A fine example of women’s work: a tapestry kneeler in St Johns Church, Fortuneswell, Portland

The following lines are mainly from conversations with Portland women… a starting point for our shanty lyrics:

you always have a Portland hairdo (living on the windswept island)

it keeps us fit, all these hills (‘the incline’ Merchant’s Way)

we kept getting flooded (down  Chiswell) the children were born with webbed feet

salt wind blackens the plants & sticks like jam on the windows

salt wind like jam on the windows
salt wind blackens the plants

Came up 9 steps – took the fireplaces off the walls.

it would come up through the road, through the manholes

nowadays they use the computer I did office work in my head and with a portable typewriter

down at the castle by the old Navy lookout, they’re building the Olympic accommodation

people living in Portland don’t earn enough to merit the prices they’re asking

you can still see the chalk cliffs though

fishings a really hard life, like coal mining

you either love Portland, or you can’t stand it

I couldn’t do nothing.

Where we now have a world class sailing centre there used to be a dirty old dockyard.

Like many women she does a full time job in part time hours. They quietly get on with things.
Sometimes i hate it sometimes i love it.

Vive la difference I say. Thank goodness its a different kind of place.

The whole area is being fenced off – but you can go up to my attic and see everything.

we eloped. I ‘d been half way round the world, but never to jersey.

I worked in the charity shop for 10 years.  A transvestite came in, took his trousers off to try on a dress.  He had black tights on with white shoes which women just don’t do – it looks horrible doesn’t it.

Building society – the coal man would come in with coal money. The fish man with money stinking like fish.

You can’t get bored on Portland – there’s loads to do – especially for the old folk.

One day I’ll retire from retirement.

people leave & then they come back

I’ve found it I’m staying.

the system sees that as unambitious

My dad says Portland is anchoring the whole of England.  If Portland weren’t here, England would float away.

I lived 5 mins from where I worked.

When the jungle drum sounds, everyone knows everyone else’s business.

Dough cake – everyone’s got secret recipes.  If you’ve eaten one of those on a windy day you won’t fall over. Its heaven on a plate.

1 person on a boat is keeping four people on land. Those at home and local businesses.

the future of the island is at sea

whats notable about being a woman in these industries is that your waiting for them to come home. You pack em off in the morning with everything they need – lunch whatever and they come back late in the evening. No news is good news.

coming through the door.

Its a reality.

dead mans bay – ( west bay )

Not a better place to see the sunset. I remember long summer days.

Fishing and quarrying intertwined. fishermen getting the stone out to barges on their boats or towing the barges in because they knew how to navigate the waters.  When the Merchants railway arrived from the docks, the cranes were abandoned by the quarries and taken over by the fishermen.

The inlands, the tides and the waves.

Full time degree while doing a full time job.  You bite off more than you can chew before you realise what you’ve done.

Railing the pots – I call it knitting – winding round and positioning pots in the hopeful spots.

He performs a dance – 10 times a day. 83 pots fit perfectly on the deck.  60 pots fly off alone.

Whelks – snot in a shell – snot city hoovers of the sea.

The boys have to look after the crabs.

They used to have a bog pot for boiling the crabs in the back garden and the backyard would be crawling with crabs.  They scream when you put them in the pot.  Then after we went to bed, Mum and dad would stay up all night picking them and take the crab round to the resturants the next day.  They payed for a holiday abroad for us like that.

There’s money in crab & lobster. They payed for a holiday abroad for us like that.

Boys with their toys – I want to control the lift – driving the boat around the yard with a remote control.

There’s a lot more to fishing then people think, they have to have survival skills like first aid and fire fighting, as well as radio operations and marine engineering

I look after all the paperwork – the safety inspections.  I’m worse than the MCA – he wants to go home – anything else? he says.

All in a days work.

Where you been to?

the shout goes out – the sprats are straying we’re gonna shoot

its always at tea time! the grandparents get excited like kids

one third for the boat owner, one third for the net owner and the remaining third for the people

the competitions on, if you got a boat and a net you’re away

there’s a  bit of a shuff on

‘what would you know?’ they say, ‘you’re only a girl’ – if I’m only a girl I can’t do you washing then can I?

