Tom Rawling remembered – BBC Countryfile

On BBC One at 6.30pm this Sunday, Countryfile visits Ennerdale, in the far north west of the Lake District. As well as exploring the valley and looking at the work of the Wild Ennerdale Partnership, the programme features the poetry of Tom Rawling, a man whose life and work was shaped by Ennerdale but whose name was all but forgotten until recently.

Contributing to the programme is Grevel Lindop, poet and author of A Literary Guide to the Lake District, who writes on his blog:

“Rawling (1916-96) was a magnificent poet – perhaps Cumbria’s best 20th century poet in my view – and, though largely forgotten at the end of his life, he’s been undergoing a renaissance of appreciation since his poems were reissued by the Lamplugh and District Heritage Society in 2009.

“The name may sound parochial, but believe me Rawling is a fine and perhaps major poet, bringing to life in vividly textured words the farming life of an earlier generation, the landscape and the fishing. All of it, as you read, is gritty and real enough to get your hands on, and profoundly beautiful at the same time.”

The renaissance that Grevel refers to is down largely to the efforts of Michael Baron, Stan and Maria Buck and other members of the Lamplugh and District Heritage Society, and the Rawling family, who between them published How Hall – Poems and Memories – A Passion for Ennerdale, in 2009.

Michael Baron in particular has championed Tom Rawling’s work at every opportunity, and continues to give talks about the man and his poetry. Click here to read an edited text of one given in Grasmere, for the Wordsworth Trust, in 2010.

“In my own haphazard and defiantly non-academic way”, he writes, “I appreciate this opportunity to pair the real local (it’s not a dirty word) and two best 20th century Cumberland poets together.

“My man is Rawling, an atheist whose landscape was sacred, something set apart and “entitled to veneration”, recreated in plain-spoken poems without obscurity, loving the language; pastoral which, stripped of the derogatory label from metropolitan critics, is the stuff of rural life.”

Priced £7.50, How Hall is on sale in most Cumbrian bookshops and can be bought online from Books Cumbria.

A CD is also available, of recordings made of Rawling reading from his work in 1983. Some of these recordings are featured on the Listenupnorth website.