The aldermen of Morpeth met
To discuss their common weal,
For trade was good and commerce strong,
Their coffers deep and purses long,
Business had a busy feel.
And yet, they were not satisfied
Despite their profits being fine,
For greater income they would see,
Think how much better it could be
If Wansbeck was like the Tyne.
Those merchant men of Newcastle
Make good use of the sea,
Exploiting their commercial trips,
Because the tide brought in their ships
Right up to the city quay.
If the Wansbeck had been tidal
Transport costs could be kept down
As wind and water come for free,
But it wasn’t and never would be.
Then, Michael Scott came to town.
Michael Scott the wonder worker
Who’d bewitched the king of France,
Made trees speak, drew wine out from rock,
A mighty wizard and warlock,
The master of fate and chance.
Demons and sprites did his bidding,
He could turn night into day,
Some said he’d even conquered death,
So to bring the tide to Morpeth
Michael Scott just had to say.
He jibbed awhile at this request
For it was no easy task,
If there was something else, indeed,
Those aldermen might want or need
Then they only had to ask.
They’d each like a lover perhaps,
Or just wives who did not snore,
Recover hair, flatten the belly,
Have socks that were never smelly
Or wings so that they could soar.
May be, they’d like to be poets,
Or dressed in the finest clothes,
How about unicorns instead?
But each alderman shook his head,
No profit in all of those.
They wanted the tide in Morpeth!
Now, would the wizard accede?
He paused awhile and sighed a lot,
Drummed his fingers, then Michael Scott,
Quite reluctantly agreed.
But only the once could he call
This powerful magic down
It was such a hard spell to cast.
He needed someone who’d run fast,
The fastest runner in town.
He must be quick as a whippet
And should a stitch start nagging,
Not give into the pain or doubt,
Just run mile after mile without
Even a hint of flagging.
Young Alan Percy was summoned,
The fleetest youth they had got,
His heart pounded, his eyes glistened,
The while he carefully listened
To the words of Michael Scott.
“Stand at the mouth of the Wansbeck
And watch for the tidal race
As it enters the river, then,
Like being chased by desperate men,
Run for home at such a pace
“You keep ahead of the waters
Surging along at your rear.
You must gallop like a wild steed
Plunging on and on as you lead
That tide all the way back here.
“But, be warned young Alan Percy,
As you race across the ground,
No matter what you hear behind,
However much you are inclined,
You must never once look round.”
Next day, as the tide was rising,
At the Wansbeck’s mouth he stood,
Wave after wave did not relent
And he turned for home at the moment
The river was in full flood.
If he’d thought just a gentle jog
Would bring him to Morpeth’s bounds,
Such wishful hopes soon were gone,
He found a race for life was on,
Pursued by terrible sounds.
The roar of the tidal waters
Hardly a pace behind him,
Pressed his step as panic held sway,
He knew if he was swept away
No one would ever find him.
Worse, though, were cries of sea elves,
The souls of sailors who’d drowned
When their ships simply disappeared,
Down into the depths they were steered
And never a trace was found.
The waves were now their element
And their voice was the surf’s roar,
They’d overwhelm all they could find,
They rode white horses hard behind
The one who’d brought them ashore.
Alan Percy was running hard,
There were still ten miles to go
His lungs were bursting. His side pained,
And yet, at his heels, the tide gained
So he knew he could not slow.
It seemed the world was drained of air,
A pulse beat inside his head,
And sea elves in the urgent tide
Roared with fury, bellowed and cried
To see where they were being led.
Although he tried not to listen
Nor allow his pace to slack,
As he ran ahead of the surge
He became possessed by the urge
To, for a moment, glance back.
How hard he fought that temptation,
As if it might ease his plight.
Past Bothal village he sprinted,
From a distant spire sun glinted,
At last, Morpeth was in sight.
Yet, so tired was he with this race,
His young legs trembled and shook,
The sounds in the tide at his rear,
Screeching sea elves, filled him with fear,
He just had to take a look.
As he glanced over his shoulder
The elves mocked his endeavour,
Tide rushed back to sea in a breath,
The spell was broken, and Morpeth
Had lost the tide forever.