Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

Lealholm Bridge

The 17th-century over the River Esk at Lealhoim, a village that developed around the first fordable crossing point downstream of the ravine Crunkley Ghyll.

Lealholm’s most famous resident was John Castillo, the ‘Bard of the Dales‘, poet and stonemason.

Born in Ireland in 1792 to Patrick Castlehowe, an itinerant Irish labourer, and Mary Bonas from Glaisdale. The family returned to the Esk Valley where Patrick found work at the Lealholm papermill. However, he soon left leaving Mary and the young John in poverty. In 1805, John aged 13, left for Lincolnshire to begin work as a gentleman’s servant. Within two years, John was back in Lealholm and working to become a stonemason at which he acquired a reputation.

But John was best known for his poems and songs that were written in the local vernacular and inspired by local people and events, many composed whilst working with stone. Two books of his works were published: ‘Old Isaac, The Steeplechase and Other Poems’ (1843) and ‘The Bard of the Dales or Poems of Miscellaneous Pieces’ (1850).

John was brought up a Catholic but became a fervent Methodist and travelled widely preaching and storytelling. However, his heart was always in the dales and leaving caused him much sorrow as reflected in his poem ‘Lines on Leaving Fryup, in Search of Work‘:

I’m sorry, Fryup! thee to leave,
But thou deniest what I crave,
Though I have ask’d with tears!
Oft I have drunk at thy pure rills,
And labour’d ‘mongst thy moorland hills,
For many toilsome years!

Here, with each morning’s
early dawn,
I lov’d to walk the flowery lawn,
To hear thy warblers sing!
Or when at eve their
songs were mute,
I’ve sooth’d my fancy with my flute,
And made thy woodlands ring!

John Castillo died in 1845 and was buried at the Wesleyan Chapel burial ground in Pickering, where he had settled in his later years.

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