Waugh: Sketches of Lancashire Life (1)

Home Up Lancashire Songs Lancashire Sketches I. Lancashire Sketches II. Rambles in the Lakes The Cotton Famine Poems and Songs I. Poems and Songs II. Besom Ben Tufts of Heather I. Tufts of Heather II. The Chimney Corner The Limping Pilgrim The Barrel Organ Sheet Music Sheet Music Sheet Music Miscellanea Main Index Site Search
 


 

RAMBLE FROM BURY TO ROCHDALE.
 

"It's hardly in a body's'pow'r
 To keep, at times, frae being sour,
     To see how things are shar'd;
 How best o' chiels are whiles in want,
 While coofs on countless thousands rant,
     And ken na how to wair't:
 But, Davie, lad, ne'er fash your head,
     Though we hae little gear,
 We're fit to win our daily bread,
     As lang's we're hale and fier."

BURNS.


ONE fine afternoon, at the end of February, I had some business to do in Bury, which kept me there till evening.  As the twilight came stealing on, the skies settled slowly into a gorgeous combination of the grandest shapes and hues, which appeared to canopy the country for miles around.  The air was very clear, and it was nipping cold; and every object within sight stood out in beautiful relief in that fine transparence, softened by the deepening shades of evening.  Everything seemed to stand still and meditate, and inhale silently the air of peace which pervaded that magnificent and tranquil hour of closing day, as if all things on earth had caught the spirit of "meek nature's evening comments on the fuming shows and vanities of man."  The glare of daylight is naturally fitted for bustle and business, but such an eventide as this looked the very native hour of devout thought, and recovery from the absorbing details of worldly occupation.  It is said that the town of Bury takes its name from the Saxon word byri, a burgh, or castle.  One of the twelve ancient Saxon fortresses of Lancashire stood in the place now called "Castle Croft," close to the town, and upon the banks of the old course of the River Irwell.  Immediately below the eminence, upon which the castle once reared its frowning walls, a low tract of ground, of considerable extent, stretches away from below the semicircular ridge upon which the northern extremity of the town is situated, up the valley of the Irwell.  Less than fifty years ago this tract was a great stagnant swamp, where, in certain states of the weather, the people of the neighbourhood could see, to the dismay of some of them, the weird antics of the "Wild Fire," or, "Jack o' Lantern," that fiend of morass and fen.  An old medical gentleman, of high repute, who has lived his whole life in the town, lately assured me that he remembers well that, during the existence of that poisonous swamp, there was a remarkable prevalence of fever and ague amongst the people living in its neighbourhood; which diseases have since then comparatively disappeared from the locality.  There is something rich in excellent suggestions in the change which has been wrought in that spot.  The valley, so long fruitful of pestilences, is now drained and cleared, and blooms with little garden allotments, belonging to the working people thereabouts.  Oft as I chance to pass that way, on the East Lancashire Railway, on Saturday afternoons, or holidays, there they are, working in their little plots, sometimes assisted by their children, or their wives; a very pleasant scene.  Most Englishmen glory in a bit of garden of their own, and take pleasure in the pains they bestow upon it.

    I lingered in the market-place a little while, looking at the parish church, with its new tower and spire, and at the fine pile of new stone buildings, consisting of the Derby Hotel, the Town Hall, and the Athenæum.  South Lancashire has, for a very long time past, been chiefly careful about its hard productive work, and practicable places to do it in; and has taken little thought about artistic ornament of any sort; but that part of the strong, old county palatine begins to flower out a little here and there, and this will increase as the enormous wealth of the county becomes influenced by elevated taste.  In this new range of buildings, there was a stateliness and beauty, which made the rest of the town of Bury look smaller and balder than ever it seemed to me before.  There it stood in the town, but not, apparently, of the town.  It looked like a piece of the west end of London, dropped among a cluster of weavers' cottages.  But my reflections took another direction.  At "The Derby," there, thought I, will be supplied—to anybody who can command "the one thing needful,"—sumptuous eating and drinking, fine linen, and downy beds, hung with damask curtaining; together with grand upholstery, glittering chandelier and looking glass, and more than enough of other ornamental garniture of all sorts; a fine cook's shop and dormitory, where a man might make shift to tickle a few of his five senses very prettily, if he was so disposed.  A beggar is not likely to put up there; but a lord might chance to go to bed there, and dream that he was a beggar.  At the other end of these fine buildings, the new Athenæum was quietly rising into the air.  The wants to be provided for in that edifice were quite of another kind.  There is in the town of Bury, as, more or less, everywhere, a thin sprinkling of naturally active and noble minds, struggling through the hard crust of ignorance and difficulty, towards mental light and freedom.  Such salt as this poor world of ours has in it, is not unfrequently found among this humble brood of stragglers.  I felt sure that such as these, at least, would watch the laying of the stones of this new Athenæum with a little interest.  That is their grand citadel, thought I; and from thence, the fatal artillery of a few old books shall help to batter tyranny and nonsense about the ears;—for there is a reasonable prospect that there, the ample page of knowledge, "rich with the spoils of time," will be unfolded to all who desire to consult it; and that from thence the seeds of thought may yet be sown over a little space of the neighbouring mental soil.  This fine old England of ours will some day find, like the rest of the world, that it is not mere wealth and luxury, and dexterous juggling among the legerdemain of trade, that make and maintain its greatness, but intelligent and noble-hearted men, in whatever station of life they grow; and they are, at least, sometimes found among the obscure, unostentatious, and very poor.  It will learn to prize these, as the "pulse of the machine," and to cultivate them as the chief hope of its future existence and glory; and will carefully remove, as much as possible, all unnecessary difficulties from the path of those who, from a wise instinct of nature, are impelled in the pursuit of knowledge by pure love of it, for its own sake, and not by sordid aims.

    The New Town Hall is the central building of this fine pile.  The fresh nap was not yet worn off it; and, of course, its authorities were anxious to preserve its pristine Corinthian beauty from the contaminations of "the unwashed."  They had made it nice, and they wanted none but nice people in it.  At the "free exhibition" of models for the Peel monument, a notice was posted at the entrance, warning visitors, that "Persons in Clogs" would not be admitted.  There are some Town Halls which are public property, in the management of which a kindred solicitude prevails about mere ornaments of wood and stone, or painting, gilding, and plaster work; leading to such restrictions as tend to lessen the service which they might afford to the whole public.  They are kept rather too exclusively for grandee-festivals; and gatherings of those classes which are too much sundered from the poor by a Chinese wall of exclusive feeling, and vulgarly distinguished from them by the vague name of the "respectable."  I have known the authorities of such places make "serious objections to evening meetings;" and yet, how oft have I seen the farce of "public meetings" got up by this party, or that, ostensibly for the discussion of some important question then agitating the population of the neighbourhood, inviting public discussion, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, an hour when the heterodox multitude they feared to meet, would be secure enough at their labour; and, in this way, many a pack of fanatic hounds—and there are some such in all parties—have howled out their hour with a clear stage and no foe; and then walked off glorying in their sham triumph, leaving nothing beaten behind them but the air they have tainted with ex parté denunciation.  And, in my erroneous belief that this Town Hall, into which "Persons in Clogs" were not to be admitted, was public property, the qualification test seemed to be of a queer kind, and altogether at the wrong end of the man.  Alas, for these poor lads who wear clogs and work-soiled fustian garments; it takes a moral Columbus, every now and then, to keep the world at all awake to a dim belief that there is something fine in them, which has been running to waste for want of recognition and culture.  Blessed and beautiful are the feet, thought I, which fortune hath encased in the neat "Clarence," of the softest calf or Cordovan, or the glossy "Wellington," of fine French leather.  Even so; the woodenest human head has a better chance in this world, if it come before us covered with a good-looking hat.  But, woe unto your impertinent curiosity, ye unfortunate clog-wearing lovers of the fine arts!—(I was strongly assured that there were several curious specimens of this strange animal extant among the working people of Bury.)  It was pleasant to hear, however, that several of these ardent persons of questionable understanding, meeting with this warning as they attempted to enter the hall, after duly contemplating it with humorous awe, doffed their condemned clogs at once, and, tucking the odious timber under their arms, ran up the steps in their stocking-feet.  It is a consolation to believe that these clogs of theirs are not the only clogs yet to be taken off in this world of ours.  But, as this "Town Hall" is private property, and, as it has been settled by a certain coronetted Solon of the north that "a man can do what he likes with his own," these reflections are, perhaps, more pertinent to other public balls that I know of than to this one.

