Northern Life says a sad but fond farewell to ‘The Bard of Darwen’ Jim Atherton, who died at the age of 90. Jim was one of our regular contributors, his poems both in dialect and standard English giving our readers plenty to think about, whether it was nostalgia for times past, the state of the world today, love and marriage, children, the seasons, the towns and landscapes of the North, old age… and his own mortality.
In our summer issue, Jim submitted a poem which he said would be his last, due to failing eyesight. In Another Spring Jim wrote:
“God grant me grace that I might see another springtime here.
For I am so proud for to be – just a man from Lancashire”
Jim – full name James Clifford Atherton – was born in Darwen, Lancashire, on 8th July 1925, attended schools in the town and on leaving school he became a grocer for the Cooperative Society.
In the Second World War he was called up at the age of 18 and served with the REME, seeing action in Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge and The Ardennes, then was transferred to the Far East, serving in India, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia.
Back in Darwen, he became a machine engraver and raised a family with wife Edna. He only turned his hand to writing poetry at the age of 62 after retiring from the firm of J and A Kay at Cotton Hall Mill.
Jim’s poems struck a chord with Lancashire folk, and he recited his poems to rapturous applause for nearly 30 years, sometimes 50 engagements a year, at a number of venues including the Winter Gardens in Blackpool. When Sainsbury’s head office sought a local celebrity to open their Darwen store, they chose Jim.
When writer Peter Jones asked Jim what else he would have wanted from life, he said: “Nothing. I have a good wife, a good bed, four wheels and a good belly. That’s all any man needs.”
All the money Jim made from his publications and public recitals went to good causes, especially Derian House Children’s Hospice at Chorley which has benefited by more than £10,000.
After he died peacefully in hospital, funeral donations were invited for Derian House and for North West Air Ambulance, an appropriate postscript for a generous man of words.
You can read some of Jim Atherton’s poetry here.