team from the BBC's 'Songs of Praise' programme is due to film in Millom tomorrow for a feature about Norman Nicholson. They will be on location at the ironworks site, No 14 St George's Terrace, St George's Church, and other places to be decided on the day. The BBC team has been consulting the Society throughout the planning process and were shown a variety of locations by Sue Dawson on a recce to Millom a fortnight ago. Our chair, Charlie Lambert, is due to be interviewed by the presenter Pam Rhodes, and our president, Melvyn Bragg, will be interviewed in London. The feature is due to be shown on Sunday May 14th and will be available thereafter on the i-player.
'The Wall Walks the Fell' - a photographic interpretation by Deborah Harrington
We are delighted to exhibit here a series of photographic images by Manchester-based photographic artist Deborah Harrington, interpreting Norman Nicholson's poem Wall.
A wall walks slowly.
At each give of the ground,
Each creak of the rock's ribs,
It puts its foot gingerly.....
The six black and white images will appear automatically as a slideshow. You can read the entire poem and hear Nicholson himself reading it by clicking here.
Time, through consideration of the past, present, and future, is a predominant theme in Deborah Harrington's work. Using social history and ‘a sense of place’ as subjects of enquiry; ideas relating to transience, transition and change, through the interactions of presence and absence, stillness and duration, and the known with the unknown; provide space within the series for the viewer's own contemplation and reflection.
Forthcoming exhibitions of ‘What Remains’ - a project which considers the pottery manufacturing industry in Stoke - will be held in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Stoke-on-Trent, later this year.
Remembering and celebrating
Details have been announced of a special event to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Norman Nicholson. An afternoon of readings, music and conversations on the theme of Mortality and Immortality will be held at St George's Church, Millom, on Saturday June 3rd, 2pm to 4pm. Our special guest will be Christine Boyce, designer of the spectacular Nicholson Memorial Window within the church. Full details on our Events page.
Norman passed away on May 30th 1987, aged 73. His funeral took place in St George’s on Friday, June 5th.
Second visit by Nottingham students
For the second time this week the Society was pleased to welcome students from the University of Nottingham to Millom. We were based at the Discovery Centre which was a very useful venue for placing the town and Norman Nicholson in context. The Centre also has the resources about the Ironworks and Hodbarrow to add to the experience for the students to see for themselves.
We were based in the newly refurbished Railway Room - but did have to ask for the model trains to be switched off while our committee member Dr Antoinette Fawcett was delivering her talk!
The poems which were discussed were The Bloody Cranesbill, On the Closing of Millom Ironworks and Hodbarrow Flooded.
We thoroughly enjoyed meeting the students and their tutor Kiri Langmead and hope they found this week's visits beneficial. We would like to thank the university for the generous donations they have made to the Society, to the Discovery Centre and to St George's Church.
Heritage Trust Network
The Society is pleased to have become a member of the Heritage Trust Network, the umbrella organisation for built heritage preservation groups. The Trust will provide us with a valuable bank of knowledge and advice as we develop the Norman Nicholson House Project.
Nottingham students visit Millom
A group of 17 first year undergraduates from the University of Nottingham visited Millom as part of a Lake District field trip yesterday. The visit to Millom focused on what students could learn about the geography of the Lake District from the work of Norman Nicholson. The visit was intended to encourage students to use literature as a means to creatively reflect on their environment and the changing meaning of place.
The students' tutor, Kiri Langmead, worked closely with members of the Norman Nicholson Society in the planning of the trip. Our committee members were able to advise on appropriate locations to vist, and were on hand to meet the students on the day. The programme included a visit to St George’s Church to view the Nicholson memorial window and listen to a talk by Dr Antoinette Fawcett on exploring Millom and its industrial history through Nicholson's work. Then there were site visits to the former Millom Ironworks led by Sue Dawson and to Hodbarrow led by Glenn Lang. During each site visit opportunities were made to link Nicholson’s poetry to the place in order to develop the context and understanding of his writing.
A second group of Nottingham students will be arriving on Friday to follow the same programme of events.
New treasurer, new constitution
The Society's AGM in Millom yesterday saw Brian Charnley elected as treasurer to succeed Dorothy Richardson, and our updated constitution was approved. More details of the AGM plus a report on Dr Antoinette Fawcett's talk on Nicholson and Italy can be found on the Events page.
'Deep-rooted notions of community'
Check out Phil Houghton's blog about his visit to Millom to support the launch of our Norman Nicholson House project.