    In one of the windows of "The Derby" was exhibited a representation of "The Eagle and Child," or, as the country-folk in Lancashire sometimes call it, "Th' Brid and Bantling'," the ancient recognizance of the Stanleys, Earls of Derby, and formerly kings of the Isle of Man, with their motto, "Sans changer," in a scroll beneath.  This family still owns the manor of Bury, and has considerable possessions there.  They have also large estates and great influence in the north and West of Lancashire.  In former times they have been accounted the most powerful family of the county; and in some of the old wars, they led to the field all the martial chivalry of Lancashire and Cheshire under their banner.  As I looked on the Stanley's crest, I thought of the fortunes of that noble house, and of the strange events which it had shared with the rest of the kingdom.  Of James, Earl of Derby, who was beheaded at Bolton-le-Moors, in front of the Man and Scythe Inn, in Deansgate, two centuries since; and of his countess, Charlotte de Tremouille, who so bravely defended Fathom House against the parliamentary forces, during the last civil wars.  She was daughter to Claude, Duke of Tremouille, and Charlotte Brabantin de Nassau, daughter of William, Prince of Orange, and Charlotte de Bourbon, of the royal house of France.  Apart from all the pride of famous descent, both the earl and his lady were remarkable for certain high and noble qualities of mind, which commanded the respect of all parties in those troubled times.   I sometimes think that if it had pleased Heaven for me to have lived in those days, I should have been compelled by nature to fall into some Roundhead rank, and do a stroke or two, the best I could, for that cause.  When a lad at school I had this feeling: and, as I pored over the history of that period, sometimes by the light of the fire, for want of a candle, I well remember how, in my own mind, I shouted the solemn battle-cry with great Cromwell and his captains, and charged with the earnest Puritans, in their bloody struggles against the rampant tyrannies of the time.  Yet, even then, I never read of this James, Earl of Derby—the brave and faithful soldier of a very infatuated king—without a feeling of admiration for the chivalry of his character.  I lately saw, in Bolton, an antique cup of "stone china," quaintly painted and gilt, out of which it is said that he drank the communion immediately before his execution.  Greenhalgh, of Brandlesome, who was a notable and worthy man, and who governed the Isle of Man for the Earls of Derby, lived at Brandlesome Hall, near Bury.  Respecting Edward, the third earl, Camden says, "With Edward, Earl of Derby's death, the glory of hospitality seemed to fall asleep."  Of his munificent housekeeping, too, he tells us: how he fed sixty old people twice a day, every day, and all comers twice a week; and every Christmas-day, for thirty-two years, supplied two thousand seven hundred with meat, drink, money, and money's worth; and how he offered to raise ten thousand soldiers for the king.  Also, that he had great reputation as a bone-setter, and was a learned man, a poet, and a man of considerable talent in many directions.  The present Lord Stanley [1] is accounted a man of great ability as a politician and orator, and of high and impetuous spirit; and is the leader of the Conservative party in parliament.  A century ago, the influence of great feudal families, like the Stanleys, was all but supreme in the greatest part of Lancashire; but, since that time, the old landlord domination has fast declined in the manufacturing districts; and, though the people have found some galling slaveries under new disguises, in the state of things which manufacture has brought with it, they certainly begin to set more value upon their independent rights as men, than upon the painful patronage of feudal landlords.

    I had no time to devote to any other of the notabilities of Bury town; and I thought that "Chamber Hall," the birthplace of the great departed statesman, Peel—which is becoming a kind of political Lancashire Mecca in these days—would be worth a special pilgrimage some Saturday afternoon. [2]  I had finished my business about seven o'clock, and, as the nightfall was fine and clear, I resolved to walk over to Rochdale, about six miles off, to see an old friend of mine there.  Few people like a country walk better than I do; and being in very fair health and spirits, I took the road at once, with my stick in my hand, as briskly as a Shetland pony in good fettle.  Striking out at the town-end, I bethought me of an old herbalist, or "yarb doctor," who lived somewhere thereabouts—a genuine dealer in simples, bred up in the hills, on Ashworth Moor, about three miles from the town, and who had made the botany of his native neighbourhood a life-long study.  Culpepper's "Herbal" was a favourite book with him, as it is among a great number of the county people of Lancashire, where there are, perhaps, more really cleaver botanists in humble life to be found than in any other part of the kingdom.  Nature and he were familiar friends, for he was a lonely rambler by hill, and glen, and field, at all seasons of the year, and could talk by the hour about the beauties and medicinal virtues of gentian, dandelion, and camomile, or tansy, mountain flax, sanctuary, hyssop, buckbean, wood-betony, and "Robin-run-i'-th'-hedge and an endless catalogue of other herbs and plants, a plentiful assortment of which he kept by him, either green or in dried bundles, ready for the behoof of his customers.  The country people in Lancashire generally have great faith in simples, and in simple treatment for their diseases.  I well remember that one of their most canonical recipes for a common cold is "a wot churnmilk posset, weel sweet'nt, an' a tricycle cake to't, at bed-time."  They are profound believers in the kindly doctrine expressed in that verse of George Herbert's:—
 

    "More servants wait on man
 Than he'll take notice of; in every path
     He treads down what befriends him
     When sickness makes him pale and wan.
 Oh mighty love! man is one world, and hath
     Another to attend him."


Therefore, our primitive old herb-doctor had in his time driven what he doubtless considered, in his humble way, a pretty gainful trade.  And he was not exactly "a doctor-by- guess," as the Scotch say, but a man of good natural parts, and of some insight into human physiology, of great experience and observation in his little sphere, and remarkable for strong common sense and integrity.  He was also well acquainted with the habits and the peculiar tone of physical constitution among the people of his neighbourhood.  Like his pharmacopæia, his life and manners were very simple, and his rude patients had great confidence in him.  It was getting dark, and I did not know exactly where to find him, or I should have liked very well to see the old botanist, of whom I had heard a very interesting account in my native town.

    When one gets fairly into the country it is fine walking by a clear starlight, when the air is touched with frost, and the ground hard under the foot.  I enjoyed all this still more on that old road, which is always rising some knoll, or descending into some quiet little clough, where all is so still that one can hear the waters sing among the fields and stunted woods off the wayside.  The wind was blowing fresh and keen across Knoll Hill and the heathery wastes of Ashworth and Rooley Moors, those wild heights which divide the vale of the Roch from the Forest of Rossendale.  I stood and looked upon the blue heavens, "fretted with golden fire," and around me upon this impressive night-scene, so finely still and solemn, the effect deepened by the meanings of the wind among the trees.  My mind reverted to the crowded city, and I thought to myself—this is rather different to Market-street, in Manchester, on a Tuesday forenoon, about the time of "high change," as I listened to the clear "Wo-up!" of a solitary carter to his horse on the top of the opposite knoll, and heard the latch of a cottage-door lifted, and saw the light from the inside glint forth into the trees below for an instant.  It was a homely glimpse, which contrasted beautifully with the sombre grandeur of the night.  The cottage door closed again, the fireside picture was gone, and I was alone on the silent road, with the clear stars looking down.

    I generally put off my meals till I get a hint from the inside; and, by the time that I reached the bottom of a lonely dell, about three miles on the road, I began to feel very hungry, and I stepped into the only house thereabouts, a little roadside inn, to get a bite of something.  The house stands near to a narrow woody ravine, which runs under the highway at that place.  It is said to have been entirely built by one man, who got the stone, hewed it, cut the timber, and shaped it, and altogether built the house, such as it is; and it has an air of primitive rudeness about it, which partly corroborates the story.  It is known to the scattered inhabitants of that district by the name of "the house that Jack built."  On entering the place, I found the front room dark and quiet, and nothing stirring but in the kitchen, where I saw the light of a candle, and heard a little music among the pots, which somebody was washing.  The place did not seem very promising, so far as I could see at all, but I felt curious, and, walking forward, I found a very homely-looking old woman bustling about there, with a clean cap on, not crimped nor frilled any way, but just plainly adorned with a broad border of those large, stiff, old-fashioned puffs, which I used to watch my mother make on the end of the "Italian iron," when I was a lad at home.  Old Sam, the landlord, had just come home from his work, and sat quietly smoking on the long settle, in a nook by the fireside, while his good wife, Mary, got some tea ready for her tired old man.  The entrance of a customer seemed to be an important affair to them, and partly so, I believe, because they were glad to have a little company in their quiet corner, and liked to hear, now and then, how the world was wagging a few miles off.  I called for a glass of ale, and something like the following conversation ensued:—

        Mary.  Aw'll bring it, measter.  See yo, tay this cheer.  It's as chep sittin' as stonnin' for aught aw know.  An' poo up to th' fire, for it's noan so warm to-meet.

        Sam.  Naw, its nobbut cowdish, for sure; dray up to th' hob, an' warm yo, for yo look's gradely parish's. [3]

    "If you can bring me a crust of bread and cheese, or a bit of cold meat, or anything, I shall be obliged to you," said I.

        Mary.  Ah, sure aw will.  We'n a bit o' very nice cowd mheyt; an' aw'll bring it eawt.   But it's bhoylt, mind yo!  Dun yo like it bhoylt?  Yo'n find it middlin toothsome.

    I told her that it would do very well; and then the landlord struck in:—

        Sam.  Does ta yer, lass.  There's a bit o' nice pickle theer, i'th cubbort; aw dar say he'd like some.  Fot it eawt, an' let him feel at it.

        Mary.  Oh, ay, sure there is; an' aw'll bring it, too.  Aw declare aw'd forgetter it!  Dun yo like pickle, measther?

    "I do, very well," said I, "just for a taste, thank you."

        Mary.  Well, well; aw myhen for a taste.  But aw'll bring it, an' yo can help yorsel to't.  Let's see, wi'n yo have hard brade?  Which side dun yo come fro?"

    "I come from Manchester," said I.

        Mary.  Fro Manchester, eh!  Whau, then, yo'd'n rayther ho' loaf-brade, aw'll uphowd yo.

