Samuel Laycock: Miscellanea (1).

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No. 1905, April 1864

Lancashire Rhymes; or, Homely Pictures of the People.

By Samuel Laycock. (Simpkin & Co.)

Undoubtedly a great deal of peculiar poetry exists in the life of the poor: a hidden book from which poets like Hood have but snatched a leaf or two.  There will be epics of battle compared with which the tale of Troy is lacking in human interest; dramas as full of fierce, wrestling passions as any that are shown on the visible stage; lyrics of love and affection faithful unto death; poems that lie closer to nature than imagination can grip; if we could only get them written out as they are often lived by those who have no suspicion that what they say or do would make poetry.  The writer who shall give us a glimpse of these possibilities requires to live the life of the poor. Those who write of the poor and for them whist living apart from them can at best make some pathetic appeal in their behalf.  But the poor themselves are able to see their own sorrows at times in other than a lachrymose light; they have that humour which dwells on the other side of pathos—the twinkle in the tear, and the spirit that will make fun of its own troubles.  Hence they can only be represented by a poet like Burns, who springs from them and is one of them; who includes the whole of their nature and call bring a smile of humour into the saddest face of things.

    Mr. Laycock is a far-off follower of the lyrist who showed the world that the human nature of the poor was not always sterile and stunted, but had a laugh left in it, and a keen, keeking eye for the absurdities around it.  Nor would he stand much chance of doing any justice to the Lancashire poor unless he had something of the Scottish bard's sound-hearted good sense and irrepressible humour.  His excuse for these rhymes is, that nobody has come forward to thank the contributors to the Lancashire Fund, and so he will try and do it himself.  This he does with great heartiness of feeling, if in very homely poetry.—

God bless'em for o'at they've done,
An' aw hope they'll keep doin' as well,
Till th' dark cleawd 'at hangs o'er's blown away,
An' we're able to do for eawersel',
Excuse me for writing these loines,
For it's no use aw conno' be still,
As long as they help us to live,
Aw'll thank'em, if nob'dy else will.

    In a 'Sewing-Class Song' will be found the true twinkle of Lancashire humour:—

We're welly kill'd wi' kindness, neaw, we really are, indeed,
For everybody's tryin' hard to get us o we need,
They'n sent us puddins,—bacon, too, an' lots o' decent
An' what they'll send afore they'll done there's nob'dy here
        'at knows.
Then, lasses, let's cheer up, an' sing, &c.

God bless these kind, good-natured folk, 'at sends us o this
We conno tell 'em o we feel, nor thank 'em hawve enuff;
They help to flind us meat an' clooas, an' eddicashun, too,
An' what creawns o', they g'en us wage for goin' to th'
        sewin' schoo'!
Then, lasses, let's cheer up, an' sing, &c.

We'll sich a chance o' larnin' neaw we'll never had afore;
An' oh, we shall be rare an' wise when th' Yankee wars are
There's nob'dy then can puzzle us wi owt we'n larned to do,
We'n gotten polished up so weel wi goin' to th' sewin'
Then, lasses, let's cheer up, an' sing, &c.

Young follows lookin' partners eawt had better come this
For, neaw we'n larned to mack' a shurt, we're ready ony day;
But mind, they'll ha' to ax us TWICE an' mak' a deol ado,
We're gettin' rayther saucy neaw wi' goin' to th' sewin'
Then, lasses, let's cheer up, an' sing, &c.

There'll be some lookin' eawt for wives when the factories
        start again,
But we shall never court wi' noan but decent, sober men;
Soa vulgar chaps beawt common sense will ha' no need to
For, sooner than wed sich as these, we'd better stop at
Then, lasses, let's cheer up, an' sing, &c.

    The author has plenty to tell us of the opposite side of the picture.  He has seen the suffering of his fellows, and cries "God bless 'em! how patient they are."  He bears testimony that the struggle has been mortal sharp for many:—

If they think it's noan true what we sell,
Ere they charge me wi' tellin' a lie,
Let 'em look into th' question loike men,
An' come deawn here a fortnit an' try.

    The following lines afford a fair specimen of that cheery spirit with which many of the poor will put the best face on the matter in circumstances that are comically rueful, and in the narrowest limits of life show a heart large enough to make room for all the little ones that may come, and find the softest, warmest corner in their nature for the latest of these small but hungry gifts of God.  The new-comer may not be wanted exactly, but then it is sure to be the prettiest!—

Tha'rt welcome, little bonny brid,
But shouldn't ha' come just when tha did;
Toimes are bad.
We're short o' pobbies for eawr Joe,
But that, of course, tha did'nt know,
Did ta, lad?

Aw've often yeard mi feyther tell
'At when aw coom i' th' world misel
Trade wur slack;
An' neaw it's hard wark pooin' throo,—
But aw munna fear thee, iv aw do
Tha'll go back.

Cheer up! these toimes'll awter soon;
Aw'm beawn to beigh another spoon—
One for thee;
An', as tha's sich a pratty face,
Aw'll let thee have eawr Charley's place
On mi knee.

Hush! hush! tha munno cry this way,
But get this sope o' cinder tay
While it's warm;
Mi mother used to give it me,
When aw wur sich a lad as thee,
In her arm.

Hush a babby, hush a bee—
Oh, what a temper! dear a me,
Heaw tha skroikes!
Here's a bit o' sugar, sithee;
Howd thi noise, an' then aw'll gie thee
Owt tha loikes.

We'n nobbut getten coarsish fare,
But eawt o' this tha'll ha' thi share,
Never fear.
Aw hope tha'll never want a meal,
But allus fill thi bally weel
While tha'rt here.

And tho' we'n childer two or three,
We'll make a bit o' reawm for thee,—
Bless thee, lad!
Tha'rt th' prattiest brid we han i' th' nest;
Come, hutch up closer to mi breast—
Aw'm thi dad.

    The author excels most, however, in his humours of local character.  He cannot do better than follow out this predilection, and he will find much that is quaintly natural it: the obscure nooks of human life, especially in his native county.  One of the best sketches in the present collection is his 'Village Pedlar':

Th' village pedlar's a jovial owd brick,
A merchant o' great local fame;
He goes trudgin' areawnd wi' his basket an' stick,
An' a few useful things aw'II just name.
He's needles, an' bodkins, an' thread,
An' buttons, an' bobbins, an' tape,
An' hair-pins for lasses to stick i' their yead,
To keep their hair nicely i' shape.

He's wursted a haup'ny a bo,
Blue-peawder, an' furniture paste,
An' capital mustard i' packets an' o'
If yo' think it's noan good yo' can taste.
Neaw th' owd pedlar ne'er gets eawt o' tune,
Tho' he's bother'd wi' o sorts o' foalk;
Iv they vex him a bit, he forgets again soon,
An' passes it off as a joke.

He's carried his basket so long,
That at last it's become like a charm;
An' he'll tell yo' he feels as if summat wur wrong,
If he hasn't it hung on his arm.
E'en at church on a Sunday, awm towd,
When his mind should be free fro' sich cares,
He's o' ov a shiver, his arm feels so cowd,
For tit' want ov his basket an' wares.

He's a christian i'th 'spite ov o' this,
Oh, awve often yeard th' owd fellow tell
That he thowt he could boast o' moor genuine bliss
Than even eawr Queen could hersel',
Earthly jewels one sees up an' deawn,
He will 'tell yo' must crumble to dust;
But he's livin' i' hopes o' possessin' a creawn,
At'll nother turn faded nor rust.

Owd pedlar, aw wish aw wur poor,
Trampin' reawnd wi' a basket an' wares;
Leavin' blackin' an' blessin's at every one's door,
An' tryin' to leeten foalk's cares.
When tha claps deawn thi basket to dee,
Whot a gloom will be felt o' areawnd!
Hot tears 'll stond tremblin' i mony a one's e'e,
As they lower thi body i th' greawnd.

Th' little childer 'at loved thee so dear,
To that spot where tha'rt buried will throng,
An' they'll say, wi' sad looks, "Th' owd pedlar lies here, .
Come, let's sing him a noice little song."
Then they'll deck thi green grave wi' wild fleawers,
Pat it closer to keep thee reet warm;
An' say, as they leave thee alone a few heawers,
"Bless th' owd fellow, he's tackin no harm!"

