15 more cantos to go


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12994460_10153715180348246_7239557658124594534_nI am now sat in the office, the National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh.  Downstairs are my new bass guitar – a fender jazz bass – plus a new amp. Total cost £527. The money’s come from Emily’s recent house sale, god bless hair – I guess I did do some painting & stuff, so its cool. It would have cost more, but Tinky’s new keyboardist, Will, works there & got us a discount. Earlier today I had a sing-song with Mike – we’re working on the songs (for once) & its sounding good. We’ve a gig coming up this Saturday – Wee James’ birthday – plus the big one at Arran at the end of April when Tinky go West-side.

Working on the lyrics with Mike

Its been a couple of weeks since I got back from Skye, in which time I’ve decided to add 15 more cantos to Axis & Allies, bringing the total up to a Dantean 100. This means 135 tryptychs, some of which are already typed up, but about two thirds are still in pencil form, barely touched since I etched them out a decade & a half ago.

The New Ranch – Donna’s centre


The same period saw the visit of Donna Waddington, Emily’s mum & grandma to the girls. It was fun having her over, in tow came some poetry books from her husband on the Harlem renaissance. Her visit also gave me & Ems the opportunity to head to Burnley for a couple of days. En route we saw, for the first time, the new cottage we’ll be moving into – next door to Kenny’s partner, Sophie Younger. Its a cracker & the gods really have smile on us. Its weird how fate works – Emily was destined to marry a bass player & I to live in East Lothian. Both of these transpired, but it is only at the second time of asking, & sharing each other’s destiny, that our fates have been properly worked out.


Leaving Gifford about 11 AM, I drove us over the Lammermuirs & into Duns for a baguette & a pannini. Ems loved it & we can pop in from time to time in the future. From Duns we shimmied through the borders on a mini-burnsian tour… Kelso, Jedburgh both passed by before a wee look at the Otterburn battlefield, where I read some of my modernized ballad on the battle – a mixture of the English version & the Scottish ‘Battle of Chevy Chase.



12961551_1621654548159495_7174585620595428844_nFrom there we pottered at Hadrian’s Wall awhile, before passing through Haydon Bridge, a delightful small town spanning the River Tyne. In fact, most of the Border towns a quite beautiful & calm. We also checked out Langley Castle, & decided a romantic night there roundabout our honeymoon would be splendid. We also checked out a marvellous waterfall, whose name Ive forgotten, but was a roaring swirl of nature at its rawest.





From there we headed due south, along a series of obscure & some rather dodgy roads, especially the one that dropped into Dent valley – a ridiculously magnificent place full of all of nature’s bounties. Then came Settle & before we knew it we were in Burnley at seven o clock in the evening. En route we’d driven from Midlothian into Edinburgh & then into East Lothian, into the Scottish Borders & over the border into Northumberland, before passing through Cumbria (twice) & North Yorkshire before entering Lancashire.








After calling on Nicky & co (addicted to a new game), we proceeded to chill out at mine, where I turned my house into Damospa – foot rubs, bath-runs & lazy film nests included. Friday night we spoilt all that, however, by hitting the beers with my dad, including a rather funny session with the Accy Roaders down the White Lion. The drive back to Scotland the next day was tiring & hungover to say the least. This route was still wonderful, more new roads.



IMG_20160416_101835917En route I checked out Black Tower’s view of Pendle – which is almost the one contained in the Shephereds Calendar woodcut. I’m getting closer. I think I have to go back another mile or so to get the exact spot. We then passed through teh Bowland Forest – an amazing place I’d never traversed – through antiquated Slaidburn & Dunsop Bridge – the heart of Britain – before dropping down into Lancaster & connecting with the M6 & the much quicker drive North.

220px-Lunnasting_stoneAlongside Axis & Allies I have also began work on Humanology – my version of the Thirukkural. A prompt was me chatting to Donna about my poeslation while watching the BBC$ ‘Treasure of the Indus series’ in Tamil Nadu, & she, in a rather ‘support my daughter’ fashion urging me to do something with it. So I’ve started & I must say I am fairly romping through it. I am also carrying on with the work on my ‘Camlann & the Pictish King Arthur,’ including a new bit of research with the Attacotti. These were an unplaced British tribe of the 4th century who ate shepardesses’ paps & the buttocks of shepherds, & their name turns up in an Ogham inscription on the Lunnasting Stone in the  Shetlands where they are the ‘Ettecuhets.’ I gave the story to the Shetland Times  actually – its a good un – but they did the usual thing & asked a local historian who did the usual thing & said it was bollox. People just can’t see the woods for the trees.


Druidry_101_html_108ea1b4The thing is, I’ve started looking at the inscription (Ive got books on Ogham in front of me in the NLS) – & I’ve realised one word has been mistranslated – its actually hcungu, or Cungu, which opens up some very interesting possibilites..



Eriskay & Skye




Two mornings ago, & eighteen years to the day since I set off from Leyton on my first poetic tour, I completed the pen & ink version of Axis & Allies. No more shall I find myself in wonderful scenic spots, converting my research into rhyme & knitting together my vasty poem.  It was our last morning in Skye, & waking before dawn I walked the short distance from Seaview Cottage, a charming cottage on the slopes over Dunvegan, NW Skye, to the Pictish stone erected above the old Colomban church at the Millennium by the locals. With me was Bridei, a mad spaniel & companion to many of my walks in East Lothian – 13 years old but still going strong. Once at the stone I watched the sun tumble up into the Skye & completed my last three tryptychs:- two on the ascent & descent of Mount Olympus & the very last being a stanza on the escape from Treblinka.




Before then, clearly, was that wonderful week in Skye. After the motown night in Haddington – which was rather sparsely attended, but good fun all the same – we set off on the great drive North. After the unfortunate business of the Green Welly stop-off, I took the wheel & drove practically the rest of the way – through Glencoe, Fort William & on through a wild storm across the Kyle of Localsh to Skye. Not bad for someone who hasn’t even got a provisional. Emily took over once more 20 miles short of Dunvegan – the endlessly winding roads & growing darkness had tired me out – & we arrived at our cottage in Dunvegan just as night was closing in. Unfortunately the estate agent had got the dates mixed up & we were unable to get in – cue mad dash to the hotel for food & a few frantic calls, before not too long after we were in our lovely, warm cottage.




440_1613682118956738_8202965278448732262_nSo began a great week, our party consisting of 4 kids (Roxy 6, Ivy 8, fergus 10, Eliza 12) – 2 mothers (Emily & Carol), 2 spaniels Bridei & the newly revitalized Larch)  & a poet.  We all got on rather famously, wandering about the island in a jolly old fashion. On the Monday I took Fergus walking up the great table-topped hill that overlooked Dunvegan Bay, on the Tuesday we checked out the old lighthouse near Glendale, while on the Wednesday Emily & I escaped the circus & took a ferry from Uig to Lochmaddy on North Uist. Arriving late at night, we slept in the car by the Atlantic, then took a curious drive round the islands as far as Eriskay in the south. The latter is a charming wee island bejewelling those dazzling azure waters that fill the soul with joy & hope. South Uits is also a great spot – full of history & lovely views. but further north the feeling of visiting the Outer Hebrides is less pleasurable – a number of charmless pre-fab houses built by workers of the oil industry, while flat tepid peat-bogs roll out to the unassuming hills.


Coral Beach – wrote the penultimate bunch of tryptychs here





I am now back in Dalmeny, catching up with things & beginning to edit Axis & Allies. I have read through about 50 stanzas of the poem’s final total of 765. I am also engaged to be married, the circumstances of which engagement are rather amusing indeed. Of course Emily & I have fallen massively in love, & have thought of double-barreling our names & inventing a suitable crest, & all that. Anyway, a lass I know who knows very well I’m seeing Emily sends me the following Facebook messages;

SAT 8:13

Damo lost your number. Are u in Edinburgh? Need a chat friend
Call me 07723408***

“How I do love to go up in a swing, up in a swing so high, over the fields and the valleys below, over the fields so high”

SAT 12:45
I’m near loch Ness heading back to Edinburgh – what’s up?

SAT 14:39
My babies have gone to Thailand for 3 weeks. A bit wobbly but out with wee sis tonight. So all ok. Stay good bro x

Where is our haven
Let’s have a larf
2000, 2100, 2010? Forgot
where is the purpose
I got stuck
little scarecrow person
Straw for a heart

SAT 18:04
Happy holidays

So I showed these to Emily, & a few minutes later I’m checking FB & see people congratulating us on our engagement…  plus the following message from the FB girl only 3 minutes after Emily put the announcement up;

Congratulations! Super happy for you both c

Total mental & proof of how women communicate on an astral level. Anyhow, we got over a hundred likes & loads of congrats, plus an engagement party offer in Duval, so I guess its official. Funny as well, I finished my poem in the morning in Skye, drove down the majestic Great Glen of Scotland to get home, then found myself engaged by the evening. Yeah – that’s the way to finish an epic poem.




So Spring is definitely springing, indeed  the weather is better & I’m feeling just dandy. The past week has seen me go through the entirity of Axis & Allies & clean up any messy bits, & also organised it into its final order. This consists of 85 legend-headed =cantos, divided as follows;

L’Amfiparnasso (1 canto)

Cantos 1-27

L’Intermidi I (1 canto)

Cantos 28-54

L’Intermidi II (1 canto)

Cantos 55-81

L’Altoparnasso (1 canto)

 Each canto contains nine stanzas, so the final total of tryptychs is 765, which equates to 15,300 lines. That’s a nice even number I reckon, ‘15,000 lines’ kinda sounds funky.


In the past week I’ve got through a few more stanzas on the Waterloo campaign – theres’ about 8 to go now. I imagine I’ll be composing my last poems on Skye – maybe up a mountain or something – that’d be cool. I’ve also started a grand read-through – I’m at Romulus & Remus at the moment – a start of a car-wash-style edit to clean the whole thing up & turn my 39 year-old poetical mind onto some of the perhaps weaker wordsmitherie of my youth. Ive also been going through my stuff to find the best images to support Marching on Parnussus. I have all the text for that typed up – except for a few journal entries from my Dublin trip in 2003. The ide is that both A&A & MArching on Parnassus are going to be finished at the same time – crossing the streams so so speak. Tus when I write my last stanzas in Skye next week, the blog entry I write will be the last of the Parnassus writings also.





Lifewise, last week was dominated by Tinky Disco & the gig at the Audio Soup Equinox at the Biscuit Factory in Leith. It was a stormer – eventually. There were big ruptions in the band concerning  Kenny’s drumming. ‘He’s not in the band for his musical abilities,‘ I tell them, & he barged his way on stage anyway. Whether this means the end of Tinky as is stands, time will tell – but I cant really let the fellow down, especially as he’s gonna help us find a place to live in East Lothian – hopefully near his lady, Sophie.