    "Nay, nay," said I, "I'm country-bred; and I would rather have a bit of oat-cake.  I very seldom get any in Manchester; and, when I do, it tastes as if it was mismanaged, somehow; so I can assure you that a bit of good country bread will be a treat to me."

        Mary.  That's reet; aw'll find yo some gradely good stuff!  An' it's a dhyel howsomer nor loaf, too, mind yo.   *   *   *  Neaw, wi'n naut uncuth to set afore yo; but yo'n find that beef's moan sich bad takkin', iv yor ony ways sharp set.   *   *   *  Theer, see yo!  Nea, may yoursel' awhom, an' spare naut, for wi'n plenty moor.  But houd! yo hannot o' yor tools yet.  Aw'll reytch yo a fork in a crack.

    I fell to my homely feast with a very hearty good-will, for the viands before me were not scanty, and they were both wholesome, and particularly welcome, after my sharp walk in the keen wind, which came whistling over the moors that night.  The first heat of the attack was beginning to slacken a bit, and Old Sam, who had been sitting in the corner, patient and pleased, all the while, with a very observant look, began to think that now there might be room for him to put in a word or two.  I, also, began to feel as if I had no objection to taper off my meal with a little country talk; and the old man was just asking me what the town's folk said about the parliamentary crisis, and the rumour which had reached him, that there was an intention of restoring the corn-laws again, when Mary interrupted him by saying, "Husht, Sam; does ta yer naut?"  He took the pipe out of his mouth, and, quietly blowing the smoke from the corner of his lips, held his head on one side in a listening attitude.  Old Sam smiled, and lighting his pipe again, he said, "Ah, yon's Jone o' Jeffry's."  "It's naut else, aw believe," said Mary; "does ta think he'll co'?"  "Co', ah," replied Sam; "does he ever miss, thinks ta?  Tay thy cheer to th' tone side a bit, an' may reawm for him, for he'll be i'th' heawse in a minute."  And then, turning to me, he said, "Nea, then, measter, yo'n yer some gam, iv yor spare't."  He had scarcely done speaking, when a loud "Woyhe" was heard outside, as a cart stopped at the door, and a heavy footstep came stamping up the lobby.  The kitchen door opened, and a full-blown Lancashire Cossack stood before us.  Large-limbed and broad-shouldered, with a great, frank, good-tempered face, full of rude health and glee.  He looked a fine sample of simple manhood, with a disposition that seemed to me, from the expression of his countenance, to be something between that of an angel and a bull-dog.  Giving his hands a hearty smack, he rubbed them together, and smiled at the fire; and then, doffing his rough hat, and flinging it with his whip upon the table, be shouted out, "Hello!  Heaw are yo—o' on yo! Yo'r meeterly quiet again to-neet, Mary!  An' some ov a cowd neet it is.  My nose sweats."  The landlord whispered to me, "Aw towd yo, didn't awe.  Sit yo still; he's rare company, is Jone."

        Mary.  Ah, we're quiet enough; but we shannut be so long, neaw at thir't come'd, Jone, nothur.

        Jone.  Well, well.  You noan beawn to flyte mo, owd crayter, are yo?

        Sam.  Tay no notiz on hur, wilto, foo; hoo mhyens naut wrang.

        Mary.  Nut aw!  Sit to deawn, Jone.  We're olez fain to sitho; for thir't noan one o'th'warst mak o' folk, as roof as to art.

        Jone.  Aw'st sit mo deawn, as what aw am; an' aw'st warm me too, beside; an' aw'll ha' summat to sup too, afore aw darken yon dur-hole again.   *   *   *  Owd woman, fill me one o'th bigg'st pots yo han, an' let's be havin' houd, aw pray yo; for my throttle's as dry as a kex.  An' be as slippy as ever yo con, owd crayter, or aw'st be helpin' myself, for it's ill bidein for dry folk amung good drink!

        Mary.  Nay, nay; aw'll sarve tho mysel', Jone, i' tho'll be patient abeawt hauve a minute; an' theaw'st ha' plenty to start wi', as heaw't be.

        Jone.  "That's just reet," said Pinder, when his wife bote hur tung i' two!  Owd woman, yo desarv'n a comfortable sattlement i' th' top shop when yo dee'n; an' yo'st ha' one, too, iv aw've ony say i' th' matter.   *   *   *  Eh, heaw quiet yo are, Sam!  By th' mass, iv aw're here a bit moor, aw'd may some rickin' i' this cauve-cote, too.  Whau, mon, yo'dd'n sink into a dhyed sleep, an' fair dee i'th' shell, iv one didn't wacken yo up a bit, oytch neaw and then.

    Mary.  Eh, mon!  Thea sees, our Sam an' me's gettin' owd, an' yo'dd'n raythur be quiet a very dhyel, for th' bit o' time at wi' ha'n to do on.  Beside, aw could never do wi' roof wark.  Raylee o' me!  It'd weary a grooin' tree to ha' th' din, an' th' lumber, an' th' muck at te han i' some ale heawzus.  To my thinkin', aw'd go as fur as othur grace [4] grew or waytur ran, afore aw'd live amoon sich doin's.  One could elthur manage we't at th' for-end o' their days.  But what, we hannut so lung to do on, neaw; an' aw would e'n finish as quietly as aw can.  We hannut had a battle i' er heawse uz—let's see—uz three yeer an' moor; ha'n wi, Sam?

    Sam.  Naw, aw dunnot think we han.  But we soud'n a dhyel moor ale, just afore that time, too.

    Jone.  Three year, sen yo!  Eh, the dule, Mary; heaw ha'n yo shaped that!  Whau' owd Neddy at th' Hoo'senam—yo known owd Noddy, aw reckon, dunnot yo, Sam?

    Sam.  Do I know Rachdaw Church steps, thinks to?

    Jone.  Aw dar say yo known th' steps a dhyel better nur yo known th' church itsel'.

    Sam.  Whau, aw have been bin up thoose steps a time or two i' my life; an thea knows, ony body at's bin up 'em a twothore [5] times, 'll nut forget 'em so soon; for iv thi'n tay 'em sharpish fro' th' bothom to' th' top, it'll try their wynt up rarely afore they reytch'n Tim Bobbin gravestone i' th' owd church-yort.   But, aw've bin to sarvice theer as oft as thea has, aw think.

    Jone.  Ah;—an' yo'n gotten abeawt as mich good wi't, as aw have, aw dar say; an' that's naut to crack on;—ho'ever, wi'n say no moor uppo' that footin'.  But, iv yo known ony body at o', yo known own Neddy at th' Hoo'senam; and aw'll be bund for't, 'at i' three years time he's brunt mony a peawnd o' candles wi' watchin' folk fheyt i' their heawse.  Eh, aw've si'n him ston o'er 'em, wi' a candle i' eyther hont, mony a time, when they'n bin fheytin', an' he's kept co'in eawt, "Nea lads.  Turn him o'er, Tum!  Let 'em ha' reawm, chaps, wi'n yo; let 'em em ha' reawn!  Nea lads!  Keep a loce leg,  Jam!  Nea lads!"  And then, when one on 'em wur done to th' lung-length, he'd sheawt eawt, "Houd, bond! he's put his hont up!  Come, give o'er, and ger up."  And, afore they'd'n getten gradely wynded, and put their cloas on, he'd offer "another quart for the next battle."  Eh, he's one o'th quarest chaps i' this nation, is owd Ned, to my thinkin', an' he's some gradely good phoynts in him, too.

    Sam.  There isn't a quarer o' this countryside, as hea't be; an' there's some crumpers amoon th' lot.

    Jone.  Aw guess yo know'n Bodle, too, dunnot yo, owd Sam?

    Sam.  Yigh, aw do.  He wortches up at th' col-pit yon, doesn't he?

    Jone.  He does, owd craytur.

    Mary.  Let's see, isn't that him 'at skens a bit?

    Sam.  A bit, says ta, lass?  It's aboon a bit, by Guy.   He skens ill enough to crack a looking glass, welly.   His e'e-seet crosses somewheer abeawt th' end on his nose, i' th' treawth wur known; an' he's as feaw as an empty pot, oleo o'er,—an' as leawsy as Thump, too, beside.

    Mary.  Eh, do let th' lad alone, folk, win you.  Aw marvel at yo'n no moor wit nor mayin a foo o' folk at's wrang wheer they connut help it.  Yo met happen be strucken yorsels!  Beside, he's somebory's chylt, an' somebory likes him too, aw'll uphowd him; for there never wur a feaw face i' this world, but there wur a feaw fancy to match it, somewheer.

    Jone.  They may fancy him 'at likes, for me; but there's noan so mony folk at'll fancy Bodle, at after they'n smelled at him once't.  An', by Guy, he's hardly wit enough to keep fro' runnin' again woles.  But, aw see yo known him weel enough; an' so aw'll tell yo a bit of a crack abeawt him an' Owd Neddy.

    Mary.  Well let's ha't; an' mind ta tells no lies abeawt th' lad i' thy talk.

    Jone.  Bith mon, Mary, aw connut do, adeawt aw say at he's other a pratty un, or a good un.

    Sam.  Get forrud wi' thy tale, Jone, wilto: an' bother no moor abeawt it.

    Jone.  (Whispers to Owd Sam): Aw say.  Who's that chap's at sits hutchin i' the nook their, wi' his meawth oppen?