Where you been to?

Where you going to?

Down Under, up Top, up Tout, down beach, over town, out the Bill

not proper Portland me, born in Dorchester, shipped out to hospital to hatch

I’m new to the island, I’ve been here 12 years

Its really a tourist line.

Mina’s been here 66 years

came with the Navy when Osprey was stationed here

shops – Dowells, Drummonds down Chesil, 4 on the Under & 4 up Top, 4 bakers – Combens, Red House, 3 banks Midland, Lloyds, Barclays

Morris’s (Stuart Morris family) big shop, a department store in Fortuneswell

we had everything here we didn’t have to go to Poole or Weymouth

St Georges, Brackenbury, Cliff, Top Hill, Royal Manor

Cliff school is a happy little school

the boys from the Borstal used to clean the beach

St Peters a beautiful mosaic floormade by women prisoners from the Isle of White

before all these houses were built this was Verne Common the army were in the Citadel, whats now the prison, they used to march down verne Common on a sunday to the church and play in the gardens beautiful bandstand.

The choir stalls in the church were made out for the band.

its a lot of changes, I feel very sad about it, that’s what being old does, doesn’t it?

in the 1950’s it was hard to get a job if you were a woman.

I started as a pastry cook in the Naval service it took seven years to get my exams and become a clerical assistant then just before she retireed became a clerical officer.

women have got more important jobs these days

cleaning, baking,working in the laundry – women didn’t go out to work in those days

the war changed everything, women wanted to go out to work as they had to get on with it and take up the men’s jobs

war gave women a  chance to leave the island.

the coast was barbed wired and mined

Friendly people, place, sea, history –

Its like a magnet after a while

When you’ve been a away and see portland you know you’re coming home.

we had a train it was wonderful – from Easton and Underhill to Weymouth

There’s the Chesil beach trust where kids can go sailing for £5 – helps low income youngsters get into sailing.

there’s a plan for gas storage underground at the port.

sailors always called Portland the English Gibralter

I’ve been with the Royal Manor Theatre for 50 years, and stage manager for 20yrs – the first play was in 1949

it was an old church, it took nine years to make it what it is now

we just lost the last piece of common green , the officers field, theres no green down there now

queen victoria gave the land to portland – verne common.

When the navy left as far as i know officers field was left to the children of portland. – they used ot for spoirts days and football.

Skate park isn’t green is it? I t doesn’t make up for it.

you used to get on the bus and know everyone, thats what I liked so close-knit and friendly

we struggled in the 40 s and 50s after the war. Life wasn’t easy.
If there was a wedding, everyone woudl find currants and sultanas for the cake.

Down in Fortuneswell, a lot of the houses were built with stones on the road – poeple were poorer down here – you have to get the surveyor in to check your house isn’t going to fall down.

the tides always the same in Portland Harbour, it takes big ships

Queens coronation the fleet came here to practice. there were 3 battleships, 20 destroyers, all inside portland Harbour with flags and floodlit, there’s no fleet now

the causeway never had lights, used to be dark all round the island – you would walk back from weymouth in the dark and nearly fall in the water.

the flooding was terrific, they took it for granted in Chiswell – they opened the front door and let it out the back

i can’t believe what i seen, i seen a wave come over the masonic Hall splashing down into the square

theres police cars floating round the square

30 cars lifted into one big pile,

people had to be evacuated, we lived with excitement

it still comes over sometimes but it goes down under the pebbles

once you get to know out the Bill there’re some lovely little coves

Marie Stopes used to go naked from the lighthouse for a swim, we were only allowed to talk about her under the bedclothes, she loved Portland we gave her a lot of privacy.

When I go to the shop, I know I’m not going to be 10 minutes.

the old Drill used to be the dance hall. – saturday night the local girls and the army and the navy.

years ago we were quite happy with just fossils, universities opened people up to art.

context of education has changed so girls got the chance to go to university.

Lifes made up of everything not just sciences. You want a varied life.

