Postcard to Cinderloo – A word of warning

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Oliver the Spy on the right

Dear Tom

A word of warning to you! Watch out for strangers with talk of plans for insurrection elsewhere and money to buy the lads a drink, especially those who get accepted, encourage action then disappear for a while. Check up on them through your known and trusted correspondents.

Andrew

Dying’s a strange experience Tom. I don’t think I’ve got long but I’ll tell you about it.

There I was with you all on the Cinder Hills, I could hardly chuck slag and clinker at the Yeomen I was laughing that hard at their antics. There they were, all dressed up in their fancy uniforms, wobbling about, hanging on for grim death on their old nags that they normally use for their carts and traps, the horses were spooked, prancing round and round what with our bombardment, the shouting and gunfire. One jockey, I think he was drunk went to cock his pistol as another horse barged into his and his gun fired and he shot himself in the knee! Then I spotted one of the Yeomen, his horse had partly turned away, about to bolt. He wasn’t looking at any of us, he just fired in our general direction, but the pistol was pointing straight at me and I knew I was about to die. I saw the flash and the smoke and the ball knocked me over, but it didn’t hurt as I laid there. Then I floated gently up above the battle and hovered there, looking down like a sparrow hawk. I hung in the sky as time passed and everything changed below me – oh, how they changed Tom! I haven’t time to tell you all but it looks as though our struggle for better conditions worked in the end.

I returned to earth on precisely the same spot on which I fell, but you wouldn’t recognize it, the hills are gone, replaced by huge markets in massive buildings. As I gently descended to earth I found myself surrounded by a group of well dressed, healthy looking men and women – who were talking about us! They even had poems and songs and they called our battle Cinderloo! Then a sort of Yeoman but not so flashy and not armed came and told them they had to move on, which they did and anyway, there was no slag or clinker anywhere about that could be chucked at anybody.

I found out that I had arrived in 2019, which felt very odd. After that I kept drifting around for what seemed like months, sometimes with some of the people I descended amongst, sometimes watching them, sometimes just hearing their thoughts, sometimes back and forth in their lives and times, it was all in little snippets and snatches so it’s far from a full picture, but you will be pleased to know that things have changed since 1820. I have witnessed great improvements in health, working conditions, pay, political representation, housing, however, I learned that the struggle remains a constant despite the progress. The battle is still against the same vested interests, the landowners, the industrialists, the newspaper publishers and their puppet parliamentarians and they are still using the same tactics. There are still the equivalents of Oliver the Spy. In fact, Parliament has just passed a bill to allow police spies to commit crimes and not be punished! So the modern day Olivers, like the original can foment trouble with impunity, and be paid handsomely for it. And this was passed with the backing of MPs my future comrades (as I think of the men and women I am drifting between) thought were on their side!

I learnt from one of my future comrades (who drew an uncannily accurate portrait of the spy) that Oliver was rewarded with a grant of land in Cape Town, South Africa in addition to his blood money. After Oliver was unmasked by the Leeds Mercury, Lord Sidmouth and the government decided to whitewash over their involvement by spiriting him somewhere a long way out of harm’s way and the public eye. In your time, 1820, he is no longer a direct threat to you but as he originally came from Pontesbury and knows Shropshire well and has links there, you should assume that he has left a network of other spies and informers. Be very careful, as you know from the events surrounding the Pentrich Rebellion it is in the interests of the government’s spies (and there are many abroad in the country) to foment righteous dissent into rebellious action in order to increase their reward when they report back to their masters. The more arrests there are and the greater the charges, the more they are paid and it cost three men at Pentrich their lives at the end of a rope. Don’t let this happen to you Tom. Watch out for strangers with talk of plans for insurrection elsewhere and money to buy the lads a drink, especially those who get accepted, encourage action then disappear for a while. Two hundred years on they are still using the same tactics. Check up on them through your known and trusted correspondents.

The gaps between when I see and hear my future comrades are getting longer and darker Tom and I can’t see or hear them so well either now. I haven’t learned what happened straight after the battle on the Cinder Hills and I don’t think I’ve got long enough to find out more for you but I hope what I’ve been able to tell you helps and keeps you strong. Farewell Tom.

Andrew

Andrew Naylor

Andrew Naylor is a founder member of Cinderloo 1821, an artist printmaker living in Telford, originating from Yorkshire

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