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The house sold last week – £168,000. there was some pressure-poker style bidding from a young couple, & Emily nearly crumbled & took £160,000. Waiting a couple of days, however, earned her another £8000, so thats amazing really. But since then the realisation that we need to find somehwere to live has kicked in & we’ve already driven out to east Lothian once – while looking regularly at places in Peebles, nearer Jack. It was while out there that we called on Carol, to comfor her during the hospitilization of little Larch, a mad black spaniel that we all adore. It seems likely it was posioned by the farmers weedkiller in the big field behind hers at Garvald, & after several operations (£800 each) & several nights at an Edinburgh vet hospital (at £1500 each) shes up to £10,000. Luckily she’d just been given a bonus of £18,000 by Scottish power, which looks like it’ll be all going towards llittle Larchy. Now, I reckon 18,000 people in Scotland would have preferred to have had a pound off their bills…


IMG_20160317_181144616_HDR Driving out of East Lothian, I put up a few posters for this Friday’s motown nigth at teh Railway in Haddington. The idea is to do a monthly night, cgarge a fiver on the day & make over £500. Totally Doable. This time last year I was DJing in Burnley, & have had a rapid education in Northern Soul & Motown over these past 12 months. Its cross-generational music that, if chosen well, is proper banging. East Lothian is the perfect place to do it – theres not really much happening out there, so it could be quite a lucrative enterprise. I’ve got the PA ready at least, the final piece being a fifty quid mixer bought the other day, & the whole thing sounds sweet now & Im looking forward to bringin my tunes to the Shire, for as I hear on every side, ‘I love a bit of Motown.’

IMG_20160317_161037169 IMG_20160317_162151175

 Last week I also had my ‘widget’ removed from my eyelid. A blocked eyelid gland had proceed to swell up to the size of a small malteser. After a wee trip to my GP, they forwarded me to teh Princess Alexandra Eye Hospital in Edinburgh, where after a 10 minute operation it was gone. My doc was proper friendly, & will be visiting Seattle May 1 for a conference. I told him to visit Duval, Emily’s homepad. It was interesting to get some get-well soon messages on Facebook, especially when it was all done so quickly & was over in a flash.

Mark Calvert Aww Love .

Claire Stowell Get better soon x

Elaine Stables Have a quick recovery x

Donna Waddington xoxo oh, hope you are o.k., honey, wish you the best!!!

Donna Waddington i woul never want to do this, This for me would be a nightmare.

Tricky Aitken In least its sorted mate, speedy recovery

David Wales Get well soon bro

Emily Randall Pirate Damo! x

Clare Brierley Get well soon

Damo Tipiji Does anyone want to buy an eyelid widget £35 – one careful owner

Euan Weddell Get well soon smile emoticon

Lee Veitch Is that your brother do it Damo lol

Edinburgh from the Princess Alexandra upper floors

To finish this blog I’ll mention last Tuesday’s outing to Glasgow, where I saw a play at the Oran Mor, an Author’s talk at the Mitchell Library (part of the Aye Write Festival) &  finally a comedian at the Griffin pub, as part of the INternational Comedy Festival. A full day, then, & I even commuted, driving the car to Ratho Station, parking it up & catching the bus to & from Glasgow. A full days Mumbling for me, then. Here are the three reviews. Talking of three reviews, the next three days I’m going into town to watch a play a night, a good way to fill my mind with words before my final assault on A&A.





contactDavid F Ross is cool – simple as. A successful architect & silver-fox, a few years back he’d started writing, a cathartic exercise into his past, reliving those days & dreams of his early years – when he’d ran a mobile disco & wanted to be in a band. These two themes have formed the subjects of his first two books, the first of which was widely acclaimed ‘The Last Days of Disco.’ Set in the early 80s, it is a beautiful elegy to vinyl & a lost epoch.vespas-final-visual-page-001.jpeg  His sequel, & the main subject of his chat at Aye Write! festival, concerns the story of a fictional band in the early 80s, called ‘The Rise & Fall of the Miraculous Vespas.’ What Shane Meadows did for 80s nostalgia south of the border with ‘This is England,’ Ross seems to be doing the same in Scotland. Indeed, he dropped the hint that he’d like to see it made into a film, & there is a certain rollicking cinematographic quality to both books.


vespas-final-visual-page-001In his talk, Ross described that it was easier to recall events from this time, as in youth one experiences extremities of emotions, a quite existential aspect of his thinking which shows there is depth to the works that most readers might not see at first delve. Written in the Ayrshire vernacular, ‘The Miraculous Vespas’ is less a band, & more a vehicle for human relationships as summoned & reflected by Ross into his work. Well-researched, it uses real characters, including Boy George, & one imagines as time goes on this book will leap beyond its kind-contemporary pop-artiness, & into the realms of true time-capsule history.

For the actual experience of listening to Ross, I found him eloquent & attentive for the first hour, but things went off the rails a bit when he introduced fictional from his book – Bobby Bluebell & the manager Max Mojo. The fans loved it, but I just thought it was a bit daft. Still, that is nothing to detract from the clear & peculiar visionary genius of Mr Ross, a true bard who can glimpse into, & recreate the past.




The Mitchell Library



 Laughs: three-stars  Material: four-stars    Delivery: four-stars

CaXiDYmWYAE4Yxi.jpgOne-hour Comedy shows are rather like corn sheaves; they are planted in the winter, show their first green shoots in the Spring, start creating the cornbuds in May & are ready for the golden harvest in August. In the same way, comedians will start their Edinburgh Fringe show rolling in March – at the Glasgow Comedy Festival – hone it down Brighton in May & then reveal it to the world at large, fully ripened, at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Gemma Flynn, then, is very much caught in this cycle. Having survived last years ‘madmax dystopia’ of the Fringe, this diminutive delight set to work doing stuff, seeing stuff & picking out the funny stuff in all that stuff. Glimpses of brilliance glittered through a slightly jerky set, not helped by the clumsy use of her applemac in giving us clips of various things from modernity – mainly based upon the Kardashians (?!).

Watching Gemma in full flow is rather like joining her on the couch for a TV chat show. The room was packed, although most seem to have known Gemma, who she included in her patter; which, I must admit, had a really enjoyable & intelligent burr. Gemma is young, & so is her material, but she just kinda has it. As the year progresses, & she gets used to her material, sorting out the wheat from the chaff, come August we’ll all be sucking on her succulent cobs.






BILLY (The Days of Howling)

Script:  2.png Stagecraft:  2.png  Performance: four-stars

IMG_3160i.jpgThis a strange play. Disconnected, waffling – it is as if we are led in bed with our three actors after they had drank far too much caffeine after ten o clock. They cant get to sleep & they are just thinking aloud – thinking & speaking aloud. None of this is in harmony, however, until the end that is, when finally the three separate soliloqueal strands fuse together in a sweary & shouty finale. Is this the Howl, one asks, or it more the voice crying into the hurricane, when Ginsbergdeclaimed, ‘I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked.’

Billy’s main theme is the chaos that ensues after an adult makes the wrong step in the minefield that is kindergarten playground. In this case, Alice’s mum notices Billy eating & Cheeto — & the rest is history (or for me rather, it should have been left in the historical records.) I wasn’t convinced by this piece at all, although the hour was definitely saved by the spirited acting of Hoary Lyon (admin lady), Rosalind Sydney (Alice’s mum) & the big-boned & bubbly Anthony Strachan (Billy’s dad). Perhaps that is down to translation, not perhaps of the language so much, but more the format conjured by French playwright, Fabien Cloutier.

Before I entered the Oran Mor was in a pretty good mood, but left having something of a personal existential crisis. Perhaps that was the point, I’m not sure, or maybe I am….





i want to be near to kids in case of bad news and I need to go and comfort them.   it’s a kind offer though.   I’m seriously reaching the end of my tether.   Not slept in 3 days,   Oh, and fab news about the house,   that’s fantastic
Thurs 13:39
Larch deteriorated.  Only a matter of a short time I fear

Nice to see you both. Hard circumstances. Just to say skye is still on no matter what. In fact if we lose larch the kids will need the distraction more than ever. Lets plan for a really jolly time regardless
FRI 18:50

Yes, my kids looking forward to it too! Any news today?
SUN 11:04

Larch fully conscious, eating a little, wagging her tail and having her tummy tickled by her nurses. Still poorly and tired but much better. Happy equinox. The sun is in the sky and God’s in his heaven. Peace and love

I went to see Larch today. She’s in a sorry way, poor wee soul. but pleased to see me and still getting a bit better., broke my heart to leave her but I could feel the love for her amongst the vets and nurses

Morning. Hope you’ve well. Also hope we get some of this weather for our Skye trip. Emily, are the girls with you Friday night? If so I cook babysit so you can go to Dsmos thing in Haddington x


Morning. Hope you’ve well. Also hope we get some of this weather for our Skye trip. Emily, are the girls with you Friday night? If so I cook babysit so you can go to DAmos thing in Haddington x


Three in a Week


In the whole of the last week I managed to eke out another three stanzas for Waterloo, one of which reads;


As from Night’s throne delicious dawn-nymphs crept,
Across the Sambre cherish’d eagles flew,
Or rather waded – as they did men wept,
They’d dared to dream those dreams becoming true;
Beyond frontiers,
Marching thro man-high rye,
As morning slowly clears brash pit-murk from the sky.

Across the bridge Napoleon
Penetrates the Belgic lanes,
On every side a veteran
Strongest of his long campaigns,
Ahead the palace of Laekan
& with him what remains
Of this best army, whom with phrenzied heart
Surge forwards, urging murdering to start.

Ney gallops thro the old Empire
As sunny skies open,
‘My orders sire?’ ‘With fight & fire
& forty thousand men
Seize Quatra Bras, from there we’ll bar, conjunction… WELL! GO THEN!’

15th June


So I am creeping towards my goal, a final read through of the poem in its full & natural entirity, which serendipity has decided shall be taking place on the Scottish island of Skye. We’ll be there in a couple of weeks, actually, on a wee holiday – a friend of mine quite high up in Scottish Gas has rented a large cottage for the Easter break. A suitable place to conclude my work, for the Cuillin hills, as I recall, are as epic as it gets.

IMG_20160310_102108496 IMG_20160310_102129316

 The past week has been pleasant enough, the centrepiece of which was the State Birthday of my friend Stevie Vickers, aka, Victor Pope, at the Leith Depot in well, Leith. For it I finally reassembled Tinky Disco – our main singer, Mike Daniel, had been going through the ringer recently, but has returned for duty. A practice was head, in which my bass lost its connection. Luckily Emily’s neighbour, 80-odd year old Andy, who still rides his motorbike, had a soldering iron. Cue a funny hour fixing the bass & finding out about him – his lads a major-general in the army & received his MBE on the same day as Kylie – & even took her out for dinner. Andy is a Rangers nut & at the end of the ‘fix’ told me, ‘there’s only one thing wrong with your guitar pal – its green!”  



The gig at the Leith depot was fun – a lot of folk showed up & I gave a little speech reminding folk of a little chat I had with Steve in 2008, when he lived in dirty Leeds & I said he should move to Edinburgh as there’s loads of good folk & musos up here – the State Birthday, then, was a lovely validation of that. As for Tinky, we should be sharp for next Friday, a gig at the Biscuit Factory for the Audio Soup Equinox party. They usually hold it at the Belhaven Fruit farm, near Dunbar, but have moved it to the city on this occasion, to a factory space converted into a party zone.



