The Woolcomber

wool_fiber_texture_zyoltlO_Did you know that Hamsterley has a published poet? No, nor did I till I came across a reference to Epitaph on John Simpson, of Hamsterley, Woolcomber.

It was written by a Mr Issac Garner, not to be confused with his father, of the same name who was a Baptist Minister of Hamsterley. Unfortunately, Isaac and his twin sister were born after the death of their father in

1758/9. During their father’s demise he was looked after by the Simpson family in the Village and it would seem, were close friends of the family therefore. The History of Baptist Churches in the North of England 1648-1845 by David Douglas (another Minister at Hamsterley) describes Isaac Garner (jnr) as ‘being not only a pious man, but one of good mental capacity’.

Isaac Garner was apprenticed to the printing office at the Newcastle Journal and used the opportunity to publish his first musings. He moved to London where he met and married a young woman who held a small fortune which he used to establish a business of his own. He apparently lacked both regularity and attention and therefore his business failed, followed by his marriage. He then went on to be a Captain’s clerk on board the Hind, destined for the West Indies where he was stationed for two years. During this time he wrote ‘The Hind or a Voyage to the West Indies’.

Eventually ending up back in Newcastle working on the Tyne Mercury he wrote a curious poem to the editor, entitled ‘An Epistle to your Dog’. He subsequently moved employers and locations but returned to Newcastle in 1813 but then died at the age of 55 on the 13th October in the same year.

Other works by Isaac include ‘A Sonnet to the Rainbow’, ‘Verses written on the Banks of the River Eden’. Other than the Epitaph on John Simpson, I have not been able to find any of the other poems listed above.

Towards the end of his death apparently he was deemed ‘somewhat eccentric in his manners, but his conversational powers were of no ordinary description’ (Historical, Topographical and Descriptive View of the County Palantine of Durham, 1834). It took till February 1814 however for Isaac’s death to be listed in the Gentleman Magazine where his obituary is simply put as ‘he was a poet of considerable talent’.

WHILE visiting this dark abode,
Here, reader, turn thy wand’ring eyes;
Tread light, for underneath this sod,
Simpson, the Village Poet, lies.

The people’s follies, and their vice,
As frequently as he found leisure,
He hunted down (as cat do mice)
In strains of true poetic measure.

So neatly he his subject hit,
So well he temper’d truth with sense;
The simple marvell’d at his wit,
And wise men seldom took offence.

His genius and invention such,
From each event he’d something gather;
For nought scap’d his satiric touch,
That fairly came within his tether.

Nor’ scap’d he death; – His race is run,
(So fall the witty and the brave!)
His wool is comb’d, his thread is spun;
And daisies flourish round his grave!


Ady Davis

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