    Sam.  Aw know not. But he's a nice quiet lad o' somebory's, so tay no notiz.  Thae'll just meet pleaz him i' tho'll get forrud; thae may see that, i' tho'll look at him, for he stares like a ferret at's sin a ratton.

    Jone.  Well, yo see'n, Sam, one mornin', after Owed Neddy an' Bodle had been fuddlin' o' th' o'erneet, thi'dd'n just getten a yure o' th' owd dog into 'em, an' they sit afore th' fire i' Owd Neddy kitchen, as quiet, to look at, as two pot dolls; but they didn't feel so, nother; for thi'dd'n some ov a yed-waache apiece, i' th' treawth wur known.  When thi'dd'n turn't things o'er a bit, Bodle begun o' lookin' very yearn'stfully at th' fire-hole o' at once't, and he said, "By th' mass, Owd Ned, aw've a good mind to go reet up th' chimbley."  Well, yo known, Neddy likes a spree as well as ony men livin', an he doesn't care so mich what mak' o' one it is, nothur; so as soon as he yerd that he jumped up, an' said, "Damn it, Boodle, go up—up wi' tho!"  Bodle stood still a minute, looking at th' chimbley, an' as he double't his laps up, he said, "Well, neaw; should aw rayley go up, thinks ta, owd crayter?"  "Go?—ah; what elze?" said Owd Ned—"Up wi' tho; soot's good for th'bally-waach, mon; an' aw 'll gi' tho a quart ov ale when tho comes deawn again!"  "Will ta, for sure?" said Bodle, prickin' his ears.  "Am aw lyin' thinks ta?" onswer't Owd Neddy.  "Whau, then, aw'm off, by Gos, iv it're as lung as a steeple;" an' he made no moor bawks at th' job, but set th' tone foot onto th' top-bar, an' up he went into th' smudge hole.  Just as he wur crommin' hissel' in at th' bothom o' th' chimbley, th' owd woman coom in to see what they hadd'n agate; an' as soon as Bodle yerd hur, he code eawt, "Houd hur back a bit, whol aw get eawt o'th seet, or elze hoo'll poo me deawn again."   Hoo stare's a bit afore hoo could may it eawt what it wur a're creepin up th' chimbley-hole, an' hoo said, "What mak o' lumber ha'n yo afoot neaw? for yo're a rook o'th big'st nowmuns at ever trode ov a floor.  Yo'n some make o' divulment agate i'th chimbley, aw declare."  As soon as hoo fund what it wur, hoo sheawted, "Eh, thea ghreyt gawmless foo!  Wheer to for up theer?  They'll be smoor't, mon!"  An, hoo would ha' darted forrud, an' gotten hond on him; but Owd Ned kept stonnin afore hur, an' sayin "Let him alone, mon; it's nobbut a bit ov a spree."  Then he looked o'er his shoulder at Bodle, an' said, "Get tee forrud, wilto nowmun; thae met ha' bin dawn again by neaw;" an, as soon as he see'd at Bodle wur gettin meeterly weel up th' hole, he leet hur go; but hoo wur to lat by a dhyel.  An' o' at hoo could do, wur to fot him a seawse or two o' th' legs wi' th' poker.   But he wur for up, an' naut else.   He did just stop abeawt hauve a minute,—when he feld hur hit his legs,—to co' eawt, "Hoo's that at's hittin' mo?"  "Whau," said hoo, "It's me, thae ghreyt leather-yed;—an' come deawn wi' tho!  Whatever arto' doin' i' th' chimbley?"  "Aw'm goin' up for some ale."  "Ale!  There's no ale up theer, thae ghreyt brawsen foo!  Eh, aw wish yor Mally wur here!"  "Aw wish hoo wur here, istid o' me," said Bodle.  Come deawn witho this minute, thae ghreyt drunken hal!"  "Nut yet," said Bodle,—"but aw'll not be lung, nothur, yo may depend;—for it's noan a nice plaze,—this isn't.   Eh! there is some ov a smudge!  An' it gwos wur as aw go fur;—a—tscho—o!  By Guy, aw con see noan,—nor talk, nothur;—so ger off, an' let mo get it o'er afore aw'm chauk't;" and then th' owd lad crope forrud, as hard as he could, for he're thinkin' abeawt th' quart ov ale.  Well, Owd Neddy nearly skrike't wi' laughin', as he watched Bodle draw his legs up eawt o' th' seet; an' he set agate o' hommerin' th' chimbley whole wi' his hont, an sheawtin' up, "Go on, Bodle, owd lad!  Go on, owd mon!  Thir't a reet un, i' tho lhoyzus!  Thea'st have a quart o' th' best ale i' this hole, i' thou lives till tho comes deawn again, as hea 'tis, owd brid! an i' tho does through it, aw'll be fourpence or fi'pence toawrd thi berrin."  And then, he went sheawting up an' deawn "Hey!  Dun yo yer, lads; come here!  Owd Boodle's gwon chleyn up th' chimbley!  Aw never sprad my e'en uppo th' marrow trick to this i' my life."  Well, yo may thinks, Sam, th' whole hawse wur up i' no time; an' some rare spwort they ha'dd'n; whol Owd Neddy kept goin' to th' eawtside, to see if Boodle had getting his yed eawt at th' top; an' then runnin' in again, and bawling up th' flue, "Bodle, owd lad, heaw arto gettin' on?  Go throo wi't, owd cock!"  But, whol he're starin' and sheawtin' up th' chimbley, Bodle lost his hond, somewheer toward th' top, an' he coom shutterin' deawn again, an' o' the soot i' the chimbley wi' him; an' he let wi' his hinder end thump o' th' top-bar, an' then roll't deawn uppo th' har'stone.  An' a greadly blash-boggart he looked, yo may think.  Th' owd lad seem't as if he hardly knowed wheer he wur; so he lee theer a bit, amoon a ghreyt cloud o' soot, an' Owd Neddy stood o'er him, laughin', an' wipein' his e'en, an' co'in' eawt, "Tay thy wynt a bit, Bodle; thir't safe londed, iv it be hard leetin'!  Thir't a reet un, bi' th' mon art ta, too.  Tay thy wynt, owd bird!  Thea'st have a quart ov ale, as hea 'tis, owd mon, as soon as ever aw con see my gate to th' bar eawt o' this smudge at thea's brought wi' tho!  Aw never had my chimney swept as chep i' my life, never!"

    Mary.  Well, if ever!  Whau, it 're enough to may th' fellow's throttle up!  A ghreyt, drunken leather-yed!  But, he'd be some dry, mind you!

    Jone.  Yo'r reet, Mary!  Aw think mysel' at a quart ov ale 'ud come noan amiss after a do o' that mak.  An' Bodle wouldn't wynd aboon once wi' it, afore he see'd th' bottom o' th' pot, nothur.

    Well, I had a good laugh at Jone's tale, and I enjoyed his manner of telling it, quite as much as anything there was in the story itself; for, he seemed to talk with every limb of his body, and every feature of his face; and told it, altogether, in such a living way, with so much humour and earnestness, that it was irresistible; and as I was "giving mouth" a little, with my face turned up toward the ceiling, he turned to me, and said quickly, "Come, aw say; are yo noan fyerd o' throwing yo'r choles off th' hinges?"  We soon settled down into a quieter mood, and drew round the fire, for the night was cold; when Jone suddenly pointed out to the landlord, one of those little deposits of smoke which sometimes wave about on the bars of the fire-grate, and, after whispering to him, "See yo, Sam; a stranger uppo th' bar, theer;" he turned to me, and said "That's yo, measther!"  This is a little superstition, which is common to the fire-sides of the poor in all England, I believe.  Soon after this, Mary said to Jone, "Hasto gan thy horse aught, Jone?"  "Sure, aw have," replied he, "Aw laft it heytin', an plenty to go on wi', so then.  Mon, aw reckon to look after deawn-crayters a bit, iv there be aught sturrin'."  "Well," said she, "aw dar say thea does, Jone; an' mind yo thoose at winnut do some bit like toawrd things at connut spheyk for theirsels, they'n never ha' no luck, as hoo they are."  "Well," said Jone, "my horse wortches weel, an' he sleeps weel, an' he heyts weel, an' he drinks weel, an' he parts wi't flyerful weel; so he doesn't ail mich yet."  "Well," replied Mary, "there isn't a wick thing i' this world can wortch as it should do, if it doesn't heyt as it should do."  Here I happened to take a note-book out of my pocket, and write in it with my pencil, when the conversation opened again.

        Sam. (Whispering.) Sitho, Jone, he's bookin' tho!

        Jone.  Houd, measther, houd!  What mak' o' marlocks are yo after, neaw!  What're yo for wi' us, theer!  But aw caren't a flirt abeawt it; for thi' connot hang folk for spheykin neaw, as thi' couldn't once on a day; so get forrud wi't, as what it is.

    He then, also, began to inquire about the subject which was the prevailing topic of conversation at that time, namely, the parliamentary crisis, in which Lord John Russell had resigned his office at the head of the government ; and the great likelihood there seemed to be of a protectionist party obtaining power.

        Jone.  Han yo yerd aught abeawt Lord Stanley puttin' th' Corn Laws on again?  There wur some rickin' abeawt it i' Bury teawn, when aw coom off wi' th' cart to-neet,

        Sam.  They'n never do't, mon!  They connot do!  An' it's very weel, for aw dunnut know what mut become o' poor folk iv they did'n do.  What think'n yo, measther?

