Ballad of the Spooky Books (2014)

Ballad of the Spooky Books

Ray Hearne and children sing the Ballad of the Spooky Books at the Reading Sheffield Celebration Event 2014.

rayhearnearrivingArriving in the Carpenter Room, Sheffield Central Library.

Ray-Hearne-1w Ray-Hearne-2

Performing Ballad of the Spooky Books with Sheffield primary school children.

 

Ballad of the Spooky Books

I feel particularly lucky when they tuck

Me up, my nose stuck in a book…..

CHORUS

Spooky books are great books, rattling with bats

Ravens croaking and creepy-crawly cats

A dragon in a dungeon or in a mucky nook

Some crooked looking witches duck, and I’m on tenterhooks

 

The ‘Journal of a Zombie,’ that was very good

As ugly as an ogre, he had to wear a hood

And the story of a goblin, glimmery and green

Who turned a king into a kidney bean one Halloween

 

I love the paranormal, the freaky and the weird

A wizard with a pointy hat and beetles in his beard

A goodie or a baddie, I’m very rarely fussed

As long as there’s some blood and guts, that truly is a must

 

A greedy little vampire, starving underneath

A gloomy doomy bell-tower sharpened up her teeth

She couldn’t wait for midnight, then on the very stroke

Of eight o clock, she brushed and flossed, and buttoned up her cloak

 

A dapper little biter, proper claws and fangs

There’s lots of them in Sheffield, they hang about in gangs

Someone’s got to fight ‘em, but where we gonna start?

We’ll have to google ‘how to stick a stake in someone’s heart’

 

Teachers can be monsters too, we know for sure

It’s nasty when they are werewolves, there isn’t any cure

A silver bullet sometimes fettles ‘em they say

If anybody’s got one, we could do with it today

 

Every house should have one, a boggart or a ghoul

Poltergeists are far more noisy as a rule

In your laundry basket or underneath the sink

Panicking your manikins and kicking up a stink

 

A cellar full of trolls I could never recommend

Though I’ve only read the version I borrowed from a friend

They guzzle up gazpacho, gulp your guacamole

And leave their smelly socks to ripen in the cubby hole

 

A cackling in the dark night, a slither and a hiss

A corridor of mirrors to a bottomless abyss

They’re menacing behind me, all slimy up ahead

Malodorously vivid – it’s the best I’ve ever read!

 

Ray Hearne         16/07/2014

For Spooky Book drawings by Stradbroke children click here.

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Steel City Readers

By Mary Grover

Reading Sheffield’s main activity this year is to raise money to support ‘Steel City Readers’, the book by our founder, Dr Mary Grover, about reading for pleasure in Sheffield between 1925 and 1955. The memories of the Sheffield readers we interviewed for our oral history project are at the heart of the book. We want to raise £12,500 to make ‘Steel City Readers’ free to download through an Open Access Licence, so that anyone may read it. Here is our Just Giving page where you can make a donation.

Mary Soar (born Wilkinson)

When you joined the queue of boys waiting to ask Mary Wilkinson to dance, you didn’t know that you were in for something more than swinging a girl round ‘in a room with a lovely bouncy floor above the garage on Psalter Lane’. For, in between dances, Mary brought out her ‘Confession Book’.

With this and a fountain pen, the resourceful girl soon extracted from her friends, male and female, but mostly male, their innermost desires. Each person had to ponder how to conclude a set of prompts like these:

‘I am going to marry for . . ‘

‘My favourite girl is . . .’

My favourite dance band is  . . . ‘ (Harry Roy being the ‘Marmite’ band)

My favourite author is . . .’ (Most of them were thriller writers like Edgar Wallace and the authors of the long-running Sexton Blake series.)

Reading Sheffield discovered Mary’s precious time-capsule ten years ago when we set out to explore the books that mattered to Sheffield readers in the Thirties and Forties. We interviewed 65 readers from all over Sheffield, born before 1945, about what they read when they were growing up.

Mary’s Confession Book is a treasure because people who are not famous, like Mary and her friends, rarely leave records of how they thought and read. Yet, our personal histories and our tastes are individual and surprising, and reflect the times in which we grew up.

The first reader whose memoir I explored did indeed become famous. He was born long before our readers and his reading could easily have derailed a career which was to see him inventing the process of creating stainless steel. Yet Harry Brearley’s first love was reading.

Harry Brearley

Like most of our readers, Brearley had no books at home and even less schooling. He had no access to books from municipal libraries, so, being the resourceful child he was, he made his own. He became a bottle washer in a chemistry laboratory, went to night school, and was inspired by the great educator and philanthropist, John Ruskin. The boy kept borrowing Ruskin’s economic treatise, Unto This Last, copying it out, page by page. He bound the pages with scraps of leather he had scrounged and created a copy of Ruskin’s great work that was his to keep. A formidable achievement, but it was Sheffield’s good fortune that he decided that ‘Reading, there was no living in it’. He turned his attention to the chemistry textbooks lent him by the head of the laboratory.

Adele Jagger aged about 16 in the back garden of 277a Ecclesall Road

For most of our readers, growing up during the Depression, the Second World War and the hard times that followed, there was, still, less of a living to be made from book-learning than there was from taking up a good apprenticeship, if you were lucky enough to be offered one. So why were so many of the people we interviewed gripped by the reading bug and the desire to entertain and educate themselves by reading? For many, with little encouragement, reading became a kind of addiction. Adele, born in 1942 whose father was a painter and decorator, never saw either of her parents hold a book yet, as she put it, ‘something gets hold of you, doesn’t it?’  When I suggested to Doreen, born in 1934, that when she started courting there might not have been time for reading, she was quite tart with me: ‘You can read and dance, Mary!’ Doreen had to leave her grammar school early for lack of parental support. Mary Wilkinson had to leave school early because the family printing business folded. Both girls never let the absence of a School Certificate rob them of an education. They kept on reading.

Doreen Gill and her husband

Most of our readers depended on Sheffield’s superb libraries for the books they read but annuals and comics also changed people’s lives. When Fred Jones from the Manor got tuberculosis in the Thirties at the age of 8, he was a non-reader: ‘I just couldn’t fathom it’. He was sent to Nether Edge isolation hospital and thanks to a mound of comics donated by an imaginative benefactor, he came out fluent, ‘never able to put a book down’ and got to night school.

Fred’s story is told by one of our interviewees, Malcolm Mercer, a boy who never passed his 11+ but became headmaster of Parson Cross School largely because of his own reading. When he left school at 14 to become a shop-assistant he bought himself a notebook and recorded everything he read. He borrowed books from Park Library, setting himself his own curriculum, which included Scouting for Boys, Lord Beaverbrook’s Success, 100 Tips for more Trade and Tolstoy’s Tales of Courage and Conflict.

Park Library

Steel City Readers is inspired by the pleasure Malcolm, Doreen, Mary and others found in the books they hunted down. Liverpool University Press is publishing it as an e-book which will make it free to readers globally, but an author must find £12,500 for the licence fee and other costs to publish it. Will you help Reading Sheffield pay the fee? If you could make a donation, perhaps in memory of someone you know whose life was changed by reading, we would be most grateful and you would be contributing to preserving Sheffield’s history.

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