Brinton’s Bull

Thanks to Museum volunteers Mick Lowe and Sandra Ash for giving me the idea for this poem, which also includes words from Garry Hooper and Amanda Barrie who I chatted to on Facebook, and Carol who I met at Sight Concern. The photo is ‘Home Time’ at Carpet Trades 1960 which was the nearest I could get to the image described to me!

Home time, 7 Nov 1960Carpet Trades (Berrows photo)

Waiting for the Bull

The starting line is set –
a formidable arm-in-army,
eyes fixed on freedom
beyond the force field.

Rollers fixed at tea break,
bursting to escape,
Elsie Tanner, Ena Sharples lookalikes
combine into a deep sea of heads,
a Pavlovian tsunami
released by the sound of the Bull.

And they’re off!
Setters, winders, pickers,
fearless of traffic,
flood Corporation Street
engulf Exchange Street,
while those in the know
have steered clear of the tidal wave
of single minded women
whose time is now their own.

© Heather Wastie
July 2013


Having asked for stories about Brinton’s Bull, which used to sound in the town 5 times a day, I was really pleased to get lots of responses on a Facebook group called Kidderminster Past. I have combined these comments into the Brinton’s Bull Blues which I will be performing with Kate Wragg at Kidderminster Arts Festival, both in the Museum of Carpet and in the Boars Head pub. Thanks to all those who responded and all those I have interviewed so far. Much of the material I have written from these interviews will be included in the performance.


Brinton’s Bull Blues

I’m sitting at the window
and I hear that whistle blow,
sitting at the window
and I hear that whistle blow,
seven twenty in the morning
and I hear that whistle blow.

Dot’s on her way from Cookley to Kidder,
pedalling as fast as she possibly can.
John’s in a panic but knows ten minutes
is plenty to get on his bike and clock in.

Mal and her mother have jumped in the car,
her Mum starts at half past, it’s not very far
to Quayle and Tranter on the edge of town,
the fabulous Bull never lets them down.

Creeler Brian is standing beneath it
watching the day workers coming in.
Chris is in Sutton Road doing his paper round
timed by the Bull, so he’s listening.

I’m standing at the gate
and I hear that whistle blow,
standing at the gate
and I hear that whistle blow,
seven thirty in the morning
and I hear that whistle blow

Eric’s in Worcester Street on his dad’s bike,
just started work at the age of sixteen.
Woodward Grosvenor’s gates will be locked,
he knows he won’t get to the clocking in machine.

Michele is sauntering on Hurcott Lane.
Bazz leaving home knows he’s going to be late.
Michele on her way from Land Oak to Lea Castle.
Bazz being clocked in by his mate,

Alan, who’s thinking “He’ll get me in trouble!
He’d better show up or we’ll both get the sack!”
Bazz thinking, “Al, I’ll be there in a jiffy”
jumps on his bike without looking back.

Mike knows it’s time he was getting up,
if he doesn’t he’d better look out for his dad
who’ll be threatening him with a glass of cold water
and so he groans and gets out of bed.

The streets are all deserted
but I hear that whistle blow
The streets are all deserted
but I hear that whistle blow
The afternoon is ghostly
and I hear that whistle blow

Mandy’s out playing, it’s lunchtime at school.
Phill’s having dinner at home with his dad.
“Come on! The buzzer’s gone! Got to get going!
From Wood Street to Mill Street and drive like mad!

Later there’s Rachel who’s waiting impatiently,
stood with her mom at the factory gate,
the sound of the Bull makes her so excited,
she knows that she hasn’t got long to wait.

There’s a crowd building up at Brinton’s gate,
Garry is running to catch his bus,
Amanda is happy her dad will be home soon
like hundreds he’s part of the five o’clock rush.

I can see a revolution
when I hear that whistle blow,
see a revolution
when I hear that whistle blow,
I can see the town revolving
round that whistle when it blows.

I can see that steam a-rising
and I hear that whistle blow,
see that steam a-rising
and I hear that whistle blow,
it ain’t nothing but a memory
cos that Bull don’t blow no more.

© Heather Wastie
June 2013

2nd verse based on a 4 line poem by Mal Ballinger, slightly altered to fit.

Networking event for writers tomorrow

I should have mentioned this earlier! Better late than never.

Tomorrow I am guest speaker at a Writer Networking Morning in Wolverhampton organised by Writing West Midlands. It’s a free event from 10.00 to 12.00 at the Light House, Wolverhampton. For more information and to book a place see

Also speaking will be the very entertaining Canal Laureate, Jo Bell. During the afternoon she will be leading a workshop, details of which can be found by following links on the website above. I have no doubt that this will be excellent and I’m looking forward to soaking up another writer’s approach and perspective as well as writing some canal-themed poetry.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

The Tuner’s Eye

I’ve been busy arranging my Weaving Yarns poems and songs into a draft script for “Kidderminster Stuff” with Kate Wragg (August 16th and 17th – see Performances page).  There are a few pieces still to write after interviewing people, including one person I met at a party! We start rehearsing next week.

If you’re interested in a sneak preview of “Kidderminster Stuff”, do come to LOAF at The Coach House Community Arts Centre, Rectory Road, Oldswinford, Stourbridge DY8 2HA on Sunday 7th July at 11.15 when I’ll be doing a half-hour set, followed by Kate Wragg 12.00-12.30. I will also be singing “Tying the Knot” at Mouth and Music, Boar’s Head, 39 Worcester Street, Kidderminster DY10 1EW on Tuesday 9th July 8.00pm.

On Saturday 6th July I will be talking about the Weaving Yarns project at a Writing West Midlands Writer Networking Morning at the Light House, Chubb Buildings, Fryer Street, Wolverhampton WV1 1HT 10.00-12.00. For further information about all of these events see

I’m grateful to my local District Councillor, Chris Nicholls, who gave me some funding to interview people where I live in Cookley. One of the people I interviewed was Geoff Perks who worked as a tuner. He lives in a nursing home and last week I visited him to read the song lyrics I had written about him to check he was happy. He wasn’t at all well but he listened intently as I read and at the end he smiled a broad smile and said he was very impressed. This was so rewarding for me, and I’ve sent the piece to his family. Years ago I edited a bo0k of reminiscences after interviewing people in Tipton and the daughters of one of the people whose memories appear in that book came up to me at the launch and expressed their gratitude. Oral history is so valuable.

The Tuner’s Eye

for Geoff Perks

There’s more to making carpets
than meets the casual eye,
so said a canny tuner
and then he told me why.
He spoke of cops and shuttles
and how he tuned the loom.
This is what he told me
one day in his living room:

A cop is like a sausage,
a sausage made of jute,
jute inside a shuttle,
watch the shuttle shoot.
The sausage will unravel
as the shuttle flies across.
The tension must be perfect
for the weaver, he’s the boss.

Hold your finger up
and put the jute around,
turn it round and up
then turn it round and down,
enough to fill a shuttle,
that’s the time to stop,
that’s how machines would do it,
that’s how they made a cop


The shuttle’s double ended,
its points are very sharp,
you keep your wits about you
as the weft speeds through the warp
A shuttle can be dangerous
and blood has been spilled,
shuttles have shot out
and weavers have been killed.


The weft keeps on going,
at the end of a cop
another piece is tied to it –
seamless, doesn’t stop.
His dad was a weaver,
his grandfather too,
from bobbin boy to tuner,
he’s seen a thing or two.


© Heather Wastie
May 2013