Italian flavour at our AGM
Dr Antoinette Fawcett will deliver a talk on 'Nicholson and Italy' as part of the event that includes the Society's AGM this Saturday (April 1st). The talk will draw on Antoinette's research into the extent of Nicholson's popularity in non-English-speaking cultures. Saturday's event takes place at Millom Network Centre, Salthouse Road, Millom LA18 5AB. Schedule: 1230 - arrivals and registration. 1pm - update by Charlie Lambert on the Norman Nicholson House project. 1.30 - AGM. 2pm (approx) - break and refreshments. 2.15 - Talk by Antoinette Fawcett plus questions and discussion. The event is expected to be finished by 3.30pm.
Meanwhile the latest edition of the Society's newsletter, Comet, is on its way to members. The edition includes a fascinating article by Kathleen Jones on the impact on Nicholson's life of his brother Harold who died aged five months, seven years before Norman was born. There are also a number of reflections on the weekend at Cockley Moor, articles by John Killick and David Boyd about, respectively, the contrasting approach to rocks in the poetry of Nicholson and Hugh McDiarmid, and similarities between Nicholson and his Cornish contemporary Charles Causley. Plus a report on the Society's contribution to Millom's Chrstmas Tree festival - and more!
Listen again: Radio Cumbria
Catch up on BBC Radio Cumbria's coverage of the launch of the Norman Nicholson House Project.
Neil Smith interviews Janice Brockbank in the Mike Zeller Show, Thursday March 23rd here, 54 mins 40 secs along the timeline.
Neil Smith interviews Sue Dawson in the Mike Zeller Show, Thursday March 23rd here, at 1 hr 54 mins 15 secs.
Richard Corrie interviews Charlie Lambert, Sunday March 26th, here, at 1 hr 44 mins 12 secs.
NW Evening Mail report here
posted 27/3/17, updated 30/3/17
Patrons line up to support Nicholson House project
Broadcasters Stuart Maconie and Eric Robson are among a list of notable individuals who have pledged their support for the Norman Nicholson Society’s project to buy and renovate the poet’s former home in Millom.
Maconie – DJ, author and specialist in popular culture – and Robson – author, film producer and chairman of the BBC’s Gardeners’ Question Time – have both accepted invitations to be patrons of the Norman Nicholson House project.
The Society announced yesterday that it intends to seek grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund to buy the Victorian terraced house on St George’s Terrace, Millom, which has been on the market for over a year. It intends to carry out necessary repairs and renovations, and open it fully to the public.
Chair of the Society Charlie Lambert said: “I am delighted that so many respected individuals are backing our project. It shows that there is a real drive to do something constructive, both for the ongoing study of Nicholson’s work and also for the town of Millom.”
The full list of patrons is:
Dr Penny Bradshaw (Head of English, University of Cumbria)
Dr David Cooper (Senior Lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University)
Doreen Cornthwaite (cousin of Norman Nicholson)
Neil Curry (poet and editor of Norman Nicholson: Collected Poems)
Richard Greer (chair of The Creative Society)
Phil Houghton (poet and writer)
Kathleen Jones (fellow of the Royal Literary Fund and Nicholson’s biographer)
Stuart Maconie (broadcaster and writer)
Eric Robson (broadcaster, writer and farmer)
Rev Clive Shaw (vicar of St George’s Church, Millom)
Cllr Douglas Wilson (Mayor of Millom)
Cllr Felicity Wlson (former Mayor of Millom)
Eric Robson said: “I'm delighted to be a patron of what sounds like a great project”.
Stuart Maconie said: “I’m happy to support this. I’m a big fan of Norman Nicholson”.
Dr Penny Bradshaw said: “I am very supportive of the Society's endeavours to protect the house as well as their proposals for future development”.
Phil Houghton tweeted: “Delighted to be announced as one of patrons for Nicholson House project”.
Dr David Cooper tweeted: “Really flattered to be invited to support the Norman Nicholson Society’s great project”.
Cllr Douglas Wilson said: “Felicity and myself are both delighted to assist in some way in bringing about this brilliant concept”.
If you'd like to get involved with the project, contact us by email email@example.com
Charlie Lambert, chair of the Norman Nicholson Society, and members of the project working group Janice Brockbank and Sue Dawson outline our plans. Photos: JOHN TROLL
The Norman Nicholson Society will publicly launch a project to buy and renovate the former home of the well-known Cumbrian poet on Thursday March 23rd, at 12 noon, at St George’s Church, St George’s Road, Millom LA18 4JE.
Norman Nicholson (1914-1987) was renowned for spending his entire life in the same Victorian house, with the sole exception of a two-year spell in his teens when he was sent to a sanatorium in Hampshire for treatment for tuberculosis.