    I explained to them the unsettled state of parliamentary affairs, as it had reached us through the papers; and gave them my firm belief that the Corn Laws had been abolished once for all in this country, and that there was no political party in England who wished to restore them, who would ever have the power to do so.

        Jone.  Dun yo think so?  Aw'm proud to yer it!

        Sam.  An' so am aw too, Jone.  But what, aw know'd it weel enough.  Eh, moon; there's a dhyel moor crussuz o' brade lyin' abeawt i' odd nooks an' corners, nor there wur once oy a day.  Aw've sin th' time when thi'd'n ha' bin checked up like lumps o' gowd.

        Jone.  Aw think they'n ha' to fot Lord John back, to wheyve his cut deawn yet.  To my thinkin' he'd no business to lhyev his looms.  But aw dar say he knows his own job betther nor aw do.  He'll be as fause as a boggart, or elze he'd never ha' bin i' that shop as lung as he has bin; not he.  There's moor in his yed nor a smo'-tooth comb con fot eawt.  What think yo, owd brid?

        Sam.  It's so like; it's so like!  But aw dunnut care who's in, Jone, i' thi'n nobbut do some good for poor folk; an' that's one o' th' main jobs for thoose at's power to don't.  But, iv they wur'n to put th' Corn Bill on again, there's mony a theawsan' 'ud be clemmed to dhyeth, o'ov a rook.

        Jone.  Ah, there would so, Sam, at aw know on.  But, see yo; there's a dhyel on 'em 'ud go deawn afore me.  Aw'd may somebody houd back whol their cale coom!  Iv they winnut gi' me my share for wortchin' for, aw'll have it eawt o' some nook, ov aw dunnut, damn Jone!  (Striking the table heavily with his fist.)  They's never be clemmed at ir hawse, as aw ha' si'n folk clemmed i' my time,—never, whol aw've a knheyve a th' end o' my arm!  Neaw, what have aw towd yo!

        Sam.  Thea'rt reet lad!  Aw houd to wit good, by th' mass.   Whol they gi'n us some bit like ov a choance, we can elthur do.  At th' most o' times, we'n to kill 'ursels to keep 'ursels, welly; but, when it comes to scarce wark an' dear mheyt, th' upstroke's noan so fur off.

        Mary.  Ay, ay.  If it're nobbut a body's sel', we met manage to pinch a bit, neaw an' then; becose one could reayson abeawt it some bit like.  But it's th' childher, mon, it's th' childer!  Th' little things at look'n for it reggelur; an' wonder'n heaw it is when it doesn't come.  Eh, dear o' me!  To see poor wortchin' folk's little 'bits o' childher yammerin' for a bite o' mheytwhen there's noan for 'em; an' lookin' up i' folk's faces, as mich as to say, "Connot yo help mo?"  It's enough to may onybody cry their shoon full!

    Here I took out my book to make another note.

        Jone.  Hello! your agate again!  Your for mayin' some mak ov a hobbil on us, aw believe!  What, are yo takkin' th' pickter on mo, or summat?  *    *    *    *    *  Eh, owd Sam; what a thing this larnin' is.  Aw should ha' bin worth mony a hunderth theawsan peawnd iv aw could ha' done o' that shap, see yo !

        Sam.  Aw guess thea con write noan, nor read nothur, con ta, Jone?

        Jone.  Nut aw! aw've no moor use for a book nor a duck has for a umbrell.  Aw've had to wortch meeterly hard sin aw're five year owd, mon.  Iv aw've aught o' that mak to do, aw go to owd Silver-yed at thi'lone-side, wi't.  It may's mo mad mony a time, mon; one look's sich a foo!

        Sam.  An' he con write noan mich, aw think, con he?

        Jone.  Naw.  He went no fur nor pot-hook an' ladles i' writin', aw believe.  But he can read a bit, an' that's moor nor a dhyel o' folk abeawt here can do.  Aw know nobory oppo this side at's greadly larnt up, nobbut Ash'oth parson.  But there's plenty o' chaps i' Rachdaw teawn at's so brawsen wi' wit, whol nothur me, nor thee, nor no mon elze, con may ony sense on 'em.  Yo reckelect'n a 'torney co'iln' here once't.  What dun yo think o' him?

        Sam.  He favvurs a foo, Jone; ar aw'm a foo mysel'.

        Jone.  He's far learnt i' aught but honesty, mon, that's haw it is.  He'll do no reet, no tay no wrang: So wi'n lap it up just wheer it is ; for little pigs ha'n lung ears.

        Sam.  Aw'll tell tho what, Jone; he's a bad trade by th' hond, for one thing; an' a bad trade'll sphoyle a good mon sometimes; iv he'll stick weel to 't.

        Jone.  It brings moor in nor mine does, a dhyel.  But wi'n let it drop.  Iv aw'd his larnin, aw'd may summat on't.

        Sam.  Ah, well; it's a fine thing is larnin', Jone!  It's a very fine thing!  It tay's no reawm up, mon.  An' then, th' baillies conned fot it, thea sees.  But what, a dhyel o' poor folk are so taen up wi' gettin' what they need'n for th' bally an' th' back, whol thi'n nothur time nor inclination for nought but a bit ov a crack for a leetenin'.

        Jone.  To mich so, owd Sam!  To mich so!    *     *

        Mary.  Thae never tells one heaw th' wife is, Jone.

        Jone.  Whau, th' owd lass is yon; an' hoo's nothur sickly, nor soory, nor sore, 'at aw know on. *    *    *    *    Yigh, hoo's trubble't wi' a bit ov a bhreykin' eawt abeawt th' meawth, sometimes.

        Mary.  Does hoo get nought for it?

        Jone.  Naw, nought 'at'll mend it, aw'm fyerd.  But, aw'm mad enough, sometimes to plaister it wi' my hond,—iv aw could find i' my heart.

        Mary.  Oh, aw see what to mhyens, neaw.     *     *    An' aw dar say thea gi's her 'cation for't, neaw an' then.

        Jone.  Well, aw happen do; for th' best o' folk need'n bidin wi' a bit sometimes; an' aw'm noan one o' th' best, yo know'n.

        Mary.  Naw; nor th' warst nothur, Jone.

        Jone.  Yo dunnut know, o' mon.

        Mary.  Happen not; but, thir't to good to brun, as hea't be.

        Jone.  Well, onybody's so, Mary.  But, we're o' God Almighty's chiller, mon; an' aw feel fain on't, sometimes; for he's th' best feyther at a chylt con have.

        Mary.  Ah, but thea'rt nobbut like other chiller, Jone; thea doesn't tak as mich notice o' thy feyther, as thea should do.

        Sam.  Well, well; let's o' on us be as good as we con be, iv we aren't as good as we should be; an' then wi's be better nor we are.

        Jone.  Hello! that clock begins 'o givin' short 'lowance, as soon as ever aw get agate o' talkin'; aw'm mun be off again!

        Sam.  Well; thae'll co' a lookin' at us, olez, when tho comes this gate on, winnut to, Jone?  Iv tho doesn't, aw'st be a bit mad, thae knows.

        Jone.  As lung as aw'm wick and weel, owd crayter, aw'st keep comin' again, yo may depend,—like Clegg Ho' Boggart.

        Sam.  Well neaw, mind ta does do, for aw've sooner see thee nor two fiddlers, ony time; so good neet to tho, an' good luck to tho, too, Jone, wi' o' my heart!