Art is within people. You could sit there and dream and you;d be an artist.

when I came here I met islanders that had never crossed Chesil beach, never been to Weymouth

they worked in the quarries till they were no longer able – they were called slingers in families ‘gangs’ – when they couldn’t do the heavy work they came down the dock

you weren’t called Kimberlins then you were called a stranger

on the bus I was called a stranger, General Stone spoke up ‘she aint be a stranger she be one of we”

you were a stranger always

they’d flag a warning for the blasting, they’d come round with a flag – you’d open the windows because they were going to blast the stone.

Women weighing the fish in baskets – one basket is a bushel in weight.

the dust was terrible, I never got used to the dust

(clinking stones shanty – island voices)

the women had the fish baskets, penny a mackerel, I had to salt them down we didn’t have fridges

i think the fish have changed – we used to see the big black patches with silver flashes, there’s seldom a boat out there now

only one fishing boat out there for bait – bait diggers.  Local hand fishing is being brought back.

oh dear another thing closing, no more fresh fish we’ll have em after they’ve been to London and back now

the girls ‘a maid’, the boys are ‘nippers’

you’d have thought we’d walked em hills down by now

the play must go on

bereavement work for Cruse – cruse is the vessel that holds soothing wine

always a trough of water at top of Fortuneswell.

1 for quarrying  = number of profits made
1 for crushing
1 filling in
1 building on

‘tout’ means lookout

tout and the shout – drop the tools and go to the boats

quarry names – Suck Thumb, Fancy Beach, Inmost Hay, France

Families – Pierce or pearce???   Comben??  White   Stone  Gould

Wren tried to take the tax away and the quarrimen went on strike – he broke the strike by bringing in men from Purbeck.

The temperament of the Island is the weather.

men and women shared land ownership –

Sanson – Stewards – other quarrying names??

All variations of nothing.

Farming then quarrying –

bunnies, mushrooms, horse radish, watercress, apple trees – they make something out of nothing.

Bumpers – probably the stones used to rest grain on for the windmills
Pixie in the face of the stone at Bumpers lane

walk up to the back wall of the garden and then there used to be a 60 ft drop  – now its been back filled.

Officers field development – some say it was put there as it turns all business back to Weymouth.

PSQT – want to model consciousness – exploitative or constructive.
Portland Party was formed – they wanted the quarries to be carved not crushed.

Aggregate was ravaging the landscape a second time.

Whistling – you don’t hear whistling anymore.

the Portland Race is where two tides meet off of portland bill

it is very dangerous for sailing
seen as a local challenge
where amateurs often get in trouble
it is about 300yds from Portland Bill out of sea
I was taken here in fishing boat with a motor
when he switched the engine off
we shot backwards
that is the power of the sea
and the power of Portland
and the two tides meet either side of the island
where the sea meets
you can see it if you go to the bill
see it!!!
very like Tophill meets Underhill
Kimberlin meets Portlander
men meets women

it is called the Portland Race and looks like white horses

its good being able to do something you love
sailing is social, that is sailing, being by the water is amazing
the island’s special its got more pubs per person than many other places, I like the green shutters – the first one off the ships.
Traditionally women were perceived as unlucky in boats – to have a woman on board is unlucky
for a lot of girls they leave sport when they leave school and on the flipside – some of the men are doing a mens only pilates class
Old boats – like Falmouth working boast – too physically demanding for women to sail.
club/crew sailing is dominated by men
I ask the kids  – think about ” where am I going to be weekends and evenings”?
Claiming the word – spastic for eg. I call myself ‘spastic’ because that’s what I am
a lot of waiting, that’s sailing, a good book and a set of playing cards helps
sailing isn’t really a spectator sport, even when you’re sailing you can’t see whats going on
I don’t think Portland will change –
It’ll be an amazing summer for Weymouth.
Portland comes from working communities
If you can survive the winter, you know you’ll be alright.
25 knots, 15 knots, 5 knots, in all weather Portland’s amazing.
The Race is formidable and the bay is a natural amphitheatre
I can’t think of many better places to go sailing. its not tildal so its not so much about local knowledge as just sailing

my dad sat on the beach looking at the huts “Im haven one of them en day

some of them got beds

the huts wre first owned by the fishing families

in the summer we sit here so long we can tell what the time is

the workies (workingman’s club) every weekend) you had to get there early to get a seat. if you had a membership you could get a drink at sixteen. The quarrymen used to send the boys down to get a dink in for them

