Basil Bunting

The Monk's Stone stood in a field to the west of Beach Road on what became the Marden Estate, near Preston Village, North Shields. There's a 'Monkstone Avenue' thereabouts today and the stone appears looking a termites' nest on the badge of the nearby Monkhouse School. It was moved to Tynemouth Priory grounds in the late 1950s or early 1960s. It was probably originally a boundary stone of the priory, but had a later inscription apparently commemorating a robbery with murder: "O Horrid deed to Kill a man / For a Pig's head".

The Monk's Stone is not to be confused with the Laughing Stone, described by Basil Bunting in Briggflats, which stands in Tibet. Those who gaze on the Laughing Stone are thrown into fits of uncontrollable laughter which drive them to death (Tibetans are immune because they have no humour). According to Richard Caddel and Anthony Flowers in Basil Bunting: a northern life (1997): "In a curriculum vitae, produced in 1952 Bunting writes that he attended the Royal Grammar School . . . from 1909 to 1911. He was to repeat this claim in later life; however the school has no records to support this". His son Tom certainly did, and was a contemporary of mine.

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