The past few days have seen the first few folk entering the house & picturing themselves in it, as the grand wheel of property owning rolls into the lives of young couples. Its interesting highlighting the strengths of the house & hiding its weaknesses & hoping that they’ll want the house sooo much they’ll chuck in a few extra bob. Emily has been stressed recently because of the house sale, because of the unsurity of roofing her children – but I am instilling her with a sense of confidence in the future, that East Lothian awaits & we will find the most salubrious house & lifestyle there.

IMG_20160309_144002182_HDRTHE PROPERTY

(from the ESPC website)

This extended end terraced villa is pleasantly positioned within the ever popular village of Dalmeny close to the seaside town of South Queensferry and Dalmeny Railway Station for convenient commuting. The attractive family accommodation merits internal viewing to be fully appreciated and comprises; welcoming entrance hall, comfortable light and airy lounge enhanced by natural wood flooring, feature fireplace on a tiled hearth and glazed door giving direct access to the rear garden. Located off the lounge the well designed dining kitchen which has a range of modern base and wall mounted units with co-coordinating natural wood work surfaces/flooring, Belfast sink and elegant French doors to rear garden. To the lower floor there is also a study/bedroom 3/playroom with access to the side vestibule. Finally to the upper floor there are two bright and sunny double bedrooms, large floored attic providing excellent storage with potential for conversion (providing the relevant planning permissions are in place) and appealing partly tiled bathroom comprising white three piece suite with electric shower over bath. Further benefits include gas central heating, double glazing, good built in storage and large two car drive.


Today it is Emily’s birthday: she is 44, but, as her 6-year old Roxy told her this morning – looks 28. In her I get the benefits of beauty AND maturity, & wonderful soul-woman who cares for me as deeply as I her. Looking after wee ones is grueling & for two weeks in three we welcome the wee ones’ father having them in Selkirk. The first of these is especially welcome, as we would have just had a 12-day stint with them. I had the changeover last Friday, dropping them offat a lovely house on the Dalmeny Estate where the kids wer having lunch with a few other kids & their mums. Roxy asked especially if I could drive her there, the conversation breaking out into the playful.

‘Will we be going to the club tonight, m’lady.’
“Yes, about ten o clock.’
‘Is that not a little late, ma’am?’
‘O no – I do like to stay out all night these days!’

She is only six!




After this, a surprise trip to the Playhouse to watch Puccini’s Tosca (Emily’s first opera) & the State Birthday, we moved onto the couch for basically the rest of the weekend – recuperating to the very fine ten-part Icelandic murder-mystery, Trapped, & the fact that Burnley have just gone 7 points clear at the top of the championship. Probably the most blissful time we have spent together yet!




Back in the Saddle




The last few days have been pretty interesting, I guess, & have seen me compose the first two tryptychs of this last little flurry of Axis & Allies composition. I last left the blog in Edinburgh, just before a vital chess match, of which Chris Donkin – the Wandering Dragon archivist – had to say;

Falconers Flyers ‘polish’ off a wunch of bankers to avoid relegation

The C team played their final match of the season away at the Ukranian Club last Tuesday against Bank of Scotland B. They needed to win to avoid relagation. Now dear reader, I will level with you. I have been back in Scotland 7 and a half years now and have played in every division against every club. I have developed great admiration and affection for many of our fellow clubs. Musselburgh are good guys, the Civil Service are great (and generous) the Edinburgh Chess Club have always supported us when we have needed a venue and they are all good guys. Dunbar, Badgers Brook and Sandy Bells are great fun. In fact I like most of our fellow clubs …. but I have never really taken to Bank of Scotland. On Tuesday they took on our C team in a crucial division two match. With all games in play our board 2’s (Damo Bullen) phone was heard to be vibrating. It was on silent but the vibrations could be heard. Of course everyone knows the rule – all mobile phones must be turned off. Damo also knows this rule – but most of us know Damo !


The thing is you only default the game if your opponent claims it. I am led to believe that the game (level at the time and an interesting position) was claimed with some glee. I really can’t understand this – no matter how important the fixture. Why would you want to claim a game in such circumstances ? …. but hey ho (rant over). Damo was defaulted and the Bankers moved into a 1-0 lead. Fortunately this is not a sour grapes story because Bill Falconer’s men then went on to win with some style. The Polish contingent (Konarski, Walkowiak and Straczynski) scored 2.5 / 3 with only Adam Walkowiak dropping a half point. Captain Bill led from the front with a fine win and Tony Akers rounded off the night with a draw. Final score Bankers 2 Good Guys 4. The last word is that the C team are now safe and will play in division two again next season.


I responded by Email (today actually) with;

Great that the C team still won! Well done lads!

In my defence, I was keeping an eye on the Blackburn-Middlesbrough game – I’m a Burnley fan & it was one of the rare occasions I wanted Ba$tard Rovers to win – they did, keeping the Clarets at the top of the Championship, a position we lost last Friday when Middlesbrough used a game-in-hand to overtake us. Luckily, we did the first seasonal double over aforesaid Ba$tards last Saturday in 35 years
PS – if you are in a similar situation as I, turn phone to silent AND vibrate off – they’ll never know


On Wednesday I had a great run through of Alibi with my new team – its been 9 years since I last did it, but I reckon its good for another outing. There’s Haylee Goldthorpe as Lily, Harry John as Nelson, Victor Pope as the cool pool General, Jimmy the Beggar is now Brenda the Busker, played by Clare Brierley. The idea is we’re gonna perform it live, & after a wee tweak of the script – chucking social media in & localising it to Edinburgh – its looking good for the Summer.


On the Thursday, I Mumbled the Edinburgh University Shakespeare Society’s production of King Lear at the Pleasance Theatre, a rather well-written review, I think, which I shall reproduce here;


Script: 5  Stagecraft: three-stars Performance: four-stars

4A0A5589.jpgNext month sees the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s ending-day. Perhaps he knew his fame would outlive him – but probably not how far the scope & expanse of his genius would penetrate. It is a staple of all the worlds’ studies; his language, human expositions & dramatic dialogue should stand forever as both a teacher & a delight to us all. In this commemorative year, then, the Edinburgh University Shakespeare Company has tackled King Lear, a murderous tragedy that wades in blood & guts only second behind the visceral early-crowd pleaser, Titus Andronicus. Touching on themes of family division & the onset of age with its wafting senilty, King Lear is a true classic, whose darkling & depressive mood plunges a sword-point into dankest depths of all our psyches.

4A0A5461In the hands of the EUSC we are presented with a set straight out of Superman II (1980), with the ladies bedecked in evening wear; including rather pointy stilettos. At their heart is Will Fairhead’s grey-haired King Lear, who commands the stage with an increasing cantankerous acerbation. His touching descent into madness wins over one’s suspension of disbelief completely, especially when accompanied by a reddening face after a particularly loud outburst. Of Lear’s daughters, I found Agnes Kenig’s Regan very fluent, very believable, but the Mumble’s main praise must be bestowed upon Olivier Huband. He played Edmund to perfection, his stately soliloquies doing Shakespeare proud, while you actually could feel the electricity as he flirted with Goneril & Regan.

Olivier Huband’s Edmund


So did it work? I would say yes, it did. The cast comblended well together to deliver so complex a psychological montage, & did so bristling with energy. I wasn’t so sure about the accompanying sound-effects; a Dantean soundscape with a deep pulse that got louder as we descended into the mental hells of our protagonists. Perhaps it was meant to get us all nervous, but I just found it a bit annoying. Action-wise, while there was a seamless transition between scenes, the dialogue was at times a little rushed, especially in the mouth of Pedro Leandro’s fool. Saying that, the laddie was engaging all the same, a tantalisingly brilliant breath of fresh air in such gloomy play, composed as it was just after the demise of a more frivolous Elizabethan Age (1606). There really were some great moments of well-played theatre – the death scenes in particular were charged with high drama – while the soul-tortured monologues definitely demanded our attention. I did think at times the production was a little too shouty – Shakespeare’s words are essentially wooden, & it is up to the individual actors & actresses to bring them to life – but perhaps not quite so vividly… a cheeky subtlety here, an un-noticed nuancity there, plus a tension-pricked pause from time to time & this play could have been even better.

Reviewer : Damo Bullen






On Saturday me & the lass & the two girls drove on a deliciously crisp day through Fife. Dropping me off in Fife, they continued on to Newport-on-Tay where they had pals, while I covered the Stanza poetry festival. I saw a few things, including the fantastic Jemima Foxtrot & a talk on the Tao te Ching – something I’ve recently picked up in connection to my work with the Kural.  What was weird was me spending the majority of the afternoon with one eye on my phone & the Burnley result. They were playing Ba$tard Rovers & beat our arch-rivals at Turf Moor for the first time in 35 years or so.


IMG_20160305_172755135Emily picked me up from Saint Andrews at 3 – Stanza had been cool, but the place was full of university students dressed up as if they were in the Tyrol & running about like mad-heads – not cool. A few miles away lay the delightful firth-side town of Newport-on-Tay, with gorgeous views across the waters of a grey-granite camel-hump’d Dundee. Collecting the girls from her pals place – a delightful old house with an epic garden. We then drove back to Dalmeny, calling in Strathmiglo en route. My object was to find & photograph its Pictish Stone, which I was allowed to do while the girls played in the excellent park. In recent weeks I have been slowly peeping at my work with the British Dark Ages once more —- for me Strathmiglo will be connected to the Gildasian Maglocunos, while I am pretty sure the Isle of Avalon is across the Tay at Inchyra.








Sunday was a fun day, starting with an early drive to Tescoes with the girls (im completely illegal by the way) to get some Mother’s Day pressies for Emily. My chief present to her was preventing them from giving them to her til nearly 11 AM. Later that evening I also had a run-out with Tinky Disco, playing ‘Grandad’s Having a Come-down’  for the first time. We were on first at a jamboree at Henry’s Cellar Bar – a wee New York style joint with a  great atmosphere & sound. There was no-one there, of course, but that was the point – for we’ve a big gig coming up in two weeks time & its nice to get back in the saddle.



Earlier on that day I took myself off into Dalmeny Estate & etched off two stanzas, both of which introduce the De Lanceys into the poem. There was one passage in particular I really liked, for it felt as if I was speaking of mine & Emily’s love. It reads;

No Fairer Love

Could e’er two hearts entwine

The perfect, ‘I am yours,’ the spotless, ‘you are mine.’ 

It was weird being back in the saddle, so to speak. Parnassus, Olympus & 2011 seem a long way off, since which I have composed only one new stanza for A&A – the one dedicating the poem to the American people. That was done in my office in Burnley, but it really felt good to be outside, absorbing the poesis, & pouring it into the mould my choosing, whose mechanics are something quite innate to me.  With there only being a few new stanzas to compose – about 20 – I believe I shall really enjoy this week or so.


