A Tillmouth poet is following in the footsteps of such luminaries as Sir Walter Scott by using the Battle of Flodden as inspiration for his latest work.
Noel Hodgson has written collections of poetry about the border country before, including last year’s ‘Below Flodden’, but has now published his first novel.
‘Heron’s Flight’ takes as its setting the build-up to and aftermath of the battle in 1513.
Noel was keen to try his hand at characterising some of the historical figures, especially the Bastard Heron, an outlaw who operated on both sides of the mediaeval border.
“I was interested in figures like King James IV,” he said. “He had a great reputation as a very modern king, but he was also intent on being a great military commander,
“My novel starts when the Earl of Surrey is commissioned to march up here, to the border, to resist the Scots’ advance.
“I was really interested in his character. This was a man in his seventies, mind you, who had fought at Bosworth Field, a remarkable military man. A 70 year old general nowadays would be noteworthy enough, but imagine it back then!
“He also must have had an amazingly forceful way of communicating, in order to command an English army that was outnumbered and badly positioned, with no artillery.
“He must have been an almost Churchillian character to do what he did.”
Noel went on: “The other thing that I wanted to do was to explore the families of Borderers in both camps. And I do go into quite a lot of detail about the grotesque nature of the battle itself.”
At the novel’s end, Noel said he wanted to bring about a meeting between one of Heron’s henchmen and a former opponent: “It seemed important to concentrate on some moments of humanity after the bloodshed and the scheming of the lords and King James.”
“The process was quite draining. It’s been with me for a long time, ideas popping into my head at odd moments, out on walks and in the middle of the night.
“Prose isn’t anything new to me. I have been re-reading a novel that I tried writing 20 or 30 years ago, based on my experiences working on a Northumbrian farm. I’ve been reading a lot of the Welsh rural poet R S Thomas recently, so that might be a spur to get back to it.”
‘Heron’s Flight’ is available now from local booksellers including Grieves of Berwick and WH Smiths, priced £7.99.