    The night was now wearing late, and, as I had yet nearly three miles to go, I rose, and went my way.  This old road was never so much travelled as some of the highways of the neighbourhood, but, since railways were made, it has been quieter than before, and the grass has begun to creep over it a little in some places.  It leads through a district which has always been a kind of weird region to me.  And I have wandered among those lonely moorland hills above Birtle, and Ashworth, and Bagslate; up to the crest of old Knowl, and over the wild top of Rooley, from whence the greatest part of South Lancashire—that wonderful region of modern wealth and energy—lies under the eye, from Blackstone Edge to the Irish Sea; and I have wandered through the green valleys and silent glens, among these hills, communing with my own heart, and with the "shapes, and sounds, and shifting elements" of nature, in many a quiet trance of meditative joy; where the serenity of the scene was unmixed with any ruder sounds than the murmurs and gurglings of the many-mooded mountain stream, careering over its rocky bed through the shady hollow of the vale; and the blithe music of small birds among the woods which lined the banks; or the viewless gambols of the summer wind among the varied shade of rustling green, which canopied the lonely stream, so thickly, that the flood of sunshine which washed the treetops of the wood in gold, only stole into the deeps in little fitful threads; hardly giving a warmer tinge to the softened light in the cool grits and mossy cells down by the water side.  Romantic Spoddenlond!  Country of wild beauty; of hardy, simple, honest life; of old-world manners, and of ancient tales and legends dim!  There was a time when almost the very air of the district seemed, to my young mind, impregnated with boggart-lore, and all the wild "gramerie" of old Saxon superstition,—when I looked upon it as the last sylvan stronghold of the fairies; where they would remain impregnable, haunting wild "thrutches" and sylvan "chapels," in lonely deeps of its cloughs and woods; and, in spite of all the hard-hearted logic in the world, still holding their mystic festivals there on moonlight nights, and tripping to the ancient music of its waters, till the crack of doom.  And, for all the boasted march of intellect, it is, even to this day, a district where the existence of witches, and the power of witch-doctors, wise men, seers, planet-rulers, and prognosticators, find great credence in the imaginations of a rude, simple, and unlettered people.  There is a little fold, called "Prickshaw," in this township of Spotland, which fold was the home of a notable country astrologer, in Tim Bobbin's time, called "Prickshaw Witch."  Tim tells a humourous story in his works, about an adventure he had with this Prickshaw planet-ruler, at the old Angel Inn, in Rochdale.  Prickshaw keeps up its old oracular fame in that moorland quarter to this day, for it has its planet-ruler still; and, it is not alone in such wild, remote, outlying nooks of the hills that these professors of the art of divination may yet be found; almost every populous town in Lancashire has, in some corner of it, one or more of these gifted star-readers, searching out the hidden things of life, to all inquirers, at about a shilling a-head.  These country soothsayers mostly drive a sort of contraband trade in their line, in as noiseless and secret a way as possible, among the most ignorant, weak, or credulous part of the population.  And it is natural that they should flourish wherever there are minds combining abundance of ignorant faith and imagination with a plentiful lack of knowledge.  But they are not all skulkers these diviners of the skies, for now and then a bold prophet stands forth, in clear and distinct proportions, before the wondering public gaze, who has more lofty and learned pretensions; witness the advertisement of Dr. Alphonso Gazelle, of No. 4, Sparth Bottoms, Rochdale, which appears in the Rochdale Sentinel, of the 3rd of December, 1853. [6]  Oh, departed Lilly and Agrippa; your shadows are upon us still!  But I must continue my story of the lone old road, and its associations; and as I wandered on that cold and silent night, under the blue sky, where night's candles were burning, so clear and calm, I remembered that this was the country of old Adam de Spotland, who, many centuries since, piously bequeathed certain broad acres of land, "for the cure of souls," in the parish of Rochdale.  He has, now, many centuries slept with his fathers; but, woe to the day, when men live to see such bequests, long ago left for pious uses, degenerated into lolling-couches, upon which vulgar pride may rock its sense of duty into stillness, among the fatal stupors of worldliness,   *   *   *    And now, as I walked down the road, in this sombre twilight, with a hushed wind, and under the shade of the woody height on which the homestead of this brave old Saxon stood, my footsteps sounding clear in the quiet air, and the very trees seeming to bend over to one another, and commune in awful murmurs on the approach of an intruder, how could I tell what the tramp of my unceremonious feet might waken there?  The road crosses a deep and craggy glen, called "Simpson Clough," which is one of the finest pieces of ravine scenery in the whole county, little as it is known.  The entire length of this wild gorge is nearly three miles, and it is watered by a stream from the hills, called "Nadin Water," which, in seasons of heavy rain, rages and roars with great violence, through its narrow rocky channels.  There is many a strange old tale connected with this clough.  Half way up a shaley bank, which overhangs the river on the western side of the clough, the mouth of an ancient, disused lead mine may still be seen, partly shrouded by tangled brushwood.  Upon the summit of a precipitous steep of wildwood and rock, which bounds the eastern side of the clough, stands Bamford Hall, a handsome, modern building, of stone, a few yards from the site of the old hall of the Bamfords of Bamford.  The new building is a residence of one branch of the Fenton family, wealthy bankers and cotton spinners, and owners of large tracts of land, here and elsewhere.  On an elevated table-land, at the western side of the clough, and nearly opposite to Bamford Hall, stood the ancient mansion of Grizlehurst, the seat of the notable family of Holt, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  The Holt family were once the most powerful and wealthy landowners in the parish of Rochdale.  The principal seats of the family in this parish were Stubley Hall, in the township of Wardleworth, and Castleton Hall, in the township of Castleton.  The manor of Spotland was granted by Henry VIII., to Thomas Holt, who was knighted in Scotland, by Edward, Earl of Hertford, in the thirty-sixth year of the reign of that monarch.  Part of a neighbouring clough still bears the name of "Tyrone's Bed," from the prevailing tradition that the famous Hugh O'Neal, Earl of Tyrone and King of Ulster, took shelter in these woody solitudes, after suffering severe defeat in the great Irish Rebellion, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth.  Mr. John Roby of Rochdale has woven this legend into an elegantly written romance, in his "Traditions of Lancashire."

    I reached home about ten o'clock, and, thinking over the incidents of my walk, I was a little impressed by one fact, suggested by the conversation at the roadside public-house, with "Jone o' Jeffrey's," and the old couple; namely, that there is a great outlying mass of poor dumb folk in this country, who—by low social condition, but more by the prevalent lack of common education among them—are shut out from the chance of hearing much, and still more from the chance of understanding what little they do hear, respecting many interesting political questions of the time; and, also, with respect to many other matters which are of essential importance to their welfare.  Whether this gross ignorance which yet pervades a great multitude of the poor of England, is chargeable upon that multitude itself, or upon that part of the people whom more favourable circumstances have endowed with light and power, and who yet withhold these potent elements from their less fortunate fellows, or, whether it is chargeable upon neither, let learned casuists decide.  The fact that this ignorance does exist among the poor of England, lies so plainly upon the surface of society, that it can only be denied by those who are idle or incurious as to the condition of the humbler classes of this kingdom; or, by those who move only in such exclusive circles of life and thought, that they habitually ignore many of the conditions of human existence which lie outside of their own narrow limits of society and sympathy; or, by such as wink their eyes to the great truth in this matter, in order to work out some small purpose of their own.  Wherever there is ignorance at all there is too much of it; and it cannot be too soon nor too effectually removed, especially by those who are wise enough to see the crippling and infectious malignities of its nature.  That portion of our population which hears next to nothing, and understands less, of politics and the laws—any laws whatever—is nevertheless compelled to obey the laws, right or wrong, and whatever strange mutations they may be subject to; and is thus continually drifted to and fro by conflicting currents of legislation which it cannot see; currents of legislation which sometimes rise from sources where there exists, unfortunately, more love for ruling than for enlightening.  Many changes come over the social condition of this blind multitude, they know not whence, nor how, nor why.  The old song says—


"Remember, when the judgment's weak,
 The prejudice is strong."


And, certainly, that part of the popular voice which is raised upon questions respecting which it has little or no sound information, must be considerably swayed by prejudice, and by that erratic play of unenlightened, unbridled feeling, which has no safer government than the ephemeral circumstances which chase each other off the field of time.  Shrewd demagogues know well how prostrate is the position of this uneducated "mass," as it is called; and they have a stock of old-fashioned tricks, by which they can move it to their own ends "as easy as lying."  He who knows the touches of this passive instrument, can make it discourse the music he desires; and, unhappily, that is not always airs from heaven.


"'Tis the time's plague,
 When madmen lead the blind."


    Now, the educated classes have all the wide field of ancient learning open to them—they can pasture where they will; and, the stream of present knowledge rushing by, they can drink as they list.  Whatever is doing in politics, too, they hear of, whilst these things are yet matters of public dispute; and, in some degree, they understand and see the drift of them, and, therefore, can throw such influence as in them lies into one or the other scale of the matter.  This boasted out-door parliament—this free expression of public opinion in England, however, as I have said before, goes no farther down among the people than education goes.  Below that point lies a land of fretful slaves, dungeoned off by ignorance from the avenues which lead to freedom; and they mostly drag out their lives in unwilling subservience to a legislation which is beyond their ken and influence.  Their ignorance keeps them dumb; and, therefore, their condition and wants are neither so well known, nor so often nor so well expresser as those of the educated classes.  They seldom complain, however, until the state of affairs begins to press them to great extremities, and then their principal exponents are mobs, and fierce uproars of desperation.  It is plain that where there is society there must be law, and obedience to that law must be somehow enforced, even among those who know nothing of the law, as well as those who defy it; but my principal quarrel is against that ignorant condition of theirs which shuts them out from any reasonable hope of exercising their rights as men and citizens.  And so long as that ignorance of theirs is unnecessarily continued, the very enforcement of laws among them, the nature of which they have no chance of knowing, looks, to me, very like injustice.  I see a rather remarkable difference, however, between the majority of popular movements which have agitated the people for some time past, and that great successful one—the repeal of the corn-laws.  The agitation of that question, I believe, awakened and enlisted a greater breadth of the understanding sympathy of the nation, among all classes, than was ever brought together upon any one popular question which has been agitated within the memory of man.  But it did more than this—and herein lies one of the great foundation-stones which shall hold it firm awhile, I think; since it has passed into a law, its effects have most efficiently convinced, and won over, that dumb, uneducated multitude of the labouring poor, who could not very well understand, and did not care much for the mere disputation of the question.  Everybody has a stomach of some sort—and it frequently happens that when the brain is not very active the stomach is particularly so—so that, where it could not penetrate the understanding, it has by this time triumphantly reached the stomach, and now sits there, smiling complacent defiance to any kind of sophistry that would coax it thenceforth again.  The loaves of free trade followed the tracts of the League, and the hopes of protectionist philosophers are likely to be "adjourned sine die," for this generation at least—perhaps much longer; for the fog is clearing up a little, and I think I see, in the distance, a rather better education getting ready for the next generation.