    Nearly 40,000 copies of these Rhymes, we are told, have been sold in single sheets; and with a word of caution to the author against a slight tendency to mistake coarseness for humour, we have to express a hope that his Rhymes may circulate as largely in their collected shape.








From The Saturday Review,


Kilmahoe, and other Poems.”  By John Campbell Shairp. London and Cambridge: Macmillan. 1864.

Lancashire Rhymes.”  By Samuel Laycock. London: Simpkin & Marshall.

THE two volumes now before us belong to schools of verse so different as to form a strong contrast.  “Kilmahoe”is a Highland pastoral, redolent of the warm, soft air of the western lochs and moors, sketched out with remarkable grace and picturesqueness, and peopled with a few human personages which, like the figures in a painted landscape, are drawn with no more force or prominence than will leave them subordinate to the general pictorial effect of the whole.   “Lancashire Rhymes“ are songs or stories of the life of factory hands, clothed in the homeliest dialect, and in verse of which the only beauty is its rugged truth and simplicity.  Mr. Campbell Shairp is gifted with high poetical qualities, and writes as an educated man for the ears of a cultivated audience.  Great sensibility to the charms of Highland life and scenery, careful and choice neatness of expression, combined with a fervidly patriotic appreciation of the musical merits of the Scotch Doric as a vehicle for poetical thought, mark every page of “Kilmahoe.”  And it is clear that the sympathies of the writer are not confined to the Highland life of the present moment alone.  He displays a strong attachment to the poetry and history of his own land, and obviously delights to feed a vivid and enthusiastic imagination upon the memories of the past.  It is hardly to be doubted that, whatever his political judgment may be, Mr. Shairp is, in artistic sentiment and sympathy, more of a Jacobite than a Whig, and more of a clansman than either.  Mr. Laycock busies himself and his readers with the circumstances and work of the Manchester to-day.  What is nearest to the thoughts of a striving mill-hand, in or out of work, is the home and the daily life of himself and his family.  His history is bound up, not with the deeds or the habits of his forefathers, but with the machinery and materials which provide him labour and maintenance, and with the masses of similarly situated human beings who are labouring alongside of him.  Whatever poetry is to exercise any influence over his character, or to lighten up the ways of his existence, must be drawn from something in or close to the circle of circumstances in which that existence revolves.  The best proof that verses marked with the sterling homely strength of Mr. Laycock’s “Lancashire Rhymes” do find their way to the heart of the Lancashire weaver is to be found in the fact that forty thousand copies of these particular poems had been sold in single sheets before the author collected them into a volume.  The audiences to which Mr. Shairp and Laycock respectively appeal are as distinct as the dialects and rhythm of their verses.

    “Kilmahoe” is written in a narrative form, in lyrical cantos of various metre.  It embraces the history of the last genuine highland laird and lady of an estate somewhere on the coast of Kintyre, and that of their children.  Narrow and isolated as the topic may seem, nobody who has ever witnessed an instance of the singular and touching loyalty with which the Highlander even now clings to the names or faces of those whom he still holds to be the true owners of the soil which has been sold to the grasping Southron or Lowlander, will say that it is a topic incapable of being treated with strong pathos and originality.  It is easy to laugh at the blatant absurdity of the grievances of the Scottish lion, when they are put forward by Professor Blackie in a plaint of which the climax is that “a London brewer shoots the grouse, a lordling stalks the deer.”  But although the rule that poor landowners make way for rich capitalists runs, and must run, its course in the highlands as elsewhere, and though the change will in time work out or render artificial the old sentiment of clanship and local affection, it would be a loss if no record were kept of the gradually vanishing state of society and feeling.  Mr. Shairp points to the plan of his poem in a graceful dedication, as intended to illustrate a manner of life which prevailed in the Lower Highlands during the youth of his own father, but which has now passed away.  The scene opens in the declining age of the old laird of Kilmahoe who remembered ‘45, when, though his heart was rather with Prince Charlie than King George, he had been out under Argyle, and

                  “True to clanship’s laws,
His chieftain followed, not the cause.”

Since then, he had lived a quiet life on his own lands among the cotters and fishermen of Kintyre, doing patriarchal justice and giving friendly help, constant at kirk and at market, overlooking and guiding the material and spiritual life of Kilmahoe.  Two pretty little figures of children, Moira and Marion, his two youngest daughters, are seen playing round him as his strength ebbs day by day; and when his widow is left alone to guide the farm and the household, the same two little figures are with her early and late, on the plough-lands by the sea, on the hill among the herd and the flock, watching the kelp gathered in on the shore, moving through dairy, barn, and byre, and at night learning the use of spindle and spinning-wheel.  Their brothers are away seeking their fortune in the world, with the vain hope of some day paying off all incumbrances and leaving the estate clear to the eldest.  The poem follows the two girls from their childhood to their full growth, through scenes in which, as we have said, they are rather subordinate idyllic figures than substantial personages.  The real strength of the work lies in the truth of its landscape, and in the clearness of detail and high purity of feeling with which Mr. Shairp’s imagination has shadowed forth the daily life and occasional adventures of the two Highland maidens.  As time goes on, Moira leaves Kilmahoe for the East, as the bride of an Indian officer who had made himself a name at Laswarry and Bhurtpore.  Years later, she returns to settle in a Lowland home, where she is joined by her sister and old playmate.  Kilmahoe has passed into strangers’ hands, and their years are henceforth to be spent elsewhere than upon the highland braes.  The last canto, marked by a grave and graceful sweetness, tells under the title of “Iagathering” the close of both lives.  Moira dies in the Scotch Lowlands.  Marion, the last of her family, exiles herself still further on the call of some duty, and comes south to England.  There—

“—when the fifth ripe autumn had come round,
 Beside another than her childhood’s sea,
 ‘Mid English graves a peaceful place she found
          ‘Neath the churchyard elm tree.”

“So, sundered wide, yet one in heart, they take
 Their quiet rest, till dawn that blessed hour,
 When life’s long-gathering result shall break
          Into immortal flower.”

    Such, in brief, is the scheme of ”Kilmahoe”—a scheme which perhaps hardly gives sufficient indication of the abundance of singularly graceful pictures with which it is filled.  Highland landscapes, however beautifully conceived and drawn, are too extensive to be reproduced in our pages; but whoever reads “Kilmahoe” for himself can hardly fail to recognize Mr. Shairp’s accuracy and force in painting the scenes he loves so well.  Every sharp stroke of outline, every delicate touch of colour, is given with the truth of a mind which has concentrated its imagination and its enjoyments upon the particular life and landscape of the Scotch hills.  Mr. Shairp is well known apart from his volume of Highland poems, as a man of wide and cultivated talents and sympathies; but it is clear that the Highlands are his passion, as much as they ever were of the Scot whose heart was there in the old song.  We should be sorry to trust Mr. Shairp in a foreign country within the hearing of “Lochaber no more.”  Even the Border airs affect him powerfully, if we may judge from a charming little song on the theme of “The Bush aboon Traquair:"—

         “Will ye gang wi’ me and fare
          To the bush aboon Traquair?
 Owre the high Minchmuir we’ll up and awa’,
          This bonny summer noon,
          While the sun shines fair aboon,
 And the licht sklents saftly doun on holm and ha’.

         “And what would ye do there,
          At the bush aboon Traquair?
 A lang driech road, ye had better let be,
          Save some auld skrunts o’ birk
          I’ the hillside lirk,
 There’s nocht i’ the warld for man to see.

         “ But the blithe lilt o’ that air,
          ‘The Bush aboon Traquair,’
 I need nae mair, it’s eneuch for me;
          Owre my cradle its sweet chime
          Cam’ sughin’ frae auld time,
 Sae tide what may, I’ll awa’ and see.

         “And what saw ye there
          At the bush aboon Traquair?
 Or what did ye hear that was worth your heed?
          I heard the cushies croon
          Through the gowden afternoon,
 And the Quair burn singing doun to the Vale o’ Tweed.

