Creative Coquetdale Folk: Allan Wood – a craftsman, dialect poet and an artist

An occasional series of portraits of Creative Coquetdale Folk by Katie Scott – this week, Allan Wood, a dialect poet, artist and craftsperson.

Thursday, 27th February 2020, 4:00 pm
Allan Wood and Pepper the dog.

I’ve been told many times: “You must talk with Allan Wood. He is canny and a great dialect poet.”

I was therefore delighted to meet Evelyn and Allan.

We sit down in Evelyn’s ‘domain’, and I explain why I want to talk with Allan.

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The Wood family.

“There’s nowt special about me,” he laughs.

They tell me about his upbringing: of his traveller ancestry, how he was born in Sunderland and brought to Sharperton, aged three, to live with his grandmother and uncle.

“I was always crying, but it wasn’t surprising, I had never seen these people before,” he says.

He was so loved and cherished, however, he soon settled into his new life.

“I was a bright kid, I could knit a pair of socks, and clip a sheep when I was nine-years-old,” he explained.

He was brought up to be a shepherd: “I could lamb sheep before I went to school.”

He also enjoyed looking at books, pictures, reading poetry and listening to music.

His work as a shepherd ended, though: “I was out poaching salmon, when I slipped down a low bank, injuring my back.”

He could no longer manage the physical work but made a great career as a gardener at Rothbury House.

The gardens were overgrown and neglected and Allan brought them back to glory. He is very knowledgeable about all kinds of plants.

He tells me about making something for the pleasure of it.

“George Snaith made sticks, holly shanks carved with knives he made himself.

“He produced his own paint, mixing in certain plants for the colours. On one stick, he painted a poem by Tennyson up it. I thought, I’m going to make one, but I’m going to write my own poem.”

Allan succeeded, and continued to write poems his whole life.

We move into Allan’s ‘domain.’

In this room you cannot keep your eyes still as there are interesting things on all the walls and on every surface.

He cannot find his first stick, but shows me many others he has made. Also, a fine model caravan and other bits and pieces he has created, found or collected.

Allan tells me about how he writes his poems: “I study the sounds of things. I discovered a long time ago that there is music in everything, in the wind, in people’s voices, in machinery, in nature.”

He tells me about dialect: “I listened to the old folk, the Coquetdale dialect, it is sort of sing-songy, I love that.”

Allan takes me to see their caravan.

From the outside, it looks ordinary enough, but inside he has made the most beautiful decorations. Flower motifs and little touches of ornamentation.

“What makes you most proud?” I ask. Their greatest achievement is their three daughters, Allan and Evelyn say.

Evelyn and their daughters are remarkable – all are creative in different ways too. But I would argue that besides them, Allan should be proud to be the kind, clever, artistic soul who has touched the lives of so many people, bringing joy and pleasure to so many folk.

You can listen to Allan’s voice and poems online at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0674cn9