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 WAR AN’ MUSIC

AW wur makkin’ my road across Chadderton Fowt when a chap catch’d me an’ ax’d me if aw could tell him what time th’ Yelds Green sing started.  “Eh, lad!” aw said, “aw wur upo’ th’ points o’ puttin’ th’ same question misel’.  Doesta see, aw’m a bit bothered.  Aw’ve had a bill sent to me which says it starts at hauve past six, an’ th’ notice in th’ Chronicle says it is to start at six o’clock.  Aw’m compromisin’, mesthur, an’ goin’ for quather past.”

“Well, I’m with you,” he said, an’ we trudged on together.

“This must have been a pretty place two or three hundred years ago,” he added, lookin’ reawnd.

“It’s been a pratty place sin’ then,” aw ventured to remind him, “but it must ha’ been grand when th’ Ho’ wur at its best.”

“Aye!  The people are coming into their own a bit now,” the stranger mused.

“Well, it’s comin’ to ruins if that’s what yo’ meeon,” I onsert.

“No, I don’t exactly mean that,” he replied sharply.

Helds Green, Chadderton
Helds Green, Chadderton


Just then there wur a bit of a clap o’ thunner.

“What’s that?” he ax’d, as if he wur startled.

“Oh!” aw said, ”it’s nobbut a slight crack o’ thunner.  Wur yo’ feeart?”

“I am not afraid of thunder,” he onsert, “but are you sure it was thunder?  I have read of the sound of guns at the front being heard over here.”

“Never belike,” I assured him.  “Still, we have some strange things now-a-days.  But seeyo’, it’s beginnin’ to rain.  If we dunnot push on aw deawbt we’re in for a deawsin’.”  We pushed on, an’ on th’ road he towd me ’at his son, an only child, wur feightin’ i’ Flanders, an’ aw wurno surprised at him mistakin’ thunner for guns.  Greater mistakes nor that have been made i’ th’ war or else we should ha’ been forreder nor we are.  But imagine th’ chap’s position.  That seawnd met ha’ been a shot, an’ that shot met a killed his lad.  Aw felt a deep sympathy with him an’ wonder’t heaw mony guns aw should ha’ yerd if a lad o’ mine had been wheer his wur.  Aw begun a wunderin’, too, whether it wur guns or thunner what we’d yerd.

When we geet to th’ chapel we’d a job to thrutch in, it wur so full.  A lot o’ folks had been wiser than we wur an’ hadn’t trusted to compromise.  Th’ performance wur goin’ to start at six o’clock after o.  We managed to squeeze eawrsels i’ one corner, an’ then we gan eawrsels up to a good sweat, but it wurnot sich a sweat as wur described i’ one o’ th’ hymns.  Aw look’d at my programme to see what we were goin’ to have, but my companion seemed to be lookin’ reawnd an’ hearkenin’ for summat.  Aw darsay it wur th’ guns.  He’d come’n to hearken th’ music, but it wur th’ music o’ th’ guns that reach’d his soul.

Th’ singers wur comin’ in neaw an’ aw watch’d ’em file to theer places.  Though it wur an owd sing they wur not o owd singers.  There wur owd an’ y’ung.  Some wur at there first sing, an’ some, very likely, wur at their last.  Then aw look’d at th’ fiddlers.  I awlus like to watch fiddlers as weel as to harken ’em.  They remind me of thoose beautiful lines of Edwin Waugh wheer he tells about an owd fiddler:--

An’ when he touches th’ tremblin’ strings
    They know his thowts so weel,
It seawnds as if an angel tried
    To tell what angels feel.

But there wur changes amung th’ fiddlers.  There wur one or two ’at aw knew ’at had laid deawn their bows for ever.  Aw wur turnin’ these things o’er i’ my mind an’ listenin’ for th’ guns when th’ conductor geet on his feet an’ th’ band struck up wi’ th’ owd favourite tune of “Diadem,” an’ then we o sang “Crown Him Lord of All.”  Eh, an’ heaw we did sing.  Th’ guns couldn’t be yerd neaw.  But when th’ bass singers ran up wi’ “Crow-o-ow-o-own Him, Crow-o-ow-o-own Him” yo’ could imagine it wur a battery o’ guns bein’ fired one after th’ other.  Th’ parson quoted th’ owd sayin’ ’at “there are no creeds in music,” an’ he wur reet.  There wur Churchmen, Catholics, Methodists, Unitarians, an’ o sorts ’at joined i’ that hymn, an’ for once there wur harmony amung ’em.  My companion forgeet his anxieties for a minute or two an’ joined i’ th’ chorus.  Then th’ parson prayed for thoose ’at wur away an’ thoose ’at wur awhoam, for thoose ’at wur feightin’ an’ thoose ’at wur makin’ munitions to feight wi’; an’ aw felt as if there wur no creeds i’ real prayer.

A note of sadness wur touched in a hymn ’at wur bein’ sung, accordin’ to th’ programme, “In loving memory of departed veterans.”  Th’ parson had seen what rare fettle they wur o in for singin’, so he ax’d ’em to sing this hymn in a “subdued tone.”  It wur very effective, even th’ guns bein’ subdued while it wur bein’ sung.  After this th’ congregation rallied again.  Everybody sung his best, th’ band played its best, th’ organist an’ th’ pianist did their best, an’ th’ organ blower wouldn’t be licked by ony of ’em.  Th’ parson said he wouldn’t praych a sermon, but if he didn’t do he prayched summat like one, though not quite so lung as an orthodox sermon.  It wur very nice, an’ if it wurnot a sermon, becose it wur a short one; I hope praychin’ sermons ul goo eawt o’ fashion.

Then we had th’ “Hallelujah Chorus,” an’ th’ closin’ hymn, an’ while they wur bein’ sung aw kept lookin’ at my friend, but his mind an’ his gaze seemed far, far away.  Th’ hymn wur set to a sweet Welsh tune that met ha’ been made for th’ occasion.  It made yo’ feel at peace wi’ everybody.  There wur no war, no enmity, no guns firin’.  There wur nowt nobbut low, sweet, plaintive music.

Aw lingered a bit, after th’ sarvice wur o’er, to have a word wi’ one or two owd friends.  When aw went eawtside my companion had gone.  Aw seed him a couple o’ days after, but his een had a far-away look.  He’d had a telegram.  His lad wur killed.
 

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