         “And birks saw I three or four,
          Wi’ gray moss bearded owre,
 The last that are left o’ the birken shaw,
          Whar mony a simmer e‘en
          Fond lovers did convene,
 Thae bonny, bonny gloamins that are lang awa’.

         “Frae mony a but and ben,
          By muirland, holm, and glen,
 They cam’ ane hour to spen’ on the greenwood sward;
          But lang hae lad an’ lass
          Been lying ‘neth the grass,
 The green, green grass o’ Traquair kirkyard.

         “They were blest beyond compare,
          When they held their trysting there,
 Amang thae greenest hills shone on by the sun
          And then they wan a rest,
          The lownest and the best,
 I' Traquair kirkyard when a’ was dune.

         “Now the birks to dust may rot,
          Names o’ luvers be forgot,
 Nee lads and lasses there ony mair convene;
          But the blithe lilt o’ yon air
          Keeps the bush aboon Traquair,
 And the luve that ance was there, aye fresh and green.”

In plain English, if there are any ”skrunts of birk” or remnant of an old birchwood upon the moor over Traquair, which by an intelligent antiquarian may he plausibly identified with the “bush” of the song, there is nothing to see there.  Mr. Shairp’s description will probably not persuade many less enthusiastic pedestrians to try the ”lang driech road” over the Minchmuir.  Yet his sentiments and his song are justified nevertheless.  Even where the blithe lilt of the air is not known, its indefinitely mystical and musical title throws a halo of romance over the spot which it would be difficult to interpret in a truer or simpler form than that in which it is clothed in these lines.

    Mr. Laycock, as we said, takes his subjects from the life of crowded Lancashire towns and like Mr. Edwin Waugh, whose Lancashire songs are very similar in style and character, he finds a sympathizing public among those of and for whom he writes.  Lads and lasses do “convene” in his pages, but they are the rough and wide-awake Lancashire lads and the sharp, neat-handed, busy Lancashire lasses, very different in their manners and their ideal of comfort from the frequenters of the bush aboon Traquair.  The griefs of life are not the separations from the scenes or friends of childhood, but the difficulties of getting on through life at all.  Nobody in Kilmahoe need have cared, except for the sake of humanity, if an internecine war had raged over half the continent of North America for twenty years; but the personages of Mr. Laycock’s rhymes are “welly o’ knock’d eawt o’ tune” by the stoppage in the supply of the raw material for their looms.

“You Yankees may think it rare fun,
 Kickin’ up sich a shindy o’ th’ globe,
 Confound ‘em, aw wish they’d get done,
 For they’d weary eawt th’ patience o’ Job!”

are words which express the sentiments of a good many of his readers as they bungle among the unaccustomed fibre of middling Surats, or wait and starve without even Surats to finger.  The following lines are clearly drawn from the life:—

“Confound it! aw ne’er were so woven afore,
 Mi back’s welly broken, mi fingers are sore;
 Aw’ve been starin’ an’ rootin’ among this Shurat,
 Till awm very near getten as bloint as a bat.

“Every toime aw go in wi’ mi cuts to owd Joe,
 He gies mi a cursin’, an’ bates mi an' o;
 Aw’ve a warp i’ one loom wi’ boath selvedges marr’d
 An’ th’ other’s as bad for he’s drest it to’ hard.

“Aw wish aw wur fur enuff off, eawt o’ th’ road,
 For o’ weavin’ this rubbitch awm getten reet stowd;
 Aw’ve nowt i’ this world to lie deawn on but straw,
 For aw’ve only eight shillin’ this fortni’t to draw.

“Neaw aw haven’t mi family under mi hat,
 Aw’ve a woife an’ six childer to keep eawt o’ that;
 So awm rayther among it at present yo’ see,
 Iv ever a fellow wur puzzled, it’s me!

“Mony a toime i’ mi’ loife aw’ve seen things lookia’ feaw,
 But never as awkard as what they are neaw
 Iv there isn’t some help for us factory folk soon,
 Aw'm sure we shall o’ be knock’d reet eawt o’ tune.

“Come give us a lift, yo’ ‘at han owt to give,.
 An’ help yo’re poor brothers an’ sisters to live;
 Be kind, an’ be tender to th’ needy an’ poor,
 An’ we’ll promise when th’ toimes mend we’ll ax yo’ no moor.”

The “Sewing Class Song” is a glimpse at the brighter side of the web:—

“Come, lasses, let’s cheer up, an’ sing, it’s no use lookin’ sad,
 We’ll mak’ eawr sewin’ schoo’ to ring, an’ stitch away loike mad,
 We’ll try an’ mak’ th’ best job we con, o’ owt we han to do,
 We read an’ write, an’ spell an’ kest, while here at th’ sewin’ schoo’.
         Then, lasses, let’s cheer up, an’ sing,
         It’s no use lookin’ sad.

“Ewar Queen, th’ Lord Mayor o’ London too, they send us lots o’ brass,
 An’ neaw, at welly every schoo’, we’ve got a sewin’ class
 We’n superintendents, cutters ewart, an’ visitors an o;
 We’n parsons, cotton mesturs, too, come in to watch us sew.
         Then, lasses, etc.

“God bless these kind, good-natured folk, ‘at sends us o this stuff,
 We conno tell ‘em o we feel, nor thank ‘em hawve enuff;
 They help to find us meat an’ clooas, an’ eddicashun, too,
 An’ what creawns o’, they gi’en us wage for goin’ to th’ sewin’ schoo’.
         Then, lasses, etc.”

    Here are some stanzas from a new form of the old contrast between Lazarus and Dives, written in a manly and good-natured tone, but without ostentatious magnanimity:—

“Tha’rt livin’ at thi country seat,
     Among o th’ gents an’ nobs;
 Tha’s sarvant girls to cook thi meat,
     An’ do thi othi jobs.
 Awm lodgin’ here wi’ Bridget Yates,
     At th’ hut near th’ ceaw-lone well;
 Aw mend mi stockin’s, pill th’ potates,
     An’ wesh mi shurts misel’.

“If tha should dee, there’s lots o’ folk
     Would fret an’ cry no deawt;
 When aw shut up they’ll only joke,
     An’ say, ‘He’s just gone eawt,—
 Well, never heed him, let him go,
     An’ find another port;
 We’re never to a chap or two,
     We’n plenty moor o’ th’ sort.’”

The moral is not a hope for the reversal of the relative positions of the two, merely for their being equalized in a future state:—

“Wi’ o eawr fauts forgiven,
 P’rhaps thee an’ me may meet again,
 An’ boath shake honds I’ heaven.”

    Throughout the volume there is nothing unwholesome or of questionable tendency.  None of Mr. Laycock’s rhymes would irritate class-prejudice, or turn the thoughts of his readers to narrowness or bitterness.  If their local popularity is genuine, it says a good deal for the kindly and manly character of the Lancashire weaver.




Papers of the Manchester Literary Club,

Vol. XVII.