Today, then, was Monday, & I have spent it painting Emily’s house fixing doors & stuff in time for the surveyors arrival tomorrow – she is selling up & a return to East Lothian is looming ever swiftly on the horizon. I am currently sat in South Queensferry library, covered in dried white paint & just finishing off a bit of Mumbling.

One Last Blast


So I’m not quite finished.


I’m currently sat in the National Library of Scotland on a Tuesday afternoon. This morning I went to the doctors on Ferry Road in order to start the ball rolling as to having a lump removed from my eyelid (blocked gland) & tonight I’ll be playing a vital Chess match for Wandering Dragons C – its the last match of the season & we must get at least a draw to avoid a relegation play-off.

Over the last winter, only the salubrious bosom of my woman & her warmth has kept me sane through a particularly wet & windy Scottish winter. But today is the first of March, the heralding gateway to six months of lets say, better, weather. It should also see the very final effort on my two epic poems - Axis & Allies & The Silver Rose, the contents of which I have been musing on of late. Last year I was happy to have the edited down versions; 154 sonnets for the Silver Rose, & 243 tryptychs for Axis & Allies. Yet spending time with my inspirational spirit-woman has renewed my vigour & given me ample ambitions as to create ‘true’ epics – ie poems with a bit of meat to em, eh? Through the Winter I have also been assembling my collection of Axis & Allies related journals, entitled ‘Marching on Parnassus,’ the pursuit of which has propelled me to furnish this ultimate leg of epical poetic composition with a piece of modern blogging, to complement & consummate all my previous efforts.

Tinky Disco has been evolving over the winter...
Tinky Disco has been evolving over the winter: should be a good 2016


Our vocalist is Superstylin Mike Daniel
Our vocalist is Superstylin Mike Daniel

Last weekend, my good lady Emily & I set off from Dalmeny in order to collect my Apple Mac computer in Burnley, which contained the majority of my work. After dropping off her children at the ‘Big Red Barn’ near Biggar, where they were picked up by their father (who now lives in Selkirk), we continued south under a lovely blue pre-spring sky. Over the past few months I have been steadily teaching myself how to drive, & it was while pasuing for a break at Gretna services that I explained to Emily I was ready to tackle a motorway for the first time – which after downing an energy drink I did with some success – for a good 20 miles & at speeds of over 70MPH.

We reached Burnley that night – pretty exhausted, & slept soundly. The next day was a busy one -starting with a drive about Pendle in search of the correct positions in which I am convinced 16th certain woodcuts were made for Spenser’s poem, the Shepherd’s Calendar. We didn’t quite get the exact spots, but are getting closer & next time we’ll nail it.

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Pendle Hill & what I think is Pendle in the woodcut

The rest of the day was spent calling on all my ‘relations’ – a walk with my sister & niblings near Darwen, a coffee with my father, some beers with nicky et al. & a coffee with my Uncle Jeff – who has just been sworn in as the mayor of Burnley & who I now have to call ‘his worshipfullness.‘ On the Sunday morning I was picked up by Nicky & driven to Accrington to watch his son & my godson, Li-Bau, play youthful football under yet another cold but crisp-clear blue sky.

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Me & the neice, rebecca, & His Worshipfullness, mi Uncle Jeff



12243078_1587099681614982_4837497757531020370_nLeaving Burnley, we headed north once more, & I took over the wheel at Windemere in order to drive up & over the Kirkstone Pass, a road I had never traversed before. With the weather still perfectm it was a glorius drive, though I had to deflect Emily’s constant ‘point outs’ of beautiful scenery, nervous as I was to be driving such a winding road. After drinks & nibbles at the Kirkstone Inn, we headed north, with me handing over the wheel just before Penrith.




GetInlineFrom there we nipped up to Carlisle for chips in the city & a coffee with an old pal & new Mumbler, Paul Rivers. Then, with dusk falling, we drove up to Selkirk to collect the girls from their fathers, before one last wee mission – calling on David Wales at Innerleithen. Last year he’d put on a festival called Juiced Up near Dunbar, at which Tinky Disco had played. This year he’s doing it again, & after a wee chat it looks like I’ll be running the dance tent this time round.

A couple of hours or so later we were finally back in Dalmeny, where I set up my apple mac, in preparation of getting busy these coming weeks. My fallow period is well & truly over, last year’s composition of the Language of Birds really undammed the poesis & now its starting to gush through my spirit – lets see where the muses take us.


1 / 3 / 16

A Happy Ending

I am currently sat with my fiance – yes fiance – the beautiful miss Beeson, of Seattle. She is scrolling through the text messages we have sent each other these 5 months past in which we have found ourselves in a love of the marital kind. She – we – live in Dalmeny, by the gorgeously scoto-cosmic Dalmeny Estate, a perfect poet’s playground only a few miles from Edinburgh, my choice city of residence for over a decade. I see her love  as a reward for completing Axis & Allies earlier this year, in the same fashion as when my muses spirited me onto a Swiss Air Jet & flew me home to England back in ’98 after dedicating myself to the art of poetry on the continent.


So with this shift in my life, I feel its time to wrap up my blog for the forseeable future. I began it back in 2010, shifting into it my group email journal-making, which in turn had sprung out of the hand-written journals that had accompanied my first poetical composition missions pre-2002 (when I signed up to Hotmail). Between these three methods of life-archiving I have recorded the 15 years spent on writing my epic poem, which should serve as a great accompaniment to future students of Axis & Allies. As for that poem, at present it is unpublished & hardly known – mainly on account of the public taste for poetry at the turn of the 3rd millennium, in which the trend is for short snappy pieces rather than for anything of substance. In spite of this I remain confident that as the years pass, & as the publish taste for poetry evolves,  my poem will take its proper place in the pantheon.

Click to read Axis & Allies


This blog has also seen me make the marked transition from singular poet into polymathic bard, launching a series of investigations into many of the great & famous mysteries of history, such as the identity of King Arthur, the location of the Battle of Brunanburh & more recently the biopic of the young William Shakespeare. So, in time-honoured fashion, I shall now take & bow with a cheeky smile leave the stage – my epic is truly born & as yet I am still in my thirties, It is now time to enjoy the rest of my life with my beautiful wife-to-be my side.


Ciao for now





Dalmeny Estate
Dalmeny Estate

The Young Shakespeare (pt 9)




 In the last post, I showed how Shakespeare could have arrived in London in the late 1570s. The theory’s plausibility comes from the following factochain based, not on complete CCTV style ‘sightings’ of a William Shakespeare, but what I would moniker ‘halfeties,’ or partial sightings of possible William Shakespeare. These halfeties are two poems written by a certain WS & a boy-poet called Willye which joins the two poems. Thus, when the WS poem of 1574 shows the poet was a Familist, is it a  coincidence that there was a Familist centre at Grindleton near Pendle Hill, the very area which Spenser placed Willye in 1576. Is it also a coincidence, then, that WS turns up in 1577 connected to a London law student only a stones throw from St Paul’s Cathedral, which was run by a Burnley man – Alexander Nowell… & this man’s brother was a sponsor of Edmund Spenser? Possibly, but we are just about to tie this little knot of clues into another similar knot of clues, which together make such a dense mass of interlocking possibilities, that their verity must be an active entity.

I last left Shakespeare at the Newington Theatre in 1579, a possible member of the Earl of Warwick’s players, where Cibber’s comment, ‘some of the players, accidentally conversing with him, found him so acute, & master of so fine a conversation, that, struck therewith, they recommended him to the house, in which he was first admitted in a very low station,’ may have some relevance. Before we move on from that year, I would just like to introduce a certain John Cottam into the mix, for in 1579 he became the headmaster at the Kings College in Stratford. His brother, Thomas, was a student at the English College in Douay, which tells us that Stratford was being used a possible sanctuary for the Jesuit Reconquista – but more of that later on.

Ambrose |Dudley
Ambrose |Dudley

If the Shakespeare I am painting was in London in 1580, then there are four  events that should have been of great significance. Firstly, due to ill health Ambrose Dudley, the Earl of Warwick (brother of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester), pulled out of the Theatre & decamped to his home in Herefordshire.  Records tell us of 5 plays by the company, all lost, which Shakeaspeare may have acted in at some point, being The Painter’s Daughter, The Irish Knight, The Three Sisters of Mantua, The Knight in the Burning Rock, and A History of the Four Sons of Fabius.

The second event of 1580 to effect Shakespeare was the public demise of the Familists. Throughout the 1570s, a series of Anti-familist trachts had galivinsed popular opinion against them, leading to the government coming down hard on the group in October 1580. By the next year a bill was introduced which called for ‘punishment of the Hereticks called the Family of Love’ being, ‘that the professors of the Familye of Love may for the first offence be whipped & for the second branded with this lettre H.N., & the third time judges a felon.‘ In this period the Queen’s Familist bodyguard were removed, while other high-ranking Familists went underground, so to speak. Christoper W Marsh tells us, ‘Familists were inconspicuous. Following Niclaes’s in junctions, they became part of the social fabric, obeying magistrates, serving in ecclesiastical & public offices, being good neighbours & good citizens, but remaining secretive about their religious view & usually only sharing them only within the family.’ The identities of those high-ranking Familists remains a mystery, but in 1645 John Etherington at least tells us, ‘there have been & are great doctors of divinitie, so called, yea, and some great peers.‘ Perhaps one of the peers was the Earl of Warwick, whose ‘illness’ was nothing but a cover to get him out of London, while  there is one Doctor of Divinity who we have connected to Shakespeare already, who is described by Fuller as, ‘Alexander Nowell, Doctor of Dvinity, & Dean of St Pauls in London, born in Lancashire…’

The third event of  1580 relates directly to the religious persuasion of Shakespeare’s poppadom. He had been summoned to the Queen’s Bench in London in June 1580 alongside 220 probable Catholics to answer for a mysterious ‘breach of the peace.’ That he didn’t attend was met with heavy fines, a personal £20 & another £20 for the non-attendance of the Nottingham hat-maker, John Audley, who was in turn fined £60 for non-attendance plus £10 for not bringing John Shakespeare to court. Earlier in the year his name headed a list of ‘gentlemen & freeholders’  expected to contribute financially to the government’s anti-papal efforts of that year, the ‘musters.’ Queer doings indeed, & the two indictments may be connected, as also there may lie in the depths of those fellow 220 a number of Familists. A fertile field for future investigations, one expects.

The fourth event of interest is the disappearance of Jerome Savage from London. Possibly connected to the Earl of Warwick’s packing things in, Savage’s whereabouts for the next seven years are unknown, after which, according to William Ingram in ‘The Business of Playing,’ Savage’s will tells us he was back in London. One would suspect he spent time with some family, which provides us with the vital link to one of the 20th centuries most significant advances in Shakespeareana – the possibility that he was a certain player called William Shakeshaft who turns up in Lancashire in 1581.

