THE BARREL ORGAN.
I CAME out at
Haslingden town-end with my old acquaintance, "Rondle o'th Nab,"
better known by the name of "Sceawter," a moor-end farmer and cattle
dealer. He was telling me a story about a cat that squinted,
and grew very fat because to use his own words it "catched two
mice at one go." When he had finished the tale, he stopped
suddenly in the middle of the road, and looking round at the hills,
he said, "Nea then, I'se be like to lev yo here. I mun turn
off to 'Dick o' Rough-cap's' up Musbury Road. I want to
bargain yon heifer. He's a very fair chap, is Dick ― for a
cow-jobber. Bu yo may as weel go up wi' me, an' then go forrud
to our house. We'n some singers comin' to-neet."
"Nay," said I, "I think I'll tak up through Horncliffe, an'
by the moor-gate, to t' 'Top o' t' Hoof."'
"Well, then," replied he, " yo mun strike off at the lift
hond, about a mile fur on; an' then up th' hill side, an' through th'
delph. Fro theer yo mun get upo' the owd road as weel as yo
con; an' when yo'n getten it, keep it. So good day, an' tak
care o' yorsel'. Barfoot folk should never walk upo'
prickles." He then turned, and walked off. Before he had
gone twenty yards he shouted back, "Hey I say! Dunnot forget
It was a fine autumn day; clear and cool. Dead leaves
were whirling about the road-side. I toiled slowly up the hill
to the famous Horncliffe Quarries, where the sounds of picks,
chisels, and gavelocks, used by the workmen, rose strangely clear
amidst the surrounding stillness. From the quarries I got up,
by an old pack-horse road to a commanding elevation at the top of
the moors. Here I sat down on a rude block of mossy stone,
upon a bleak point of the hills, overlooking one of the most
picturesque parts of the Irwell valley. The country around me
was part of the wild tract still known by its ancient name of the
Forest of Rossendale. Lodges of water and beautiful reaches of
the winding river gleamed in the evening sun, among green holms and
patches of woodland, far down the vale; and mills, mansions,
farmsteads, churches, and busy hamlets succeeded each other as far
as the eye could see. The moorland tops and slopes were all
purpled with fading heather, save here and there, where a
well-defined tract of green showed that cultivation had worked up a
little plot of the wilderness into pasture land. About eight
miles south a gray cloud hung over the town of Bury, and, nearer, a
flying trail of white steam marked the rush of a railway train along
the valley. From a lofty perch of the hills, on the
north-west, the sounds of Haslingden church bells came sweetly upon
the ear, swayed to and fro by the unsettled wind, now soft and low,
borne away by the breeze, now full and clear, sweeping by me in a
great gush of melody, and dying out upon the moorland wilds behind.
Up from the valley came drowsy sounds that tell the wane of day, and
please the ear of evening as she draws her curtains over the world.
A woman's voice floated up from the pastures of an old farm-house,
below where I sat, calling the cattle home. The barking of
dogs sounded clear in different parts of the vale, and about
scattered hamlets, on the hill sides. I could hear the far-off
prattle of a company of girls, mingled with the lazy jottings of a
cart, the occasional crack of a whip, and the surly call of a driver
to his horses, upon the high road, half a mile below me. From
a wooded slope, on the opposite side of the valley, the crack of a
gun came, waking the echoes for a minute; and then all seemed to
sink into a deeper stillness than before, and the dreamy surge of
sound broke softer and softer upon the shores of evening, as
daylight sobered down. High above the green valley, on both
sides, the moorlands stretched away in billowy wildernesses dark,
bleak, and almost soundless, save where the wind harped his wild
anthem upon the heathery waste, and where roaring streams filled the
lonely cloughs with drowsy uproar. It was a striking scene,
and it was an impressive hour. The bold, round, flat-topped
height of Musbury Tor stood gloomily proud, on the opposite site,
girdled off from the rest of the hills by a green vale. The
lofty outlines of Aviside and Holcombe were glowing with the
gorgeous hues of a cloudless October sunset. Along those wild
ridges the soldiers of ancient Rome marched from Manchester to
Preston, when boars and wolves ranged the woods and thickets of the
Irwell valley. The stream is now lined all the way with busy
populations, and evidences of great wealth and enterprise. But
the spot from which I looked down upon it was still naturally wild.
The hand of man had left no mark there, except the grassgrown
pack-horse road. There was no sound nor sign of life
immediately around me.
The wind was cold, and daylight was dying down. It was
getting too near dark to go by the moor tops, so I made off towards
a cottage in the next clough, where an old quarryman lived, called "Jone
o'Twilter's." The pack-horse road led by the place. Once
there I knew that I could spend a pleasant hour with the old folk,
and, after that, be directed by a short cut down to the great
highway in the valley, from whence an hour's walk would bring me
near home. I found the place easily, for I had been there in
summer. It was a substantial stone-built cottage, or little
farm-house, with mullioned windows. A stone-seated porch,
whitewashed inside, shaded the entrance; and there was a little barn
and a shippon, or cow-house attached. By the by, that word "shippon,"
must have been originally "sheep-pen." The house nestled deep
in the clough, upon a shelf of green land, near the moorland stream.
On a rude ornamental stone, above the threshold of the porch, the
date of the building was quaintly carved, "1696," with the initials,
"J. S.," and then, a little lower down, and partly between these,
the letter "P.," as if intended for "John and Sarah Pilkington."
On the lower slope of the hill, immediately in front of the house,
there was a kind of kitchen garden, well stocked, and in very fair
order. Above the garden, the wild moorland rose steeply up,
marked with wandering sheep tracks. From the back of the
house, a little flower garden sloped away to the edge of a rocky
hank. The moorland stream ran wildly along its narrow channel,
a few yards below; and, viewed from the garden wall at the edge of
the bank, it was a weird bit of stream scenery. The water
rushed and roared here; there it played a thousand pranks; and
there, again, it was full of graceful eddies; gliding away at last
over the smooth lip of a worn rock, a few yards lower down. A
kind of green gloom pervaded the watery chasm, caused by the thick
shade of trees over spreading from the opposite bank. It was a
spot that a painter might have chosen for "The Kelpie's Home."
The cottage door was open, and I guessed by the silence
inside that old "Jone" had not reached home. His wife, Nanny,
was a hale and cheerful woman, with a fastidious love of cleanliness
and order, and quietness too, for she was more than seventy years of
age. I found her knitting, and slowly swaying her portly form
to and fro in a shiny old-fashioned chair by the fireside. The
carved oak clock-case in the corner was as bright as a mirror; and
the slow and solemn ticking of the ancient time-marker was the
loudest sound in the house. But the softened roar of the
stream outside filled all the place, steeping the senses in a drowsy
spell. At the end of a long table under the front window sat
Nanny's grand-daughter, a rosy, round-faced lass, about twelve years
old. She was turning over the pictures in a well-thumbed copy
of "Culpepper's Herbal." She smiled, and shut the book, but
seemed unable to speak, as if the poppied enchantment that wrapt the
spot had subdued her young spirit to a silence which she could not
break. I do not wonder that old superstitions linger in such
nooks as that. Life there is like bathing in dreams. But
I saw that they had heard me coming; and when I stopped in the
doorway, the old woman broke the charm by saying, "Nay sure!
What? han yo getten thus far? Come in, pray yo."
"Well, Nanny," said I, "where's th' owd chap?"
"Eh," replied the old woman, "it's noan time for him yet.
But I see," continued she, looking up at the clock, "it's gettin'
further on than I thought. He'll be here in abeawt
three-quarters of an hour that is, if he doesn't co', an' I hope
he'll not, to-reel. I'll put th' kettle on. Jenny, my
lass, bring him a tot o' ale."
I sat down by the side of a small round table, with a thick
plane-tree top, scoured as white as a clean shirt; and Jenny brought
me an old-fashioned blue-and-white mug, full of home-brewed.
"Toast a bit o' hard brade," said Nanny, "an' put it into
I did so.
The old woman put the kettle on, and scaled the fire; and
then, settling herself in her chair again, she began to re-arrange
her knitting-needles. Seeing that I liked my sops, she said, "Reitch
some moor cake-brade. Jenny 'll toast it for yo."
I thanked her, and reached down another piece, which Jenny
held to the fire on a fork. And then we were silent for a
minute or so.
"I'll tell yo what," said Nanny, "some folk's o'th luck i'th
"What's up, now, Nanny?" replied I.
"They say'n that Owd Bill at Fo' Edge, has had a dowter wed,
an a cow cauve't, an' a mare foal't o' i' one day. Dun yo co'
Before I could reply, the sound of approaching footsteps came
upon our ears. Then, they stopped, a few yards off; and a
clear voice trolled out a snatch of country song:
Owed shoon an'
An' slippers at's made o' red leather!
Come, Betty, wi' me,
Let's shap to agree,
An' hutch of a cowd neet together.
Mash-tubs and barrels!
A mon connot al'ays be sober!
A mon connot sing
To a bonnier thing
Than a pitcher o' stingin' October!
"Jenny, my lass," said the old woman, see who it is.
It's oather 'Skedlock' or 'Nathan o' Dangler's.'"
Jenny peeped through the window, an' said, "It's Skedlock.
He's lookin' at th' turmits i'th garden. Little Joseph's wi'
him. They're comin' in. Joseph's new clogs on."
Skedlock came shouldering slowly forward into the cottage a
tall, strong, bright-eyed man of fifty. His long, massive
features were embrowned by habitual exposure to the weather, and he
wore the mud-stained fustian dress of a quarryman. He was
followed by a healthy lad, about twelve years of age a kind of
pocket-copy of himself. They were as like one another as a new
shilling and an old crown piece. The lad's dress was of the
same kind as his father's, and he seemed to have studiously acquired
the same cart-horse gait, as if his limbs were as big and as stark
as his father's.
"Well, Skedlock," said Nanny, "thae's getten Joseph witho, I
see. Does he go to schoo yet?"
"Nay; he reckons to wortch o'th delph wi' me, neaw."
"Nay, sure. Does he get ony wage?"
"Nawe," replied Skedlock; "he's drawn his wage wi' his teeth,
so fur. But he's larnin', yo known he's Larnin'.
Where's your Jone? I want to see him abeawt some plants."
"Well," said Nanny, "sit tho down a minute. Hasto no
news? Thae'rt seldom short of a crack."
"Nay," said Skedlock, scratching his rusty pate, "aw don't
know 'at aw've aught fresh." But when he had looked into the
fire for a minute or so, his brown face lighted up with a smile, and
drawing a chair, he said, "Howd, Nanny; han yo yerd what a do they
had at the owd chapel yesterday?"
"Eh, dear! . . . Well, yo known, they'n had a deal o' bother
about music up at that chapel, this year or two back. Yo'n bin
a singer yo'rsel, Nanny, i' yo'r young days never a better."
"Eh, Skedlock," said Nanny; "aw us't to think I could ha'
done a bit forty year sin an' I could, too though I say it mysel.
I remember gooin' to a oratory once, at Bury. Deborah Travis
wur theer, fro Shay. Eh! when aw yerd her sing 'Let the Bright
Seraphim,' aw gav in. Isherwood wur theer; an' her at's Mrs.
Wood neaw; an' two or three fro Yorkshire road on. It wur the
grand'st sing 'at ever I wur at i' my life. . . . Eh, I's never
forget th' practice neets 'at' we use't to have at Israel Grindrod's!
Johnny Brello wur one on 'em. He's bin deead a good while. . .
. That's wheer I let of our Sam. He sang bass at that time. .
. . Poor Johnny! He's bin deead aboon five-an-forty year, neaw."
"Well, but Nanny," said Skedlock, laying his hand on the old
woman's shoulder, "yo known what a hard job it is to keep th' bant
o'th nick wi' a rook o' musicianers. They cap'n the world for
bein' diversome an' bad to plez. Well, as I wur sayin'
they'n had a deeal o' trouble about music this year or two back, up
at th' owd chapel. Th' singers fell out wi' the players.
