#writephoto: Millrace

For Sue Vincent’s Thursday challenge, a sort of prose poem with WIP in mind.

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The millrace runs but there is no more a mill, and trees grow now where wagons once stood with their head-hanging horses, waiting to be loaded with their bolts of finished worsted.

The beck still babbles, its leaping waters clearer than they ever were in those days when wild nature served one purpose—to be harnessed to the fiery chariots of the fiercest of men.

Fierce and proud, with a blindness when it came to the suffering they caused, with their grasping greed for profit, were the men in paunch-vast waistcoats.

If they didn’t see the misery in the humanity around them, how could they have noticed when the mill streams fouled were running black or blue or cimson with dyes from the washings of the vats?

But their ferocity was puny in the face of wakened nature, when the stones had had enough of blood and desecration, and the sacrifice of beauty on the altar of greed.

The mill race runs forever, leaping crystal clear, sunlight glinting on the ripples and cascading woven water.

Where is your monument in stone, in black Millstone Grit, your dark, satanic symbol of industrial success?

We know where you are now, Mr Mill Owner the Mighty, you are in the deep dark hole where the dead men go.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

43 thoughts on “#writephoto: Millrace”

    1. My great-aunt worked for Jessop’s. He had a name for being a sort of Socialist, treating his workers well. My great auntie was one of the most highly skilled of his workforce. There were just a handful of tailoresses, kept on when he cut back on dressmakers, praised to the skies, but she never earned a penny more, a fraction of what the men were paid and though she worked there all her life from the age of twelve, she died without a penny to her name.

      1. It was a hard life for women in the rag trade. My great grandmother, taken to visit the then-newly opened industrail museum at Kirkstall, set in one of the old mills, found herself on display there in an old photo… and the manager was called as she proceded to explain how half the exhibits actually worked or were used. She was already in her nineties by then, so was a real window on a vanished world.

      2. She must have been a fund of knowledge. First hand experience, far more useful than theoretical knowledge. It was a hard life for women at work, then when you add to that the work they had to do when the got home…

      3. Great granny… she of the mill… had and used the whole kit and taught me how. Just as well, as my first, ancient but electric machine had a mangle attached.

      4. My mum had a twin tub, a big box with a propeller in it that washed then you heaved the stuff out of it into the other side, shoved a rubber mat on top to hold the clothes down, slammed down the lid and it rattled the clothes dry-ish. That’s the most archaic model I’ve ever dealt with.

      5. Sounds similar to what my mum had, hers was a Hoovermatic. When she was first married she had to ‘boil the copper’ to do the laundry. Must’ve been hideous. My sister-in-law when I was 5 or 6, had some sort of barrel-like electric agitator washing machine with an attached mangle. Seems terribly old-fashioned now!

      6. I think it might have been a Hoovermatic now you mention it. It was probably a luxury my mum allowed herself because here were four of us in less than five years. She’d have been submerged in nappies without a machine!

      7. On the radio this evening they were discussing the ‘problem’ of school playgrounds, when the boys hog the space to play football and the girls have to sit round the edges being decorous. Even when I was at school that didn’t happen. The boys used to complain that they couldn’t play football because the girls hogged all the space with their skipping ropes! We had to share. Apparently that notion hasn’t caught on here yet.

      8. They are too deeply implicated in the system, capitalism and all the other social machinery. Throw one lot of ideas out and the other goes with it.

      9. 😉 Whom you tell. Since three years i want to get some information from our local Catholic guru. Information about money, my father lost before his death. Now after information to the Apostolic Nuntiature, the Apostolic Signature it seems to be possible got get an answer.

  1. A beautiful, but unfortunately also sad review. What are we going to lose in tradition in the near future? But perhaps we will also rediscover it when we can no longer afford the energy.

      1. Cotton and wool. And the coal mines. One reason it’s hard to pick out the slave trade as being their worst crime—they didn’t treat their own people any better.

  2. Nature’s victory over human greed. Greed is transitory. Nature endures, even after exploitation. It’s a terrific vision. I’m going to embrace it. I appreciate your reference to Blake’s satanic mills, turned into a popular hymn that people sing and do not understand, as I’ve been told at any rate (that they sing and do not understand it). I wish the testimony of your great-aunt were available. You share her story, though, which is a greatly detailed account and powerful.

    1. Those mills were satanic. Jerusalem is a great song. I always assumed Blake thought that the mills were first on the list of things to get rid of before you could have the new Jerusalem. Most English people probably only catch onto the England’s green and pleasant land part.

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