The link comes with Savage’s brother, Geoffrey Savage, who married a certain Jennet Hesketh of Rufford in Preston. A probable illegitimate relation – perhaps sister – of Sir Thomas Hesketh, who indeed refers to his ‘bastard brethren’ in his will. It is Hesketh who turns up on the 1581 will of his neighbour, Alexander Hoghton in which we find our ‘William Shakeshaft.’  E. A. J. Honigmann, in his Shakespeare : The Lost Years, tell us that Geoffrey & Jennet, or Janet, were married on August 9th, 1551, at the Parish church of Croston. ‘Jenette’ Savage is later named in the will of Thomas Savage, their son, who will be popping up later on in our Shakespeare quest. Honnigmann adds, ‘in the unpublished records of the goldsmiths company there is an entry that Peter Savage, the son of Geoffrey Savage in the town of ‘Rofforth’’ in the county of Lancaster, weaver, binds himself apprentice for seven years


On top of Jerome Savage & John Cottam’s connections between Catholic Stratford (Savage was a staunch Catholic) & that wee corner of Lancashire, we should also notice the link between the Heskeths & the Townleys, whose families were united in the early 16th century.  The mother of Sir Thomas was Grace Townley, a fact which reinforces the idea of our Shakespeare being connected to the Catholic north for Alexander Nowell’s mother, Douse, was also a Hesketh.

Alexander Hoghton was a clear recusant, whose brother, Thomas, had played a principle part in the founding of Cardinal Allen’s English College at Douay with the profits from their Alum mines, another link to our Shakespeare. In the year 1577, a letter written by Bishop Downham on the 1st Feb 1575 to the Privy Council places Hoghton alongside Sir John Townley & other notables in the county who, ‘in our opinion of the longest obstanancy against religion & if by your lord’s good wisdoms they would be reclaimed, we think others would as well follow their good example in embracing queen majesty’s most goodly example as they have followed their evil example in contemprising their duty in that behalf.

His will was analysed in 1923 by the antiquarian, Oliver Baker, who noticed that ‘William Shakeshaft,’ well, could he be William Shakespeare. The will, dated August 3rd 1581, reads;

Item. It is my mind and will that the said Thomas Hoghton of Brynescoules my brother shall have all my instruments belonging to music, and all manner of play clothes if he be minded to keep and do keep players.

And if he will not keep and maintain players then it is my mind and will that Sir Thomas Hesketh knight shall have the same instruments and play clothes.

And I most heartly require the said Sir Thomas to be friendly unto Fluke Gyllome and William Shakeshafte now dwelling with me and either to take them into his service or else to help them to some good master as my trust is he will

Of this name-variant, EAJ Honigmann has observed in the Court rolls of College St Mary, Warwick (1541-42), that the poet’s grandfather, Richard, ‘seems to be both Shakstaff and Shakeschafte, as well as Shakspere …in the Snitterfield manor records.’ So, was Shakeshafte Shakespeare? So far there we have observed a number of clues that connect our poet to Lancashire. If it is true & they are the same man, with ‘Shakeshafte’ considered to be a ‘player,’ we can gain more support for the Bard having revealed his dramatical abilities at an early age. Tom Bishop writes, ‘before the rise of ‘performance’, ‘drama’ ‘actor’ & so on, the predominant vocabulary for what went on in the ‘theatre’ was one of playhouses, players & playing.’ We have seen how Shakespeare would have started his theatrical career in one of the boys’ troupes of late 1570s London, & he would remain an actor all his life, from playing a part in Ben Johnson’s, ‘Every man in his Humour (1598), to the ghost in his own play Hamlet, while in 1610, John Davies of Hereford mentioned, ‘he played some kingly parts in sport.’ Of a players functions, Giovanni Della Casa, in his amply- titled, ‘The rich cabinet furnished with varietie of excellent discriptions, exquisite charracters, witty discourses, and delightfull histories, deuine and morrall’ (1616) writes;

Player hath many times many excellent qualities: as dancing, activity, music, song, elocution, ability of body, memory, vigilancy, skill of weapon, pregnancy of wit, and such like: in all which he resembleth an excellent spring of water, which grows the more sweeter and the more plentiful by the often drawing out of it: so are all these the more perfect and plausible by the often practice.

In light of our investigations so far, can it be a coincidence that in 1580, Edward Campion stayed at the home of Alexander Houghton’s brother, Richard. One may even speculate that he was accompanied north by both Jerome Savage AND Shakespeare, especially when we see Campion staying at Lapworth Park in Warwickshire, the seat of Sir William Catesby, a friend of John Shakespeare, whose son, Robert, was one of the chief instrumentalists of the Gunpowder Plot. Campion was in the Hoghton-Hesketh locality chiefly to use the libraries of the Catholic noblemen in order to prepare trachts with which to argue the Catholic cause.  ‘The day is too short, and the sun must run a greater circumference,’ wrote Campion,  before he would be able to ‘number all the Epistles, Homilies, Volumes and Disputations,’ in the Hoghton libraries.

In 1580, Campion was caught by the authorities, who would ban Catholocism outright in January 1581. Later that year Campion would give up his secrets on the rack on July 31st 1581, a couple of days later  on August 2nd , the Sheriff of Lancaster wrote a letter to Sir John Biron asking him to search certain houses, ‘for books & other superstitious stuff; & especially the house of Richard Houghton, wherein it is said the said campion left his books & to enquire what is become of said books.’ These events led the Stratford council to sack John |Cottam – the brother of Campion’s companion, Thomas – from his post at the Kings School. Interestingly, he was replaced by yet another Lancastrian, Alexander Aspinall, from Clitheroe only a wee stroll to the Grindleton Familists.

Oblique support for the Shakespeare-Hoghton connection comes through John Weever’s Epigrammes (1599), in which the poet ingratiates himself with a literary clique centred upon Thomas Houghton’s brother, Sir Richard, & also dedicates this delectable sonnet to Shakespeare.

Honey-tongued Shakespeare, when I saw thine issue
I swore Apollo got them, and none other,
Their rosy-tainted features clothed in tissue,
Some heaven-born goddess said to be their mother.
Rose-cheekt Adonis with his amber tresses,
Fair fire-hot Venus charming him to love her,
Chaste Lucretia virgine-like her dresses,
Proud lust-stung Tarquine seeking still to prove her:
Romea-Richard; more, whose names I know not,
Their sugred tongues, and power attractive beauty
Say they are Saints, although that Sts they show not
For thousands vows to them subjective dutie:
They burn in love thy children Shakespear let them
Go, wo thy Muse more Nymphish brood beget them.


John Weever
John Weever

 The Epigrammes also include an elegy on the death of the death of Ferdinando Stanley, whose family owned another stately seat called Lathom Hall, just to the south of Rufford Old Hall, the seat of Thomas Hesketh.   That Shakespeare was taken on by  Hesketh has no official record, but a family tradition dating to at least 1799 says that he acted at Rufford Old Hall.  Let us now toss John Cottam into the mix, who was an actual legate attending Alexander Houghton’s will. In 1581 his parents were tenants of a property at Dilworth in Ribchester, a few miles to the north-east of Preston. Their landlords were the Heskeths of Rufford Old Hall, led by the aforementioned Thomas, whose descendants maintain to this day that the young Shakespeare acted in their great hall. There is a record in 1587 of ‘Sir thomas hesketh plaaiers,’ in the Earl of Derby’s Household Book, showing that the Heskeths provided theatrical entertainment for the Stanleys, whose noble seat at Lathom was a stone’s throw from the Heskeths… and it is upon the magnificent wings of the Stanley eagle that the rest of Shakespeare’s youth shall be borne. But before then, of course, like any other young teenager growing up in the world, it’s time our young poet got laid.

The Young Shakespeare (pt 8)




In the April of 1577 Shakespeare turn’d 13, & became a bona fide tantrum-throwing precocious teenager. I also believe that it is in this same year that he enter’d the world of the London theatre for the first time. The main piece of evidence for this is the printing, in 1577, of a book of prose & poetry called The Golden Aphroditis by John Grange. In the title to the book he calls himself a ‘Student in the Common Lavve of Englande,’ which places him at one or more of the four Inns of Court in London. The connection between the capital-based Grange & Shakespeare comes through the following introductory poem to his book;

W.S. in Commendation of the author begins

Of silver pure thy penne is made, dipte in the Muses well
They eloquence & loftie style all other doth excell:
Thy wisedom great & secrete sense diffusedly disguysde,
Doth shew how Pallas rules thy minde, & Phoebus hath devisde
Those Golden lines, which polisht are with Tagus glittering sandes.
A pallace playne of pleasures great unto the vewers handes.
Thy learning doth bewray itselfe and worthie prayse dothe crave,
Who so thee knew, did little think such learning thee to have.
Here Vertue seems to checke at Vice, & wisedome folly tauntes:
Here Venus she is set at naught, and Dame Diane she vauntes.
Here Pallas Cupid doth detest, & all his carpet knightes:
Here doth she shew, that youthfull impes in folly most delightes.
And how when age comes creeping on, with shew of hoary heares,
Then they the losse of time repent, with sobbes & brinish teares.
Thou Ambodexter playste herein, to take the first rebounde,
And for to shew thy minde at large, in earth doth the same compound.
So that Apollo Claddes his corps all with Morycbus clothes,
And shewes himself still friendliest there, wher most of all he lothes.

f1e590f761c1e6ead460fe2080a38e53Scholars have wondered whether W.S. was William Shakespeare based upon the juvenilian feel to the poem, but its sheer earliness has left many doubters. But our Shakespeare is different, & the mention of Virtue & Vice a clear nod to his work, in 1576-77, with the mystery plays of the Townley MS. At this juncture we should also remember for a moment another epoch-breaking genius, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who composed his first opera, Bastien und Bastienne, at the age of twelve. Excellent poetry is not beyond the ability of the teenage mind;  some of Arthur Rimbaud’s stuff as a paltry 15-year-old is quite phenomenal, while in recent times (Feb 2014), a short Palindromic was composed by 14-year old American Jordan Nichols, which pricked the twittersphere 100,000 times in 24 hours. Readable both backwards & forwards, it is a piece of pure genius in a lad only a year older than Shakespeare would have been if he was the WS of the Golden Aphroditis poem. It reads;

Our Generation

Our generation will be known for nothing.
Never will anybody say,
We were the peak of mankind.
That is wrong, the truth is
Our generation was a failure.
Thinking that
We actually succeeded
Is a waste. And we know
Living only for money and power
Is the way to go.
Being loving, respectful, and kind
Is a dumb thing to do.
Forgetting about that time,
Will not be easy, but we will try.
Changing our world for the better
Is something we never did.
Giving up
Was how we handled our problems.
Working hard
Was a joke.
We knew that
People thought we couldn’t come back
That might be true,
Unless we turn things around

(Read from bottom to top now)

That the Shakespeare I am painting in these blogs is WS is supported by the fact that John Grange was an attendee of the same Roman Catholic seminary at Douay in which we have earlier placed our fledgeling bard! Grange clearly moved in the same circles, & it is possible he is referring to Shakespeare himself in a little anecdote appertaining to the title of his work, where ‘certen yong Gentlemen, and those of my professed friendes, … requested me earnestly to haue it intituled A nettle for an Ape, but yet (being somevvhat vvedded as most fooles are to mine ovvne opinion vvho vvould hardly forgoe their bable for the Tovver of London) I thought it good (somevvhat to stop a zoilous mouth) to sette a more cleanly name vpon it, that is, Golden Aphroditis.