They mostly dun do. An' th' players did everything they could
to plague th' singers. They're so like. But yo may have
a like aim, Nanny, what mak' o' harmony they'd get out o' sich wark
as that. An' then, when Joss o' Piper's geet his wage raise't
five shillin' a year Dick o' Liddy's said he'd ha' moor too, or
else he'd sing no moor at that shop. Here noan beawn to be
snape't bi a tootlin' whipper-snapper like Joss a bit of a
bow-legged whelp, twenty year yunger nor hissel. Then there
wur a crack coom i' Billy Tootle bassoon; an' Billy stuck to't that
some o'th lot had done it for spite. An' there were sich
fratchin, an' cabals among 'em as never wur known. An' they
natter't, an' brawlt, an' played one another o' maks o' ill-contrive't
tricks. Well, yo' may guess, Nanny ――
"One Sunday mornin', just afore th' sarvice began, some o'th'
singers slipt a pepper-box, an' a hawp'oth o' grey peighs, an' two
young rattons, into old Thwittler double-bass; an' as soon as he
began a-playin', th' little things squeak't an' scatter't about i'th
inside, till they thrut o' out o' tune. Th' singers couldn't
get forrud for laughin'. One on 'em whisper's to Thwittler,
an' axed him if his fiddle had getten th' bally-warche. But
Thwittler never spoke a word. His senses wur leavin' him very
fast. At last, he geet so freeten't, that he chuck't th'
fiddle down, an' darted out o'th chapel, beawt hat; an' off he ran
whoam, in a cowd sweat, wi' his yure stickin' up like a cushion-full
o' stackin'-needles. An' he bowted straight through th' heawse,
an' reet up-stairs to bed, wi' his clooas on, beawt sayin' a word to
chick or choilt. His wife watched him run through th' heawse;
but he darted forrad, an' took no notice o' nobody. 'What's up
now,' thought Betty; an' hoo ran after him. Wen hoo geet
up-stairs th' owd lad had getten croppen into bed; an' he wur ill'd
up, o'er th' yed. So Betty turned th' quilt deawn, an' hoo
said, 'Whatever's to do witho, James?' 'Howd thi noise,' said
Thwittler, pooin' th' clooas o'er his yed again, 'howdy thi noise!
I'll play no moor at yon shop!' an' th' bed fair wackert again; here
i' sich a fluster. 'Mun I make tho a saup o' gruel?' said
Betty. 'Gruel be !' said Thwittler, poppin' his yed out o'
th' blankets. 'Didto ever yer of onybody layin' th' devil wi'
meighl-porritch?' An' then he poo'd th' blanket o'er his yed
again. 'Where's thi fiddle?' said Betty. But, as soon as
Thwittler yerd the fiddle name's, he gav a wild skrike, an' crope
lower down into bed."
"Well, well," said the old woman, laughing, and laying her
knitting down, "aw never yerd sich a tale i' my life."
"Stop, Nanny," said Skedlock, "yo'st yer it out, now."
"Well, yo seen, this mak o' wark went on fro week to week,
till everybody geet weary on it; an' at last, th' chapel-wardens
summon't a meetin' to see if they couldn't raise a bit o' daycent
music, for Sundays, beawt o' this trouble. An' they talked
back an' forrud about it a good while. Turn o'th Dingle
recommended 'em to have a Jew's harp an' some triangles. But
Bobby Nooker said, 'That's no church music! Did anybody ever
yer "Th' Owd Hundred" played on a triangle?' Well, at last
they agreed that the best way would be to have some sort of a
barrel-organ one o' thoose that they winden up at the side, and
then they play'n o' theirsel, beawt ony fingerin' or blowin'.
So they order't one made, wi' some favourite tunes in 'Burton,'
an' 'Liddy,' an' 'French,' an' 'Owd York,' an' sick like.
Well, it seems that Robin o' Sceawter's, th' carrier his feyther
went by th' name o' 'Cowd an' Hungry;' he're a quarryman by trade; a
long, hard, brown-looking felley, wi' een like gig-lamps, an' yure
as strung as a horse's mane. He looked as if he'd bin made
nowt o' owd dur-latches an' reawsty nails. Robin, the carrier,
is his owdest lad; an' he favvurs a chap at's bin brought up o'
yirth-bobs an' scaplins. Well, it seems that Robin brought
this box-organ up fro th' town in his cart o'th' Friday neet; an' as
luck would have it, he had to bring a new weshin'-machine at th'
same time for owd Isaac Buckley at th' Hollins Farm. When he
geet th' organ in his cart, they towd him to be careful an' keep it
th' reet side up; an' he wur to mind an' not shake it mich, for it
wur a thing that wur yezzy thrut eaves o' flunters.
Well, I think Robin mun ha' bin fuddle't or summat that neet but I
dunnot know; for he's sich a bowster-yed, moo, that aw'll be sunken
if aw think he knows th' difference between a weshin'-machine an' a
church organ, when he's at the sharpest. But let that leet as
it will. What dun yo think, but th' blunderin' foo at after
o' that had bin said to him went an' 'liver't th' weshin'-machine
at th' church, an' the organ at th' Hollins Farm."
"Well, well," said Nanny, "that wur a bonny come off, as heaw.
But how wenten they on at after?"
"Well, I'll tell yo, Nanny," said Skedlock. "Th' owd clerk
wur noan in when Robin geet to th' dur wi' his cart that neet, so
his wife coom wi' a leet in her hond, an' said, 'Whatever hasto
getten for us this time, Robert!' 'Why,' said Robin, 'it's
some mak of a organ. Where win yo ha't put, Betty?' 'Eh,
I'm fain thae's brought it,' said Betty. 'It's for th' chapel,
an' it'll be wanted for Sunday. Sitho, set it deawn i'
this front reawm here, an' mind what thae'rt doin' with it.'
So Robin, an' Barfoot Sam, an' Little Wamble, 'at looks after th'
horses at Th' Rompin' Kitlin, geet it eawt o'th cart. When
they geet how'd 'on't, Robin said, 'Neaw lads; afore yo starten;
mind what yo'r doin'; an' be as ginger as yo con. That's a
thing 'at's soon thrut eawt o' gear it's a organ.' So they
hove, an' poo'd, an' grunted, an' thrutch't, till they geet it set
down i'th' parlour; an' they pretended to be quite knocked up wi' th'
job. 'Betty,' said Robin, wipin' his face wi' his sleeve,
'it's bin dry weather latly.' So th' owd lass took th' hint,
an' fotched 'em a quart o' ale. While they stood i'th middle
o'th floor suppin' their ale, Betty took th' candle an' went a-lookin'
at this organ; an' hoo couldn't tell whatever to make on it. . . .
Did'n yo ever see a weshin'-machine, Nanny?"
"Never i' my life," said Nanny. "Nor aw dunnot want. Gi
me a greight mug, an' some breawn swoap, an' plenty o' soft wayter,
an' yo may tak your machines for me."
"Well," continued Skedlock, "it's moor liker a grindlestone
nor a organ. But, as I were tellin' yo
"Betty stare't at this thing, an' hoo walked round it, an'
scrat her yed, mony a time, afore hoo venture's to speak. At
last hoo said, 'Aw'll tell tho what, Robert; it's a quare-shaped
'un. It favvurs a yung mangle! Doesto think it'll be
reet?' 'Reet?' said Robin, swipin' his ale off; 'oh, aye; it's
reet enough. It's one of a new pattern 'at's just com'd up.
It's o' reet, Betty. You may see that birth hondle.'
'Well,' said Betty, 'if it's reet, it's reet. But it's noan
sich a nice-lookin' thing for a church, that isn't!' Th'
little lass wur i'th parlour at th' same time, an' hoo said, 'Yes.
See yo, mother. I'm sure it's right. You must turn this
here handle, an' then it'll play. I seed a man playin' one
yesterday, an' he had a monkey with him dressed like a soldier.'
'Keep thy little rootin' fingers off that organ,' said Betty.
'Theaw knows nought about music. That organ musn't be touched
till thi father comes whoam mind that, neaw. . . . But, sartinly,'
said Betty, takin' the candle up again, 'I cannot help lookin' at
this thing. It's sich a quare un. It looks like summat
belongin' maut-grindin, or summate o' that.' 'Well,' said
Robin, 'It has a bit o' that abeawt it, sartinly. . . . But yon find
it's o' reet. They're awterin' o' their organs to this
pattern, neaw. I believe they're for sellin' th' organ at
Manchester owd church, so as they can ha' one like this.'
'Thous never says?' said Betty. 'Yigh,' said Robin, 'it's true
what I'm telling yo. But aw mun be off, Betty. Aw've to
go to th' Hollins to-neet yet.' 'Why, arto takkin' thame
summit?' 'Aye; some mak o' a new fangle't machine for weshin'
shirts and things.' 'Nay, sure!' said Betty. 'Aw'll tell
tho what, Robert; they're goin' on at a great rate up at that shop.'
'Aye, aye,' said Robin. 'Mon, there's no end to some folk's
pride till they come'n to th' floor; an' then there isn't,
sometimes.' 'There isn't, Robert; there isn't. An' I'll
tell tho what; thoose lasses o' theirs they're as proud as
Lucifer. They're donned more like mountebanks' foos nor
gradely folk wi' their fither't hats, an' their fleawnces, an'
their hoops, an' things. Aw wonder how they can for shame o'
their face. A lot o' mee-mawing snickets! But they're no
better nor porritch, Robert, when they're looked up.' 'Not a
bit, Betty not a bit! But I mun be off. Good neet to
yo!' 'Good neet, Robert,' said Betty. An' away he went
wi' th' cart up to th' Hollins."
"Aw'l tell tho what, Skedlock," said Nancy; "that woman's a
"Aye, hoo has," replied Skedlock; "an' her mother wur th'
same. But, let me finish my tale, Nanny, an' then"
"Well, it wur pitch dark when Robin geet to th' Hollins
farm-yard wi' his cart. He gave a ran-tan at th' back dur, wi'
his whip-hondle; and when th' little lass coom with a candle, he
said, 'Aw've getten a weshin'-machine for yo'. As soon as th'
little lass yerd that, hoo darted off, tellin' o' th' house that the
new weshi-machine wur come'd. Well, yo known, they'n five
daughters; an' very cliver, honsome, tidy lasses they are, too, as
what owd Betty says. An' this news brought 'em o' out o' their
nooks in a fluster. Owd Isaac wur sit o'th' parlour, havin' a
glass wi' a chap that he'd bin sellin' a cowt to. Th' little
lass went bouncin' into th' reawm to him; an' hoo sed, 'Eh, father,
th' new weshin'-machine come'd!' 'Well, well,' said Isaac,
pattin' her o'th' yed; 'go thi ways an' tell thi mother. Aw'm
no wesher. Thae never sees me weshin', doesto? I bought
it for yo lasses; an' yo mun look after it yorsels. Tell some
o'th' men to get it into th' wesh-house.' So they had it
carried into th' wesh-house; an' when they geet it unpacked they
were quite astonished to see a grand shinin' thing, made o'
rose-wood, an' cover't wi' glitterin' kerly-berlys. Th' little
lass clapped her hands, an' said, 'Eh, isn't it a beauty?' But
th' owd'st daughter looked hard at it, an' hoo said, 'Well, this is
th' strangest washin'-machine that I ever saw!' 'Fetch a bucket o'
water,' said another, 'an' let's try it!' But they couldn't
get it oppen, whatever they did; till, at last, they found some
keighs, lapt in a piece o' breawn paper. 'Here they are,' said
Mary. Mary's the owd'st daughter, yo known. 'Here they
are;' an' hoo potter't an' rooted abeawt, tryin' these keighs, till
hoo fund one that fitted at th' side, an' hoo twirled it round an'
round till hoo'd wund it up; and then yo may guess how capt they wur,
when it started a-playin' a tune. 'Hello!' said Robin.
