Review: Tom Twisleton 100 Celebration

Tom Twisleton 100 in Settle, 25/11/2017. Settle Stories Autumn/Winter Events Season. Reviewed by Gill O'Donnell for the Craven Herald and Pioneer 

To mark the anniversary of Tom Twisleton's death in 1917, Settle Stories have been working throughout the year on ways of bringing his poetry to the public once more. Born in 1845, Tom Twisleton left behind a legacy of poetry that provides a unique view of Dales life, many written in the Craven Dialect.  Throughout the year over 60 young people have had the opportunity to work with heritage project officer, Hazel Richardson to explore not only Tom Twisleton's poetry and language but also how much, or in some cases how little, dales life has changed over the intervening years. The Celebration day was a culmination of this work and included the launch of two new discover trails around the area taking in sites mentioned in his work or places which he would have known, such as the local churches, public houses and Twiselton's yard. Through the year many local young people have also had the opportunity to emulate Tom by trying their hand at dialect poetry and poems about family life and many of these were also on display, as well as examples of Tom's own work.  It is estimated that while Craven dialect was once common there are now fewer than 150 speakers, although a "call my bluff" style quiz as part of the celebratory event showed that while not many may still speak the dialect there are still a number who can understand the words even if they are not in common parlance. One of the most fascinating aspects of the day was the fact that many of the themes in the poetry are still very relevant today as the Chairman of Craven District Council pointed out by quoting one of the poems where a group of men gather in an alehouse to debate the local politics of the day and grumble about the rising taxation. Their sentiments could probably have been heard in any pub in Settle on the day after the budget. Similarly Tom's description of the sociability of Settle Market on Tuesdays still rings true - although he did decry the fact that it promoted drunkeness.  Not all of his poetry was concerned merely with local matters as he also wrote about the impact of national events and also in very moving terms about how national schemes could impact on local issues in his poem about the death of 19 year old JG Owen, a Welsh man who moved to the Dales for work and died whilst building the Settle-Carlisle railway.  Throughout the day there was a chance to find out more from the young people involved in the project and to also hear some of the poems actually performed in dialect before it culminated in a Celebration service at Settle Parish Church, led by John Twisleton, a retired reverend and descendant of Tom Twisleton.