Blackfriars Theatre
Blackfriars Theatre

Connecting Grange to Shakespeare in ’77 gives our wee bard a direct spike into the heart of London, where the Inns of Court were but a walking distance from the Blackfriars Theatre. Built by court composer Richard Farrant the previous year, Blackfriars was one of three permanent playhouses erected in 1576 (a fourth, the Curtain, would be built in 1577), the second being sited a mile south of the Thames at Newington, while the third – the appropriately named ‘Theatre’ – was raised at Shoreditch. Also used as a playhouse was St Paul’s Cathedral, where a troupe known as ‘St Pauls Boys’ thrived upon the middle-Elizabethan vogue for boy actors. In Elizabethan England, watching such cherubs play out serious-minded drama was one of the main past-times of the upper classes & intelligentsia. If Shakespeare was in London in 1577, he would have been 12 or 13, which means if he was there in a theatrical context, he would have been a member of one of the boys troupes. According to Andrew Gurr in his ‘Shakespearian Playing Companies,’ in the 12 years prior to 1576, more than 40 plays by boys had been performed at court, & although there is no direct evidence, the placing of Shakespeare in one of these companies proves to be the long-looked for link in the biographical chain of our poet’s lost years.

Having shown that Shakespeare was at Townley in 1576, & then London the next year, the simplest way to move him ‘dahn sahf’ comes through Alexander Nowell, the half-brother of Sir John Townley. Let us recall how Robert Nowell, Alexander’s full brother & the attorney of the Court of Wards, was the very gentleman who provided financial support for another poet, the young Edmund Spenser. Upon Robert’s death in 1569, both John & Alexander became the executors of his will, & distributed linen and woollen cloth among the poor of the parish-dwellers of Burnley to satisfy the requirements of the will. It is no stretch of the imagination, then, to move Shakespeare from John Townley in Burnley to his brother in London.

Alexander Nowell was not only the first man to discover the benefits of bottling beer, but also the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, & so by proxy the ultimate boss of the St Pauls Boys. For me, Alexander provides the vital link between the young Shakespeare & the long-standing tradition that the young Shakespeare’s first taste of the London theatre world was holding the horses of the playgoers, which had something of the nature of a car-park attendant. It must be noted that the version of the story we have heard has flown along a two century-spanning chain of chispers (chinese whispers), as in;

Sir William Davenant (actor)
Betterton (actor)
Nicholas Rowe (actor)
Alexander Pope (a poet)
Dr Newton (editor of Milton)
Samuel Johnson

urlThe main points of the tale are that when Shakespeare came to London he earned money by holding the horses of gentlemen outside the theatres, & excelled in the efficiency of his keeping. The story goes that on the success of his business, he employed other young lads to help him who became known as ‘Shakespeare’s boys.’ Samuel Johnson’s version, as found in his Prolegomena to Shakespeare (1765) reads, ‘in the time of Elizabeth, coaches being yet uncommon, and hired coaches not at all in use, those who were too proud, too tender, or too idle to walk, went on horseback to any distant business or diversion. Many came on horseback to the play, and when Shakespeare fled to London from the terrour of a criminal prosecution, his first expedient was to wait at the door of the play-house, and hold the horses of those that had no servants, that they might be ready again after the performance. In this office he became so conspicuous for his care and readiness, that in a short time every man as he alighted called for Will. Shakespeare, and scarcely any other waiter was trusted with a horse while Will. Shakespeare could be had. This was the first dawn of better fortune. Shakespeare finding more horses put into his hand than he could hold, hired boys to wait under his inspection, who, when Will. Shakespeare was summoned, were immediately to present themselves, “I am Shakespeare’s boy, Sir.” In time Shakespeare found higher employment, but as long as the practice of riding to the playhouse continued, the waiters that held the horses retained the appellation of Shakespeare’s boys.

By the time the story was written down properly for the first time, in Theophilis Cibber’s Lives of the Poets, 1753, it has pass’d thro’ six different re-tellings, opening up the possibility of corruption. Looking at the number of mouths which the story has passed through, we should witness at least a few chispological changes en route. It is likely the truth behind this tale is that Shakespeare was part of a company of boy actors to which he was initially & genuinely attached in the role of a horse-holder. The key facts, though, are Shakespeare’s holding go horses outside a theatre, & the key word ‘BOYS.’ For me, this connects Shakespeare’s to the acting troupe Saint Paul’s Boys, for the dean of St Pauls was our own Alexander Nowell, & the cathedral only a stone’s throw from the Inns of Court where John Grange made his studies. Then, what was the ‘terrour of a criminal prosecution’ that had driven Shakespeare to London. Knowing his Catholic sentiments, one expects it should be connected to this, & indeed Sir John Towneley was imprisoned in 1576 (he was in & out of jail for recusancy between 1573 and 1594). This would also explain why Cutbert Payne removed himself from East Lancashire & returned to Cornwall, where he would be arrested in June 1577.

The leader of the St Paul’s mob was a certain Sebastian Westcott, the cathedral’s organist who converted the cathedral’s Almoner’s hall into a playhouse. In the Repertories of the Court of Common Council (8 Dec 1575), a complaint was lodged against Westcott, who is admonished for not communicating, ‘with the Church of England’ & that he ‘kepethe playes & resorte of the people to great gaine & peryll of the Coruptinge of the Chyldren with papistrie.’ A perfect place, then, for the son of John Shakespeare to go. At least as far as the authorities were concerned Alexander Nowell was a staunch Protestant, but nothing is clear cut in the religious conflict of those days, & for him to keep on an obvious & obstinate heretic at the cathedral suggests a hint of papal compliance.


‘Master Sebastian’ as he was more famously known,  was an avowed Catholic who had arranged the music for the formal restoration under Queen Mary of Catholicism at St. Paul’s, in November 1553. Somehow the guy got away with being a Catholic despite being a very public figure in the heart of the nation’s heart-beat. Are we seeing here another aspect of Elizabeth’s familist-inspired secret leniency.  Coincidentally, the only time he got into trouble fro recusancy was in 1577, when he was imprisoned in the Marshalsea,  but the Queen missed her customary Christmas plays by the choristers of St. Paul’s, which led to Westcott’s release the following March. If you could please the queen with a good enough play, it seemed, even the vile phantom of Rome would be tolerated.

 In later posts we will be looking at the homosexuality of Shakespeare, but until then it is perhaps as a part of the St Paul’s Boys troupe that Shakespeare would have had his first taste of same-sex, well, sex. WR Gair, in his ‘Children of Paul’s: The Story of a Theatre Company, 1553-1608’ writes; ‘As far as the boys themselves were concerned Philip Stubbes in 1583 had already suspected them (& players generally) of numerous fleshy offences; they ‘in their secret conclaves (Covertly)…play the Sodomits or worse… the dramatists were well aware of the homosexual appeal of the youth & beauty of the Children of Paul’s.’

That Shakespeare was a boy actor never left his art; according to Stanley Wells & Sarah Stanton (The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Stage), ‘Shakespeares dramatic persona include more boys than any other major body of drama: Sir John’s page in Henry IV, Merry Wives & Henry V, one ‘young Lucius’ in Titus & abother in Ceasar, young Martius in Coriolanus, William Page in Merry Wives, & many anonymous pages in other plays.’ But Shakespeare eventually began to become a young man, & at some point in the late 1570s, I believe that Shakespeare made a move south of the river to the Newington Theatre. In the next blog I shall elucidate my reasoning a little more clearly. For now, let us examine these pointers as to why Shakespeare crossed the water.

1 – The Newington, which was still standing in 1594 (according to Henslowe’s diaries) was built by Richard Hickes near the entertainment district of St. George’s Fields.   Hicks was a  member of the Queens’s retinue, described as a ‘yeoman of the guard’ in 1558/59. In the last post I stated how the Queen’s yeoman bodygaurd were Familists, & it is through this connection that we can see Shakespeare’s own Familist roots being replanted at Newington.

2 – In 1576, Hicks sublet the theatre to a certain Jerome Savage, who is a most important link in the Shakespeare chain. Hick’s son-in-law Peter Hunningborne described Savage as ‘a verrie lewed fealowe‘ who ‘liveth by noe other trade than playinge of staige plaies and Interlevdes.’  Like Shakespeare, Savage was Stratford man, & ran a troupe of actors for the Earl of Warwick known as Earl of Warwick’s Player.


3 – The Newington Playhouse was a mile south of the Thames, & it is likely that this distance was covered by men on horseback – connecting to the horse=holding Shakespeare.



For the benefit of future students, here follows a list of the performances made at court by both The Children of Pauls & the Earl of Warwick’s Men from 1577 onwards;


February 18 : The Irish Knight, by Earl Warwick’s servants, on Shrove Monday.

February 19 : The History of Titus and Gisippus, by the children of Paul’s, on Shrove Tuesday.


Dec. 26. : At Richmond. An invention or play of The three Sisters of Mantua on St. Stephen’s day was enacted by Warwick’s servants.


Jan. I. A History of the Four Sons of Fabius on New Year’s day by the Earl of Warwick’s servants.

Jan. 4. : A moral of the Marriage of Mind and Measure on the Sunday after New Year’s day by the children of Paul’s.

Feb. 2. ” The history of .. by the Earl of Warwick’s servants; still at Whitehall

Mar. I. : The history of the Knight in the Burning Rock, on Shrove Sunday, by the Earl of Warwick’s servants

Mar. 18. payment – “To the Earl of Warwick’s players for a play ” that should have been played on Candlemas day


Jan. I : A History of the Four Sons of Fabius on New Year’s day by the Earl of Warwick’s servants.

Jan. 3. : The History of Scipio Africanus on Sunday after New Year’s day by the Children of Paul’s.


Jan 6. ” A story of Pompey on Twelfth day. Children of Paul’s.