'A psaum-tune, bith mass! A psaum-tune eawt ov a weshin'-machine!
Heawe's that?' An' he star't like a throttled cat.
'Nay,' said Mary, 'I cannot tell what to make o' this!' Th'
owd woman wur theer, an' hoo said, 'Mary, Mary, my lass, thou's gone
an' spoilt it the very first thing, theaw has. Theaw's bin
tryin' th' wrong keigh, mon; thou has, for sure. Try another
keigh. Turn th' weshin' on, an' stop that din, do.'
Then Mary turned to Robin, an' hoo said, 'Whatever sort of a
machine's this, Robin?' 'Nay,' said Robin, 'I dunnot know,
beawt it's one o' thoose at's bin made for weshin' surplices.'
But Robin begun a-smellin' a rat; an', as he didn't want to ha' to
tak it back th' same neet, he pike't off out at th' dur, while they
were hearkenin' th' music; an' he drove whoam as fast as he could
goo. In a minute or two th' little lass went dancin' into the
parlour to Owd Isaac again, an' hoo cried out, 'Father, you must
come here this minute! the weshin'-machine's playin' th' Old
Hundred!' 'It's what?' cried Isaac, layin' his pipe down.
'It's playin' th' Old Hundred! It is, for sure! Oh, it's
beautiful! Come on!' An' hoo tugged at his lap to get
him into th' weshhouse. Then the owd woman coom in, and hoo
said, 'Isaacs, whatever i' the name o' fortin' hasto bin blunderin'
and doin' again? Come thi ways an' look at this machine thae's
bought us. It caps me if yon yowling divvle 'll do ony weshin'.
Thae surely doesn't want to ha' thi shirt set to music, doesto?
Thou'll ha' thi breeches agate o' singin' next. We'n noise
enough i' this hole beawt yon startin' a skrikin'. Thae 'll
ha' th' house full o' fiddlers an' doancers in a bit.' 'Well,
well,' said Isaac, aw never yerd sich a tale i' my life. Yo'n
bother't me a good while about a piano but if we'n getten a weshin'-machine
that plays church music, we're set up, wi' a rattle! But aw'll
come an' look at it.' An' away he went to the wesh-house, wi'
the little lass pooin' at him, like a kitlin' drawin' a stone-cart.
Th' owd woman followed him, grumblin' o' th' road, 'Isaac, this is
what comes on tho stoppin' so lat' i'th' town of a neet.
There's al'ays some blunderment or another. Aw lippen on tho
happenin' a sayrious mischance, some o' these neets. I towd
tho mony a time. But thae taks no moor notice o' me nor if
aw're a milestone, or a turmit, or summate. A mon o' thy years
should have a bit o' sense.' 'Well, well,' said Isaac, hobblin'
off, 'do howd thi din, lass! I'll go an' see what ails it.
There's olez summat to keep one's spirit's up, as Ab o' Slender's
said when he broke his leg.' But as soon as Isaac see'd th'
weshin'-machine, he brast eawt a-laughin', an' he sed: 'Hello! Why,
this is th' church organ! Who's brought it?' 'Robin o'
Sceawter's.' 'It's just like him. Where's th' maunderin'
foo gone to?' 'He's off whoam.' 'Well,' said Isaac, let
it stop where it is. There 'll be somebody after this i'th
mornin'.' An' they had some rare fun th' next day, afore they
geet these things swapt to their gradely places. However, th'
last thing o' Saturday neet th' weshin'-machine wur brought up fro
th' clerk's, an' the organ wur takken to the chapel."
"Well, well," said the old woman; "they geet 'em reet at the
end of o', then?"
"Aye," said Skedlock; "but aw're not quite done yet, Nanny."
"What, were'n they noan gradely sorted, then, after o?"
"Well," said Skedlock, "I'll tell yo."
"As I've yerd th' tale, this new organ wur tried for th'
first time at mornin' sarvice, th' next day. Dick-o'-Liddy's,
th' bass singer, wur pike'd eawt to look after it, as he wur an' owd
hond at music; an' the parson would ha' gan him a bit of a lesson,
th' neet before, how to manage it, like. But Dick reckon't
that nobody'd no 'casion to larn him nought belungin' sich like
things as thoose. It wur a bonny come-off if a chap that had
been a noted bass singer five-and-forty year, an' could tutor a
claronet wi' ony mon i' Rossenda Forest, couldn't manage a
box-organ, beawt bein' teyched wi' a parson. So they gav him
th' keys, and leet him have his own road. Well, o' Sunday
forenoon, as soon as th' first hymn wur gan out, Dick whisper't
round to th' folk i'th singin'-pew, 'Now for't! Mind yor hits!
Aw'm beawn to set it agate!' An' then he went, an' wun
the organ up, an' it started a-playin' 'French;' an' th' singers
followed, as weel as they could, in a slattery sort of a way.
But some on 'em didn't like it. They reckon't that they made
nought o' singin' to machinery. Well, when th' hymn' wur done,
th' parson said, 'Let us pray'; an' down they went o' their knees.
But just as folk wur gettin' their een nicely shut, an' their faces
weel hud i' their hats, th' organ banged off again wi' the same
tune. 'Hello!' said Dick, jumpin' up, 'th' divvle's off again,
bith mass!' Then he darted at the organ; an' he rooted about
wi' th' keys, tryin' to stop it. But th' owd lad wur i' sich a
fluster, that istid o' stoppin' it, he swapped th' barrel to another
"That made him warse nor ever. Owd Thwittler whisper'd
to him, 'Thire, Dick; thae's shapt that nicely! Give it
another twirl, owd brid!' Well, Dick sweat, an' futter't about
till he swapped th' barrel again. An' then he looked round th'
singin'-pew, as helpless as a kitlin'; an' he said to th' singers,
'Whatever mun aw do, folk?' an' tears coom into his een. 'Roll
it o'er,' said Thwittler. 'Come here, then,' said Dick.
So they roll't it o'er, as if they wanted to teem th' music out on
it, like ale out of a pitcher. But the organ yowlt on; and
Dick went wur an' wur. 'Come here, yo singers,' said Dick,
come here; let's sit us down on't! Here, Sarah; come, thee;
thou'rt a fat un!' An' they sit 'em down on it; but o' wur no
use. Th' organ wur reet ony end up; an' they couldn't smoor th'
sound. At last Dick gav in; an' he leant o'er th' front o' th'
singin'-pew, wi' th' sweat runnin' down his face; an' he sheawted
across to th' parson, 'Aw cannot stop it! I wish yo'd send
"Just then owd Pudge, th' bang-beggar, coom runnin' into th'
pew, an' he fot Dick a souse at back o' th' yed wi' his pow; an' he
said, 'Come here, Dick; thou'rt a foo. Tak howd; an-let's
carry it eawt.' Dick whisked round an' rubbed his yed, an' he
said, 'Aw say, Pudge, keep that pow to thisel', or else I'll send my
shoon against thoose ribbed stockin's o' thine.' But he went
an' geet howd, an' him an' Pudge carried it into th' chapel-yard, to
play itsel' out i' th' open air. An' it yowls o' th' way as
they went, like a naughty lad bein' turn't out of a reawm for cryin'.
Th' parson waited till it wur gone; an' then he went on wi' th'
sarvice. When they set th' organ down i'th chapel-yard, owd
Pudge wiped his for-yed, an' he said, 'By th' mass, Dick, thae'll
get the bag for this job.' 'Why, what for?' said Dick. 'Aw've
no skill of sich like squallin'-boxes as this. If they'd taen
my advice, an' stick't to th' bass fiddle, aw could ha' stopt that
ony minute. It has made me puff carryin' that thing. I
never once thought that it'd start again after th' hymn wur done.
Eh, I wur some mad! If aw'd had a shool-full o' smo' coals i'
my hond, aw'd ha' chuck't 'em into't. . . . Yer tho', how it's
grindin' away just th' same as nought wur. Ay, thae may weel
play th' Owd Hundred, divvleskin! Thae's made a funeral o' me
this mornin'! . . . But, aw say, Pudge, th' next time at there's
aught o' this sort agate again, aw wish thee'd be as good as keep
that pow o' again thine to thysel', wilco? Thae's raise't a
knob at th' back o' my yed th' size of a duck-egg; an' it'll be
twice as big bi mornin'. How would yo like me to slap tho o'
th' chops wi' a stockin'-full o' slutch, some Sunday, when thae'rt
swaggerin' i'th' front o'th' parson?'"
"While they stood talkin' this way, one o'th singers coom
runnin' out o' th' chapel bare yed, an' he shouted out, 'Dick,
thae'rt wanted, this minute! Where's that pitch-pipe?
We'n gated wrang twice o' ready! Come in, wi thou!' 'By
th' mass,' said Dick, dartin' back; 'I'd forgetten o' about it.
I's never see through this job to mi deein' day.' An' off he
ran, an' laft owd Pudge sit upo' th' organ grinnin' at him. . . .
That's a nice do isn't it, Nanny?"
"Eh," said the old woman, "I never yerd sich a tale i' my
life. But thae's made part o' that out o' thi own yed,
"Not a word," said he; "not a word. Yo han it as I had
it, Nanny; as near as I can tell."
"Well," replied she, "how did they go on at after that?"
"Well," said he, "I haven't time to stop to-neet, Nanny; I'll
tell yo some time else; I thought Jone would ha' bin here by now.
He mun ha' code at 'Th' Rompin Kitlin'; but, I'll look in as I go
"I wish thou would, Skedlock. An' dunnot go an' keep
him, now; send him forrad whoam."
"I will, Nanny I dunnot want to stop, mysel'. Con yo
lend me a lantron?"
"Sure I can. Jenny, bring that lantron; an' leet it.
It'll be two hours before th' moon rises. It's a fine neet,
but it's dark."
When Jenny brought the lantern, I bade Nanny "Good night,"
and took advantage of Owd Skedlock's convoy down the broken paths,
to the high road in the valley. There we parted; and I had a
fine starlight walk to "Th' Top o' th' Hough " on that breezy
After a quiet supper in "Owed Bob's" little parlour, I took a
walk round about the quaint farmstead, and through the grove upon
the brow of the hill. The full moon had risen in the cloudless
sky; and the view of the valley as I saw it from "Grant's Tower"
that night, was a thing to be remembered for a man's lifetime.
TOLD BY THE WINTER FIRE.
Now all our neighbours' chimneys smoke,
And Christmas logs are burning;
With baked meats all their ovens choke,
And every spit is turning.
Outside the door let sorrow lie
And if for cold it chance to die,
We'll tomb it in a Christmas pie,
And evermore be merry.
By the crackling fire
We'll hold our little, snug, domestic
HIGH upon the
southern slope of Waddington Fell in the midst of a few green
fields, an old country inn stands, with its gable-end close to the
roadside, and the heathery moors rising wild behind it. Its
comfortable shelter was well known to all who travelled across those
storm-swept heights; and when the shades of night had folded up the
wide landscape, its cheerful light gleamed like a star upon the dark
breast of the moorland hill, far down into the vale, whilst an
inviting ray from the little window at the end of the building threw
a beam of bright welcome across the lonely road to every passer-by.
The front of the house looked down upon one of the finest expanses
in all the famous valley of the Ribble a region of clear rivers
and pure air, remarkable for the natural beauty of its scenery;
abounding in historic memorials of the olden time, and in sweet
pictures of rural life. . . .