THE poetry of the Lancashire dialect has been so closely identified with the name and fame of Edwin Waugh, that we are apt to forget that he had worthy comrades and fellow-labourers in the same fruitful field.  The literature of the Lancashire dialect is extensive, and stretches back for a couple of centuries, if, indeed, a greater antiquity cannot be claimed for it, but the advent of Waugh as a painter of the homely life of the people was the beginning of a new era, and both in prose and verse there sprang into being a host of illustrators and expounders of similar themes to those which he had made so popular.  This was inevitable and by no means to be regretted.  Some of the effusions that thus challenged public favour were paltry, some were foolish, a few were coarse, but none were immoral, and having served their turn, and helped to amuse or to instruct the public to whom they were addressed, they have for the most part passed into forgetfulness, or are only remembered by the scholar who is seeking to elucidate the history of the language.  Some of them deserved a better fate, and their authors should have at least a modest niche secured for them in our local temples of fame.  Waugh challenged the first position both as a prose painter of Lancashire scenery (and in this he has had absolutely no peer), as a describer of Lancashire character, and as an exponent in poetry of the best there is in the characteristics of the people.  In prose he had a younger rival in Ben Brierley, who, if he did not approach him in the deeps of humour and pathos, had more skill in the construction of a plot and in the technique of story-telling.  In verse Brierley has not done much, though in the "Weaver of Wellbrook" he has shown a rich and philosophical spirit, and in "Waverlow Bells" has written a poem which few, I hope, can read without emotion.  Brierley, however, elected to make his mark as a story-teller, and he has made it so that all may see.  Among the crowd of verse-writers who followed in the train of the success of Waugh's "Come whoam to thi childer an' me," none have attained a greater or more deserved popularity than Samuel Laycock.  The impetus given to dialect writing by the exquisitely finished picture of home life in the famous lyric just named lasted for at least a quarter of a century; and perhaps those of us who can remember the thrill of pleasure which ran through Lancashire at its appearance, and at the appearance of Brierley's "Day Out," are better able to understand the strength of the new force then introduced into the social and intellectual life of the County Palatine.  Yet Laycock has so much individuality, and differs in so many and important respects from the elder bard, that he would doubtless have found some mode of expression.  Fortunately he came at a time when the public of Lancashire were prepared to listen and appreciate.  I am afraid, however, that the present generation are not so familiar with his best work as they should be.

    It is nearly thirty years since the dark cloud from the American war overshadowed the whole of Lancashire, and turned busy hives of industry into silent wastes.  It was a time to try men's souls.  At one stroke, men whose only riches were hands willing to work, saw starvation staring them in the face.  The factory chimneys were smokeless, and too often the cottage hearth was fireless.  The clatter of the busy looms was stopped.  Unwelcome leisure reigned supreme, and pay-day was abolished.  The hardworking, careful, striving artisans and factory-workers suffered most.  One by one their household treasures were dismantled, and sold to pay for food and shelter.  The poor man's prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread," acquired a new and intenser meaning as it went up from the hearts and homes of the Lancashire poor.  But the independent spirit of the people did not fail them, and in the darkest days of the Cotton Famine they never lost the hardy humour that can jest at misfortune, that can wrap up a kindly action in a rough phrase, and that sometimes, at least, only laughs merrily, that it may avoid the unaccustomed tears.  Such was the situation of a brave, industrious, and high-spirited people when the splendid generosity of the British nation came to their aid, and the Cotton Famine Relief Fund tided over a difficulty greater than had yet been encountered in the whole course of the industrial history of the nation.  It was then that Laycock made his appearance as a writer of Lancashire verse.  He is emphatically the Laureate of the Cotton Famine, a position for which his previous life had painfully prepared him.  His biography is one of a kind happily not uncommon, a sober record of hard work, of industrious striving, of self-culture and unostentatious right living.  He was born at Marsden, on the 17th of January, 1826, and, as he was the child of poor parents, he had to begin the hard work of life at the age of nine.  With the exception of very few and very irregular attendances at a day school, when he was seven years old, Laycock's education is the fruit of the Sunday School, which in the manufacturing districts has been so potent and so beneficial a social force.  One thing his teachers did for him, which the day schools too often fail to do now, they taught him to write a hand that is clear, fluent, and legible.  And honour is due to these good men who had the courage to shock their Sabbatarian neighbours by teaching writing as well as reading on the Sunday.  Marsden Sunday School gave us Sam Laycock, and I, for one, am grateful for the gift.  Apparently, they not only taught him to read and write, but they taught him to love knowledge.  Hence the efforts at self-education, which were made in spite of the daily demands of a toil that began at six in the morning and did not cease until eight at night.  In 1837 the Laycock family removed to Stalybridge, and until the Cotton Famine the life of Samuel Laycock was that of the ordinary cotton worker, who unites to industrious activity a desire to feed the mind as well as the body.  Such men have never been uncommon amongst our working population, though doubtless, in the majority of cases, they have, in character, been receptive rather than creative.  Now and then in this class—as in all other classes—a man arises who can express what the others can only dumbly feel—and then we have a poet.  For sixteen years Laycock was a cotton weaver, then he was a cloth looker at Dukinfield, when he and thousands of others were thrown out of employment by the sudden stoppage of the mills.  King Cotton's vassals were left to shift for themselves, and to watch with curious eyes the great struggle for human freedom that was going forward on the huge battle plains of America.  Laycock's first verses had been written as long ago as 1852, and he had even ventured into print in 1856.  His rhymes, at first, had only a limited circulation, but the lack of other employment made him the vendor of his own poetical wares.  The mediaeval minstrel adopted a course identical in principle though somewhat different in form.  Laycock's verses, printed as sheet ballads, had a very large sale, for in 1864 it was stated that 40,000 copies had been sold.  Selections from them in book form have also been popular, but at the present moment they are entirely out of print.  In addition to his verses, Mr. Laycock has written some prose sketches of Lancashire character, but these, although amusing, do not call for any lengthened comment now.  When we come to examine Laycock's claims as a poet, perhaps the most surprising matter is the extent of his literary baggage.  A certain facility of rhyming has led him to adopt that form for epistles to friends—acknowledgment of complimentary recognition, and such like matters.  Then this reputation for facility has brought him into request as a writer of occasional verses for all sorts of celebrations, and he has been expected to plead the cause of bazaars, to welcome the coming, or to speed the parting pastor, to write hymns for the Whit-week celebrations of the Sunday schools, and addresses for temperance gatherings and Good Templar lodge festivals.  These having served their laudable temporary purposes, may be put aside.  What remain are poems having historic value in relation to the Cotton Famine, poems which show a wonderful skill in the portrayal of the Lancashire character, and poems in which there is a direct ethical teaching—sometimes embodying a very homely philosophy, sometimes a very lofty ideal, and always a sincere sympathy with human effort for the improvement of the world and the increase of the sum of general happiness.  Laycock is a town poet; he thinks of men, and sings their joys and sorrows; their lowly needs and lofty aspirations.  With one or two striking exceptions—the result no doubt of his communings with the ocean and the heavens during his long residence by the seaside at Blackpool—the element of scenery enters very little into the composition of his verse.  With Pope he believes that "the proper study of mankind is man," and of man he is a keen but a kindly critic.

    A writer in 1864, in the Saturday Review—a periodical which has always shown a critical but generous appreciation of the dialect poets of the county—singled out the "Surat Song" and the "Sewing-class Song" as clearly drawn from the life, and showing the dark and the lighter side of the web.  This last-named is of value for its hearty expression of the gratitude felt by the operatives for help that was given in a manner that interfered as little as possible with their spirit of independence and self-respect.

Come lasses, let's cheer up an' sing, it's no use looking sad,
We'll mak eaur sewin' schoo' to ring, an' stitch away loike mad;
We'll try an' mak best job we con, o' out we han to do,
We read an' write, an' spell and kest, while here at th' sewin' schoo'.

.            .            .            .            .            .            .            .            .            .            .

God bless these kind good-natured folk, 'at sends us o this stuff,
We conno tell 'em o we feel, nor thonk 'em hauve enuff;
They help to find us meat, an' cloas, an' eddicashun, too,
An' what creawns o, they gi'en us wage for goin' to t' sewin' schoo'.

.            .            .            .            .            .            .            .            .            .            .

Young fellows lookin' partner's eawt had better step this way,
For neaw we'n larned to mak a shirt we're ready ony day;
Bu' mind, they'll ha' to ax us twice and mak a deal ado,
We're gettin' rayther saucy neaw, wi' goin' to the sewin' achoo'.

    The same sentiment of grateful acknowledgment is to be found in—

"God bless 'em, it shows they'n some thought."

The whole of Mr. Laycock's pieces bearing upon this dark period have a distinct value as documents of social history.

    In the poems devoted to the delineation of character there is a very unusual power of rapid and vivid sketching.  The inhabitants of "Bowton's Yard" are brought before us in a manner which makes us acquainted with them in their habit as they lived.  There is the bard himself who cannot pay his "lodgin' brass" because he's out of work; there's Jack Blunderick—

.            .            .            .            .          he goes to th' mill an' wayves,
An' then at th' week-end, when he's time, he pows a bit, an' shaves;
He's badly off, is Jack, poor lad, he's rayther lawm, an' then
His wife's had childer very fast,—aw think they'n nine or ten.