The building, 14 St George’s Terrace, was also the location of a gentlemen’s outfitters business, run by his father Joseph. The family lived behind and above the shop.
Number 14, currently in use as a café, has been on the market for many months without finding a buyer. Now the Society, set up in 2006 to promote the works of the poet, is launching a project to buy the house, carry out necessary repairs and renovations, and open it fully to the public.
Chair of the Norman Nicholson Society Charlie Lambert said: “This house was a unique source of inspiration to Nicholson. All his writing was created here. From here he witnessed the daily life of the town which he described with immense skill and feeling; he could see the Cumbrian fells from his bedroom window and wrote about them in a style which resonates today. This is a very important building, not just to the town but also to English literature.”
He added: “We live in an age when environmental issues are top of the agenda and when a ‘sense of place’ has become important to people. Nicholson was a standard-bearer for these issues many years ago and his writings are still being consumed and valued. We want to ensure his home is preserved and brought into use as a source of inspiration for generations to come.”
The Society is working on an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the money to realise its ambitions.
The public launch on Thursday gives anyone the opportunity to meet the project leaders, hear more about the plans, ask questions, and get involved.
Charlie Lambert said: “I hope as many people as possible will come along on Thursday. Anyone who is fired up by this idea and has skills or expertise to contribute – we want to hear from you.”
The project can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Discussing Nicholson in Manchester
Dr Antoinette Fawcett will give a talk entitled Norman Nicholson: A Regional Poet? at the John Rylands Library in Manchester tomorrow (Tuesday March 7th). This is part of the JRL's series of talks and discussions based on their collections. It's from 1200 to 1pm in the Christie Room. Free admission and there's no need to book - open to all. Antoinette is a visiting research fellow of the John Rylands Research Institute.
ALS reports Nicholson activities
Good to see that our Society is prominently featured in the latest newsletter of the Alliance of Literary Societies. Our 10th anniversary is noted and there's a detailed report on our study weekend at Cockley Moor in October.
Norman Nicholson's poem Sea to the West will be featured on BBC Radio 4's Poetry Please tomorrow (Sunday March 5th). The programme, presented by Roger McGough, airs at 4.30pm and will be repeated at 11.30pm on Sunday March 11th. It will also be available on the BBC i-player. Our thanks to Irvine Hunt for suggesting this to the programme and for tipping us off in advance!
Words by the Water
Two of the speakers who made impressive presentations at the Society's study weekend at Cockley Moor in October are appearing at the 'Words by the Water' festival in Keswick in March. Poet Phil Houghton will join film-maker Terry Abraham to discuss the film 'Life of a Mountain: Blencathra' which was shown recently on BBCTV. And writer and photographer Val Corbett will deliver an illustrated talk discussing the surprising diversity of her creative output. Phil and Terry appear on Monday March 6th at 6pm when the film will also be screened, and Val's talk is on Wednesday March 8th at 1245pm. More details HERE.
Arriving in Market Square, Millom, for a meeting yesterday, my fellow committee member Sue Dawson and I were pleased and impressed to find that a large gathering of reporters, backed up by camera crews and satellite vans, was there to greet us. Yes! The reputation of Norman Nicholson has clearly expanded to the furthest boundaries. Sadly, it turned out that the media were there for the apperance of the prime minister who had been parachuted into Millom (not literally) to celebrate the Conservatives' victory in the Copeland by-election. The square was abuzz with smart suits and mobile phones (wonder if any of them took the hint that some networks are very badly served in the Millom area) and the smart new Clock Tower bar was doing a roaring trade. The scene brought to mind Nicholson's poem Great Day (in A Local Habitation, 1972) which tells of the day his father, Joe, shook hands with the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) on a royal visit to the town. Norman himself watched from his window-seat, "too young to be disappointed, too old to cheer."
Catching up on the news coverage later, it was noticeable that all the TV reporters datelined their reports "Copeland". I imagine most viewers thought they were seeing pictures of Whitehaven, where the count took place. No mention of Millom at all.
Too old to be disappointed....
Provincial Pleasures - a wonderfully written book
Norman Nicholson's take on life in Haverigg is illustrated in the latest entry on Dr Brian Metters' blog The Two Doctors. Much more than his poems, Norman’s prose revives memories with such intensity and accuracy. How can 'bloody great crabs as big as tortoises' fail to create an image in your mind so sharp if you were actually there to see it? And I was there. Read the blog HERE.
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 email@example.com
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.
BBC feature airs tomorrow
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The Wall Walks the Fell
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Norman Nicholson timeline HERE
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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!'
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