Does a boring Synod make for material for a poem? It does if you are the Revd Canon Dr Ian Stockton, the former Canon Chancellor of Blackburn Cathedral, and a priest of this Diocese, who has recently published both a volume of poetry, ‘Mindscape and Melody’ and a book of collect-like prayers entitled ‘Easter Cathedral Prayers For All’.

Ironically, given the subject matter, the book of prayers nearly didn’t come to fruition as Ian wrote them in an impromptu fashion and threw some of them into the wastepaper basket, but they were retrieved by a tenacious virger, (that's the Blackburn spelling of verger).

About a third of the poetry, written over a thirty year period, reflect Ian’s childhood growing up in a mining village in North Staffordshire in the 1950s, but there are poems about the many other places in which he has lived, including Scotland, Lincolnshire, Tyne & Wear and Lancashire. Other places such as Prague and Soviet Estonia and Ipswich get a mention too, as well as experiences of nature and people he has known.  

The prayers written during his tenure at Blackburn Cathedral cover events in the Church’s year, the seasons, as well as politics, homelessness and sport, and now back in Lincoln, he has added to the range of the prayers.  

Ian said: “Growing up in a mining village has deeply marked my life like the coal dust in a miner’s veins. I have happy memories of a childhood in the village of Silverdale when my friends and I would play on old slag heaps. Both my grandfathers worked underground, one in Ayrshire and the other in North Staffordshire, and our village had plenty of ‘characters’ who are still part of my mindscape.

"I grew up in cottages nestled close to the church, the school and the colliery. The poem ‘In the shadow of the pit” is one of the poems reflecting life there. People wouldn’t imagine it now, but our outside toilet was outside our yard and beyond our beaten earth open backs. It was a long way on cold, frosty nights.

“When I write about people it is always in a specific local context in happy or sad circumstances.  One poem is about an old collier named Joe, whom I knew as a child. I spent time in his garden, and he was an important friend to me. I called him Uncle Joe and he smoked a pipe, and I remember the smell of his tobacco. One day when tobacco smoke wafted across our suburban Lincoln garden, I was back in Joe’s garden and wrote poem about his presence. Other moments that have prompted a poem include sitting in a railway carriage or a wintry churchyard, playing cricket or being bored at a church meeting.”

As a member of Lincoln Cathedral’s book group Ian gave a reading of his poem ‘In the shadow of the pit’.  People asked him who the author was, and he confessed it was him. Now in retirement Ian has been able to edit his poems to produce the collection.

'Cathedral Prayers for All' contains original, concise contemporary prayers which were often written at short notice. He offers them as a resource for others in their praying and reflection.   

As a final note we should say that the boring Synod was not one held in Lincoln…

Ian’s books are available now from any high street bookshop or online. 

A copy of the book of poems, Mindscape and Melody, can be obtained directly from Ian for £8.99 or for £10 including postage. The book of prayers, Cathedral Prayers for All can be purchased similarly for £10 or for £11.50 including postage and packing.

Please contact Ian at [email protected]. He is also available for readings.