The sun has set / Behind Black Combe and the lower hills, / But northward to the fells / Like gilded galleons on a sea of shadow / Float sunlit yet. (South Cumberland, 16 May 1943)
Norman Nicholson was born in 1914 and apart from the two year bed rest he spent in a sanatorium, Norman lived his whole life in Millom, writing poems both about the fells and the ironworks.
His poems have a honesty and a sometimes shy, sometimes defiant, open handedness about them which makes them very appealing.
His obituary in The Times described Norman as “provincial”. He fought against this term as a put down and defended the label as a valuable, compassionate and humane perspective on life which we all respond to.
In his most famous poem, “The Pot Geranium”, he describes the little plant thus: ” “A pot geranium flies its bright balloon … My ways are circumscribed, confined as a limpet / To one small radius of rock; yet / I eat the equator, breathe the sky, and carry / The great white sun in the dirt of my finger nails.” Wow.
Millom is a 15 min drive from Broughton and you can breathe the sky by visiting Hodbarrow, a major RSPB nature reserve. It borders an artificial lagoon, a legacy of the iron ore workings, and where many species of bird may be seen including terns, ringed plovers, redshanks and oystercatchers. Perhaps even a great crested grebe. They nest on the island here. This magnificent bird was almost hunted to extinction in the UK and is now a protected species. For further details of the reserve follow this link.
© The Trustees of the Estate of Norman Nicholson, by permission of David Higham Associates Limited