I was under the sea in sunday best, brown corduroy pinafore dress and flowery blouse, even in winter I can remember going nude the waves

we used to set fires and cook fish in the rocks

last week someone had to get rescued

we always had seagulls eggs, climbing up the cliff to get them, if there were 3 in the nest you didn’t touch em – 2 was ok. They lay 3 at a time so you don’t know how long they been there.

My uncle got killed on the cliffs going after seagull eggs up the Grove

down the incline we made a proper den with curtains from old clothes

natural springs – Jacobs well – we always used to drink out of the well, crystal clear water

you had to be a good swimmer out Hallelujah Bay

fig tree planted by Julies dad – no-one knew what it was, its really big now

good job it was sunday when the bomb went off as the school was shut

they had to go downstairs at the postoffice when they got fired at – everyone had cellars to go to

we always dressed up to go to Weymouth

we had butchers, banks, grocers (pics from Julies books)

when  they moved at the grocers they found big mortar shells unexploded on her mantelpiece. She’d give you a bag of fit (bagged up- damaged fruit) for a penny.

if you had 3 pennies you could go out all day – bag of fruit, Mrs King and sweets from Mrs Paveley and Mrs Gilpin (check spellings)

we said we were at Delias, we met these boys & they took us cross the fields on our bikes to Portisham & left us there. We kept phoning home along the way with excuses – we got back gone 7pm

you went to Black Barge or you went to Chesil

red house bakery – ‘any old cakes?’

my dad used to do nightshifts at the bakery at weekends and work at the quarry all week. working hand cranes from when he was 14 – 35. He couldn’t believe how easy it was when they had motorised cranes. He’s 80 now and always outside, weathered and brown.

They used to send him on his bike to get the dynamite – he’d ride through Easton with sticks of dynamite with the pins still in them charged to poke in the holes. The man who looked after the charges had blown off 2 of his fingers.

lots of people with one and a half legs – getting caught in machinery

anyone who was drowned was put in deadpans cottage till they were identified

there’s common graves at St Georges

jumping off Pulpit Rock , the tide had changed, their wetsuits were ripped to shreds, ??? rescued them then had to be rescued themselves

you didn’t have rubber rings you had inner tubes from the garage – everyone had scars up their sides from the valves.

Dad says they used it loot the wrecks

there’s a tunnel from the Cove to the printers

people had trap doors to cellars in their front rooms

we had to vacate the island for a week?? – bomb

one of the boys went off the cliff and their was a funeral procession to the beach ,  the ashes were being scattered & flowers thrown in and our kids were in the sea we had too phone down from the hut – move, move! I was crying (laughing)

people jump off at the Heights – theres been 7 or 8 people in the last seven years or so.

walking the crayfish round the pub

whales and dolphins get washed up

we seen seals at black barge

Underhill and Tophill

dad told he was the best one at the job, ‘not bad seeing as you were from Underhill’

rivalry, fights, boulders thrown down from up top

Underhill’s the riff raffia

dad used to catch the goats put rope on them & tie them to peoples door knockers

Portland Navy days you could go on submarines

Portland fair shut the whole road by Nikki’s down to Victoria Sqaure

wrestling, a caged lady with rats, bearded lady

boxing was big thing, proving who you are

all the kids got free tickets for the first day

if you couldn’t afford to get your shoes from the cobblers theyd still be there 2 yr. later.

we all had metal bits put on them to make them last longer & we’d make them click

the ladies of the night were at the dockyard gates

the lodge – victoria square – if you were drunk it was the last place – shall we lodge it? we called it ‘having lodge legs’

there was always an apprenticeship for boys, there was never anything for us

when the dockyard closed the shops closed

there were butchers, bakers, banks, greengrocers, clothes shops, haberdashery and a big department store

there was the Regal cinema , my granddad worked in there, thaw was a saturday morning children’s cinema

in the theatre when you go upstairs its a little cinema

strawberry rock – we’d jump off it and leave fish in the hole

my dad still never locks his doors, the boys were always losing the keys – no point

when they built these houses they put em up by eye

it doesn’t take much to make a place look nice

if you don’t fill your day, what have you done with it?