At the foot of the fell, where the bleak but beautiful
heather-land dies away into rich meadows and pastures green, the
blue smoke curls up from the chimneys of the hamlet of Waddington,
the old town of Wada, a famous chieftain of Saxon times, whose
stronghold in those rude days occupied a remarkable conical eminence
still called "Waddow," about a mile south of the hamlet, and hard by
the banks of the Ribble. Waddington is still a quaint, quiet,
sweet-looking, rustic village, through the heart of which a limpid
stream comes wimpling down from the moors. It still retains many
features of bygone days. Its ancient church is an object of interest
to the antiquary; and close by the little stream which trails its
pleasant undersong through the quiet air of the village, by night
and day stands Waddington Old Hall, the last shelter of Henry the
Sixth, after lurking, from place to place, for years amongst these
northern wilds. It was from this ancient manor-house that he fled at
last, and was pursued and overtaken by Talbot, of Bashall, and his
men, whilst crossing the river at Brunkerley hipping-stones, about a
mile south of the village. This sealed the fate of that feeble and
unfortunate monarch; for he was conveyed thence, a prisoner, to
London, where he fell into the hands of his enemies. . . .
still from the front of the old inn, upon the fellside, into the
beautiful valley which spreads far and wide at its foot, the sweet
old town of Clitheroe stands upon a gently rising ground, about
three miles to the south, with the ruined Norman castle of the Lacys lords
of the Honor of Clitheroe upon a bold rock over-frowning the
market-place. Beyond that, the scene is bounded, on the south, by
the grand ridge of Pendle, stretching five miles, from the "big end"
of the hill, near the pretty village of Downham; on the east, to the
wooded slopes; on the west, where the hill declines into green
holms, and rich meadows, amongst which the ancient hamlet of Whalley,
and its ruined abbey, rest by the side of the river Calder.
Altogether, the landscape seen from the front of the old inn which
is the scene of our story is a glorious sight. In the Saxon period
of our history, this beautiful valley is said to have been one of
the most remarkable battle-grounds in all the north, between
conflicting Saxon chiefs, and between the Saxon and the Dane. The
landscape has certainly been wilder, and more thickly wooded, then;
but grim old Pendle the heather-crested monarch of the scene stands
there yet, in silent and solitary pride, untouched by change,
through all the lapse of centuries; and the whole country, as seen
from the wild side of Waddington Fell, must retain much of the same
general aspect that it had a thousand years ago; for,
Though much the centuries take, and much bestow,
Most, through them all, immutable remains,
Beauty, whose world-wide empire never wanes,
Sole permanence in being's ceaseless flow.
It was Christmas Eve; and every lonely homestead upon the wild
moors was touched with the cheerful temper of that blessed festival
which warms the heart of man with the kindliest remembrances of all
the year. During many days past the weather had been keen and clear,
delighting every eye, and rejoicing the hearts of the young and
strong with its bracing beauty for old winter was wearing its
brightest robe, and hill and dale, and "every common sight," in all
the wide landscape was lovely to the view. The heathery slope of
Waddington Fell was white all over with a shining robe of seed
pearls; and every leafless tree, and rough thorn hedge every little
winter-nipped bush, and fern-clad wayside well, was festooned with
fairy frost-work, which twinkled in the sun. Even the rude-built
walls and fences, the lonely "rubbing stoops," in the midst of the
frozen fields, and the farm gear about the yard of the old inn, were
all decked in the glittering enchantment of cunning nature's
happiest wintry mood. The rugged rut-worn moorland roads were hard
as iron; and the crisp snow by the roadside crackled under the
traveller's foot. As twilight deepened down, and the distant
landscape began to fade from view, the blue smoke curled up thicker
than usual from the chimneys of the old house, into the pure
mountain air, for the landlord and his wife were preparing for a
jovial night for their own little family, and for any stray
travellers who might chance to cross the fell that night, from the
Trough of Bolland into Ribblesdale, after the sun had gone down. The
ordinary business of the solitary household was all arranged for the
night. The horses in the stable had been fed and foddered down; the
two cows had been milked;
The sheep were in the fold,
And the cattle were in shed;
Little Liddy, the housemaid, had finished her work in the dairy, and
was in her chamber trimming herself up, after the ruder labours of
the day; "Amos o' Lumpyed's," the hostler, and general servant-man
upon the farm connected with the inn, had gone down to Clitheroe on
an errand; and old George, the landlord, known all over the Forest
of Bolland by the name of "Judd o' Sheep Jamie's" old George and
his wife, Betty, had the lower part of the house all to themselves;
for, in those days, that wild fell was not much travelled, and there
had not been a customer in the place since two hours before the sun
went down. But it was Christmas Eve; and the hearty old couple knew
it was a time not unlikely to bring strange visitors over from
Newton-in-the-Forest, on their way to Clitheroe, after nightfall.
Day was declining; but the candles were not yet lighted for old
George and his wife felt an unconscious delight in the mystic charm
of the lingering twilight hour, which filled the sweet old house
with such a dreamy beauty, at the close of a fine day. The kitchen
looked more bright and cheerful even than usual. Everything in the
place had a holiday appearance, for the landlady had decorated its
walls with evergreens, amongst which the traditional mistletoe-bush,
hanging from the low ceiling, amongst hams and flitches of bacon,
and great branches of red-berried holly, here and-there, twinkled
conspicuously in the firelight. The fire was piled up high in the
wide chimney, and its rosy glow lit up the whole room, in which
everything, great and small, was radiant with the beauty of perfect
cleanliness and order. The round-topped table was covered with a
snow-white cloth, upon which tea-things were laid for the landlord and his wife, and Liddy, the servant-girl. The great kettle hung upon
its usual hook, above the glowing grate; and a quaint tea-pot, which
rarely made its appearance, stood upon the hob. Betty had brought
her best old china out, too, for the occasion; and, in addition to
the usual simple fare of home-baked bread and sweet mountain butter,
of her own making, with a dish of fried eggs and bacon, several
dainties of the season, amongst which were spice cakes, and cheese,
and mince pies, occupied the board; and upon the great oak dresser,
under the window, a cold chine of beef stood ready for all comers. It was a pleasant sight; and the good old couple looked around with
quiet delight, as they went to and fro. Everything seemed to wink
and chuckle with glee; and the antique eight-day clock, in the
corner, ticked more blithely than usual as the ruddy firelight
played upon its polished mahogany case, across the white-scoured
floor of the kitchen.
The landlord had sat down in his arm-chair by the fire, and was
enjoying the luxury of a quiet smoke, whilst looking contentedly
"Come, George," said the landlady, drawing her chair up to the
table, "come an' get thi baggin'!"
The old man laid down his pipe, and rising slowly from his seat,
till his tall figure seemed almost to touch the low ceiling of the
kitchen, he yawned, and said, "Well, I'm willin', lass; but afore I
begin, I think I'll stretch my legs a minute or two." Then, with a
slow and heavy footstep, he sauntered out at the doorway, to look at
By this time the full moon was up and it was as light as day. The
frost-pearled moorside was one glittering expanse of silvery
brilliants, under the soft radiance of the queen of night; and the
clear blue sky was thickly "fretted with golden fires." The cold
seemed to strengthen as the night came on, and the snow, which had
lain freezing for many a day, was now so hard that the foot left no
mark upon its surface.
"Betty, lass," said the old man, calling to his wife, "come here a
minute! I never seed a finer neet i' my life! This is gooin' to be
one o'th' grand owd-fashioned wintry Kesmasses with a bit o'
howsome (wholesome) nip in it sich as there use't to be when I wur a
lad! Look here, mon! It's full moon; an' it's as leet as noonday! I
could see to read th' almanac very near! An' th' stars are as thick
i'th' sky as a swarm o' gowden midges!"
The old woman came to the doorway, and looked out.
"Ay," said she, gazing round upon the bright scene, "it is a bonny
neet, for sure! But come thi ways in; thou's no hat on, an' thou'll
get coud, i' tho stops theer much lunger! Come thi ways in, an'
let's get er baggins!"
The old man came slowly back into the house, muttering that a bit o'
frost would do nobody no harm.
"Come, Liddy," said the old woman, shouting upstairs to the
servant-girl, "whatever arto doin' so long up theer? Come thi ways
down! Th' baggin's ready!"
The girl a rosy little rustic Hebe came downstairs, looking sweet
and tidy, from top to toe, and the three sat down to the table
Some say, that ever against that season
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirits can walk abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, no witch hath power to charm;
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.
'Twas Christmas broached the mightiest
'Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft would cheer
The poor man's heart through half the year.
"NOW then,'' said
the landlady, beginning to fill the cups, "let's fo' to. It
looks as if we wur gooin' to ha' th' house to ersels Christmas Eve
as it is so we may as weel try to make th' best on't. Now,
Liddy, lass; reitch to an' don't be shy. Here, George;
thou'll sweeten for thisel.' I lippen't o' some of our
Jonathan's childer cumin' up, fro' Waddin'ton, an' to tell th'
truth, I feel raither disappointed."
"Thou doesn't need," said the old man. "It's Christmas
Eve, as thou says, an' folk are o getherin' round their own
hearthstones, among theirsels."
"Well; an' aren't they our own gront-childer? George,
thou talks silly."
"Never mind, lass. They known th' gate, if they
wanten to come. But, give 'em time, mon give 'em time. . . .
Now, when I wur a lad, my faither wouldn't ha' had one on us away
fro' whoam at Christmas time, upo' no 'count. We were a great
family, an' a bit scatter't, mony a mile asunder, but he said
that he like't to gether o his flock together into th' owd fowd, upo'
Longridge Fell, every Yule-time, so that he could reckon 'em up, an'
see their faces once more, bi th' feet of a roarin' winter fire.
He said it did him good; an' it did, too. As for my mother,
I don't think hoo could ha' poo'd through th' winter if hoo hadn't
sin her childer, an' her childer's childer about her, fro' o
sides, owd an' yung, an' there wur a grand swarm on us, little
an' big, when we wur o together; for two o'th' lads an' three o'
my sisters were wed, an' they brought th' yung uns wi' 'em. I
can remember us musterin' thirty i'th' owd kitchen, the very
Christmas afore my mother deed; an' a heartier family I never clapt
een on, for there weren't one on 'em that wur oather sick, or
soory, or sore an' that's sayin' a good deeol, i' sich a world as
"Well, George," replied she, "I think that we'n a reet to
expect our own childer to come an' see us i'th' same way.
They'd never missed yet; an' it looks very strange. They're o'
that we han left; an' I shan't feel reet if they don't come."
"Don't fret thisel to soon, lass. There's time enough.
What, th' eawl-leet's noan o'er yet. Make thisel comfortable.
Thou'll see this kitchen turn't th' wrang side up afore th' neet's
o'er. I shouldn't wonder if they aren't comin' gigglin' up th'
fellside this very minute, as merry as ingle-crickets."
"Well," said the old woman, wiping her eyes, "we's see. . . .
I could like to yer their feet."
"Nay, nay, lass," said he, "don't goo an' fret thisel about
nought. Thou'll have 'em among these mince-pies afore aught's
lung. I'll be bound that th' childer are as anxious to come up
as thou art for 'em to come. Dry thi een, lass, do! . . .
Here, afore I begin o' mi baggin' I'll put some moore dry eldin' upo'
that fire. We'n make a shine i'th' hole, whether onybody comes
And the stalwart old fell-ranger for in his younger days he
had been by turns a shepherd and a gamekeeper rose from the table
and fetched a great tree-root from the outhouse, which he planted
fairly upon the glowing fire. The well-dried log ignited at
once, and the flame went roaring up the wide chimney, filling the
kitchen with a ruddier light even than before.
"Theer," said he, "that looks like Kesmass, doesn't it?
We's need no candles for a bit. That'll make this house shine
down th' dark moorside like a great lantron! I'll be bund
little Nelly's clappin' her honds just this minute, an' sayin',
'Look yon! I can see my gronny's window! Hello, Liddy;
who's left this spade o'th' nook here?"
The girl rose from her seat at the table.
"It's Amos," said she. "He left it when he coom in to
his baggin', afore he set off to Clithero."
"Well, tak it into th' shippon. It's no business here.
Let's ha' th' house as tidy as we con, as it's Kesmass Eve."
The girl went out with the spade, and the old man sat down
again to his evening meal.
