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Flood On The Trent (1875)
By the Rev Frederick Atkinson, M.A. (1878) Long Eaton

T'was the 19th of October, our church bells were newly hung
(So in memory the date securely dwells)
And the men were ready at the ropes for the first peal to be rung
For the priest had come to dedicate the bells.

Then the rain came on in earnest, but the priest got through his work,
And the bells rang out their warning on the air
That, henceforth, if the people their devotions meant to shirk.
They should not forget the Parish Church was there.

But the rain it seemed had come to stop, and through the live-long night
It continued flowing pitilessly down,
Till the roads were like a mill-race, and by dawn of morning light
It had captured half the doorsteps of the town.

And from dawn to dusk a second day, with growing force and sound,
And from dusk to dawn it fell in solid sheets,
It was bursting through the drain pipes, it was tearing up the ground,
Digging holes at all the corners of the streets.

T'was a night to be remembered, not a night to go to bed,
Men were watching full of restlessness and fear,
For the angry skies were roaring loud and moonless overhead,
And the river sounding nearer and more near.

Now the river's voice was ominous, for none the fact could blink
That it ought not to be audible at all,
Since the houses lay a measured mile above the nearest brink,
And the railway ran between them like a wall.

But again the sullen morning broke and the mystery was cleared,
As far as the astonished eye could strain
All the bounds had vanished utterly, and the Thrumpton woods appeared
Like an island in the wild and stormy rain.

From the Charnwood Forest rainfall had come racing down the Soar,
And the Derwent brought the soakings from The Peak,
With Why's white waters mingled, rushing streamlets by the score,
And Trent's vast volume made the tale complete.

And to crown the wild confusion, the great ballast holes were brimmed
By the bursting of the Erewash Canal,
Such a deluge drowned the country as few fancies could have limmed,
Fewer eyes have ever seen or ever shall.

Then as evening neared, the sobbing skies dried up their baleful flow,
And struggled out a late, and lurid sun,
And the blushing clouds lit up the watery wilderness below
Ashamed of all the mischief they had done.

But their penitence availed us not, the night was full of scares,
While a rolling sea tumultuous and brown,
Was washing through the windows and climbing up the stairs
Of our cruelly invaded little town.

So when the dreary dawn crept up, we launched our little boat
On a mission through the swamped and tossing streets,
And lo, the place was captured, all the furniture afloat
Disporting in rude acrobatic feats.

And while pigs and poultry greeted us from bedrooms overhead,
Human fingers from among the seething mass
Stretched and lowered baskets to receive our roll of bread:-
Oh! the bakers had to sweat that day, I guess.

And steering over farm yard gates in the destroyer's track,
We heard of missing cows and smothered sheep,
And saw the summer's harvest lost, where many a new built stack
Stood floating in the flood a fathom deep.

And on, and on our boat careered through hedge tops almost hid,
And, where the trains two days before had run
Were sleepers pointing skywards the twisted rails amid,
As though a second chaos had begun.

Surely the clouds have consciences for evidence was found
Of their deep though ineffectual remorse
In the countless pools of muddy tears that still beslimed the ground
When the following year had finished half its course.

Well life's short, and words are nought, so here I'll dry my pen,
But we shan't forget the lively days we spent,
Nor shall we greatly envy those who see the likes again
Of those rollicking vagaries of the Trent.

(Reprinted in the Long Eaton Advertiser, August 13th, 1937)

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