Skip to main content

William Smith

1790 – 1847

Warm-up: understanding the unknown (and kennings)

Some heroes are ‘forgotten’ by history, even though they have done amazing things!

One hero this happened to was William Smith.

When we put him into words in our poems, we can make him ‘known’ again.

This is one of the few scraps of archive material we have about William:

Birth record – Woodhorn

From records in London, we also know he was captain of a sailing ship which transported coal out of the North East.

In 1819, William sailed out of Blyth Harbour (in a ‘tall ship’).

He sailed across some of the most dangerous waters in the world before discovering Antarctica. William Smith was the first person to set foot on it. At first, people back in Britain didn’t believe he had found a new land mass. You can read more about this on William Smith’s biography page.


Working with these bits of information, imagine what sort of person William Smith must have been.

Now make a list of the things he would have found on his journey, or in Antarctica, for example: ice, sky, clouds, icebergs, whales, rock, cold, distance, isolation, white, waves…

Read these poems about other heroes, before you move onto the next stage with your own writing:

Now make a second list, combining your Antarctica and journey words with words about William Smith, for example:


Each of these is a ‘mini-riddle’ or ‘kenning’ about a mysterious man. Put your ‘kennings’ under the title ‘William Smith’ or ‘The man who discovered Antarctica’.

Your title is the answer to all the riddles!

What to do next?

Send us your work

We’d love to see your work from this workshop. Send it in using the link below.

Submit your work

Take a look at the next workshop

The next workshop is entitled: William Smith sends a postcard home

View workshop
Back to top