Stephen Gosson, in his The School of Abuse 1579, describes the theatrical experience as being; ‘In our assemblies at plays in London, you shall see such heaving, and shoving, such itching and shouldering to sit by women: such care for their garments, that they be not trod on: such eyes to their laps, that no chips light in them: such pillows to their backs, that they take no hurt: such masking in their ears, I know not what: such giving them pippins to pass the time: such playing at foot-saunt without cards: such tickling, such toying, such smiling, such winking, and such manning them home, when the sports are ended, that it is a right comedy to mark their behaviour, to watch their conceits, as the cat for the mouse, and as good as a course at the game itself, to dog them a little, or follow aloof by the print of their feet, and so discover by slot where the deer taketh soil. If this were as well noted as ill seen, or as openly punished as secretly practised, I have no doubt but the cause would be seared to dry up the effect, and these pretty rabbits very cunningly ferreted from their burrows. For they that lack customers all the week, either because their haunt is unknown, or the constables and officers of their parish watch them so narrowly that they dare not quetch, to celebrate the sabbath flock to theatres, and there keep a general market of bawdry. Not that any filthiness in deed is committed within the compass of that ground, as was done in Rome, but that every wanton and his paramour, every man and his mistress, every John and his Joan, every knave and his quean, are there first acquainted and cheapen the merchandise in that place, which they pay for elsewhere as they can agree.’ Full of life & colour, there is a list of props given by Blagrave (January 6, 1575) utilsed by performers at the court, which gives us a good idea of dramaturgical acoutrements were used in that period, being : ‘Monsters ; Mointains ; Forests; Beasts; Serpents; Weapons for war, as Guns, Dags, Bows, Arrows, Bills, Halberds, Boarspears, Fawchions, Daggers, Targets, Pllaxes, Clubs; Heads and Head pieces; Armour counterfeit; Moss, Holly, Ivy, Bays, Flowers; Quarters; Glue, Paste, Paper, and such like; with Nails, Hooks, Horsetails, Dishes for Devils’ eyes. Heaven, Hell, and the Devil and all: the Devil, I should say, but not all. ; ^I2, 14s. 4d.’

 That same year – 1579 – was an interesting one for Shakespeare’s future, I believe, for it was when his Stratford neighbour Richard Field, arrived in London to begin his career as a book-printer…. which would lead a decade & a half later to him publishing Shakespeare’s long poems, Venus & Adonis & Lucrece. Also that year saw the earliest inklings of Spenser’s great epic, the Faerie Queene; In the letter to Harvey of April 2, 1580, he writes: ‘Nowe, my Dreames and Dying Pellicane being fully finished … and presentlye to bee imprinted, I wil in hande forthwith with my Faery Queene, whyche I praye you hartily send me with al expedition, and your frendly letters and long expected judgement wythal, whyche let not be shorte, but in all pointes suche as you ordinarilye use and I extraordinarily desire.’

The FQ is divided into books in which different knights go in search of different virtues, &  it may only be a coincidence, but on Shrove Tuesday, 1579, the Earl of Warwick’s players performed ‘The history of the Knight in the Burning Rock.’ On January 6th, 1581,  we also hear of ‘A story of Pompey’ performed by the Children of Paul’s. The next year the play was performed at the Theatre, where it was given the name ‘the history of Caesar and Pompey’ by Stephen Gosson in his ‘Plays Confuted in Five Actions (1582).’

if a true Historie be taken in hand, it is made like our shadows, longest at the rising and falling of the Sunne, shortest of all at hie noone. For the Poets driue it most commonly vnto such pointes, as may best showe the maiestie of their pen, in Tragicall speaches; or set the hearers a gogge, with discourses of love; or painte a fewe antickes, to fitt their owne humors, with scoffes & tauntes; or wring in a shewe, to furnish the Stage, when it is to bare; when the matter of it selfe comes shorte of this, they followe the practise of the cobler, and set their teeth to the leather to pull it out.
So was the history of Caesar and Pompey, and the Playe of the Fabii at the Theater, both amplified there, where the Drummes might walke, or the pen ruffle, when the history swelled, and ran to hye for the number of ye persons, that shoulde playe it, the Poet with Proteus cut the same fit to his owne measure; when it afoorded no pompe at al, he brought it to the racke, to make it serue. Which inuinciblie proueth on my side, that Plays are no Images of trueth, because sometime they hādle such thinges as neuer were, sometime they runne vpon truethes, but make them séeme longer, or shorter, or greater, or lesse then they were, according as the Poet blowes them vp with his quill, for aspiring heades; or minceth them smaller, for weaker stomakes.

Cesar & Pompey was played at the Theatre alongside the ‘Playe of the Fabii,’ surely the ‘History of the Four Sons of Fabius’ played by the Earl of Warwick’s servants on New Years Day 1579. In 1580, a text called ‘A Second and Third Blast of Retreat from Plays and Theatres’ tells us;

The writers of our time are so led awaie with vaineglorie [*Against Auctors of plaies], that their onlie endeuor is to pleasure the humor of men; & rather with vanitie to content their mindes, than to profit them with good ensample. The notablest lier is become the best Poet; he that can make the most notorious lie, and disguise falshood in such sort, that he maie passe vnperceaued, is held the best writer. For the strangest Comedie brings greatest delectation, and pleasure. Our nature is led awaie with vanitie, which the auctor perceauing frames himself with nouelties and strange trifles to content the vaine humors of his rude auditors, faining countries neuer heard of; monsters and prodigious creatures that are not: as of the Arimaspie, of the Grips, the Pigmeies, the Cranes, & other such notorious lies. And if they write of histories that are knowen, as the life of Pompeie; the martial affaires of Caesar, and other worthies, they giue them a newe face, and turne them out like counterfeites to showe themselues on the stage. It was therefore aptlie applied of him [*The best thing at plaies is starke naught], who likened the writers of our daies vnto Tailors, who hauing their sheers in their hand, can alter the facion of anie thing into another forme, & with a new face make that seeme new which is old. The shreds of whose curiositie our Historians haue now stolen from them, being by practise become as cunning as the Tailor to set a new vpper bodie to an old coate; and a patch of their owne to a peece of anothers.

caesar_and_pompeyTwo decades later, the play seems to have been acted out in the mid 1590s by the Admiral’s Men (Henslowe’s Diary) while a play called ‘The tragedie of Cesar & Pompey – or Cesars revenge,’ was entered on the stationers register in 1606, & printed next year. Donna N. Murphy, in her The Marlowe-Shakespeare Continuum, gives many similarities between the Faerie Queene & ‘Cesar’s Revenge,’ such as the archaic expression ‘for to’ used 80 times in the FQ & over 30 in CR.

The simplest solution to the riddle is that Spenser, in 1579, after his handling of the Townley mystery plays, had turned his muse to the theatre, but a diplomatic placing in in Ireland in 1580 soon nipped that in the bud, & left him free to focus solely on his poetry. Indeed, the same phrase ‘for to’ is found in another anonymous Elizabethan play, The moste famous Chronicle historye of Leire king of England and his Three Daughters, which was performed at the Rose Theatre on 6 and 8 April 1594 (Henslowe) entered into the Stationers’ Register that May & printed in 1605. The title page declares that the play ‘hath been diverse and sundry times lately acted.’ It was about that time that Shakespeare would pick up the play, add a subplot about Gloucester, Edgar, and Edmund, & make King Lear his own. However, the ‘for to’ phraseology gives a possible 1579-ish date for the original play, which links it to Spenser’s FQ. Is it a coincidence, then, that in Canto 10 of Book II of the FQ, we get the Lear story in microcosm;

Next him king Leyr in happie peace long raind,
But had no issue male him to succeed,
But three faire daughters, which were well vptraind,
In all that seemed fit for kingly seed:
Mongst whom his realme he equally decreed
To have diuided. Tho when feeble age
Nigh to his vtmost date he saw proceed,
He cald his daughters; and with speeches sage
Inquyrd, which of them most did loue her parentage.

The eldest Gonorill gan to protest,
That she much more then her owne life him lou’d:
And Regan greater loue to him profest,
Then all the world, when euer it were proou’d;
But Cordeill said she lou’d him, as behoou’d:
Whose simple answere, wanting colours faire
To paint it forth, him to displeasance moou’d,
That in his crowne he counted her no haire,
But twixt the other twaine his kingdome whole did shaire.

So wedded th’one to Maglan king of Scots,
And th’other to the king of Cambria,
And twixt them shayrd his realme by equall lots:
But without dowre the wise Cordelia
Was sent to Aganip of Celtica.
Their aged Syre, thus eased of his crowne,
A priuate life led in Albania,
With Gonorill, long had in great renowne,
That nought him grieu’d to bene from rule deposed downe.

But true it is, that when the oyle is spent,
The light goes out, and weeke is throwne away;
So when he had resigned his regiment,
His daughter gan despise his drouping day,
And wearie waxe of his continuall stay.
Tho to his daughter Rigan he repayrd,
Who him at first well vsed euery way;
But when of his departure she despayrd,
Her bountie she abated, and his cheare empayrd.

The wretched man gan then auise too late,
That loue is not, where most it is profest,
Too truely tryde in his extreamest state;
At last resolu’d likewise to proue the rest,
He to Cordelia him selfe addrest,
Who with entire affection him receau’d,
As for her Syre and king her seemed best;
And after all an army strong she leau’d,
To war on those, which him had of his realme bereau’d.

So to his crowne she him restor’d againe,
In which he dyde, made ripe for death by eld,
And after wild, it should to her remaine:
Who peaceably the same long time did weld:
And all mens harts in dew obedience held:
Till that her sisters children, woxen strong
Through proud ambition, against her rebeld,
And ouercommen kept in prison long,
Till wearie of that wretched life, her selfe she hong.

The Young Shakespeare (pt 7)


Spenser’s Pendle

Before we head off to London with our just-turn’d-teenage Shakespeare, I thought I’d nip down home to Burnley to investigate my Spenser-in-Lancashire discovery a bit more. Unfortunately it was chucking it down, so I didn’t get a chance to wander all about Pendle Hill attempting to find matches for the woodcuts on the Shepheard’s Calendar of 1579. Still, there is definitely two woodcuts I didn’t show a couple of posts back which are surely Pendle Hill

pendle - february.

Pendle is to the left of the picture next to the guy's head - notice the lines are a match for the gouges in the flanks of Pendle in the photograph
Pendle is to the left of the picture next to the guy’s head – notice the lines are a match for the gouges in the flanks of Pendle in the photograph
Pendle's very distinctive slant can again be seen to the left of the picture, next to the kirk
Pendle’s very distinctive slant can again be seen to the left of the picture, next to the kirk
Pendle's distinctive slope (from the south)
Pendle’s distinctive slope (from the south)

 What I did get to look down in bonnie Burnley was James McKay’s ‘Pendle Hill in History & Literature’ & I also thought I’d have a look at the Calendar as well. I’ve never actually read the poem, but with it being a massive keystone to my Young Shakespeare theory I thought I’d better check it out, innit. In the latter Hobbinol’s mentions of wastefull hylls, bogs & glens & dark invoke the East Lancashire landscape, while the rife superstitions are a perfect match for an area just about to hang 17 women at Lancashire, the so-called Pendle Witches. Also, having showed how the Calendar’s Willye was in fact the 12-year old William Shakespeare, on reading the whole text I discovered that he turns up twice, in March & August. In the March eclogue, we are told that Shakespeare is one of ‘two shepheards boyes’ confirming my supposition that it was the 12-year old Shakespeare. We also have the following exchange which indicates that in the locality of the Calendar, a few Wolves were still clinging to English soil.

Fye on thee Diggon, and all thy foule leasing,
Well is knowne that sith the Saxon king,
Neuer was Woolfe seene many nor some,
Nor in all Kent, nor in Christendome:
But the fewer Woolues (the soth to sayne,)
The more bene the Foxes that here remaine.

