The Boy in the Park

I lie in the park and listen to the sounds of feet on the ground. They walk by as if I am not here. They probably do not notice me as I lie here. I hear the old ladies gossiping as they move from supermarket to bus station. Mothers taking their sons and daughters to the library or the shoe shop.  I lie here in the park and listen to children playing on the roundabout and swings.

I am in my tenth year now but have been here for three. Three years since my Master brought me across the water, freeing me from the poorhouse which I called my home. They said I was to have a family but he is no Father to me nor she any kind of Mother. Each day excepting Sunday we work. Apprentice is what I’m called to the folk who pay but I know I’m a Climbing Boy. Four or five times a day I wedge myself into the chimney and work my way up, cleaning as I go. I get no pay, just somewhere to sleep and whatever scraps get thrown my way to eat.

I lie in the park
with the plague victims and the poor.
I hear the children play.

The work is hard and the days long, and my Master is so very quick to temper. Many times he’s beaten me so sore I cannot work which itself results in another beating. Just two days ago I was so tired I nearly fell to my death or least certain injury. I left that chimney with nine feet to go and did not say so. He will find out I’m sure but so long as I have a Sunday to recover I should be well.

I hear him in the pantry, cursing my name. I know that he knows and hide under my sooty blanket in the corner and curl into a ball. He kicks through the door and stalks over towards me. I can smell the drink on his breath as he exhales with every blow.

I lie in the park and listen to the sounds. I hear footsteps on the ground. They walk past like I’m not here. I hear the buskers singing and the ladies gossiping. I hear children on their way to school. I hear Fathers playing football with their boys.

I lie in the park with the plague victims and the poor.

I hear the children play.


This is written about our local hero, Valentine Gray. He was found beaten to death in 1822, in a hovel about 200 yards from where I now write this. He was no more than 10 years old and was buried in what was the Elizabethan plague cemetery and is now a playground and park. His Masters trial for Manslaughter led to public outcry and the Climbing Boys Act which prevented young children from being sent up the inside of chimneys.  More information is available here




8 thoughts on “The Boy in the Park”

  1. This is very well written; truly captivating. I ached through it certain you’d throw in a humorous twist at the end to make it light. Heart wrenching a story as it is, too many youngsters today, especially in America need to realize what privileged lives they lead today.

    Liked by 1 person

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