"I'll tell tho what, George," said the landlady, as she
filled his cup, "yon lad's raither of a careless turn. How
does thou get on wi' him?"
"Well," replied he, "Owd Bill wur worth a dozen on him!
Poor owd Bill he wur a great loss. I miss him as if he'd bin
my own brother he'd bin wi' us so lung."
"Well," said the landlady, "we han th' satisfaction o' knowin'
that we made him as comfortable as we could as long as he wur
"Aye," said he, "it's an ill thing to have to look back
when folk are laid by for ever an' remember that yo didn't do as
yo should to 'em while they wur alive."
"It is," said she, "it is. . . . But we ha' not that on er
minds, George as how 'tis."
"Nawe, we ha'not, lass," replied he. . . . . As for this new
lad this Amos he's nobbut a shiftless, shammockin' sort of a
craiter, as far as he's gone. He's sin nought an' he knows
nought an' he'll not do so mich, if he can help it. I doubt
th' lad's had an ill bringin'-up, an' he's some idle bwons in his
pelt. He's a lither lump o' stuff-except at eatin' an' drinkin.'
At dinner-time, he'll count four; but, when it comes to a bit o'
solid work, he isn't aboon th' hauve of a gradely chap. But
he'll happen mend we's see in a bit."
"I wonder what's keepin' him i' Clithero till now?"
"Bother thi yed noan about th' lad. He'll turn up of
hissel. I dare say he's let (alighted upon, met with) o' some
of his owd cronies. Thou knows it's holiday time, an' yung
cowts are jumpin' th' fences a bit; an' one connot expect th' lad to
keep his feet just th' same as if it wur a common wortchin'-day.
I guess he'll ha' bits o' runs of his own th' same as other yung
craiters an' he may run a bit, as far as I am concarn't."
"He should be in afore bedtime."
"What does it matter? We're noon boun to bed yet.
Never mind th' lad. If he comes, he comes; an' if he doesn't
it'll make little odds, for there's nought mich for him to do
"Wilto have another cup?"
"Nawe, I've done very weel. Poo up to th' hob, an'
let's make ersels comfortable. Liddy 'ill side these things."
He then rose from the table, and taking the arm-chair in the
corner, he lit his pipe; and, for the next hour or two, the time
glided by in quiet chat with his wife, who sat rocking herself on
the opposite side of the fire, the kind old man trying, all the
while, to divert the mind of his good dame from the unusual solitude
of their hearth on Christmas Eve.
Whilst they were thus conversing together, a loud sough of
wind went moaning round their solitary dwelling, and the doors of
the outhouses began to rattle.
"Hollo," said the old man, "th' wind's risin'! What's
comin' now?" and looking up at the window he saw that the sky had
become overcast. Then, rising from his chair, he went to the
door, and found that a sudden change had come over the scene.
The wind swept fiercely in at the open doorway. The moon had
disappeared, and the sky, lately so bright and clear, was now one
wild scene of commotion. Dark clouds were flying across the
heavens, and wild-driving mist and sleet filled all the air.
Not a star was now in sight. Every moment the air grew
thicker; the wind grew wilder; and the flying sleet began to be
mingled with thick flakes of snow.
"What a change!" said the old man, closing the door.
We're gooin' to have a snowstorm; an' not a little 'un, noather.
We don't need to expect onybody up fro' Clithero to-neet now, if
this howds out. . . . Liddy, goo an' put a leet i' yon end window
that looks upo' th' roadside, so that onybody may see it that
happens to come o'er th' top o'th' fell."
In winter's tedious nights, sit by the
With good old folks, and let them tell thee tales.
Then came the merry maskers in,
And carols roared with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
THE storm grew
wilder, and the snow fell faster every minute. The air was
thick with flying flakes, and the whole landscape was, now, one
ghastly sheet of white. As the snow increased, the wind sank
down to a steady, sullen moan, as if overladen, and the usual
stillness of the moorland solitude deepened to a death-like hush,
which added to the appalling aspect of the scene.
A light, planted in the little window at the gable-end of the
house, now threw a cheerful ray across the lonely road which led
down the fell-side. The doors and shutters were all fastened.
The old landlady and the little household settled down, in full
expectation of passing this Christmas Eve in quiet seclusion amongst
themselves; and another hour had glided by, during which the snow
came down faster and thicker, when somebody lifted the latch, which
was followed by a loud knock at the door, and voices heard in
"There's somebody here at last," said the old man, going to
the door just as the knock was repeated louder than before.
"Who's theer?" cried he, before drawing the bolt of the door.
"There's three on us," replied a merry voice in the storm
outside; "there's me, an' Jack o'th' Tinker's, an' Alick o'
Cauve-lickt Antony's. We'n com'd o'er th' top, by Wallapa
Well, out o' Newton-i'-Bollan'. Oppen th' dur. We connot
get no fur (further)."
The landlord threw the door open at once, and in rushed the
three travellers, muffled to the chin, and all white with snow.
"Lads," said he, glancing at the wintry storm before he
closed the door again, "yo'n brought a wild neet wi' yo'!"
"Nay," replied the spokesman of the three, looking round the
kitchen, as he shook the snow from his clothing, we'n left it
beheend us, an' between yo' an' me, maister, I'm fain to get under
cover, for we're just about done up. Con we stop o' neet?"
"Yo' may, if yo'n a mind an' welcome!" said the old
"That's th' mak! (make, sort.)"
"Here," said the landlady, setting three chairs around the
hearth, "draw up, an' warm yo'; for yo' mun have had a terrible
trawnce o'er th' fell i' this storm."
"Thank yo', mistress," replied the rattle-pate who had first
spoken, "I like th' look o' this side o' th' house, I con tell yo'!
An' it's a good job we geet in, too, for Alick here's noan weel."
"What's th' matter?"
"He's a terrible pain in his inside."
"Eh dear! Does he tak' nought for it?"
"Yigh, three or four times a day, an' sometimes moor."
"Some mak' o' bottle, I guess?"
"Nay; it's mostly pills."
"What mak' o' pills?"
"They're for th' stomach."
"Oh! that's wheer it tak's him, is it?"
"Aye, aye," said the landlord, laughing; "I'm a bit trouble't
wi' th' same complaint mysel'. But yo'n com'd to th' reet shop
for bein' cure't this time. We're seldom short o' hunger
physic i' this house, thank God! . . . Liddy, set th' cowd beef upo'
th' table, an' let these lads thwite (to cut with a thwittle) at it
The table was quickly spread with substantial Christmas fare,
and the hungry travellers sat down. For about half-an-hour
every man of the three "played a good stick," as the old saying
goes, chatting blithely together all the while; and when they had
eaten their fill they rose and took their seats around the hearth
again, in merry mood. They had hardly got well settled before
a whining and scratching was heard at the door.
"Hello, Alick," said Billy o' Mall's o' Jumper's, the
"ready-mouth" of the party, "thou's laft thi dog out! Oppen th'
Little Liddy opened the door, and in rushed the dog, whisking
the snow from his hide all over the floor.
"I'll tell tho what, Alick," said Billy, "that dog o' thine's
a quare-lookin' craiter. What breed dosto co' it?"
"Nay, thou fastens me now," replied Alick. "It's a
mixtur o' maks (kinds). Sometimes I think it's a tarrier, an'
sometimes I think it'll turn out a foomart-dog; but th' yure's to
short. It's a bit o' bull about th' nose; but it looks as if
it had bin clemmed at t'other end, for th' hinder-quarter's nipt in
like a greyhount whelp. I doubt it's had moore faithers than
one. But I like th' dog, for o that it's sich a feaw un. It's
good to nought mich but for a bit o' company. It followed me
whoam fro' th' fair about a month sin', an' I didn't like to send it
away in th' wide world, to be starve't, an' punce't, an knocked
about fro' window to wole."
"Well, you're a good pair, Alick," said Billy, "an', as far
as I'm concarn't, I'se be sorry if ever you're parted. . . But
it reminds me," continued he, "of a dog that I bought one
Whit-Monday. When I took it whoam my wife stare't at this
thing a bit; an' at last hoo said, 'Now, then, what hasto getten
this time?' 'Well,' I said, 'it pretends to be a dog.'
'A dog, eh?' said hoo. 'I shouldn't ha' thought it; for it's
feaw enough for a corn-boggart. What, thou'll turn this house
into a gradely menagerie soon, what wi' th' hens, an' th' pigeons,
an' th' poll-parrot, an' two canaries. Thou'rt nought short
but a camel, an' two or three monkeys, an' thou't be set up for
life. But I'm noan boun to ha' that thing i' this house, I can
tell thou.' An' I said hoo should, an' hoo said hoo wouldn't;
an' we fell out abeawt it. But while we wur at it ding-dong,
th' cat coom in an' settle't o disputes wi' a rattle. Th' cat
had just kettle't that mornin', an' as soon as it seed th' dog it
flew at it, an' for a minute or two I couldn't tell which wur which,
they wur so mixt up together. An' they whuzzed round like a
First I geet a wap o'th' dog, then I seed a bit o'th' cat;
but I couldn't sort em at o; an' between yeawlin', an' scrattin',
an' spittin', an' squeakin', they kickt up such a din that it made
mi yure stone o' one end. At last th' cat jumped onto th'
table, wheer th' dinner wur set out, an' th' dog jumped after it.
Then they set th' pots agate o' flyin'; an amung th' rest, a dishful
o' bacon collops went to th' floor. Our Sall flew at 'em wi' a
quart pot in her hond; but, as hoo wur gooin', hoo happen't to set
her foot onto a bacon collop, an' away hoo went across the floor in
a great slur (slide), wi' her legs a yard asunder, an' hoo never
stops till hoo coom bang again th' edge o'th' clock wi' her nose,
an' down hoo went, back'ards, upo' th' floor, wi her nose bleedin'.
'Oh, I'm kilt,' cried Sall, 'I'm kilt!' an' I went to help her; but,
just as I wur bendin' down, hoo up wi' her foot and took me bang
between th' een, wi' sich a welt that sparks flew i' o' directions;
an' down I went staggerin', th' hinder-end first, into a mugful o'
dough, that stood at th' end o' th' dresser and there I stuck
fast. By this time hoo'd getten to her feet; and while I wur
busy, tryin' to wriggle mysel' out o' th' mug, hoo flung an' owd
birdcage at mi yed, that wur stonnin o'th' nook an' that wur
followed wi' a mugful o' starch that coom flusk into my face, an'
filled my mouth an' een, till I wur as blint as a bat.
I don't know what hoo sent th' next, but I kept feeling one
cloat after another, as thick as leet, an' when I coom to reckon
mysel' up, I found that I'd a pair o' prime black een, an' a cut o'
mi foryed, an' four or five fresh lumps o' my yed for hoo had me
fast, an' hoo kept hommerin' at it like a nail-maker i' full wark.
After I'd getten the starch out o' mi een, I wur a good bit afore I
could rive mysel' out o' th' mug an' then I fund that I'd as mich
bakin'-stuff stickin' to th' thick end o' mi breeches as would ha'
made a couple o' four-pond loaves. While this wur agate, th'
cat had run up to th' top o'th' eight-day clock, an' th' dog had
gone yeawlin' out at th' dur, wi' a quart pot after it. I know
not where th' dog's londed, but it took off toward Yor'shire, an'
I've never sin it fro' that day to this; an' I don't think I ever
shall as lung as our Sall's alive. . . . Well, when I'd poo'd
mysel' out o'th mug, I fund our Sall rear't up again th' dresser,
strokin' her nose, an' tryin' to get her breath; an' I believe, to
th' best o' my remembrance, that I said some words that I never
yeard in a chapel but I'll not mention 'em again. An' hoo
left me nought short, for hoo towd me moore about my private
character than ever I knew afore. It made my yure stone up, I
con tell yo. But let that drop; for I don't like to think on't;
an' I don't want it to goo ony fur. . . .
