Almonte, Creativity, History

the millworkers’ steps revisited


If you were lucky enough to see Spinning Yarns: The Millworkers’ Musical at the Almonte Old Town Hall in November 2023, you may remember that it included a song sung by the millworkers about going up and down the forty steps to the Rosamond mill on Coleman Island.

Here’s the cast singing the chorus to that song at a rehearsal at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in October:


It was an amazing show that got rave reviews all around.

And listen to this:

When a newly minted replacement for the old steps opened to the public in 2021 (two years before the show), I wrote a poem (which I called the stairs) about the steps and the millworkers. Talk about foreshadowing!

It’s a bit ‘scary’ that the show and the poem (which unbeknownst to both Fern Martin and I, who were writing the play and the poem respectively on opposite sides of the country) echo the same themes.

(Wow. Good for  you for successfully navigating your way through those last two sentences lol !)

See (and hear) the echoes for yourself:

the stairs

by susan © 2021

Read here:

the sound of their footsteps
echoes softly through time
finds its way into hearts
like yours and like mine

mothers and fathers
some with children in tow
below to the river
and to work they must go

the stairs shorten the trip
from their homes to the mill
where they toil on machines
for their bellies to fill

they climb up and down,
morn, noon and night,
when the bell tolls
for that is their plight

did they come from afar?
have they always being here?
whom do they love?
what do they fear?

do their tears fall like rain
on the planks underfoot?
are they covered in fibre,
salty sweat or light soot?

what are their dreams?
how do they feel?
do they dance to a jig?
or spin to a reel?

do they talk as they walk
of the weather and friends?
how might they do good,
or with god make amends?

do they stop at the top and
look whence they’ve come
before they move on
to chores they need done?

when wartime visitors pose
in pressed sunday best
is it wool from the mill
In which they are dressed?

decades go by
and the stairs become worn,
from their place on the hill
the steps must be torn

what would ghost workers think
of the new metal way
where they are remembered
for the price they once paid?

would they marvel and point
at the nuts, bolts and screws?
or rest on the platforms
and take in the views?

Read more here:

Millworkers Staircase is in place near Textile Museum

A step above: Almonte Millworkers’ Staircase, Riverwalk project praised with provincial public history award

© 2023 Susan Macaulay. I invite you to share my poetry and posts widely, but please do not reprint, reblog or copy and paste them in their entirety without my permission. Thank you.

How much practice goes into perfecting a puppet show?


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