Coals to Newcastle


The area I live in is famous for numerous reasons. I wont go into them all here, I aint got all night 😉 One of the most famous sayings in the geography of the UK applies to Newcastle.

Like coals to Newcastle

Thats like sending sand to people who live in the Sahara. I was not born here, I came here to work, which is like sending coals to Newcastle. This area was the biggest coalfield in the country at one point and thats where the saying originated from. No one ever moved here to work. The complete opposite is true and Geordies are now spread across the UK due to our Coal Mining heritage. Geordies left Newcastle in droves to work in coal mining and some of my first drinking buddies were Geordies. I guess its why I like the Broon [brown] Ale so much.

Traveling the tarmac of long trodden paths,
Signposts indicating I am heading to The Great North,
The old A1, the road to nowhere, somewhere, anywhere,
The place I call Home.
The home of the Great North Run, swim, ride
The stottie loaf, bottled dog and black bullets,
Savaloys, The Tyne Bridge, The Sage,
I came north to work, like coals that came to Newcastle.

Good times, bad times, hard times,
Newcastle had them all, then some and more,
Jarrow marchers heading ‘doon sooth ta tha smoke’
Men in flat caps that were as flat as their hopes,
Boys in hobnail boots doing a mans work for less pay,
Women, mothers, daughters making hookie mats for cold floors,
Men cleaning boots behind closed doors,
Broken pride, empty plates, emptier bellies,
No one ever came to Newcastle, ‘cept I.

Miners, Masons, Engineers, Shipwrights and docks,
Grafters, drinkers, shepherds, leaders and their flocks,
Newcastle has seen them all come and go, come and go,
Jackie Milburn and Alan Shearer, Malcolm MacDonald and Tony Green,
Heroes of St James Park, goalscorers supreme,
Gods to their followers and believers, immortals,
Ordinary men living extraordinary lives,
We went to worship and sing their praises from broken terraces,
Whilst rich men became rich and poor men remained poor.

The Bigg Market,
Gallowgate,
Dog Leap Stairs,
Forth Banks,
Skinnerburn,
Dunston Staithes,
High Level and Swing, bridges both,
Eldon Square,
Metro Centre,
Sandgate,
Friends all, revisited year in, year out,
Yes, home, yes, familiar,
How did this happen?
Why here?
Why me?

A1: The only road North from London until the M1 motorway was built.
Stottie Loaf: Round, flat bread used to make sanwiches.
Bottle of Dog: Brown Ale
Black Bullets: Hard boiled liquorice sweet.
Savaloys: Sausage
Tyne Bridge: Famous landmark
The Sage: New arts centre on the banks of the River Tyne
Hookie Mats: Mats made from old rags and sack cloth
Jackie Milburn: Star football player of the 1950’s.
Alan Shearer: Star football player of the 1990’s and 00’s.
St James Park: Home of Newcastle United FC
The Bigg Market etc: All places in or around Newcastle upon Tyne.
Geordies: People from Newcastle. True meaning, people born within spitting distance of the River Tyne.

I often come along the Great North Road from the city center to my apartment and sometimes, I ask myself just why I am here, in Newcastle. I might find the answer one day?

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9 responses to “Coals to Newcastle

  • brian miller

    spent some time in harlan, ky…a coal mine town, busted…backward in some ways…people with no way out and wont move cause its all they ever known…it was a rather humbling places for me to be about 10 years ago…

  • ManicDdaily

    Such a cool poem. (I mean – I’m sorry about the hopelessness.) But the poem itself is very very well done–all the specifics, the names of the players (which are themselves colorful), the geography, the boys in the hobnail boots, the women, the mats – k.

  • Claudia

    love how you paint the scene here…great images like…caps flat like their hopes…and…Ordinary men living extraordinary lives,
    We went to worship and sing their praises from broken terraces… we have some coal towns as well here in germany…call this area the Ruhrpott..and they’ve seen good and bad times as well..

  • vivinfrance

    I loved this – such a mixture of Newcastle past and present. My graduation was at the Sage Centre, which is a wonderful building with wonderful goings on. I’ve been to some splendid concerts at the Sage. There is so much life in the Toon and I always get a lift of spirits just walking off the plane at Ncle Airport!

  • aprille

    AbFab, Brill — don’t know a northern equivalent.
    You ought to get the chap who plays ‘Lewis’ [Kevin Whateley?] to read this.
    Loved it. I’m surprised you managed to understand the Geordies: I was chatted up by one in a pub some years back and smiled alot, but hadn’t the foggiest what he was on about. did you happen to see the programme about the goalie Bert Trautman last night by any chance? Not a Geordie exactly, Man United.
    Strange how we get displaced and end up liking it.

  • Lindy Lee

    You are there in Newcastle so you could
    write this beautiful poetry about this place;
    thank you, Tino; you write so good…

  • Victoria C. Slotto

    I’m so glad to see you, Tino. This is such a good poem with a very effective sense of place. I went to undergraduate school in Scranton, Pennsylvania a long time ago, a defunct coal mining town, and I felt a bit like I was there again. It had a character all its own, as does Newcastle.

  • shanyns

    Tino – this is very good. Reminds of the coal towns in The Pass not far from where I grew up. A grey and black strip with mountain tops shorn off for coal. Great write!

  • Chazinator

    This is truly raw, visceral, music of bone and sinew. I could your voice echoing off the clouds it rang so true thru these words. Bravo, beautiful.

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