Joseph Skipsey’s poems are part of North East England’s cultural heritage. This coal miner from Percy Main wrote amazing poems including The Hartley Calamity and The Collier Lad. He started working down the mine aged 7 but went on to become the custodian of Shakespeare’s birthplace for a time. Dante Gabriel Rossetti said of him: “I found him a stalwart son of toil and every inch a gentleman”


Chris Harrison is the great-great grandson of Skipsey. He’s a singer and musician based in South London and our paths met at poetry and music performances relating to The New Hartley Pit Disaster of 1862. Here’s a shot of him at the Hartley Disaster Memorial in Earsdon last September.

chris Harrison

Chris has just released a CD Carols from the Coalfield filled with his versions of Skipsey’s poems set to music.

I went to the Bridge Hotel Folk Club on Monday night to see him perform. The evening sun was blinding which made it impossible to take photographs of the performers.

bridge hotel

It was a great night out. Fantastic singing in a supportive atmosphere including a turn by local legend Johnny Handle. And I won the raffle!

Chris’s interpretations of Skipsey’s poems are impressive and moving. Visit his website to find out more about the CD and the new edition of Joseph Skipsey: Selected Poems