jingle jingle!

jingle jingle!


the year of the ox


The Whitley Great Ox Festival – Saturday 28 March 2009.
In memory of the 18th century Quadruped immortalised by Bewick in his copperplate engraving of The Whitley Large Ox.

The original Ox engraving was produced for the owner Mr Edward Hall and published on the 10 April 1789. The Ox became a beast of folklore in the 1780s due to its immense size, growing to a height of over 5ft 9ins and weighing a massive 216 stones. It was said to have grazed near the site of the aptly named Fat Ox pub in Whitley Bay before it was walked all the way to Newcastle to be slaughtered.

Keith Armstrong has penned these lines:


It was 1789 the Year of the Great Ox,
the year the beast got loose in Paris,
when Whitley Bay was sleeping.
The year of the storming,
when John Martin was born in Haydon Bridge,
his heart breaking with painting visions;
the year of the slaying
of old regimes
when royalty hung in the slaughterhouse.
The Ox walked seven days,
like a doomed aristocrat
to have its tallow used to light the night,
to show the way
for the Rights of Man,
to sacrifice its beastly life
to keep a candle burning
and give us hope
and faith and charity,
a glint from God
and a gleam in Thomas Bewick’s eye
as he engraved the swollen moment
for all to see.



what could you see?
The mob grabbing your life,
and Tom Horsley’s butcher’s axe
hanging over your great spirit
as you valiently strode
the mucky road,
along the throbbing seashore,
through the pestilence of Tyneside,
its filth and flames,
its poisoned air and quack’s potions,
its Geordie beauty and debauch.

Edward Hall thought he owned you.
After a few beers, he thought the very universe was his.
But you, my sturdy fellow, were your own Ox
and could see the folly
of the swinish multitude
as it came to get you
to rip out your guts
and feed the Duke and Duchess,
and all their grasping subjects,
to satiate their appalling vanity.

You had more dignity than them.
You gave up your animal life
for others.
While Eddie Hall he died in pomp,
you, my massive beauty, were unselfish,
a Great Beast
full of love,
the very meat
of life itself
in all its morning glory,
in all its starry wonder;
the wide and beautiful sky
through the miraculous eyes of an Ox.



It had the Constitution of an Ox:

Girth at the belly 10 feet 9 inches
Girth at the loins 10 feet 4 inches
Girth at the shoulders 10 feet 3 inches
Girth behind the shoulders 9 feet 9 inches
Breadth at the hips 3 feet
Breadth at the shoulders 2 feet 6 inches
Height at the fore-crop 5 feet 9 iches
Height at the loins 5 feet 11 inches
Height from the ground to the breast 1 feet 6 inches
Weight 216 stones 8lbs.

That was the Constitution of the Ox.
The track record, shape, volume, build, realm, history, cut and nub of it, the scale of things, the order of the Ox, the full measure of the beast drawn by Thomas Bewick for all of us in awe of it, in a world that never ceases, to astonish.



return to berlin



My sister taught Peter Beardsley
to look after himself in Longbenton,
to lisp in and out of bother,
to twinkle his feet between desks,
to think with his toes,
to take a pass and craft a cross,
to develop a football brain.
My sister taught Peter Beardsley
to read a ball like a book,
to shimmy on the break,
to skip past bullies,
to have an eye for girls and goals,
to score whenever he felt like it,
to grow into a little star.
My sister taught Peter Beardsley.


*Keith Armstrong is poet-in-residence for the Newcastle United fanzine 'True Faith'

voyager poets

T.S. Eliot prizewinner Jen Hadfield, Jingling Geordie Keith Armstrong, and John Mackie's Infinite Equation #2

Tuesday 26 May 2008
6.30pm – 8.30pm

Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen [Venue 12]
Admission £5 (concessions free)

A showcase triple-bill of poets who have travelled for their writing and written from their travels. Shetland poet Jen Hadfield won the 2008 T. S. Eliot Prize for a collection that came out of her Canadian explorations. Poet and raconteur Keith Armstrong comes to us from Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, but his cultural pilgrimages have taken him from Bulgaria to Iceland, from Cuba to Kenya. Infinite Equation #2 is a two-piece ensemble combining John Mackie's lyric and narrative poetry from forty five years of travelling and writing with the virtuoso guitar playing of Michael Moar.