.            .            .            .            .            .            .            .            .            .

At number nine th' owd cobbler lives—th' owd chap 'at mends mi shoon,
He's gettin' very weak an' done, he'll ha' to leov us soon;
He reads his Bible every day, an' sings just loike a lark,
He says he's practisin' for heaven,—he's welly done his wark.

At number ten James Bowton lives,—he's th' noicest heawse i' th' row;
He's allis plenty o' sum'at t' eat, an' lots o' brass an' o;
An' when he rides an' walks abeawt he's dressed up very fine,
But he isn't hawve as near to heaven as him at number nine.

    What could be finer than this contrast between the riches of the man of this world and the man of the other world?  A fitting companion to the singing cobbler is the Old Pedlar, that merchant of fame—

He's needles, an' bodkins, an' thread,
    An' buttons, an' bobbins, an' tape,
An' hair-pins for lasses to stick i' their yead,
    To keep their hair nicely i' shape.

He lives cheerful and contented, useful and respected, and when he dies—

Th' little childer 'at loved thee so dear,
    To that spot where tha'rt buried will throng,
An' they'll say, wi' sad looks, "Th' owd pedlar lies here,
    Come, let's sing him a noice little song."
Then they'll deck thi green grave wi' wild fleawers,
    Pat it closer to keep thee reet warm;
An' say, as they leave thee alone a few heawers,
    "Bless th' owd fellow, he's tackin' no harm!"

    May we all leave memories as pleasant behind us.  If Laycock paints with sympathetic enjoyment the worthies who are to be met amongst the poor, he is not less faithful in showing the demerits of those whose want of wit or want of moral fibre leads them to make shipwreck of their lives.  Thus, the portrait of "Eawr Jim," whose home is ruined by his intemperance, is a picture only too true, but one that a flatterer of the people would never have ventured to draw.  Laycock deals faithfully with the sins and follies of the workers, and sympathetically with their virtues.  His ethics are of a practical kind; he believes in the homely virtues on which alone the happiness of the world can be built.  He sees that drunkenness is an enormous barrier to wellbeing and content, and therefore he preaches and practises total abstinence; he sees hindrances to prosperity in class legislation, and therefore he is a reformer; he sees the discrepancies between the profession and practice of those who claim to be better than the world, and he calls to those—

.       .       .       .       .'at preeitch Christ's religion, come, practise it too.

    A good example of his powers is afforded by "Thee an' Me":—


Tha'rt livin' at thi country seat,
    Among o th' gents an' nobs;
Tha's sarvant girls to cook thi meat,
    An' do thi o thi jobs.
Aw'm lodgin' here wi' Bridget Yates,
    At th' hut near th' ceaw-lone well;
Aw mend mi stockin's, pill th' potates,
    An' wesh mi shurts misel'.

Tha wears a finer cooat nor me,
    Thi purse is better lined;
An' fortin's lavished moor o' thee
    Nor th' rest o' human kind.
Life's storms 'at rage areawnd this yed,
    An' pelt soa hard at me,
Till mony a toime aw've wished aw'm dyed,
    But seldom trouble thee.

Tha'rt rich i' o this world can give,
    Tha's silver an' tha's gowd;
But me,—aw find it hard to live,
    Awm poor, an' gettin' owd;
These fields an' lones awm ramblin' through—
    They o belong to thee;
Aw've only just a yard or two
    To ceawr in when aw dee.

When tha rides eawt, th' folks o areawnd
    Stond gapin' up at thee,
Becose tha'rt worth ten theaweand peawnd,
    But scarcely notice me.
Aw trudge abeawt fro' spot to spot,
    An' nob'dy seems to care;
They never seek my humble cot,
    To ax me heaw aw fare.

If tha should dee, there's lots o' folk
    Would fret an' cry, no deawt;
When aw shut up they'll only joke,
    An' say, "He's just gone eawt,—
Well, never heed him, let him go,
    An' find another port;
We're never to a chap or two,
    We'n plenty moor o' th' sort."

Tha'll have a stone placed o'er thi grave
    To show thi name an' age;
An o tha's done 'at's good an' brave,
    Be seen o' history's page.
When aw get tumbled into th' greawnd,
    There'll ne'er be nowt to show
Who's restin' 'neath that grassy meawnd,
    An' nob'dy 'll want to know.

But deawn i' th' grave, what spoils o th' sport,
    No ray o' leet can shine,—
An' th' worms below can hardly sort
    Thy pampered clay fro' mine.
So when this world for th' next tha swaps,
    Tak wi' thi under th' stone
Thi cooat-ov-arms, an' bits o' traps,
    Or else tha'll ne'er be known.

But up above there's One 'at sees
    Through th' heart o' every mon;
An' He'll just find thee as tha dees,
    So dee as weel as t' con;
An' aw'll do th' same, owd friend, an' then,
    Wi' o eawr fauts forgiven,
P'rhaps thee an' me may meet again,
    An' boath shake bonds i' heaven.

    The contrast in fortune is strongly marked; there is a hearty realism in the details of the picture. There is a not unnatural bitterness in the spirit of the less fortunate man, but this passes away in that spirit of genuine brotherhood by which Laycock's verse is always distinguished.

    To the young he has counsel for action and endeavour.  "Help Yorsels, Lads," is the title of one of his songs, and the burden of them all.  To strive manfully, to bear success with modesty and misfortune with courage, is his aim, and the hardships of life have their keen edge blunted by a merry jest or humorous conceit.  Thus the Owd Chum relents even towards his constant persecutor, poverty—

Aw've had my friends, fond, firm, and true;
An' dear relations not a few,
But noan o' these han stuck to me
As firmly an' as long as thee;
An' after o it's hardly reet
To goo an' turn thee eawt i' th' street,
An' one not knowin' wheer thar't beawn,—
Aw conno' do it—sit thee deawn.

    Two of his poems, "An Ode to th' Ocean" and "An Ode to th' Sun," whilst not descriptive in the ordinary sense, stand apart from the rest of Laycock's writings as having been suggested, not by the daily life of mankind, but by the grandeur of the external world.

Rowl away, theaw grand owd ocean,
    Dash thi spray on th' pebbly shore;
Like some giant i devotion,
    Singin' praises evermore.
Talk o' true an' earnest worship!
    Great revivals! dear-a-me!
Why, there isn't a sect i' th' nation,
    'At con hauve come up to thee.

Baptists, Independents, Quakers,
    Followers o' Young an' Joe,
Ranters, Unitarians, Shakers,
    These are nowt,—tha dreawns 'em o
Organs, singers, parsons, people,
    Let these mak 'at noise they will;
Ring o th' bells they han i' th' steeple,
    Tha poipes eawt aboon 'em still.

Mony a toime aw've sat deawn, sadly,
    Broodin' o'er my load o' woe;
Feelin' gradely sick an' badly,
    Crush'd wi' cares 'at few con know.
O at once these cares han vanished,
    Not a fear left, not a doubt;
Every gloomy thought's bin banished
    When aw've yeard thee poipin' eawt.

    Still finer is the "Ode to th' Sun," with its curious mixture of humour, of eloquence, and of natural delight in the beauty and the warmth of Nature.  The late Mr. James Crossley said that it was this poem which first convinced him of the suitableness of the dialect as a medium for poetry.  Certainly he would be invincibly prejudiced against all dialect writing who could deny the charms of this striking poem.  In all these pieces it will be observed the ethical element is predominant.  Clearly he thinks that—to use Matthew Arnold's famous phrase—"Conduct is three-fourths of life."  So whether basking in the sunshine, or watching the waves on Blackpool shore, or in the busy streets of Manchester or Ashton, he is a lay preacher, urging his fellows to endeavour and to endurance, insisting upon the duties of home, on the content and joy of domestic life, on the charms of friendship and the claims of human brotherhood.  These old-fashioned texts are expounded with a kindly shrewdness that comes from patient observation of humanity, and of that tender consideration for its weakness and foibles that marks the earnest-minded who do not wish to crush humanity but to guide aright the passions and affections that dwell in every breast.  These qualities might be illustrated by many extracts were it necessary; but "Welcome, Bonny Brid," and "Thee an' Me," would alone suffice to justify what has here been said.

