Writings and Witterings

Social Media ~ The Knowledge


1952 killer smog London

1952 Killer Smog London

In my trash today, from Friends Reunited,
Came memories of Londoners’, blighted,
And thoughts of a yellow killer smog,
The 1952 London fog.

In the turmeric thick choke,
Caused by fumes, fires and smoke,
All wore scarves ‘round faces and throats,
And hoped they wouldn’t die.

They couldn’t see their hands in front,
Found, reaching blindly, the known fire hydrant,
Smog, acrid taste, texture of grit,
Touching the tongue as bitter spit.

Folk got lost just crossing the road,
Suffered severe coughing episodes,
4,000 people died in 4 days, still,
8,000 more perished, 100,000 became ill.

This air pollution event in UK history
Remains in living memory,
People lost loved ones who couldn’t cope
With the cloying, all-consuming choke.

After, fires burned not coal but coke,
(No, not the drink nor the white powder, nope).
The ’56 Clean Air Act was invoked
So people wouldn’t die.

Do I recall this? No, not I,
Social Media rectified my
Lack of knowledge that so many died,
In so very short a time.

Polly Robinson © 2013

From a prompt by Brian Miller at dVerse poets: Reaching the Masses ~ Brian asked us to write a poem from the perspective of one of the medias and into my Trash popped the info I’ve used in this poem ~ for sure this event sadly did reach the masses


37 thoughts on “Social Media ~ The Knowledge

  1. We had the same thing here. Clean air act was the only good thing Mary Harney did.


  2. … and apparently the Chinese are suffering similarly now … couldn’t believe how many people this affected.


  3. The internet can be very informative but also a double edged sword. I had no idea about The Coke Smog.


  4. Thank you for the reminder of this.great piece


  5. ugh…so tough…i haven’t heard about that …but that certainly is a big advantage that we have now in the internet age, that we have really high quality and well researched information about all kinds of events on our fingertips…


  6. Very nice. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio where the air was poisonous in my youth. Later, I lived in Chengdu (China) where the air was the same. We can change it — the media can help us see the hope.

    Very cool writing today!


    • That’s the most positive thing about our various communication tools, there are few places left to hide for those who should have known better for a long, long time.

      Thanks for commenting Sabio and glad you enjoyed it.


  7. A positive use, of many, of the internet…thanks for sharing with us . I vaguely remember that….just think of what people could do if the media would cooperate….and with cell phones and internet, crimes can be solved more quickly…lives saved in many ways…then there are the cons…lack of privacy etc. but it can be made better 😉


  8. it is intersting how fast we get our news now…a good and bad thing…informed but from a more raw perspective as well…getting impressions and feelings as much as the facts….the air pollution, ugh…i fear we may see moreof that you know….


  9. When I was working on my master’s of public health degree a few years back, this was one of the environmental catastrophes we discussed in our environmental health science course. So horrible.


    • It seems extraordinary to think that pollution was such a problem so many years ago ~ there again you think of the Great Plague of London and the Great Fire … continuity and change was something I studied for one of my degrees ~ fascinating stuff.

      Thanks for your comments, Carrie. Most welcome as always 🙂 x


      • Always enjoy reading your work, Polly. And I only have 90 minutes left of this magic convention before heading home. Phew. As my son is learning the latest card techniques, I’m reading blog posts. Seems like a perfect exchange. 🙂


  10. Polly, this is so strong. I remember how the city smelled here, when the steel plants were active. It was its own special kind of hell.


  11. I’m way too young to remember this, but it did form part of our history curriculum – although they didn’t tell us how lethal it was. Nce piece of writing, Polly, and judging form the comments, you’ve struck a chord in some people’s memories.


    • heh-heh Tony, you know I’d never doubt you 😉

      I was most shocked by the number of deaths linked to it ~ some disaster ~ and largely man-made. At least they did something about it ~ thankful for that.

      Good to see you thought it a nice piece of writing ~ thank you.


  12. Polly, I read about this event. Your phrase, “the tumeric thick choke,” hits hard, and is the perfect description. I also found out that the word “smog” was coined in London: Half fog, half sooty smoke.

    Thanks for letting others know about this tragedy. Those who do not remember history… right? Peace, Amy


    • I wondered whether this one would pique your interest, Amy. It’s a hard story to read. The thought that people are still suffering this sort of fog in some parts of the world is awful. And you can see, from the comments on this poem, that it is still very much about. That’s a disgrace. ‘Those who do not remember history …’ as you say ~ but really, there are few excuses for letting things get that bad especially with the methods of communication we have today.

      Many thanks for your comments.


  13. The smell of acrid burning coke is stifling. Both my Mum and Gran were caretakers for the NUM and CISWO I remember my Dad and my Granddad stoking up the boilers to run the ‘central heating’ of the day! I remember flues not working and we’d have to open all the windows and doors and evacuate for ages!!


    • OMG ~ it’s humbling to see the memories this post has brought back for people … both my Grandads worked in the pits in Wales and other family members in England. I recall the strikes in the 70s when so many fought to keep them open …


      • Yes- my Mum’s side of the family were miners. My first job was in the midst of the strikes. Difficult times – lots of communities became ghost towns after the pits closed.


        • Those were troubled days for so many ~ the three day week ~ baking bread ~ little electricity ~ my children were all small then so it was a worry ~ seem to think we were still in the grip of the threat of something nuclear too … such a long time ago now …


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