When Jen Hadfield was awarded an Eric Gregory Award in 2003, for her first manuscript, Almanacs, published by Bloodaxe in 2005, she used it to explore her Canadian citizenship, travelling from Nova Scotia to the West Coast, and up into the Arctic Circle on an epic roadtrip, a journey that launched her on her second collection about geographic and emotional badlands Nigh-No-Place. She returned to Shetland to live in 2006. Shetland landscape and language continue to influence Jen's poetry and visual art, and the Shetland community to support her emotionally, socially, professionally.
Nigh-No-Place was shortlisted for the Forward Prize in 2007 and won the T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry in 2008.

Keith Armstrong was born and bred in Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne, where he has worked as a community development worker, poet, librarian and publisher. He was Year of the Artist 2000 Poet-in-Residence at Hexham Races.
He has recently compiled and edited books on the Durham Miners Gala and on the former mining communities of County Durham and the market town of Hexham.
In his youth he travelled to Paris to seek out the grave of poet Charles Baudelaire and he has been making cultural pilgrimages abroad ever since. His poetry has been translated into Dutch, German, Russian, Italian, Icelandic and Czech.

John Mackie has written for, amongst others, David Bowie, Brian Auger, R. J. Bunn of Roxy Music, the jazz-funk legend Brian Auger, Jim Mullen, and the award winning composers Howard Skempton and Dave Smith, and has been publishing poetry and song lyrics since 1965.

A consummate musician, Michael Moar is a master of many genres. His first love is classical guitar, and he has played in a variety of rock and country bands in North-East Scotland for many years. Currently studying for a degree in music at the University of Aberdeen, he is fine tuning his compositional skills.

Promoted by
Spring Tides Poetry Group
Supported by
Peacock Visual Arts
Scottish Book Trust
Aberdeen City Council


my home city


patrick kavanagh

“It is impossible to read the daily press without being diverted from reality. You are full of enthusiasm for the eternal verities -- life is worth living, and then out of sinful curiosity you open a newspaper. You are disillusioned and wrecked.”

“To know fully even one field or one land is a lifetime's experience. In the world of poetic experience it is depth that counts, not width. A gap in a hedge, a smooth rock surfacing a narrow lane, a view of a woody meadow, the stream at the junction of four small fields - these are as much as a man can fully experience.”


guided by love

"I am the least difficult of men. All I want is boundless love." - Frank O'Hara

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.” - Albert Einstein

“... a true revolutionary is guided by love......We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity is transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force.” - Che Guevara

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” - John Wesley


armstrong returns to tuebingen

Do 21.5.2009, 20.30h, Boulanger, Collegiumsgasse 2, Tuebingen
with Christian Roch on Uilleann Pipes and whistle


swan song


Oh you float on canals
on a head of Amstel beer.
You keep yourself white in a dirty town,
watching the tulips drown.
You skim past the red lights and the bulb-fields of traffic;
gracefully bend your vase-like neck
under a low Dutch joke.
The tall, slim houses seem to stoop
towards you;
you warn them off,
with a thrust of your beak.
You feed off tourists
on floodlit transparencies
broken by rippling houseboats.
You stay drifting in memories of the Indies;
a small piece of momentary beauty,
prettier than Amsterdam,
more shapely than Holland;
a true Swan
of the World.



parting is such sweet sorrow


Oh the groaning
of Groningen guitars,
the twang
of its gutters
and bars,
rolling of memory,
filling up dreams
of canals,
cracking with ice.
Gestapo days
and dead poets
in music;
the roaring days,
the roaring boys
and gorgeous girls
strummed away,
out of my eyes
into graveyards
of songs sung.
Spilt notes
and words
weeping for forgiveness
and joy.



the jingling geordie

My photo
whitley bay, tyne and wear, United Kingdom
poet and raconteur