    A judicious selection from the long list of Laycock's writings would be a healthy and useful addition to our local literature, and would recall attention to a genuine Lancashire poet—one who has shared the humours and the virtues that form the themes of his songs—one who, like Burns, has recognised that the "true pathos and sublime of life" are the smiles and tears, the fervent joys and deep sorrows, that cluster around the heart and home.  Laycock has known how to be humorous without coarseness, to be earnest without cant.  In all he has written there is nothing to offend, and much that is healthy and true.  His verses are as honest and wholesome as a moorland breeze or a bit of salt spray from the unceasing ocean.  He will be honoured when he is dead.  Let us honour him whilst he is living, and say of him now what we feel, and what will be said when he has passed away, and can neither be stimulated nor consoled by the admiration and affection in our hearts.




Samuel Laycock, the Lancashire poet, whose demise we chronicle in another column, was a poet who having shared the hardships and trials of the masses, thoroughly understood their conditions of life, and was ever moved to the tenderest sympathy with their ofttimes chequered and anxious existence.  His muse was attuned to the lowly walks of life, and dwelt with a loving, affectionate touch upon the joys and sorrows of the work-a-day world.  His large warm heart was ever ready to go out in kindly sympathy to those who were the victims of sufferings or misfortune, and he never failed to seek to lift their gloom by the sunshine of his radiant cheerfulness and kindly words of comfort.  He was one of Nature's own favourite sons, and she had few more devoted admirers of her manifold beauties.  Mr. Laycock's verses portrayed with remarkable skill and effect the sturdy features of Lancashire character, while throughout them runs a homely philosophy, tending at times to a lofty ideal and displaying in all moods sincere sympathy with efforts for the improvement of the world and the increased of the sum of human happiness.  His poetry was characterised by transparent simplicity of expression, a sly humour which never descends to coarseness, and an earnestness which had no suspicion of cant.  None of his poems is more, popular than "Welcome, Bonny Brid," one of many pieces in which he sang of the struggles of factory workers in the hard times which he had such cause to remember.

TH'ART welcome, little bonny brid,
But shouldn't ha' come just when tha did;
        Toimes are bad.
We're short o' pobbies for eawr Joe,
But that, of course, tha didn't know,
        Did ta, lad?

.            .            .            .            .            .            .

Cheer up! these toimes 'll awter soon;
Aw'm beawn to beigh another spoon—
        One for thee;
An', as tha's sich a pratty face
Aw'll let thee have eawr Charley's place
        On mi knee.





    General regret was felt in the town on Friday morning when it was known that Mr. Samuel Laycock, "the Lancashire poet," had passed away.  In his death, Blackpool has lost an inhabitant of whom all residents have every reason to be proud—an inhabitant of twenty-five years standing, who had won a name and fame far beyond the confines of the town.  Born at Marsden, near Huddersfield on January 17th, 1826, he might naturally be accounted a Yorkshire lad by birth, but he had thoroughly and entirely identified himself with Lancashire people since his boyhood, and regarded the county Palatine as the one to which he belonged.  His father was a weaver, and at the age of nine years Samuel was called upon to work for his living.  The privations of his boyhood taught him many lessons which had not since been forgotten, but which induced him to practically sympathise with the sufferings of his fellows whenever possible.  At the age of eleven years he was taken to Stalybridge by his parents, where he for some years worked as a weaver, prior to taking the appointment as librarian of the Staleybridge Mechanics' Institute.  For a short time he was curator of the Whitworth Institute at Fleetwood.  He came to Blackpool in 1868, where he started business as a photographic artist.  This he gave up about six years ago owing to failing eyesight.  In September last his volume, "Warblin's fro' an owd songster," was published, and since that time congratulations have literally poured in upon him from all parts of the country.  There is a genuine pathos about his writings which is sincerely appreciated by Lancashire folk, whose sympathies he so successfully interpreted.  He was naturally very persevering.  His scholastic education was extremely meagre, but he had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and never missed an opportunity of gaining self-culture.  He was a Liberal in politics, and had done useful work for that body in the town.  He was a member of the Manchester Literary Society, and of the Barnsley Literary and Philosophic Society.  For some time he attended the Dickson-road Unitarian Chapel, although at one time he had attended a Congregational Church.  Latterly he had identified himself with the Spiritualists, and had also done some excellent work for the local temperance party.  Although about the most distinguished literary resident of Blackpool, the honours bestowed upon him by the town were comparatively few, and it was not until seven weeks ago that he was elected a member of the Blackpool Free Library Committee.  Mr. Laycock's works are too well known to require any commendation from us; now that he has joined the great majority they will doubtless be still more treasured as worthy mementos of a very worthy Lancashire man.


    Rain fell persistently on Monday afternoon when the the funeral took place, but despite this fact, there was a large attendance.  The coffin was of oak, with brass lacquered fittings and raised lid, and the wreathes almost hid it from view.  In the first carriage were the widow, son, daughter, and son-in-law, the latter also representing the Manchester Literary Society.  Among those who followed were—Councillor William Trevor, J.P. of Newton Heath (a gentleman who wrote the introductory sketch to Mr. Laycock's latest work); Messrs. James Brown of Haigh (one of the oldest reciters of Mr. Laycock's poems), Tattersall Wilkinson and (representing the Literary and Scientific Club, Burnley) Thomas Booth (representing Burnley Literary and Philosophical Society), John Laycock (brother to the deceased), Edward Woolley, H. Woolley, and Tinker of Staleybridge; Isaac Bardsley, of Oldham; Geo. Marsden and Henry Lumb, of Marsden, near Huddersfield; John Firth, of Pendleton; Rev. J. E. Lucas, B.A. (representing the Library Committee of Blackpool, of which deceased was a member), Councillor Heap, Councillor Blundell, the Town Clerk, Messrs. Robert Bickerstaffe, F. Anderton, Taylor, Jos. Smith, T. Cunnigham, G. J. Hemming, J. Dean, Best, E. L. Newsome, George Johnson, Samuel and John Wolstenholme, John Andrews, Jas. Ackroyd, A. Rider, L. Shore, Fossard, S. Bancroft, Mrs. Leake, Miss Nell and Mrs. Butterworth (representing the Blackpool Spiritualist Society).  A large number of the Blackpool fishermen, with whom deceased was very popular, would have joined the procession if the weather had been more favourable, and contented themselves with assembling opposite the house in Foxhall-road.  The Rev. W. Binns conducted the service at the Blackpool Cemetery, when the small chapel was crowded.

    The Rev. W. BINNS, M.A., pastor of the Dickson-road Unitarian Chapel, in the course of the funeral service said:

