Abbey Whitby

A story written in poetic monologue about four generations of women from one road in Ashton-under-Lyne and their means of escaping, or not, through holidaying in Whitby.

This is a fictional story based on the real-life experiences of the young people I got to know when training to be a teacher in Ashton. As a child of (two) parents who are very much on board the ‘Benefits Britain’ train, these young people completely changed every perspective I had on what the welfare state is for, what it does, or doesn’t, do for the people who depend on it, and how crippling it can be for the young people it is designed to protect.

The story of Ashton-under-Lyne is particularly poignant: an old, traditionally working class mill town where many families are now in third-generation unemployment due to deindustrialisation and the move to the tertiary industry. The town is marred by racial tensions and a lack of cultural opportunity, and presents a bubble that significant numbers of young people find nigh on impossible to burst. This narrative by no means applies to every young person, or every family, in the town, but is the narrative Abbey Whitby’s story is inspired by.

Abbey’s First Abbey, 2002


She was a young baby our Abbey when we started going Whitby. 3.

Never been off Smallshaw Lane in all them 3 years, ‘cept to Asda

Off Mayor Street. Oh. No. She got a drive in his Mazda once, before

Never Mind.

What was I saying. Yes. Whitby. She were a baby. 3.

Funny, we went to Asda to get our butties and she pointed at ham.

Hadn’t started talking yet really but that didn’t stop her moaning and

groaning in the Nissan, it were. I don’t know why she were so quiet.

I can still see her gigglin as we. Sorry.

I can. Gigglin as she paddled through the freezin sea

And as she. We. Ate chips from the Magpie,

So hot she did this funny little breathing thing –

Hoh! Hoh! Hoh! She yelps. Funny.

An as a joke he gives her the curry sauce an says Ere

Ab, drink this grown up drink an she does and I slap him the dick.

But she, after the initial look of shock on her face, just burps and giggles.

I were well busy all the time though so I never got to read

To her and stuff but still.

We decided on Whitby because of the name.

Me Dad were the same. Martin Whitby

He were called, so I’m a Whitby, and Abbey. I’m not any more, come to


She is.

My point is it were a family tradition, sort of. Whitbys in Whitby!

Goin there in the car, on the train, whatever, all of us together once a year.

It caught me eye there were an Abbey there on our way.

Up 199 steps no less!

How could we resist a trip to take our Abbey up the Abbey?

Abbey Whitby Whitby Abbey we sung as we marched up them

199 steps, faces red and the Hoh Hoh yelpin back. We sung it, like


1 noise for each stair.

She were running round the rocks like no one’s business,

Her little legs moving so hard so she could get from place to place

As quick as you like.

God, she were so excited.

Either way, we went Whitby every year after that.

Me and Abs loved it. Abbey Whitby Whitby Abbey we’d sing

As we marched with our spades and our buckets and her rubber ring

Down to the beach.

Once, I think it were the time we were in the Mondeo,

We were supposed to be on the campsite for a week,

Ended up spending 11 bloody days there! It were so nice, so good.

Yeah, that were the best one. She were 7 then Abbey.

She started getting a bit down in the dumps if you like at 14.

She had the hump about this, that and the other and barely spoke,

Even though she were right able to by then.

Believe you me.

The stuff that come out of her mouth! I found it funny then. Me an young

Romeo marched around her and her face like a slapped arse

Doing what I always did. Abbey Whitby! Whitby Abbey!

Abbey Whitby! Whitby Abbey!

Abbey Whitby! Whitby Abbey!

Abbey Whitby! Whitby Abbey!

On and on it went until snap, she bursts out of it, screams at us


She were 15 then.

I carried on taking Abbey to Whitby 2 year beyond that. After

Romeo, it were never the same. She moaned and groaned just like she used to at the beginning but like I say it were different.

There were more. Nasty. Behind it.

And she’s not nasty our Abbey.

After them 2 years it got better.

She left school, got a flat down Smallshaw.

She weren’t so rude all the time though

She had her moments.

No, we’re not going again this year.

First off she grew out of it.

That were why she were a mardarse I think.

She did ask me a couple of weeks back.

Mum, can me an you go Whitby, just us, she says.

Which were funny because Dale’s the one with the Polo and how do we get there without a car.

Train, she says.

She says think how good it would be just me and you, doing Abbey Whitby Whitby Abbey up and down them steps.

The long and short is, no, I said.

Too much for me to be getting on with.

I can’t.

She’s actually there right now, Abbey. Whitby.

Saved up and went on her own.

Took her 6 month to get the cash.

I ended up asking, I asked.

Dale said no.

Too expensive.

He’s right.

She’s old enough to be there on her own.

She’ll have a great time.

Abbey Whitby Whitby Abbey up and down them steps.

I couldn’t afford it anyway.


What’s that say?

Work history?

Can I talk about that time I did work experience with Miss Hallow in Year 10,

I wanted to be a music teacher then.

Miss Hallow were so good, my favourite teacher by far.

Give me piano lessons for free.

I was gonna be a music teacher like her.

Then I became a bitch and she stopped looking after me and Mum wasn’t really

talking to me then either.

No? Ok.

Then what do I write? ‘N/A.’


And how about this -

‘Any further evidence to support my application.’

Can I put that I will work hard? I’ve changed from my GCSEs?

That I want to support my nan and mum?

To buy a car? To have freedom?

No? Ok.

My mum is called Margaret, which is a shit name for her.

Really old, even though she were young. Is young.

My Nan’s young too come to think. She’s called Jade though,

Which fits a bit better.

Last name Whitby.


What’s Occupation?

Oh. Well my nan’s retired.

My mum’s a full time mum.

No. No Dad.


When do you think I will get one?

I’m goin Whitby next week. So none then.

On my own. Saved for six months.

No, no mum — she’s probably too busy.


You been? We had a song to go up the steps.

It goes ‘Abbey Whitby Whitby Abbey’

Cause my name’s Abbey Whitby.

We’d sing one sound for each -

Yes. I understand.

Next Tuesday.

September. Thanks.

Nervous but excited.


Dear Mum,

Whitby is mint, and weather is brill.

I went up the steps and they seem a lot smaller now!

Tummy’s giving me gip though — felt it kicking before.

Went on a walk yesterday to Robin Hood Bay, it was long but good.

Maybe when it’s born we can come up here together all three of us.

I can learn to drive.

Ok going to go eat my sausage and chips — Dave at Magpie says hey!

Love you.



Robyn Whitby was born on 6th September 2017.

Mother and baby girl are doing well.