1982 was the last time it flooded, the first sign was the water coming up through the manholes

you can’t believe the force of that sea when it pounds, where it shelves off

it sweeps all before it, we get rubbish on the tides from south america

its all about quality of life here – you’ve got to go for quality.

the sea looks different every day.

Great grandmother taking in the washing – all by hand .

There was a pump in Chiswell.

Leaving shanty for all family occasions

under the old Portland law women had equal rights of inheritance as men

that’s auntie dot – she’s gone along now

exiled on a rock – a local stranger

You can spot the house thats prone to flooding because its got grooves by the doors for the planks.

They’d open the manhole covers in the hope the water would go down and under the house.

Sluiceways under the houses.

School lessons were at 52 High Street  when the school was bombed.

The Coastal watch was formed by deep sea mariners after an accident at the Lizard where 2 men died following the closure of the coastguard in 1995
12 hours a day 7 days a week  “eyes along the coast”
Portland Race is one of the most dangerous races in Europe
the island goes 6 miles into the sea, tides meet as well as the motion caused by the undulating sea bed
you could record the shipping forecast at falmouth coastguard

The tip – all the locals went to the tip to gather what the yanks threw out – boots, knives and forks
we got the Yanks lifejackets off the tip, we used to go swimming in them
my mum used to make our winter coats out of the army blankets
I had a dress made of black out fabric – I stitched in a marine badge at the neck for the decoration –
Cart track Barrow Hill – across the back of the houses
During the war they  went for 2 hours school on a Tues and 2 hours on a Friday – school in the vestry – the school had been bombed.
Hush hush there;s a barrage balloon in the quarry.
Underhill – ship got bombed  black smoke rising – the HMS Foylebank – 22 bombs hit the ship – she sank July 5 1940.
Every Monday Mum would go to Fortuneswell – shopping for trousers for the kids.
A german plane crashed and we jumped on our bikes to go check it out – but on the way the air siren rang out and we rode back fast as we could.
As the plane came down my brother was across the street and my ma shouting at him to get in  get in – you didn’t know if they were going to start shooting at you.
in them days they used to make medicines onsite you never had appointments – he had all the medicines lined up in the waiting room – he was his own dispensary. No-one touched them. I had to dust all the bottles and they were always sticky.
His wife used to use up all his petrol rations so he got on a bike. She was a bright spark – they always had tinned fruit and tins of biscuits.
The girls used to go down Fortuneswell when the Navy came in…
we called it monkeys walk – the Navy and the girls going up and down
They used to throw spalls at the incoming ferry.
The only thing I took on my back ever
the youngest so small you could get him in a milk jug.
The port was full up with ships – a sight to see
Weymouth’s falling to bits now.
Mother was a dressmaker – she would make a dress with smocking around the wrists and neck for half a crown.
The faster the treadle went, the faster she was singing
1937 first electric put up channel view
Our dad mended all our shoes.
Ma never wasted anything –
She cut down sheets for pillowcases
They say there are more pubs on Portland than people – but Women didn’t go into a bar
yet Mum scrubbed the floor of the Prince Alfred everyday
We used to take in laundry – for the army out there – the officers shirts and socks
Copper in the corner – ladle in cold water
A handful of soda and keep the fire going underneath
we used to jump over the garden wall and bring in the dried cow pats for burning the wash fire.
We’d collect any rubbish that would burn in the wash house for washday fire
We grew everything – you’d have the potato store – all different kinds for each different time of the year.
We had logan berries, strawberries. red currents  gooseberries – Weston Rd Allotments
The local councillor who collected insurance came by with a big bag of spuds – gotta get up weston rod – the’re spuds everywhere – so we got on our bikes and got our there nad it was our allotment  – a bomb had dropped and dug up all the spuds – the kids helped us collect them all.
– they say the safest palce to be is in a crater – bomb won;t drop in the same place, but The bomb dropped twice up there
You used to be able to buy your dough straight from the bakers.
Things used to come to your house – the person to sharpen knives and scissors, the dairy, the groceries – bread – all came to your door.
We made teas on the beach at Church Ope Cove – you had to carry everything down there – one holiday weekend, I made loads of cakes , got the lemonade from the pub  carried it all down there and then it rained all weekend. Nobody came.
Dad wouldn’t have a cake out of the shop – she would have to make it.
No one told me about child birth – I didn’t know what was happening – I felt unwell and all I could think of was to go up and down the stairs.
My waters broke – I had no idea what it was. My mother refused to come in the room.  The lady next door came in with me.