We are here to-day, a large number of his follow-townsmen to bid a last farewell to the mortal remains of our friend, Samuel Laycock, one who endeared himself by the steadfast integrity of his character to all with whom he was brought into close contact, and one who, by his literary works especially in that dialect which is familiar to and beloved by you all, has built up for himself a name that will last in the grateful remembrance of the people of Lancashire for many, many years.  He was a working man—a typical working man—who started his own life in the humblest fashion possible, working in a factory even at nine years of age, and for many, many years until he came to settle in this healthy town of Blackpool with its bracing and refreshing sea breezes, having to earn his daily bread with hard work.  During the time he has lived and worked among you he has done some of his best literary work.  It is pleasant to bear in mind the fact that English poetry itself really began with a working man.  Some 1,200 or 1,300 years ago it was, I think, that an agricultural labourer belonging to the ancient abbey of Whitby—a boy or young man named Cædman wrote the first English poem that was ever written—one that seemed in some respects to anticipate the conception of Milton's grand poem "Paradise Lost."  Since that time many working men have received the inspiration of poetic genius.  We have, for instance, the marvellous boy Chatterton, the hopeless soul who perished in his prime, and Burns, who walked in glory and in joy, following his plough along the mountain side.  At Sheffield we have Ebenezer Elliott, another working man poet, and there were poets in this county of Lancaster with whom our friend Samuel Laycock was intimately acquainted—they were beloved by him, and he in turn was beloved by them.  He was one of the friends of that sterling Radical of the old school—Sam Bamford, and was associated in his early days with that sweet but wayward genius, Critchley Prince.  He knew the pathos and the passion that characterized Edwin Waugh, and he knew the geniality, too, of Ben Brierley, who still survives.  He was a worthy associate of these men.  One peculiarity of his poetry—which I have just been looking over—worth bearing gratefully in all our minds is there is not a single sentiment in these poems which does not breathe a pure morality, and love of all mankind, and a passionate devotion towards God.  His was the sweet natural religion which strengthens and comforts all men in life and cheers him in the hour of death.  His belief in immortality is stated over and over again, and looking forward to meeting again in the next world of whom he left behind, are some of the characteristics that no one could read his works without feeling that here was a genuine man, that here was a man who breathed the hopes and aspirations which come home to every heart and soul.  I see that he dedicated the collective edition of his works to his dear wife and children.  May that collective edition be for ever treasured by them as the best monument they can have of a husband and a father, and may it live long in the hearts and memories of his fellow-townsman.  And now to his mortal remains we say farewell, knowing it is not the immortal spirit which is buried in the ground, but only the clay tabernacle which for a while was inhabited by the immortal spirit, and that the spirit itself ascends into the infinite heaven, and is waiting his God and Father.

    Wreaths were sent by the Burnley Literary and Philosophical Society, Mr. and Mrs. J. R. G. Grundy and Mr. C. C. Grundy, Blackpool Spiritualists Society, Mr. J. Brown (Haigh), Mr. B. Howe, Mr. and Mrs. J. Bracewell, and "The sharers of his joys and sorrows—his dear wife and children."  Accompanying the latter was a card containing a verse from his poem, "Cleawds an' Sunshine."  The funeral arrangements were made by Mr. Hartley, of Princess-street.  A large number of letters and telegrams expressing condolence have been received by the family of the deceased, who desire sincerely to thank all friends for their sympathy.  The great pressure upon our space prevents our printing the letters from Mr. Ben Brierley and others, which show how Mr. Laycock was esteemed by his fellow-workers in the literary ranks.

    Yesterday (Thursday) Mrs. Laycock received a touching letter from Mr. G. Milner, president of the Manchester Literary Club, of which deceased was one of the oldest members, expressing the sympathy and condolence of himself and the members.  Mr. Milner stated that at the annual supper of the Club a night or two ago he read the touching lines which occurred at the end of the poem which Mr. Laycock had himself read to the members of the Club on the same occasion twelve months ago, and which now seems prophetical of what has come to pass.  The lines are as follow:—

Death's robbed those Christmas parties;
For some we were wont to greet
Wi' brotherly love an' affection
Are sadly missed to neet!
Thank God, we have still Ben Brierley,
Like mysel, he's grey wi' age;
We're waitin' for th' curtain fallin,
An' th' order to come off th' stage.
A few more brotherly greetin's,
An' a few more peeps at th' sun,
Then life's excitin' battles
Will oather be lost or won!



The late Mr. Samuel Laycock was a member of the Free Library Committee.  The members had a meeting on Tuesday evening, but possibly as the result of an oversight they took no official cognizance of the loss of their respected colleague.  One Would have thought they would at least have passed a vote of condolence with the bereaved ones.

The death of the "Owd Songster" on Friday, reminds me that the four men who stand out conspicuously as the Lancashire dialect writers of this century—Sam Bamford, Edwin Waugh, Ben. Brierley, and Sam Laycock—have all been identified with the Radical cause.  Laycock, however, was the only one of the four to identify himself with teetotalism.




Papers of the Manchester Literary Club,


Along with other members of the Manchester Literary Club I was present at the recent unveiling of the memorial portrait of Samuel Laycock in the Town Hall, Blackpool, and, if it is permissible, would like to add a few supplementary words to the account of that interesting ceremonial which has already appeared.  They are of a reminiscential kind, and the keynote to them was struck when Mr. Hall Caine, in his warm recommendation of the departed poet, ventured to confer upon him the high distinction of "Laureate of Lancashire."  It is not to the present purpose to call in question this conferring to the laureate wreath as a crowning addition to other poetical honours most worthily earned, nor to speculate upon the way in which the poet, in his modesty would have regarded it, had it been proffered in his lifetime, though he would certainly have blushed, and as certainly have been proud to find that there were those who thought he deserved it.  Laureate or no laureate, however, there was not one of us, I take it, who did not endorse to the full all that was said in his praise on that notable occasion by Mr. Hall Caine, Mr. George Milner, and the rest, and one could only hope, for our poet's sake, that, as some other poet has said, there might be

A chink in the heaven above,
Where they listen to words from below.

It was at the Literary Club, in days long ago, that I first came know Samuel Laycock, and at a time when he formed one of a group of singing birds who had found a nesting place there, among whom were Charles Swain, Samuel Bamford, Edwin Waugh, Benjamin Brierley, and Richard Rome Bealey.  A good deal of Lancashire folk-speech entered into the poetry produced, likewise did it form an attractive feature of the current talk of those familiar with it, pleasant to the ear in its its raciness and humour, so that now, when literary English so largely prevails, those dialect days have come to be remembered with something of a regretful sense of loss.  Of the value of this dialect, as a medium of expression, much has been said which needs no further emphasis, but I may go an to say of those who used it, that they were a cheerful, chirrupy lot, remarkable for displaying a fine healthy hopefulness of spirit when dealing with the saddest themes, and among them, conspicuous in this regard, was Samuel Laycock.  You might not have suspected this, however, if you had judged him from outward observation merely.  No better description of his personality could be given than that which Mr. George Milner has outlined.  It is a portrait in words, and hits and fits the subject to a nicety, so that those who knew him can recall the frail looking man, with the pale expansive forehead, the deep-set lustrous, melancholy eyes, together with the impression he gave you of one who had endured much, and had been patient in his endurance, but who, with all his shyness and timidity of address, was not without latent strength, and a marked individuality of character.  The truth was that in spite of his melancholy aspect, this knight of the sorrowful countenance was a very mirthful man, into whose verse, humour was introduced as by a natural process.  None of his poetical compeers stuck more closely to the dialect, and no doubt it was this loyalty to his medium which led some wag in the Club to invent and put forth the statement that Sam Laycock wouldn't read Shakespeare for fear of spoiling his style.  This jocularity apart, he was wise in limiting himself to the folk-speech; had he tried to write like Shakespeare, our poet would have failed.  As it was he was enabled to express himself in words understanded of the common people, and so to bring poetry into the huts where poor men lie.  In doing this he doubtless achieved all that he set himself to attain, but, while listening to Mr. Hall Caine, I was reminded that curiously enough, Laycock was once a candidate for a wider laureateship than that of Lancashire, the claim being one set up by himself, and that the document relating to it was the only written communication he ever made to the proceedings of the Club.  It should be said, however, in explanation of this paucity of supply, that we did not look to these poets to enrich our published records with material which had for them another value outside.  If they read their productions to us, on occasion, or better still, as Edwin Waugh often did, sing them, we were quite content.  Moreover, Laycock, like others of his craft, was one of those about whom other people wrote, which is significant, and, in looking over the records you will come upon papers biographical, memorial, and critical, relating to him.  This solitary presentment of his took the form of a poem—in the Lancashire dialect of course—which was afterwards printed in the "Manchester Weekly Times," and illustrated there by a capital sketch, by Mr. Hedley Fitton, showing the author in the act of reading his verses.  By permission they were transferred to, and are preserved in our chronicles.  It is of the nature of a coincidence, that the poem and the occasion are associated with another portrait of Laycock, which was presented to the Club by himself, and is now reckoned among its mural adornments.  In recalling the circumstance I am carried back to a Christmas supper held on December 19th, 1892.  It was a memorable feast, shining out conspicuously among many such of its kind, in its exceptional brilliance and gaiety.  Laycock did not often come among us; in his Club relationships he was shy and elusive.  As, in certain aspects relating to his brother poets, he gave one the impression of a puritan among cavaliers, as one did not easily associate him with the festive board.  He didn't seem altogether quite at home there; cakes and ale, in the rollicking sense, did not appeal to him.  For all that he was a welcome and respected companion at the board, whose fine abstemiousness seemed to induce in some of us the disposition to a wholesome restraint.  For him therefore, and for us this was a great occasion.  After long absence he had come, bringing as it were, his sheaves with him.  I can see him as he sat at the table not far from me, wearing an air of mingled bashfulness and pride.  His portrait was offered with characteristic modesty, and, of course readily accepted.  His gift of verses revealed him as a candidate for the office of poet laureate, then vacant.  The result was a delightful bit of fooling, if one may use that word without being misunderstood.  He had evidently revelled in his subject and given full play to his humorous fancy in dealing with the quaint assumption.  Said he—

As Alf Tennyson's post is still vacant,
    An' awm weary o' ceawrin' bi th' hob,
An' findin' mi brains getting reawsty,
    Awm determined to try for th' job.