Yes, but they gang in more secrete wise,
And with sheepes clothing doen hem disguise,
They walke not widely as they were wont
For feare of raungers, and the great hunt:
But priuely prolling too and froe,
Enaunter they mought be inly knowe.


werewolf engraving 16th century

In the 16th century the English wolf, exterminated in almost all of the country, still clung on in a couple of spots, one of which was Lancashire. Joseph Strutt, in ‘The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England’ writes, ‘it seems most probable that Wolves became extinct in England during the reign of Henry VII, or at all events they were exceedingly rare after that reign. The Lancashire forests of Blackburnshire & Bowland, the wilder parts of the Derbyshire peak, & the wolds of Yorkshire were among the last retreats of the wolf.’ Little nuggets like these go to show just how cool a time capsule the Calendar is, & its 12 woodcuts are perhaps some of the earliest ‘tourist photographs’ ever mate. To these, if we now examine McKay’s Pendle book,  we glean the following new nuggets;

The Shepheard’s Calendar & other works show the idiomatic employment of Pendle dialect words & phrase, as only a native could have employed them, thus affording intrinsic evidence that Spenser was of a stock lately sprung from under the shadow of Pendle

In Spenser decoration of the ‘kirk’ – the church in Pendle Forest is ‘kirk’ yet – we have a reflection of the Pendle rushbearings; it is certainly a remarkable coincidence that a name so common as ‘Lettice’ in the Pendle county is introduced in the third eclogue as that of ‘some country lass’

In the imprint of the 1599 Quarto edition of the Shepheard’s Calendar the name of the Hugh Singleton, whose name occurs in the Preston Guild Roll of 1542
His name was removed because he became a printer in London

Another connection McKay makes between Spenser & Pendle is through the Merchant School,  where it is likely that the John Spenser mentioned in the school annals as a free ‘jorneyman, clothworker’ was the poet’s father who had moved to London to seek work. This connects Edmund Spenser to Robert Nowell, the guy who funded the boy at the Merchant’s Taylor school. I On Nowell’s death, among his ‘poor kynsfolkes’ who benefited from his will in the summer of 1569, were Lyttis Nowell of Castel Parish in Clitheroe. She had married a certain Lawrence Spenser, to whom the poet may have been related.

I’ve also been looking at the Familist connection to Spenser. Its growing clear that the ‘Family of Love’ was kicking about Shakespeare, a quite masonic sect that infiltrated the private bodyguard of the Queen herself. Now then, in all the corners of the north they could have set up shop it is amazing that other than in the metropolis of York, the only place they got to was Pendle. They went on to form a little subsect of their own known as the Grindletonians, of whom McKay writes; Grindleton, at the foot of the big end of Pendle, is a place of note, being the birthplace of that strange fanatical set in the Grindletnoians, whose queer performances made a great stir in the country some centuries ago. Roger Brearley, who was for some six years incumbent of Burnley, was in his day a conspicuous man, an author & a poet



The Familist angle then leads us neatly to the identification of  a certain EK. The Shepheard’s Calendar was printed with a dedication & a preface by a man with these initials, who made the following prophetic introduction to the new poet. ‘I doubt not, so soone as his name shall come into the knowledg of men, and his worthines be sounded in the tromp of fame, but that he shall be not only kiste, but also beloued of all, embraced of the most, and wondred at of the best.’ Examining the Calendar, we discover that EK has a lot to say about Spenser being from the north, all of which is inspired by the following speech of Hobbinoll.

Then if by me thou list aduised be,
Forsake the soyle, that so doth the bewitch:
Leaue me those hilles, where harbrough nis to see,
Nor holybush, nor brere, nor winding witche:
And to the dales resort, where shepheards ritch,
And fruictfull flocks bene euery where to see.
Here no night Rauens lodge more blacke then pitche,
Nor eluish ghosts, nor gastly owles doe flee.

EK’s gloss; 

Forsake the soyle : This is no poetical fiction, but vnfeynedly spoken of the Poete selfe, who for speciall occasion of priuate affayres (as I haue bene partly of himselfe informed) and for his more preferment remouing out of the Northparts came into the South, as Hobbinoll indeede aduised him priuately.
Those hylles : that is the North countreye, where he dwelt.

The Dalesthe Southpartes, where he nowe abydeth, which thoughe they be full of hylles and woodes (for Kent is very hyllye and woodye; and therefore so called: for Kantsh in the Saxons tongue signifieth woodie) yet in respecte of the Northpartes they be called dales. For indede the North is counted the higher countrye.



EK also elaborates on the Calendar’s very real ‘Rosalinde’ with whom Spenser fell madly in love, the poet stating; ‘A thousand sithes I curse that carefull hower / Wherein I longd the neighbour towne to see.’ Which ‘neighbour towne‘ Spenser refers to is open to investigation, as is Rosalinde’s identity. EK tells us that hers is a, ‘feigned name, which being wel ordered, wil bewray the very name of hys loue and mistresse, whom by that name he coloureth.. this generally hath bene a common custome of counterfeicting the names of secret Personages.’ Grosart here suggests it was a certain Rose Dinely, of Downham at the foot of Pendle near Clitheroe, who is a serious contender. EK adds that Spenser, ‘calleth Rosalind the Widowes daughter of the glenne, that is, of a country Hamlet or borough, which I thinke is rather sayde to coloure and concele the person, then simply spoken. For it is well knowen, euen in spight of Colin and Hobbinoll, that shee is a Gentle woman of no meane house, nor endewed with anye vulgare and common gifts both of nature and manners.’  As to all this, as Churchill declared of Russian intentions in WW2,  is ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key,‘ the key being, I believe, the pictorial woodcuts of the 1579 Calendar.

The identity of EK is as yet unascertained. For me, the Familist angle suggests that a certain Edward Kelly was the man, for this fellow became a great companion of the magus John Dee, conducting alchemical experiments together. Dee was a Mancunian, while , Edward Kelly can also be placed in Lancashire, where he was pilloried in Lancaster for fraud – proving his artistic sensibilities –  having his ears ‘cropped’ as a punishment. That puts him in the right place, then, to produce the woodcuts, of which Spenser himself writes, in a 1580 letter to Gabriel Harvey… ‘ my Calendar. Therin be some things excellently, and many things wittily discoursed of E.K., and the pictures so singularly set forth, and purtrayed, as if Michael Angelo were there, he could (I think) nor amende the beste, nor reprehende the worst.’

Edward Kelly
Edward Kelly

Through Kelly we get to John Dee,  whose decidedly opaque  outlook on religion indicates a possible Familist background. These connections, including;

1 – He was associated with many Continental Familists, including Christopher Plantin, the Antwerp printer who published the works of Niclaes) & the Antewerp bookseller Arnold Birckmann,

2 – In 1577 Dee suggested to the cartographer Abraham Ortelius, another Familist, that correspondence could reach him via Birckmann’s servants.

3 – Familists married within the group, & if widowed would quickly remarry, with age having no bearing on the choice. John Dee married three times, with little space between them, his third wife, Jane Fromond, being 28 years younger than him.

4 – Dee & Kelly were friends with the Familist Francesco Pucci, spending time together in Krakow in 1585, & Prague the following year.

5 – Dee & Kelly were also on excellent terms with Prince Albert Laski of Poland, whose relation, Johannes Alasko, lived in the Familst ‘capital’ of Emden.

6 – Dee was a big favorite of Queen Elizabeth, whose own personal Yeomen Gaurd were Familists. In the anonymous Supplication of the Family of Love (1606) we read, “It appeareth that she [Elizabeth] had alwayes about her some Familistes, or favourers of that Sect, who alwaies related, or bare tidinges what was donne, or intended against them.” 


We know how a big a connection there is between Dee & Elizabeth – the Faerie Queene is an allegory of her perfect majesty, & he was royally rewarded for the poem. Looking at the actual Familist  influence on Spenser, the work of Ortelius inspired the cosmology of Spenser’s Ruins of Time, while in his Magical Diary, Dee transcribes his “seances” in which Kelly recited visions. These otherworldly conjurations feel rather like the allegorical mindscapes extolled by Spenser in the Faerie Queene, & one must ask oneself now just how much influence Dee exerted over Spenser in the earliest stages of that poem’s composition. In that peom’s second book, Spenser places Dee in the Castle of Temperance, amidst a room full of pictures of “famous Wisards“, & “All artes, all science, all Philosophy”. Spenser’s Dee has meditated “all his life long, /That through continuall practice and usage, /He now was growne right wise, and wondrous sage.

Spenser was also connected with the the Dutch poet, Sir Jan van der Noot, whose 1576 book ‘Das Buch Extasis’ contains elements of Familism. The connection between the two poets is perfectly elucidated by Tiemen de Vries, in his ‘Holland’s Influence on English Language and Literature (1916),’ who highlights the influence on Spenser of a 1569 book of poems called ‘A Theatre’. Spenser went on to rework & reprint the verses under his own name in 1591, defining them as ‘formerly translated.’ De Vries suggests that van der Noot, ‘for his English version, used the assistance of Spenser, at that time a poor young student, hardly seventeen years old, whom he probably paid one penny for each line, just as Rubens used the assistance of his pupils for some details of hundreds of his pictures which were sold under his name, could not be such an important fact for the author, who was the master of the whole work. The young assistant ‘was in no way a principal in the main undertaking when the volume came out, therefore, it nowhere gave his name. He had done his work, and received his pay – there was no need to acknowledge his services.’1 At that moment Van der Noot could not imagine that the name of his young assistant would one day become famous, and that those translations would play an important part in English literature. As a principal he did what, all over the world, principals do with their young assistants, and with their work. By getting his pay, and no further recognition at that moment, Spenser got just what every young man gets, when the master honors him by asking his assistance.’

‘The ideas of the Theatre, adds De Vries, ‘as Van der Noot laid them before the young Spenser, and explained them to him, these great ideas of the world’s vanity, of the struggle and sufferings of Christians, and of their final triumph, and their eternal happiness, have remained with Spenser; they have formed the center of his life-system, and are to be found in all his later works…. with the Eclogue for September, in which we find the dialogue between Diggon Davie and Hobbinol. This Diggon Davie is, according to Kirk’s Glasse, ‘the very friend of the author and this friend had been long in foreign countries.’ We can also see the influence on Speser of Van der Noot’s use of embletic woodcuts in the 1570s in the English poet’s own series throughout the Calendar.

Returning to Shakespeare, it has been long-observed how the writings of the Familist,  Justus Lipsius, had a profound effect on our bard’s political thought, especially his 1584 translation of the treatise De Constantia. In that text, when Lipsius quotes Petronius’ ‘the whole world is a stage-play’ we get the seedlings of one of Shakespeare’s most famous passages, the ‘All the world’s a stage’ of As You Like It.

The object of this post has been to reinforce the triangular connection between Spenser, Shakespeare & Familism – & also to introduce a certain John Dee into the mix, who most scholars assume was the wizard Prospero in the Tempest. That he was, we shall ascertain in a future post, but for now let us leave the drizzly heaths of East Lancashire & skipple down to the sun-kiss’d capital where our teenage Terence is just about to tackle his first tatse of the theatre.