working on coastal path that completes the island – the missing link
wild weares – working with the museum on less well known area, where the coast path has shifted to the railway lines
‘island in peril’ now called ‘Portland living landscape’ – ridding the island of invasive plant – cottoneaster – cut , burn and move
suggested we might be able to link up with ‘harmonic fields’ east coast circular walk (as poss location for a singer)
Portland Bill is good as a visitor focus – (radio / singer)
interested in wild walks in landscape e.g. foraging
project ‘Wild about Weymouth’ – do nature in a different way, they’d foraged wild chives, nettles etc cooked in a dutch oven on beach

education and understanding our environment, like the students today
manifesting whats possible if we’re working with the heart of something
anything springing from that is immeasurable – the quarries are the heart of Portland,
a grounding of truth the source of materials
PSQT has been running 28 years
the connection of place with idea
artists bring new life to stone
a layering of time, time mapping – scientific, artistic and cultural
the industry were fascinated, they liked our ideas
Poem / talk by indigenous australian/NZ (?) – Stone is the 1st of the ancestors
Its the moment of creation – there was a great sound and out of that sound came life. Stone is the building blocks of life.

Education – environment – community – art  – pulled together.

We give our time and knoweldge and it comes back to us in different forms.
Grounding of truth – going back to the source of materials for 28 years.

in 89 – 90 Jonathan a  print dealer who lived on the island, and Philip King – wrote to 50 artists at the Royal college to come and do something – Phillyda Barlow and Anthony Gormley among them.

Completely connected.

Engage with this layer of time – past present future.

Written up in the paper – “Artists bring new life to stone”

Following the scientific, cultural historical and artistic,

Landscape and memory – connecting people to the land  – local and global

Tout’s how the quarrymen left it, the issue for me was to work with the environment it’s  unadulterated –  it’s of interest to ecologists, geologists. scientists

Understanding the landscape – where things grow makes me feel as a human being, I get a better understanding of where we are in the world.

Chatter – another quarryman nickname.

At the stone – they said you have a go. I hit it with all my energy. I was exhausted  – I really had to hit it with all my might – I had to raise the hammer over my head.

We had a huge fossilised tree in the quarry but it got smaller and smaller – they were selling it for £2 a bag in Weymouth. We had to get a lorry and move it out of there.

How to connect things – art making a change.

Collective thing,

Its a small project – it  all comes from one piece of stone.

Quarry Park – look out From Tout

1st conference – geologists, craftsmen, schoools, ecologists. artits. 1994 –

Theres a hole in the ground – who takes from here? and who learns from it?

carving as a process of connection

Accessible a linking thing – a connective force

working without a trace – I like leaving nothing behind.

Its about who surfaces – who do you want to surface? Who comes to the surface?

Refining yourself – each has their own psyche to deal with – life is a tapestry of journeys and interconnected experiences.

The world is about minerals.

Society isn’t made of money its made of characters

art changing things, connecting things – that’s the work I’ve done
looking out from Tout. artists can uncover the language of intuition and the ability to connect


One thought on “lines

  1. What wonderful thoughts and memories here. Was wonderful to read and puts the island into a beautiful context. Thank you x

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