Well, as I stoode o'th' middle o'th' floor, tryin' to poo
this stuff off mi breeches, we looked at one another for a minute or
two. At last, I said to her, 'Now, then, owd lass; what does
to think o' thisel'? Thou'rt a bonny baigle (beagle, dog), for
onybody to look at!' 'Ay; an' so art thou,' said Sall.
'Thou'd make a rare alehouse sign, if thi pictur' wur takken as thou
stops!' 'Well,' I said, 'I should look a bit different, owd
lass, for thou's takken some pains wi' this face o' mine this last
twothre minutes.' 'Sarve tho reet, thou 'greight idle
rack-an'-hook!' said Sall. 'Where's that pratty dog o' thine?
Thou'd better look after it! It's a pity to lose sich a thing
as yon. It should ha' stopt, an' had a bit o' some'at to eat.
I doubt th' poor thing's noan satisfied wi' his maister. Go
thi ways, an' look for it, or else somebody'l bi steighlin it.
Poor thing! Folk shouldn't be rough wi' things that connot
speak for theirsels.' 'Never thee mind, owd lass,' I said;
'I'll ha' that dog back here if I'm a livin' mon whether thou
likes it or not.' 'I would, lad,' said Sall; 'an' bring a wild
craiter or two, at th' same time; an' let's set up a show!'
'Nay,' I said, 'there needs no moore wild craiters where thou art.
An', as for a show, that nose o' thine would fotch brass just this
minute, if I had tho in a caravan. But, I'll be gooin',
an' th' next time I come thou'll be fain to see me, whether I've a
dog or not.' 'Take thisel' out o' mi seet, an' keep thi
heels this road on!' cried Sall. An' as I went out at th' dur-hole,
a rollin'-pin flew close by my ear-hole, an' broke a weshin'-mug
that stoode at tother side o'th' road. . . . I coom off, an' left
her to it a bit.'
Billy's dog story put all the company into a merry temper and
the night wore on in cheery chat and story. As it drew near
midnight, the storm gradually abated, and the heavens grew bright
"Now then," said the old landlord, looking up at the clock,
"it'll be Christmas Day i' two minutes! Fill up, lads!"
The old clock in the corner struck twelve; and everybody
listened to the last stroke.
"Stop!" said the old man. "Husht! . . . Ay, yon's
Clithero Church bells!"
The merry peal, mellowed by distance, came floating up the
fellside, with the glad tidings of the happiest feast of all the
"A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!" cried old George,
rising to his feet; and as the toast went blithely round the
kitchen, a burst of music arose under the window. It was the
Christmas waits, who had wandered up from Clitheroe to salute old
George and his wife.
Sweetly into the wintry air arose Dr. Byrom's fine carol,
"Christians, awake, salute the happy morn!" sung to the well-known,
glad old tune, which was composed for it by Wainwright, the organist
of Manchester Old Church.
The landlord threw the door wide open, and cried, "A Merry
Christmas to yo o'! Come in, an' let's look at yo! I'm
fain to see yo, by th' mass! Come in. But who han we
here?" said he, laying his hand upon the shoulder of a little
figure, muffled in a red cloak. The child threw its cloak off,
and held up its laughing mouth to be kissed.
"Eh, it's our Nelly!" cried the old landlady. "Eh, my
darlin', my darlin'!"
"Yes," said the child, "an' my father's here; an' our George,
an' our Mary; an' Kate an' Annie are comin' up, beside! "
"Eh, my darlin's my darlin's!" cried the kind old matron,
bursting into tears of joy, as she clasped her children to her
breast, again and again, one after another.
And it was a blithe Christmas morning in that old house upon
Waddington Fell Side.
THE face of
nature has been so much changed in Lancashire during the last eighty
years that it is hard to conceive what the country was like three or
four centuries ago. Almost within the memory of living man,
the rise of modern industrialism, and the combination upon the same
spot of the elements essential to success in manufacturing
enterprise coal, stone, clay, iron, and water the great energy of
the old inhabitants; the vast influx of population from other
quarters, and the rapid growth of wealth and towns these things
altogether have overwhelmed the ancient features of the land like a
sudden deluge; and now the county which, up to a century ago, had
seen least of change, has, since that time, undergone greater
alteration in its appearance and way of life than any other part of
In ancient days, when men never dreamt of the slumbering
wealth beneath the surface, its soil was reckoned among the poorest
in England, and its people among the hardiest; its range of hills
rolled across the country in stormy waves of lonely moorland; its
cloughs were impassable swamps; its forests were wild
hunting-grounds, kept for the pleasure of the king and the nobles of
the land its roads were chiefly ancient bridle-paths; and upon its
plains there were vast tracts of wild heath and spongy moss.
Sterile, remote, and unattractive, it held little communion with the
rest of the kingdom, except when stirred by some great event which
roused the whole land to war. Then, indeed, the strong-bred
bowmen and billmen of Lancashire mustered from their leafy nooks and
followed the banners of their proud aristocracy to many a
well-fought field, where their stern front and deadly shafts have
spread dismay amongst the boldest foes.
In those wild times Lancashire was famous over all England
for its terrible bowmen. In many of its ancient towns as at
Rochdale and Bury there are places which, though now covered by
modern streets, still bear the name of "The Butts," where the
ancient population practised archery, then the warlike sport of the
yeomanry of England. Some parts of Lancashire cherish the old
love of archery to this day: and on the south-eastern border of the
county the legends of Robin Hood are still associated with the land.
Upon the wild western slope of Blackstone Edge an immense crag
stands alone the rugged monarch of the moorland in the lowmost
part of which there is a small cave, known all over the country side
by the name of " Robin Hood's Bed," and upon the opposite hills
there are great boulders, which he is said to have flung across the
Ancient Lancashire was a comparatively roadless wild; and its
sparse population scattered about in quaint hamlets and isolated
farm-nooks were a rough, bold, and independent race, clinging
tenaciously to the language, manners, and traditions of their
fore-elders; and despising all the rest of the world, of which they
knew next to nothing. Its simple life was singularly
self-contained, and what little traffic it had was carried on by
strings of pack-horses, upon rugged tracks, which had been the
pathways of the ancient inhabitants of the land from the earliest
historic times. These facts leak out in all that we read of
Lancashire in the olden time. The learnθd Camden, after
travelling over the rest of the kingdom, implored the protection of
Heaven before entering on a region so little known and of such wild
repute as Lancashire was in those days; and Arthur Young the famous
Suffolk agriculturist, writing about the end of the last century,
complains in vigorous, old-fashioned English about the state of the
Lancashire roads at that time. He lived long enough, however,
to see the beginning of a new state of things in that county.
MIDDLETON IN THE OLDEN TIME.
O' crom-full o' ancientry.
IN the time of
the Plantagenets, when the woods of Lancashire were wild and thick,
when its air was pure, and its rivers clear, and all the country
wore the livery of nature, Middleton must have been one of the most
picturesque villages in the county. In those days, when the
neighbouring hamlet of Blackley was deep in the heart of a forest
when "Boggart Ho' Clough" was a "deer leap," and "Th' White Moss"
was a lonely waste of evil repute, little Middleton, with its fine
old manorial hall, its moated rectory, its timber-built houses, and
its venerable church upon the hill, must have been a pretty nest of
rural life in the midst of a green and quiet country. Even
now, when the land has been stript of its ancient woods, and all
nature seems to have been pressed into the service of modern
necessities, the country around is prettily varied in feature, and
the little town is pleasant to the eye. The history of the
place is obscure until the beginning of the thirteenth century when
Henry the Third was king, in whose reign a church existed, upon the
site of the present one. In the same reign the manor was held,
"by military service," by a family bearing the local name the
Middletons of Middleton; one of whom, Sir James Middleton, is
associated with the foundation of a chantry chapel in the ancient
church of Rochdale, five miles off. From the Middletons this
manor passed, in the reign of Henry the Fourth, into the hands of
the Bartons, then a famous family in Lancashire. From the
Bartons the lordship of Middleton passed into the possession of the
Asshetons men of great renown in their day. Baines says:
Margaret, the daughter of John
Barton, Esq., having married Ralph Assheton, Esq., a son of Sir John
Assheton, knight, of Ashton-under-Lyne, he became lord of Middleton
in her right, in the seventeenth of Henry the Sixth, 1438, and was
the same year appointed a page of honour to that king. He was
knight-marshal of England, lieutenant of the Tower of London, and
sheriff of Yorkshire, 1473-1474. He attended the Duke of
Gloucester at the battle of Haldon, or Hutton Field, Scotland, in
order to recover Berwick, and was created a knight banneret
on the field for his gallant services, 1483. On the succession
of Richard the Third to the Crown, he created Ralph vice-constable
of England, by letters patent in 1483.
And thus it was that the little town of Middleton emerged from its
old historic obscurity, and became associated thenceforth with the
great events of the times, through connection with the Asshetons, in
the person of Sir Ralph Assheton the terrible "Black Lad" of
Lancashire story one of the most ambitious and active members of a
powerful family, of whose tyranny tradition still preserves the
remembrance. Dr. Hibbert, in his history of Ashton-under-Lyne,
says of this famous favourite of a cruel king:
He committed violent excesses in
this part of the kingdom. In retaining also for life the
privilege of guld riding, he, on a certain day in the spring,
made his appearance in this manner, clad in black armour (whence his
name of "Black Lad"), mounted on a charger, and attended by a
numerous train of his followers, in order to levy the penalty
arising from neglect of clearing the land from carr gulds [Ed.
― 'corn marigolds']. The name o' the "Black Lad" is at
present regarded with no other sentiment than that of horror.
Tradition has, indeed, still perpetuated the prayer that was
fervently ejaculated for a deliverance from his tyranny:
Sweet Jesu, for Thy mercy sake,
And for Thy bitter passion,
Save us from the axe of the Tower,
And from Sir Ralph of Assheton.
The present church seems to have been built upon the site of
the previous edifice, by Sir Richard Assheton, a grandson of the
"Black Lad." On the south side of the church is the following
inscription, which indicates both the rebuilders and the date of the
present edifice: "Ricardus Assheton et Anne, uxor ejus, Anno D'ni
MDXXXIIII." This Sir Richard was, for his valour and bravery
at the battle of Flodden Field, knighted by Henry the Eighth, and
had divers privileges granted within his manor of Middleton.
An ancient window of stained glass commemorates the death of sixteen
of the band of Middleton archers, who fought under Sir Richard in
that famous fray. The church contains numerous monuments of
the Asshetons; and part of the armour of the same "Sir Richard,"
dedicated by him to Saint Leonard, of Middleton, is still preserved
in the church. These Asshetons seem to have been a stirring
race of men through many a century, and it is curious to speculate
upon what kind of life was led by the obscure tenantry of these
warlike lords of Middleton, in those
Dear lamented times
When theft and homicide were jokes, not crimes;
When burning peels and towns were acts of merit,
And red revenge became a lad of spirit;
When every eye saw fairies, ghosts, and devils
Frisk in the moonbeams in their midnight revels.
