Seddon bard celebrates firm’s history

Bolton-based Seddon Construction has commissioned Manchester poet Mike Garry to capture the story of the family-owned company from its foundation in 1897 by bricklaying brothers George and John Seddon up to the present day.

Jonathan Seddon, managing director of Seddon Construction, said: "We're one of the construction industry's biggest family-owned businesses and our history has made us what we are. We wanted to celebrate our past as well as capture the stories of the people working for the business today and are excited to have Mike working with us."

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Garry said: "I worked on building sites when I was a student and earlier with my dad and although it was good money the conditions could be pretty terrible. I've found Seddon to be quite a different kind of company – people on site are treated with respect and I've been welcomed with open arms. I'm particularly enjoying the banter and the chance to talk to the guys on site. I'm not there to pry, I'm emphasising the artistry in what they do – I firmly believe they are sculptors and painters, it's just that their work is on show on a building site, rather than in a gallery."

During the commission Mike performed his work at the company's head office and held workshops as well as created his own library in the staff canteen with some of his own works plus poetry by writers such as Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon and Simon Armitage.

He added: "I want to change people's perceptions of what poetry is and to get away from the notion of poetry as being separate from the world."

The finished poem had its first public performance at an event held by the company at the Chartered Institute of Housing conference in Manchester last week.

Part of the Seddon Group, Seddon Construction has a turnover of more than £150m and employs 1,000 people.

It Runs Right Through by Mike Garry

History says so much about who we are today
Layer upon layer it slowly shapes
And Memory, it's the mortar of time
As it slow bonds, slow ties and slow binds
All achievements, adventures the bad and the good
And they flicker through your mind
And they surge through your blood
History, says the best things in silence
Acting like an invisible map or a wordless book to guide us

I've been weaving a web, binding a tie, sewing & stitching generations of lives digging deep down beyond the roots unearthing honest poetical proof
Shaping, forming, stretching timelines
So please lend me your ears and I'll take you back in time

In the year of 1897 the birth of the statesman Nye Bevan
The nation chose to celebrate the achievements of a queen
In the year of her diamond Jubilee
Not famed for fun or excessive amusement
More for her boldness and political manoeuvres
For sixty years she sat on the throne
For forty of them she was all-alone
A single depressed mother with nine fatherless kids
She engrossed herself in her family and politics
So as a memorial to this momentous date
A nation chose to celebrate
In parks, town squares and on village greens
A nation chose to celebrate by planting trees

The oldest living symbol of strength resilience and security
A living-breathing memorial to longevity
This axis to eternity
Nature's Gladiator – through wind rain and storm
Trees hold strong
They warm, shelter and protect and we show them our deepest respect
Growing, climbing from their moment of birth
Feeding the environment
Lungs of the earth

Around this time down a Lancashire Mine
A seed stirred, ready to break through this ancient earth
Climb out of the dark the dank and the grey
In search of the sun and the light of the day
A seed, educated in the land and the plan
Divided, subdivided and built roots underground
And with arch like strength, slowly underwent
A deep dark training before the assent
It's as if the journey that set deep the roots
Educated and nourish to produce such rich fruits
And in the year 1897
A seedling emerged from the earth and stretched for the heavens
"Going it alone" after years underground
It grew from seedling to sapling quickly in Little Hulton town

After breaking through, leaves from the tree mended roofs
Of houses, Churches and local schools
And the quality of the work meant their standing grew
And the slow trickle of jobs came through
In ones and twos
Then threes and fours
So as well as fixing roofs they were fixing doors, walls and floors
Then a hospital factories and building stores
It seemed the more the tree grew the more it was used
Branching out, growing stronger, fed from the roots
And onwards and upwards never standing still
Factories warehouses and cotton mills
And the tree was the most beautiful colour of green
Gas work, garage, bakery
Tram sheds hospitals new housing schemes
With the influx of hardworking local men
Who like artist in aprons sculpted the town and beyond
Singing the words to their favorite song

I'm the man for mixing mortar four and twenty bags a quarter
I'm the man for mixing mortar in the Seddon Yard

And they worked and toiled, built and grafted
Ensuring the young lads were always looked after These slow growing branches were skilfully copsed & pruned Employed on school roofs, town halls, swimming pools
And theatres for those attuned to the drama

The tree grew – strong bark – clean growing shoots
New leaves in springtime
And summertime fruits
Winter storms that bend and arch and blow
But the roots of this tree are deeply sown
And now they were building homes for souls
Living breathing growing lives
Sons daughters husbands and wives
First one
Then two then a street then a lane
And then they had built an enormous estate
Work was full on and things were great
However, landscapes change
Europe was being slowly rearranged
And men boarded ships, boats and planes
But the tree remained, kept families encased
And even after the wars and the cruellest storms
Rainwater from the heaven
Fell on cupped leaf palms
And the slow drip of warm spring rain
Caused shamrocks & clover to grow all around the tree's base
Fuelling the tree, helping clean shoots grow
And for a country battered bombed and torn
Rebuilding began
Homes for fathers returning from war
But for some families – father never returned at all
Lest we forget
But widows need homes, as do returning lost souls
And through cruel winds, depression, general strike
The tree remained true, honest, and upright
Helping old friends from underground
When other work could not be found
For this tree is a ladder and each branch a new rung
So kids who once on branches swung
They learned to climb
Did their time
Held tight – Feeding each other
Like family
Like brothers

Then a telegram from a King
Because shifting shores were organizing Europe once more
And new tactics, bombs from above
This land was blitzed
As houses towns and cities were blown to bits
By an onslaught that never question resolve
And for six long months, the darkest storms
And every night on a helter skelter
And the tree was used to build the strongest shelters
Bombproof chemical and munitions stores
Encased and entombed behind the strongest brick walls
And amongst the alarm the tree stayed calm
Stayed true and the spirit fairness won through

A new way of governing and that man Bevan with a social plan
And a fairer way of looking after the workingman
A way of taking care of his family's basic needs
Like the tree had done for over 50 years
And the youths who were invested in 20 yrs ago or more
Had climbed the branches and brought their sons and daughters on board
Who learned and like their fathers
Worked hard trained and guided
And they built homes after home for souls after soul
And this country was slowly reborn
And Macmillan shook hands & told us "we'd never had it so good"
He could see it in the branches he could see it in the wood

And on it went, continued growth
New ideas born out of new blood
And different types of families wanting different types of homes
The young, the single and people growing older
And by sharpening the cutting edge for over a century this tree's stayed fresh
And by caring for the roots of generations of family
Brought about a commitment and a keen sense of loyalty
And the wrapping of a thousand golden gifts
From mountain climbers and cycling trips
Partnership become friendships nourish over time
Through symmetry and synthesis and shared ideas of what is right
And that's part of the reason we're all gathered here tonight

I believe that this tree is unique
From formidable trunk to its outstretched leaves
People say it was the soil in which it planted
Gave it its foresight and its added advantage
And its position on the land in relation to the sun
Will ensure this tree will continue to live on
Others reckon its blood, genes and the DNA
That made the tree what it is today
But me
I know because I've seen and I've sewn stitched sliced and weaved
It goes beyond the roots, branches and leaves
The blood, the heart, the soul and the genes
I know
Because one night, after dark
I went to the tree with my sharpest saw
And sliced myself a single shard
Knowing it would not damage a tree so hard
And the shard grew back within a day
Undamaged, unscarred and free from pain
And upon the trunk and beyond the bark
I could see these words had been carefully carved


And like a stick of rock, it runs right through.

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