A Shropshire Lad

Sir John Betjeman

A few years ago I mentioned Captain Matthew Webb, the first guy to complete the successful Channel swim in 1875. John Betjeman’s ‘Shropshire Lad‘ commemorates the death of Captain Webb, portraying his ghost swimming back along the canal to Dawley.

Click on the link below to hear Betjeman reading his own evocative poem set to music by Jim Parker. This is a treat–don’t miss it! The poem is from Betjeman’s debut album ‘Banana Blush’ written in 1974, which he describes as a ‘vulgar pop song record’

The gas was on in the Institute,
The flare was up in the gym,
A man was running a mineral line,
A lass was singing a hymn,
When Captain Webb the Dawley man,
Captain Webb from Dawley,
Came swimming along the old canal
That carried the bricks to Lawley,
Swimming along, swimming along,
Swimming along from Severn,
And paying a call at Dawley Bank
While swimming along to Heaven.

The sun shone low on the railway line
And over the bricks and stacks,
And in at the upstairs windows
Of the Dawley houses’ backs,
When we saw the ghost of Captain Webb,
Webb in a water sheeting,
Come dripping along in a bathing dress
To the Saturday evening meeting.
Dripping along, dripping along,
To the Congregational Hall;
Dripping and still he rose over the sill
And faded away in a wall.

There wasn’t a man in Oakengates
That hadn’t got hold of the tale,
And over the valley in Ironbridge,
And round by Coalbrookdale,
How Captain Webb the Dawley man,
Captain Webb from Dawley,
Rose rigid and dead from the old canal
That carried the bricks to Lawley,
Rigid and dead, rigid and dead,
To the Saturday congregation,
And paying a call at Dawley Bank
On his way to his destination. John Betjeman

A few years ago, Mrs. John and I spent a short holiday based in a farmer’s barn near Bodmin Moor. Betjeman also had a lifelong love of Cornwall and wrote many poems about the area. He died in Trebetherick and is buried at the ancient church St. Enodoc, near Rock. We trekked over the sand dunes to see where he was buried.

Sir John died in 1984 aged 77 at his home in Trebetherick. He was buried at St Enodoc church near Rock. Picture by JW.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Metal Detecting Videos

This next post has resonated down the years, and I have no qualms in posting again even though they banned me from two forums and I lost one or two subscribers. It’s interesting to note that Betjeman effort garnered zero comments compared to this one with over 40.

If you are an easily offended detectorist/videographer with a recent humordectomy I suggest that you give this section a miss … make a coffee … or summat.

Does anyone agree with me that 95% of videos made by detectorists whilst on a dig are crap and not worth watching? They fail to engage with the audience. Gone are the days when a day’s detecting meant carrying no more than a machine of your choice, a spade and wearing sturdy boots. Today, it is essential that you kit yourself out like a failed documentary maker and record every button and buckle for your legion of followers to drool over. Make your bliddy mind up. Are you a swinger or a videographer?

I especially dislike the ones with a five minute professionally produced introduction with letters flying everywhere, slick graphics, and stirring music followed by an amateurish and boring record of a typical day out swinging. Before I boycotted all such videos, I was rather surprised that very few I did watch had no plot, no reason for existing, no entertainment value and were a complete waste of my time … except for the likes of the blonde American cash cow Diggin Britt ,who manages to reveal all whilst finding nothing! But reasonable entertainment if you like that sort of thing. She has over 197,000 subscribers and for those willing she charges per month for ‘special’ videos. She’s not daft. “Hi y’all”.

A Typical Detectorist Production …

… has an inaudible ‘commentary’ or a screeching and moaning of wind down the microphone often accompanied by shaky, nausea-inducing footage – or both.  If you listen carefully you might just catch the hapless detectorist apologising for his/her inadequate production.

If you are thinking about going down this road, let me give you some advice. Don’t forget to foster a gimmick. YOU are more important than the metal detecting, which tends to get in the way. Always act as though you are sixpence short of a shilling, practice making gurning faces in front of a mirror and talk in a funny voice. Failing that, always wear a funny hat or wear unusual apparel like loud shirts (or no shirt) and brightly coloured over-sized glasses. Go on – make a spectacle of yourself! Acting normal won’t make you an Internet sensation. Doing ALL of those things will ensure that you go viral in no time at all!

I prefaced this outburst by talking about most of the videos I have seen. But there are some (very few) out there that are worth watching. Productions by established detectorists who have real knowledge to share can be very useful. They KNOW what they are talking about and are a great help to newcomers to the hobby. Alas. You will have to learn how to discriminate and watch a load of crap before you find the treasure. Bit like metal detecting, really! 

This picture is included so that people who are easily offended can print it out, stick it on the door and use to practice their skill at throwing darts!

7 thoughts on “A Shropshire Lad

  1. I share your views on most of the video makers.
    We no longer get requests to share their videos on our Australian forum as they have all moved to the FB platform.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved the ditty John… Although how it becomes ‘vulgar, I do not know.

    And as to Metal detecting videos.. I can honestly say I have not seen any of digging Brits videos…Must be my old age I suspect..[b] 🙂 [/b].. There is one lady however, whom I do enjoy on the odd occasion.. She does mudlarking on the Thames.. and the finds she makes!!!.. Not every hunt is a winner… but perhaps that is part of the enjoyment..

    She has a quite extensive collection of pipes.. and those are beautiful to see.

    Thank you my friend


    Liked by 1 person

  3. The poem is well known in these parts John, I live a mile or so from both Dawley and Coalbookdale. There is a monument to Matthew Webb as you enter Dawley and a local school was named after him. The locals however would of never used the word man as most would pronounce it, but more pronounced as mon!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So good to see you still making me laugh, not a metal detectorist but so enjoy reading your blogs,
    take care and regards to Mrs John


    Liked by 1 person

  5. For some reason I am unable to ‘like’ or respond to posts. Sorry, guys – but many thanks for all your comments.
    ‘Tis me, John.


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