The Quaint Old Crow
(Song of an Ancient Inn)
In the days of old when our hearts were young,
We have quaffed our draught and have laughed and sung;
We have drunk to our local damsels fair,
With their melting eyes and their silken hair,
We have joked and smoked in the morning glow,
For the world went well at the quaint Old Crow
In our manhood's crime we have laughed to scorn
The foes of old John Barleycorn,
We have toasted our British "hearts of oak"
And drunk confusion to foreign folk
And success to our town and land, I trow,
In a foaming cup at the quaint Old Crow.
And as time went on and our hair turned grey
We have puffed our pints in the same old way;
We have talked and gossiped as old men will,
While the clock ticked on, and we drunk our fill,
Till our pipes we quenched for the fires sank low
In the cosy rooms of the quaint Old Crow.
And, at last, the thatch on our heads got thin,
And our eyes let little of daylight in;
And our ribs grew bare - 'tis the same today -
Like these crumbling walls, we were built of clay,
But the moon shines just as it used to glow,
When the world was young at the quaint Old Crow.
Arthur Bennett (1904).
The 'quaint' Old Crow referred to in the above poem (pictured right in Crow Yard) was one of three Warrington pubs accessible via a series of narrow passageways at the top end of Bridge Street (the passages were located roughly in the area now occupied by Skipton Building Society and Hancock & Wood). All three pubs were named after birds - The Crow (later the Old Crow), The Cock and The Swan.
Arthur Bennett wrote 'The Quaint Old Crow' in 1904 as a tribute to the oldest of these pubs, believed to date back to 1645, which was in the process of being demolished.
The piece also refers to "John Barleycorn". John Barleycorn was a fictional character in a popular British folksong of the same name. In the song, Barleycorn suffers a series of plights - "they ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in, throwed clods upon his head" - that correspond to the various stages of barley cultivation such as reaping and malting - all key components of the brewing process.
Arthur Bennett packed a lot into his 69 years. Hailing from Padgate (where a field with his name still exists in the shape of 'Bennetts Rec') he overcame a childhood illness to become what one contemporary called 'Warrington's second greatest citizen'. His achievements suggest he deserved this accolade: poet, politician, mayor (1925-27), magistrate, historian, visionary - all are words that can justly be associated with Arthur Bennett.
Although a chartered accountant by trade, words as well as numbers featured heavily in his life. He was a prominent member of a number of cultural/literary organisations including the Warrington Poetry Society (founding member), the Padgate Wesleyan Mutual Improvement Society (secretary), the Warrington Literary and Philosophical Society (chairman), the Warrington Society and many more. He also founded two magazines dedicated to encouraging civic improvement and the arts and oversaw the purchase and dedication of many open spaces, such as Victoria Park and Queens Gardens, for the use of the general public. Seven volumes of his work were published - 'The Music of My Heart', 'Sunrise - Songs', 'A Midnight Fantasy', 'Dawn - Songs & Other Poems', 'Love Songs to my Wife', 'Songs in the Darkness' and 'Songs of a Chartered Accountant'.
For more Warrington poetry visit the poetry section of All Things Warrington.