The life of the aristocracy is recorded in many ways, but of the
undercurrent of human existence we know very little. We have
still a curious picture left of what kind of life was led by the
ancient gentry of Lancashire in the "journal of Nicholas Assheton,
of Downham, in Ribblesdale," who was a scion of the knightly family
of Middleton. It is a singularly minute record, full of
graphic details, and of "touches which make the past more than
present." In Dr. Whitaker's analysis of its contents we get a
vivid glance of this characteristic memorial. He says:
Thus ends the journal of Nicholas
Assheton, then a young and active man, engaged in all the business
of, and enjoying all the amusements of the country. What he
might in a rainy day and a serious mood have done for himself I will
now do for him, or rather for his readers analyse this curious
fragment, and assign every portion of time accounted for to its
proper occupation; promising, however, that there are great chasms
in the journal, one of three months at least; and that the days
which are marked "home," &c., are passed over as blanks, though
perhaps better spent than many which are more strongly
characterised. In this period, then, he accounts for the
hearing of forty sermons, three of them by as many bishops, and one
for communion. On the other hand he records sixteen fox
chases, ten stag hunts, two of the buck, as many of the otter and
hare, one of the badger, four days of grouse shooting, the same of
fishing in the Ribble and Hodder, and two of hawking. Shooting
with the long and crossbow, horse matches, and foot races were the
other means of consuming time without doors. Stage plays and
cards are never mentioned. As a scale by which the writer
measured his own degrees of intemperance, and a catalogue of his
excesses, let the reader attend to the following "Merrie" eleven
times, "verie merrie" once, "more than merrie" once, "merrie as
Robin Hood" once, "plaid the bacchanalian"once, "somewhat too busie
with drink" once, "sick with drink" once, "foolish" once, and
lastly, "fooled this day worse" once. With all these
confessions we hear of neither resolutions nor attempts at
amendment. In this short period he saw four deaths of the
Asshetons; he attended the king at Hoghton Tower; he assisted in
quelling a private quarrel in Wensleydale; attended the king's
commission in the great cause of the copyholds of Blackburn Hundred;
and took two journeys to London on business with the Court of Wards
and Star Chamber. A man more largely connected, or extensively
acquainted with his county, there probably never was.
Such was Nicholas Assheton, of the time of James the First,
who, in the course of his Journal, mentions, again and again, his
visits to "Cousin Assheton, of Middleton." A little nearer our
own day we find these Asshetons still abreast with the events of the
time. In the Cromwellian war, Ralph Assheton, of Middleton,
was an energetic adherent to the Parliamentary cause. On the
24th of September, 1642, about one hundred and fifty of his tenants,
in complete arms, joined the forces of Manchester in opposition to
the Royalists. He commanded the Parliamentary troops at the
siege of Warrington. He was engaged at the siege of Fathom
House, and led the Middleton Clubmen at the siege of
Bolton-le-Moors. In 1648 he was a major-general, and commanded
the Lancashire soldiery of the Commonwealth, on the marshalling of
the Parliamentary forces to oppose the Duke of Hamilton. His
son Ralph, however, espoused the cause of Charles the Second, and
was created a baronet in 1663.
The old hall of the Asshetons at Middleton must have been a
fine specimen of an ancient manor house. It was situated in a
park, hard by the town, "but having been modernised about the latter
part of last century, and afterwards deserted by its owners, it was
entirely demolished in 1845." Canon Raines says of it:
Middleton Hall was a timber-built
house, surrounding two spacious courts, and approached by two
bridges over a moat. The great entrance hall was described,
about the year 1770 or 1771, as "resembling a ship turned upside
down," from which it might appear that it had rested upon crooks,
and was probably built in Edwardian times by the Middletons, the
then material owners. This ancient hall was hung round with
two or three hundred heavy matchlocks, with buff-coats and some half
suits of armour, which have all been removed and dispersed within
living memory. Some of this armour is now in the collection of
George Shaw, Esq., of St. Chad's, Saddleworth.
This memorable old house saw many generations of strong Englishmen.
In Samuel Bamford's "Early
Days" I find the following notice of it:
The Old Hall was perhaps one of
the finest relics of the sort in the country. It was built of
plaster and framework; panels, carvings, and massy beams of black
oak, strong enough for a mill floor. The yard was entered
through a low wicket, at a ponderous gate; the interior of the yard
was laid with small diamond-shaped flags; a door led on the left
into a large and lofty hall, which was hung round with matchlocks,
swords, targets, and hunting weapons, intermingled with trophies of
The site of the hall is now occupied by a cotton factory, and no
traces of its ancient park remain. Speaking of the old
parsonage, as it appeared in his youth, Bamford says:
The rectory was then an old
irregular-looking edifice, built partly of brick and partly of
stone, with a moat round it, and shot-holes in the walls for
musketry or cross-bows.
Bamford dwells lovingly upon the ancient features of his native
town, and the pleasant appearance of the country around, when he was
a boy that is, about the end of the last century. He speaks
of the old stained-glass window in the northern aisle of the church,
representing "a band of archers, kneeling, each with his bow on his
shoulder, his quiver at his breast, and his name above his head,"
commemorative of Middleton men who were slain at the battle of
Flodden Field, under the command of Sir Richard Assheton. He
On the north side of the
churchyard wall stood an old thatched timber and daub house, which
we entered down a step, through a strong low door with a wooden
latch. This was "Old Joe Wellins's," the church alehouse, a
place particularly resorted to by rough fellows when they had a mind
for a private drinking bout. It was a current tradition that
gentlemen roadsters, who lived by levying contributions on the
northern highways, made this their "boozing-ken," or place of
concealment, after their foraging expeditions. Nevison and
Turpin are said to have frequented this old secluded alehouse.
He speaks plaintively of the days when "few of the lonely,
out-of-the-way places the wells, the by-paths, the dark old lanes,
and solitary houses escaped the reputation of being haunted by
boggarts, feeorin', witches, fairies, clapcans, and such like beings
of terror, who were supposed to be lurking in almost every retired
corner or sombre-looking place, whence they came forth at permitted
hours to enjoy their nocturnal freedom." He babbles pleasantly
of the green fields and shady dingles of his youth; and he tells us
of the old haunted "Owler Bridge " over the Irk, where his father
used to sing hymns as he crossed in the dark when on his way to take
lessons from "th' wise mon o' Hulton-fowd;" and of the haunted
Grammar School; and of "Boarshaw," where, in ancient days, a boar of
great size having been killed by one of the Asshetons, of Middleton,
the boar's head was thenceforth borne as the family crest; and of
"Doom Cloof," a deep cliff or gully, "darkened by timber and
underwood, and haunted by fairies and clapcans;" and of the ancient
house at the head of "Blomley Cloof," which was haunted by the ghost
of "Owd Blomley," a fierce retainer of the Hopwoods, of Hopwood,
during the civil wars. With the plaintive delight of a
romantic second childhood, he tells over the old superstitious
country tales of an age gone by, and lingers lovingly among the
lonely woods, the green rambling-grounds, and shady dingles of his
youth, and closes his graphic "glimpse of auld lang syne" with these
words: "But the cloughs and hollows in the neighbourhood of
Middleton are now as bare as if they had been swept by a fire.
The woods, the shelters, the bosky dingles, the pleasant summer
shadows are no longer there; nay, the hedgerows are stinted; the
wild roses and honey-bines are nearly all gone 'The glory has
departed.'" They are gone, as he himself now is gone, and as
all things on earth must go. The old man sleeps in peace,
close by the church of St. Leonard, almost the only relic of ancient
Middleton now left, except the rectory, and the old timber-built inn
called the Boar's Head, which is the scene of our story.
THE OLD BOAR'S HEAD.
Where greybeard mirth and smiling toil
Where village statesmen talked with looks profound,
And news much older than their ale went round.
IT was a busy day
in the Old Boar's Head on the 24th of December, 1800, and the
ancient crest of the Asshetons creaked on its rusty hinges as it
swung to and fro in the wintry blast. It was a famous house at
that time, for all the coaches that ran between Manchester and York
called there; and this alone made it the centre of the village life
and of village loungers seeking news. In addition to which the
old inn was remarkable for its cleanliness and the general geniality
of its appearance inside and out. Its accommodation was
excellent; its fare was bountiful, and of the best quality; its
charges were reasonable; and its home-brewed ale was renowned for
strength and purity. The host and hostess, too, were of the
good old, strong, deep-blooming breed of country folk genuine
descendants of the stiff, unbridled Saxon race the very pair to
keep a substantial wayside inn sweet, and sound, and homely.
Genial, generous, and business-like, with a thorough hatred of dirt,
disorder, and injustice, they had a warm side for poor humanity in
all its forms, and a natural love of the busy varieties of roadside
Giles Buckley, the landlord, was a stalwart, large-bodied
specimen of an Englishman. In the old time of bills and bows
he would have been a formidable antagonist upon the battle field.
With a mind free from all underhand dealing, he was happy-hearted,
humorous, kind, and naturally of an obliging disposition; a foe to
riotous excess, he was yet able to stand any amount of drink, which
enabled him to entertain by his presence any number of successive
guests. Naturally intelligent, and fond of fun, his way of
life had acquainted him with great varieties of mankind; and he was
an inexhaustible storehouse of tale, anecdote, and song. Such
was the usual simplicity of his life and the strength of his
constitution that, when any extraordinary occasion called for
special indulgence, a night's rest brought him forth again as fresh
as a daisy and as firm as a rock. With these attractions no
wonder that the Old Boar's Head was one of the best accustomed inns
for miles around. Many a weary traveller hastened onwards in
the dark to gain the shelter of that famous inn; and many a forlorn
wanderer's heart was made glad in its glowing kitchen. Here,
too, when twilight came, the village folk met to enjoy the company
of their neighbours, to tell old tales, and to discuss the news of
the day and the gossip of the village.
It was a busy day, for, in addition to the usual bustle of
the place, the landlord had invited a few friends to supper on
Christmas Eve; and the whole house was astir to do honour to the
feast, which had been the talk of the village for a week. In
the kitchen the stout old landlady bustled about among her servants,
looking anxiously after the preparation. "Now, lasses," said
she, "do stir yoursel's! Yo' known what we han to do.
Get this place sided up; th' coach 'll be here directly.
There's three dinners i'th front parlour, an' th' men 'll be in fro'
th' stable afore long. Sally, go into th' nooks an' corners
wi' that brush o' thine, an' be sharp. If I've ony clennin'
done, I mun have it done through-an'-through. I cannot abide
your scamblin', sham-smart ways. I like to be clen, as
well as to look so. I wish to the Lord thou'd manage to
do thi wark beawt so mich tentin'. Thou'll make a bonny dossy
of a wife for sombry, when thou comes to be left to thisel'.
It 'll be weary deed for ony poor lad 'at gets thee, if thou dosn't
Sally blushed and nettled up. "I never seed sich a
house as this for clennin'," said she; "yo're al'ays agate th' day
to an end. My mother never"
"Keep thi tong between thi teeth," replied the landlady "an'
dunnot tell me about thi mother. I mun ha' th' wark done as I
want it, an' not as thi mother wants it. Come, stir thoose
shanks o' thine! Thou'rt gettin' to fat and to full! I'm
talkin' to thi for thi own good. But thou'd raither sit by th'
fire fro' mornin' to neet, countin' cinders, an' up to thi een i'
dirt, if folk would let tho live an idle life. I declare it
seems as if some poor craiters were born to be miserable theirsel's,
an' to make everybody miserable about 'em. I've no patience
wi' sich like slotchin' wark. Do try some bit like, lass; an'
dunnot need so mich talkin' to. . . . Martha, I'll chop that suet;
go thi way up stairs an' help to make th' beds. . . . Nanny, how's
that beef gettin' on? . . . Tell Bill to mend these fires. . . .
What's yon bell?"
It was a bright, cold winter's day. The wind came
steadily, with cutting keenness, from the north-east. The
snow-drifts by the wayside were crisp and hard: the hoarfrost
glittered, but did not melt in the sun; and the highroad rang under
foot like a metal plate. The old church clock had struck
twelve, and a knot of grammar school lads were "sleddin" down the
brow which leads to the church, whilst others stood by the footpath,
watching them, and blowing their nails; whilst their gleeful clamour
sounded far into the little town. In front of the "Boar's
Head," a stiff-built, old, grey-haired ostler was puffing and
blowing as he curried and brushed the hide of a traveller's horse,
whilst another was briskly engaged in whistling "Britons, strike
home!" as he swept the coble-pavement before the doorway. A
dense flock of sparrows, flitting from the road up to the eaves of
the house, and back again, filled all the air in front of the inn
with a gleeful twitterment; whilst a redbreast chanted, by fits, his
pretty, plaintive winter song from the leafless thorns on the
opposite side of the road. Two or three villagers were
lounging about the doorway, as usual, talking to the hostlers.