So stond o' one side yo' young rhymesters,
    "Nunquam," "Walt Whitman, junr. " an' "Boggs,"
Clear away eawt o' th' field, an' be handy.
    Or aw'l help yo' a bit wi' mi clogs.

Not fit to be th' Leaureate?   Who says so?
    Aw con fancy aw hear someb'dy yell,
"There's another chap slipp'd 'em at Prestwich,
    And a poet, 'at connot e'en spell."

What care I for their jeers an' fine larnin',
    Their A.S.S. or D.D.'s?
Is it likely 'at Tennyson's mantle
    Will fall on such cads as these?

.            .            .            .            .            .            .            .

Aw should like an engagement o' some mak',
    For my brains are fast runnin' to waste,
An' this shop 'at now waits for a tenant,
    Is exactly the one to my taste.

Aw should never succeed as a lawyer,
    Mi ideas are too strange for a "tub."
So as th' rhyme mill's i'th' market aw'll run it
    For ten "bob" a week, an' mi grub.

In his lengthy screed there are many references to the Club and his association with it, and among other things he tells how proud he is of having been since 1866, one of its honorary members.  The closing lines have something of pathos in them, and of presentiment.   He says:—

Death's robbed these Christmas parties,
    For some we were wont to greet
Wi' brotherly love and affection
    Are sadly missed to-neet!
Thank God, we have still Ben Brierley;
    Like misel' he's grey wi' age;
We're waitin' for th' curtain fallin',
    An' th' order to come off th' stage!
A few more friendly greetins,
    An a few more peeps at th' sun,
An' then, friends, life's hard battle
    Will oather be lost or won!

This proved true in his own case, for an the 15th December of the following year, and before another Christmas supper had come round he was suddenly called away.  The curtain had fallen and the play was played out.





    The Lancashire Authors' Association paid honour on Saturday to the memory of Samuel Laycock, who was born in 1826.  The celebrations were held in Blackpool, where the poet lies buried, and included a civic welcome at the Town Hall by the Corporation, the placing of a laurel wreath on the poet's grave, and a meeting in the evening at which Laycock's life-story was told, personal reminiscences given, and selections from his works read.

    Amongst those taking part in the proceedings were Mr. Arthur Laycock, the poet's son, an ex-Councillor of Blackpool; and two of Samuel Laycock's daughters, Mrs. Sim Schofield (the subject of the poet's composition, "Bonny Brid") and Mrs. Bowness.  Mr. W. Baron, of Rochdale, president of the Association; Mr. Allen Clarke, its founder; and Mr. Walter Butterworth were prominent amongst the speakers at the meeting, held in the Lecture Hall of the Free Library.  It was mentioned that Mr. Baron was the only Blackpool-born Lancashire author connected with the formation of the Association.

Early Days.

    Mr. Butterworth's sketch of Laycock's life summed it up in three phases: A childhood passed in hard and humble circumstances; young manhood in artisan work and in certain employment, sometimes with stint of food; and the evening of life at Fleetwood and Blackpool, still working, but conserving his delicate health, and writing with contentment at a modest measure of recognition as one of the accepted poets of the county.  Laycock was born actually in Yorkshire, at Marsden, his father being a handloom weaver.  He himself started work at nine years of age in the mill, receiving two shillings a week for working from six in the morning to eight at night.

    When he was eleven the family removed to Stalybridge, and thenceforth Laycock lived in the atmosphere of the Lancashire dialect, which was to become his chosen medium of expression.  His education was scanty, being made up of occasional instruction from the Congregationalist minister and attendance at the Marsden Sunday School, supplemented by his own earliest strivings after knowledge.  He was always a worker, and during his life was in turn weaver, cloth-looker, librarian, and hall-keeper at Stalybridge Mechanics Institute; bookseller from a cart in Oldham Market Place; photographer; curator of Whitworth Institute, Fleetwood; and, finally, carrying on a small business in Blackpool.  Physically, he was small and spare, with a large and striking head.  The face was refined, shrewd, and kindly, with a latent expression of pensive sadness.  Ben Brierley in a skit, spoke of him as "all head."  He carefully cultivated a beard.  His manners were gentle and unassuming, his demeanour quiet and subdued.

The "Cotton Panic!"

    It would appear that Waugh's poems exercised a big influence over the young Samuel Laycock, and enabled him to discover his gift for rhyming in the dialect.  This he first turned to account during the cotton panic of 1862, which caused want and suffering throughout Lancashire.  He wrote verses to hearten and encourage his fellow-workers, and these quickly became popular.  As a worker among them, one of them, he well knew their trials.  Himself thrown out of work, he suffered hunger and the bitterness of undeserved unemployment.  He, therefore, comprehended, how to touch the heart and be understood of the poor.  A certain strength pierced through his mild and humble ways.  Throughout the privations of the panic he kept up his pluck and remained hopeful, cheerful, overflowing with good will, full of an abounding and abiding love of his fellows.  There was plenty, of sunshine in him and nothing soured, morbid, or embittered.

    "Welcome, Bonny Brid!" his most delightful poem, was amongst the productions of this period, and recorded the arrival of another child in the home already wracked with anxiety.  Here was evidently the true interpreter of Lancashire working folk, at the hearthstone and in the intimacy of family life, plucking the very heart-strings.  Mr. Butterworth recalled Mr. W. E. A. Axon's early tribute to Laycock as the "Laureate of the Cotton Famine," singing of the trials and joys of the people, their virtues and foibles, with sympathy and kindly feeling.

Dissipated Talents.

    Laycock's philosophy, said Mr. Butterworth, was simple and was gathered from every day experiences.  There was no subtlety or complexity in his verses; no enigma of existence troubled him; no hot passion swept through him. Perhaps only a few of his poems would survive, for only occasionally did he rise above the prosaic or commonplace, dissipating his talents from easy good nature upon trivial themes. When he was thrilled to poetic emotion, however, he wrote well.  It was good, on the occasion of his centenary, to recall not only his literary work, but also his wholesome, kindly nature.  His compassion for the starving weavers impelled him to write, and then, although natural scenes did not commonly excite him to composition, he could not resist, when at Blackpool, the appeal of the, grand spectacle of sea and sky.

    For him there was no formal ode, but, a whimsical, half-jocular invocation.  He wrote with facility and obtained homely effects, in an apparently natural, unforced way.  In style, as in matter, he was the poet of the town workers.  He had insight and understanding of the people and characters.  His friendship with local poets reached back to Critchley Prince and forward to William Baron.  It was on December 15, 1893, that Laycock died.  One hundred years after his birth they still read and recited his outstanding poems, smiled at his quips and shared his feelings for the unfortunate.  Laycock sowed, reaped, and harvested, and gained the esteem of innumerable Lancashire, people.

    At the conclusion of Mr. Butterworth's sketch Mr. William Baron recited all original ode to the poet; Mr. Allen Clarke gave personal reminiscences of him, and Mr. Sim Schofield read an original poem to Laycock.  A series of recitals of Samuel Laycock's best-known poems concluded the centenary celebrations.



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