"O for the coming of that glorious time
 When, prizing knowledge as her noblest wealth
 And best protection, this imperial realm,
 While she exacts allegiance, shall admit
 An obligation on her part, to teach
 Them who are born to serve her and obey;
 Binding herself by statute to secure
 For all her children whom her soil maintains,
 The rudiments of letters."



 
THE COTTAGE OF TIM BOBBIN,
AND THE VILLAGE OF MILNROW.


"If thou on men, their works and ways,
     Canst throw uncommon light, man;
 Here lies wha weel had won thy praise,
     For Matthew was a bright man.

"If thou art staunch without a stain,
     Like the unchanging blue, man;
 This was a kinsman o' thy am,
     For Matthew was a true man.

"If thou bast wit, and fun, and fire,
     And no'er good wine did fear, man,
 This was thy billie, dam, and sire,
     For Matthew was a queer man."

BURNS.


IT is not in its large towns that the true type of the natives of Lancashire can be seen.  The character of its town population is greatly modified by amalgamation with settlers from distant quarters.  Not so in the country parts, because the tenancy of land, and employment upon it, are sufficiently competed by the natives; and while temptations to change of settlement are fewer, the difficulties in the way of changing settlement are greater there than in towns.  Country people, too, stick to the old sod, with hereditary love, as long as they can keep soul and body together upon it, in any honest way.  As numbers begin to press upon the means of living, the surplus fights its way in cities, or in foreign lands; or lingers out a miserable life in neglected corners, for want of work, and want of means to fly, in time, to a market where it might, at least, exchange its labour for its life.  The growth of manufacture and railways, and the perpetual inroads of hordes of destitute, down-trodden Irish, are truly stirring up Lancashire, and changing its features, in an unparalleled way; and this change is rapidly augmenting by a varied infusion of new human elements, attracted from all quarters of the kingdom by the immense increase of capital, boldly and promptly embarked in new inventions, and ever-developing appliances of science, by a people remarkable for enterprise and industry.  Still, he who wishes to see the genuine descendants of those old Saxons who came over here some fourteen hundred years ago, to help the Britons of that day to fight for their land, and remained to farm it, and govern in it, let them ramble through the villages on the western side of Blackstone Edge.  He will there find the open manners, the independent bearing, the steady perseverance, and that manly sense of right and wrong, which characterised their old Teutonic forefathers.  There, too, he will find the fair comeliness, and massive physical constitution of those broad-shouldered farmer-warriors, who made a smiling England out of an island of forests and bogs,—who felled the woods, and drained the marshes, and pastured their quiet kine in the ancient lair of the wild bull, the boar, and the wolf.

    Milnrow is an old village, a mile and a half eastward from the Rochdale station.  The external marks of its antiquity are now few, and much obscured by the increase of manufacture there; but it is, for many reasons, well worth a visit.  It is part of the fine township of Butterworth, enriched with many a scene of mountain beauty.  A hardy moor-end race, half farmers, half woollen-weavers, inhabit the district; and their rude, but substantial cottages and farmsteads, often perch picturesquely about the summits and sides of the hills, or nestle pleasantly in pretty green helms and dells, which are mostly watered by rambling rivulets, from the moorland heights which bound the township on the east.  There is also a beautiful lake, three miles in circumference, filling a green valley, up in the hills, about a mile and a half from the village.  Flocks of sea-fowl often rest on this water, in their flight from the eastern to the western seas.  From its margin, the view of the wild ridges of the "Back-bone of England" is fine to the north, while that part of it called "Blackstone Edge," slopes up majestically from the cart road that winds along the eastern bank.  A massive cathedral-looking crag frowns on the forehead of the mountain.  This rock is a great point of attraction to ramblers from the vales below, and is called by them "Robin Hood Bed."  A square cavity in the lower part is called "Th' Cellar."  Hundreds of names are sculptured on the surface of the rock, some in most extraordinary situations; and often have the keepers of the moor been startled at peep of summer dawn by the strokes of an adventurous chiseller, hammering his initials into its hard face as stealthily as possible.  But the sounds float, clear as a bell, miles over the moor, in the quiet of the morning, and disturb the game.  One of the first favourite rambles of my youth was from Rochdale town, through that part of Butterworth which leads by "Clegg Hall," commemorated in Roby's tradition of "Clegg Ho' Boggart," and thence across the green hills, by the lonely old farm-house, called "Peanock," and, skirting along the edge of this quiet lake—upon whose waters I have spent many a happy summer day, alone—up the lofty moorside beyond, to this well-known rock, called "Robin Hood Bed," upon the bleak summit of Blackstone Edge.  It is so large that it can be seen at a distance of four miles by the naked eye, on a clear day.  The name of Robin Hood, that brave and gentlemanly outlaw of the olden time ―


"The English ballad-singer's joy—"


is not only wedded to this wild mountain crag, but to at least one other congenial spot in this parish; where the rude traditions of the simple people of the neighbourhood point out another rock, of several tons weight, as having been thrown thither, by this stalwart king of the green-woods, from an opposite hill, nearly seven miles off.  The romantic track where the lake lies, is about the level of Milnrow, and quite out of the ordinary way of the traveller, who is too apt to form his opinion of the features of the whole district, from the rather sterile sample he sees on the sides of the rail, between Manchester and Rochdale.  But if he wishes really to know the country and its inhabitants, he must get off that, "an' tak th' crow-gate," and he may find vast moors, wild ravines, green ploughs, and dells, and


"Shallow rivers, to whose falls,
 Melodious birds sing madrigals,"


which will repay him for his pains.  And then, if he be a Lancashire man, and a lover of genius, let him go to Milnrow―it was the dwelling-place of Tim Bobbin, with whose works I hope he is not unacquainted.  His written works are not much in extent.  He was a painter, and his rough brush was replete with Hogarthian sketches, full of nature, and radiant with his own broad, humorous originality.  He also left a richly-humorous dialectic tale, a few Hudibrastic poems and letters, characteristic of the sterling quality of his heart and head, and just serving to show us how much greater the man was than his book.

    I was always proud of Tim, and in my early days have made many a pilgrimage to the village where he used to live, wandering home again through the green hills of Butterworth.  Bent on seeing the place once more, I went up to Hunt's Bank, one fine day at the end of last hay-time, to catch the train to Rochdale.  I paid my shilling, and took my seat among a lot of hearty workmen and country-folk coming back from the cheap trips to Wales and the bathing places on the Lancashire coast.  The season had been uncommonly fine, and the trippers looked brighter for their out, and, to use their own phrase, felt "fain at they'rn wick," and ready to buckle to work again with double vigour.  The smile of summer had got into the saddest of us a little, and we were communicative and comfortable.  A long-limbed collier lad, after settling his body satisfactorily in a corner, began, with eyes and ears oblivious to all winks and whispers, to hum, in a jolting metre, with as much freedom of mind as if he was at the mouth of a lonely "breast-hee" on his native moorside, a long country ditty about the courtship of Phœbe and Colin:—


"Well met, dearest Phœbe, oh, why in such haste?
     The fields and the meadows all day I have chased,
 In search of the fair one who does me disdain;
     You ought to reward me for all my past pain."


The late comers, having rushed through the ticket-office into the carriages, were wiping their foreheads, and wedging themselves into their seats, in spite of many protestations about being "to full already."  The doors were slammed, the bell rung, the tickets were shown, the whistle screamed its shrill signal, and off we went like a street on wheels over the little Irk, that makes such a slushy rumpus under the rotten wood bridge by the college wall.  Within the memory of living men, the angler used to come down the bank, shady thereabouts, and settle himself among the grass, to fish in its clear waters.  But since Arkwright set this part of the world so wonderfully astir with his fine practicable combination of other men's inventions, the little Irk, like the rest of South Lancashire streams, has been put to work, and its complexion is now so subdued to what it works in, that the angler comes no more down to the banks of the Irk with his baited tackle and piscatorial patience and cunning to beguile the delicate loath and the lordly trout in his glittering suit of silver mail.

    The train is now nearly a mile past Miles Platting, and about a mile over the fields, on the north side, lies the romantic dell called "Boggart Hole Clough," hard by the village of Blackley ― a pleasant spot for an afternoon walk from Manchester.  An old Lancashire poet lives near it, too, in his country cottage.  It is a thousand to one that, like me, the traveller will see neither the one nor the other from the train; but, like me, let him be thankful for both, and ride on.  Very soon now appears, on the south side of the line, the skirts of Oldham town, scattered about the side and summit of a barren slope, with the tower of the parish church peeping up between the chimneys of the cotton factories behind Oldham Edge.  If the traveller can see no fine prospective meaning in the manufacturing system, he will not be delighted with the scene, for the country has a monotonous look, and is bleak and sterile, with hardly anything worthy of the name of a tree to be seen upon it.  But now, about a hundred yards past the Oldham station, there is a little of the palpably picturesque for him to feast on. We are crossing a green valley running north and south. Following the rivulet through the hollow, a thick wood waves on a rising ground to the south. In that wood stands Chadderton Hall, anciently the seat of the Chaddertons, some of whom were very famous men; and since then, the seat of the Horton family.  The situation is very pleasant, and the land about it looks richer than the rest of the neighbourhood.  There was a deer-park here in the time of the Hortons.  Chadderton is a place of some note in the past history of the country, and it is said to have formerly belonged to one of the old orders of knighthood.  On the other side of the line, about a mile and a half off, the south-east end of Middleton is in sight, with its old church on the top of a green hill.  The greater part of the parish of Middleton, with other vast possessions in South Lancashire, belonging to the Ashetons from before Richard III., when extraordinary powers were granted to Randulph Asheton.  The famous Sir Ralph Asheton, called "The Black Lad," from his wearing black armour, is traditionally said to have ruled in his territories in South Lancashire with great severity.  In the town of Ashton, one of the lordships of this family, his name is still remembered with a kind of hereditary terror; and till within the last five or six years he has been shot and torn to pieces in effigy by the inhabitants, at the annual custom of "The Riding of the Black Lad."  The hero of the fine ballad called "The Wild Rider," written by Bamford, the Lancashire poet, was one of this family.  The Middleton estates, in 1776, failing male issue, passed by marriage into the noble families of De Wilton and Suffield.  Now many a rich cotton spinner, perhaps lineally descended from some of the villain-serfs of the "Black Lad," has an eye to buying the broad lands of the proud old Ashetons.

    The train is now hard on Blue Pits Station, where it is not impossible for the traveller to have to wait awhile.  But he may comfort himself with the assurance that it is not often much more than half an hour or so.  Let him amuse himself, meanwhile, with the wild dins that fill his ears;—the shouting and running of porters, the screams of engine whistles, the jolts and collisions on a small scale, and the perpetual fuff-fuff of trains, of one kind or other, that shoot too and fro by his window, then stop suddenly, look thoughtful, as if they had dropt something, and run back again.  If he looks out, ten to one he will see some red-hot monster making towards him from a distance at a great speed, belching steam, and scattering sparks and red-hot cinders; and in the innocent timidity of the moment he may chance to hope it is on the right pair of rails.  But time and a brave patience delivers him from all these terrors, unshattered in everything—if his temper holds good—and he shoots ahead again.

    The moorland hills now sail upon the sight, stretching from the round peak of Knowl on the north-west, to the romantic heights of Saddleworth on the south-east.  The train is three minutes from Rochdale, but, before it reaches there, let the traveller note that picturesque old mansion, on the green, above Castleton Clough, at the left-hand side of the rail.  His eye must be active, for, at the rate he is going, the various objects about him, literally "come like shadows, so depart."  This is Castleton Hall, formerly a seat of the Holts, of Stubley, an ancient and powerful local family in this parish, in the reign of Henry VIII.  Castleton Hall came afterwards into the possession of Humphrey Chetham, the venerable founder of Chetham College, in Manchester.  Since then it has passed into other hands; but the proverb "as rich as Chetham o' Castleton," is often used by the people of this district, at this day; and many interesting anecdotes, characteristic of the noble qualities of this old Lancashire worthy, are treasured up by the people of those parts of the country where he lived; especially in the neighbourhoods of Clayton Hall, near Manchester, and Burton Tower, near Bolton, his favourite residences.  Castleton Hall was an interesting place to me when I was a lad.  As I pass by it now, I sometimes think of the day when I first sauntered down the shady avenue, which leads to it from the highroad behind; and climbed up a mossy wall by the way-side, to look into the green gloom of a mysterious wood, which shades the rear of the building.  Even now, I remember the flush of imaginations which came over me then.  I had picked up some scraps of historic lore about the hall, which deepened the interest I felt in it.  The solemn old rustling wood; the quaint appearance and serene dignity of the hall; its rich associations; and the spell of interest which lingers around every decaying relic of the works and haunts of men of bygone times, made the place eloquent to me.  It seemed to me then like a monumental history of its old inhabitants and their times.  I remember, too, that I once got a peep into a part of the hall, where, in those days, some old armour hung against the wall, silent and rusty enough, but, to me, teeming with tales of chivalry and knightly emprise.  But, here is Rochdale Railway Station, where he, who wishes to visit the village of Milnrow, had better alight.

    If the traveller had time and inclination to go down into Rochdale town, he might see some interesting things, old and new, there.  The town is more picturesquely situated than most of the towns of South Lancashire.  It lines the sides of a deep valley on the banks of the Roch, overlooked by moorland hills.  In Saxon times it was an insignificant village, called "Roch-eddam," consisting of a few rural dwellings in Church Lane, a steep and narrow old street, which was, down to the middle of last century, the principal street in the town, though now the meanest and obscurest.  The famous John Bright, the Cromwell of modern politicians, was born in this town, and lives at "One Ash," on the north side of it.  John Roby, author of the "Traditions of Lancashire," was a banker, in Rochdale, of the firm of Fenton and Roby.  The bank was next door to the shop of Thomas Holden, the principal bookseller of the town, to whom I was apprentice.  For the clergy of the district, and for a certain class of politicians, this shop was the chief rendezvous of the place.  Roby used to slip in at evening, to have a chat with my employer, and a knot of congenial spirits who met him there.  In the days when my head was yet but a little way higher than the counter, I remember how I used to listen to his impulsive, ingenious, and versatile conversations.  Holden himself was a man of more than ordinary education, and a clever tradesman.  I served him nearly eleven years; and though, during that time, he often lectured me for "thumbing" the books in his shop, he sometimes lent me books to read at home.  To his dying day, he seldom met me on the street that he did not stop to give me a solemn and friendly warning against radical tendencies.  Rochdale was one of the few places where the woollen manufacture was first practised, after its introduction into England.  It is still famous for its flannel.  The history of Rochdale is in one respect but the counterpart of that of almost every other South Lancashire town.  With the birth of cotton manufacture, it shot up suddenly into one of the most populous and wealthy country towns in England.  After the traveller has contemplated the manufacturing might of the place, he may walk up the quaint street from which the woollen merchants of old used to dispatch their goods on pack horses to all parts of the kingdom, and from which the street takes the name of "Packer Street."  At the top, a flight of one hundred and twenty-two steps leads up into the churchyard, which commands an excellent view of the town below.  There, too, lies "Tim Bobbin."  Few Lancashire strangers visit the town without looking at the old rhymer's resting-place.  Bamford, author of "Passages in the Life of a Radical," thus chronicles an imaginary visit to Tim's grave, in happy imitation of the dialect of the neighbourhood: ―


"Aw stood beside Tim Bobbin grave,
     At looks o'er Rachda teawn,
 An th'owd lad woke within his yearth,
     An sed 'Wheer arto beawn?'

"Awm gooin into th' Packer-street,
     As far as th' Gowden Bell,
 To taste o' Daniel Kesmus ale.
     T
IM—'Aw cud like a saup mysel.'

"An by this hont o' my reet arm,
     If fro that hole theawl reawk,
 Theawst have a saup oth' best breawn ale
     At ever lips did seawk.

"The greawnd it sturrd beneath meh feet,
     An then aw yerd a groan,
 He shook the dust fro off his skull,
     An rowlt away the stone.

"Aw brought him op a deep breawn jug,
     At a gallon did contain;
 He took it at one blessed droight,
     And laid him drawn again."


Some of the epitaphs on the grave-stones were written by Tim.  The following one on Joe Green, who was the sexton in Tim's day, is published with Tim's works:—


"Here lies Joe Green, who arch has been,
     And drove a gainful trade,
 With powerful Death, till out of breath,
     He threw away his spade.
 When Death beheld his comrade yield,
     He, like a cunning knave,
 Came, soft as wind, poor Joe behind,
     And pushed him into his grave."


Near to this grave is the grave of Samuel Kershaw, blacksmith, bearing an epitaph which is generally attributed to the pen of Tim, though it does not appear among his published writings: ―


"My anvil and my hammer lie declined,
 My bellows, too, have lost their wind;
 My fire's extinct, my forge decayed,
 And in the dust my vice is laid.
 My coal is spent, my iron is gone,
 My last nail driven, and my work is done."


"Blind Abraham," who rang the curfew, and who used to imitate the Rochdale chimes in a wonderful way, true to their slightest faults, for the lads at the old Grammar School, could lead a stranger from any point of the churchyard, straight as an arrow's flight, to Tim's gravestone.  The Grammar School was founded in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, by Archbishop Parker.  The parish church is an interesting old edifice, standing on the edge of an eminence which overlooks the town.  Tradition says its foundations were laid by "Goblin Builders."  The living was anciently dependent on the Abbey of Whalley.  It is now the richest vicarage in the kingdom.  A short walk through the fine glebe lands, and past "Th' Canthill Well," [7] west of the vicarage will bring the traveller to the hill on which, in 1080, stood the castle of Gamel, the Saxon Thane, above the valley called "Kill-Danes," where the northern pirates once lost a great fight with the Saxon.



[Next Page]
 

 


[Home] [Up] [Lancashire Songs] [Lancashire Sketches I.] [Lancashire Sketches II.] [Rambles in the Lakes] [The Cotton Famine] [Poems and Songs I.] [Poems and Songs II.] [Besom Ben] [Tufts of Heather I.] [Tufts of Heather II.] [The Chimney Corner] [The Limping Pilgrim] [The Barrel Organ] [Sheet Music] [Sheet Music] [Sheet Music] [Miscellanea] [Main Index] [Site Search]

Correspondence should be sent to Webmaster@Gerald-Massey.org.uk