"Jack," said one of them, "that's noan an ill make of a tit."
"Nawe, bi th' mass," replied Jack; "there's some comfort
i'hondlin' a thing like this. It's as bonny a bit o'
horse-flesh as ever I clapt e'en on. Nevison, th' heeway-man,
had one the very marrow o' this. I can remember it as if it
"By Guy, Jack; this is happen it."
"It's hectum as like! What the dule arto talkin' about?
Both him an' his horse were laid low afore thou were born.
Beside, Nevison's tit had a white star upo' th' for-yed; an' it were
raither of oather finer i'th leg nor this. Oh, nawe; Nevison's
were never sin upo' this side at after he robbed th' vicar o' Rachda',
at 'Th' Slattocks.' Let's see; that'll be forty year sin' come
"Well; him an' Dick Turpin, they'n played some bonny
marlocks upo' these roads, bi o' accounts."
"Aye, aye; now thou talks. They wur two lively cowts,
for sure. But they seldom tried their pranks long together upo'
one spot. Old Joe Wellins says 'at they dropt in at th' church
ale-house yon, one back-end, at after they'd robbed th' York mail,
and they lee theer a whole week, as snug as two mites in an owd
cheese; though th' hue and cry were out all o'er England.'
Well, they crope off one mornin', just afore skrike o' day; an' in
about two year after they turn't up again, i'th deeod time o' th'
neet; but they were so swapped that no mortal mon could ha' towd 'em.
. . . Hasto bin up at owd Jim's, at Goom Cloof, latly?"
"Aye; I code th' last week about a cauve he had to sell.
But I coom off at th' edge o' dark; for I may no 'count o' stoppin'
i' that nook after delit (daylight); 'Owed Blomley's' agate war than
"What, th' boggart?"
"Ay; an' th' warst boggart there is upo' this country side
for flaysome deed, an' powlerin' about i'th neet time! I'd
back it again oather witch, fairy, clapcan, Nut Nan, Jenny
Green-teeth, Baum Rappit, Radcliffe Dog, or the dule hissel."
I wouldn't live i' that hole, sitho, if I met wear red shoon!
I wur sittin' i' that kitchen a twothre week back, just as th' owl-leet
coom on, an' o' at once there were a great yeawl coom down th'
chimbley, an' th' arm-cheer shifted out o' one nook into tother, an'
never mortal soul laid finger on it! But, bi th' mass, my yure
began o' stonnin' straight up, an' I crope out o' that cote as if
I'd been steighlin' summat. I gav a bit of a glent o'er my
shoulder as I went out, an' th' tungs an' poker were just startin'
o' doancin' a three-bond reel wi' th' churn. But, by th' mon,
I never looked beheend me again; for I thought it'd be my turn th'
next. An' I're in another township in a twothre minutes."
Just then a snatch of song came from the open window of the
When they snapen your heart, an' they
stinten your fare,
It's time to be joggin' away;
When th' pitchers are empty, an' th' pouches are bare,
It's time to be joggin' away.
"Hello, Jack; who's yon?"
"It's Craddy o' Batters," replied Jack. "He's sittin'
i'th tap-reawm be hissel' yon, singin' an' talkin' to his pint pot,
as usal. Go thi ways in to him."
Here the landlady looked out at the doorway.
"Bill," said she, "when thou's done sweepin', come in to thi
dinner; an' then fill yon boighler up, and look to th' fires.
Jack, come to thi dinner."
"I'm comin' as soon as I've put th' horse up," replied the
old hostler. "Jone," said he to his village crony, "thou looks
starve't; how leets thou doesn't go inside an' get a saup o' summat
"Well, Jack; if thou thinks I'm partial to starvation thou'rt
off at th' side. But I'm one o' thoose chaps 'at hasn't mich
to stir on, thou knows. I've been rootin' up an' down mi
clooas a good while to find brass for another gill; but I can leet
o' nought but two gallows-buttons an a 'bacco papper."
"Come; I'll lend tho a shillin'."
"Fork out, owd brid! Thou talks like an angel!"
"Theer it is, sitho. Now creep into the tap-reawm at th'
side o' owd Craddy yon, an' I'll come to yo in a bit."
THE LANDLORD'S GUESTS.
The winds whistle cold;
The stars glimmer red;
The sheep are in the fold,
And the cattle are in the shed,
Man, what changes come o'er us! I
mind when master and servant sat a' at ae table; and, if
ye'll believe me, I've seen mair wit played off at a
dinner time than ye'll gather now in half a year.
THE winter sun
sank down behind the snow-clad hills; and as night crept on, clear
and cold, the bustle of village life died away into stillness, save
where the fire of the blacksmith's forge threw a broad, red glow
upon the glittering highway, and the chime of his busy hammers rang
loud and clear in the deepening silence all over the little town,
mingling now and then with bursts of laughter from a knot of
loungers, who were whiling away the winter evening among the fun
that gathered round the dusky smithy's genial glow. The
cloudless sky was thick with stars, and their solemn light filled
all the frosty air with a subtle radiance, which strengthened as the
sunless hours stole on. It was a hearty, hardy, old-fashioned
winter night. The village doors were closed, for the frost was
intense, and the north wind blew keen and wild, whistling weird
melodies in the lock-holes and crevices of many a lonely grange,
whose inmates shuddered as they huddled closer round the fire,
listening with superstitious fear to the rattle of doors and
windows, and the wild sough of the blast outside. All signs of
life in quaint little Middleton were stilling down, except where a
cottage candle threw a flickering gleam into the night, or the
shrill voice of a woman cut through the cold air as she called home
her truant lad, who had lingered behind his mates "sleddin'" upon
the steep below the church. All else was deepening down into
starlit silence, save where the bright windows, and open,
straw-strewn doorway of the Old Boar's Head attracted the shivering
traveller with its cheerful glow.
Amongst the guests invited by old Giles to his Christmas
supper there were Randal Holt, or "Rondle o' Raunger's" an old
schoolmaster, who was looked up to by his neighbours as a kind of "hamel-scoance,"
or lantern of the village; "Jem o' th' Har-barn," a sturdy yeoman,
who reckoned among his ancestors one of the band of Middleton
archers who followed Sir Richard Assheton to Flodden Field; "Jima o'
Dauber's," a village painter; "Jone o' Gavelock's," a humorous old
weaver; Henry Shaw, better known as "th' wool chap," a well-known
traveller in the flannel trade, and an old customer at the Boar's
Head. These, with the principal tailor and the principal
shoemaker of the town, all old cronies together, made up Giles
Buckley's Christmas party.
Of course the news of the feast had spread over the town long
before the time; and when the eventful evening came on, the lads of
the village, as they returned from their wintry games, lingered
about the doorway of the Boar's Head, yammering, and sniffing at the
odours of the kitchen; and then ran home with the savoury tale.
"Eh, mother," said the tailor's lad, as he darted into the
house with his wooden "sled" upon his back, "there's moore beef up
at th' Boar's Yed than there is onywheer else i' this world!
I've bin a-smellin'! Eh, I wish I live't at yon house!
An' there's goose amung it, too, mother, I can tell goose. . . .
Eh, I am some hungry! Wheer's my supper?"
"Thou'rt al'ays hungry. Sit tho down an' warm thisel' a
bit, like a good lad; till I've finished my ironin'. I shan't
be mony minutes. An' put that "sled" o' thine out o' th gate."
"Eh, mother, couldn't yo' gi' me a lump o' oon-cake to be
gooin' on wi'?"
"Make a less din for a minute or two, I tell tho! Thou
fair moiders me! Bless my life, thou met (might) be clammed!"
"Eh, mother, I wish I wur gooin' to my supper wi' my faither
to-neet. Dun yo think he'll bring ony goose back wi' him?"
"Not he, marry. Whatever arto camplin' an' talkin'
"Mun I sit up till he comes whoam?"
"Nawe; thou mun do nought o'th sort. Thou mun get thi
porritch, and go to bed like a good lad; an' thou shall ha some
goose to-morn. It's hanged up i' the buttery yon. It's
Kesmass to-morn thou knows."
"Eh, mother; I wish it wur Kesmass every day, dunnot yo?"
"Marry, choilt, how thou talks," said she, setting a bowl of
milk and a thick piece of bread before him; "get that into thou; an'
let it stop thi mouth."
About six in the evening Giles's guests began to trickle in
at the doorway, and a tailor was the first man upon the ground.
"Hello, Snip," said Giles, as the tailor came in at the front
door, drest in his Sunday clothes, with a fruited sprig of holly
stuck in his button-hole; "by th' mass, thou'rt as grand as Thornham
rushcart! A merry Christmas to tho, owd craiter! I'
gadlin, we's never look beheend us after this. Come thi ways
"A merry Christmas to yo, Giles!" replied the tailor, rubbing
his hands. "Here; don't put th' door to; Lapstone an' owd
Rondle are upo' th' road."
"That's reet," replied Giles; "th' moore an' th' merrier!"
"They're here now," said the tailor, as the two old cronies
came up to the door, laughing noisily.
"Roll up, an' buy 'em alive!" cried Giles, slapping old
Randal on the back. "Tops o' trees, an' shinin' daisies!
Buy 'em or lev 'em, I'll bate nought at mi stuff! Come in,
lads! I hope yo're i' good fettle! Wheer's tother?"
"There's three for four on 'em upo' th' gate; an' I pept in
at th' painter's as we coom by. He're agate o' rubbing his yed
"Here, Giles," said the landlady, "tak 'em into this room
till th' supper's ready. There's a good fire."
"Come in here, lads," said Giles, "an' sattle yo'rsels a bit,
while they setten th' table out. Here, I'll buttle for yo'.
Cowd ale afore supper, lads, an' aught 'at yo'n a mind for at after.
Tak howd, and weet yo'r whistles, for a start."
As the servant entered with another jug, a snatch of song
came from the tap-room hard by:
Peighs-porritch whot, peighs-porritch
Peighs-porritch in a dish, nine days owd.
"Craddy o' Batters, for a crown," cried Randal.
"It's nought else," replied Giles; "he's been here mony an
hour. Th' owd lad's started Kesmass already; an' it'll last
him till 'Th' First Market,' I'll uphowd. By th' mass, let's
have him in! What, he's somebody's choilt, an' he'll do wi'
his supper as weel as ony on us. What say'n yo, lads?
"Fot him in; he's rare company," said Randal.
"So said, so done," replied Giles. "Mary, tell owd
Craddy to come here."
"Win yo ha' th' whole lot in?" said the landlady.
"Why, who is there beside?"
"There's owd Bonny Mouth; an' Jem o' Pratty Strider's."
"Well , what the hangment, they're neighbours' childer.
Let's have 'em o'! This is no time to make fish o' one an'
flesh of another! Let's have 'em o'! "
In came Craddy and his friends, all in their working gear,
which contrasted strangely with the holiday garb of the rest of the
company; but everybody was in good humour, and everybody made them
welcome; although Craddy was getting merry with the drink he had
taken during the day. "Never mind, lad," said Giles, slapping
him on the shoulder, "thou'll be as reet as a ribbin when tho gets a
bit o' beef into tho!" They had hardly got well seated amongst
the rest before the landlady came in to say that supper was ready;
and away they streamed in the wake of old Giles, towards the place
where the feast was spread.
The quaint room was profusely decorated with evergreens; a
great bush of mistletoe hung from the centre of the ceiling; and
there was a huge log burning in the fire-grate, which filled the
place with a ruddy glow. The long table was spread with
bountiful piles of roast and boiled meats, and with pies, and
savoury country messes; and all the house was redolent of good
Giles took the chair at the head of the table, in front of a
noble sirloin, which became his presence well.
"Here, owd craiter," said he, to Jem o' th' Har-barn, "go
thee to th' tother end, an' try thy thwittle upo' yon goose.
Thou use't to be a rare hond at mowin'; an' I've sin tho thwite very
hondsomely at a goose afore now. Come, off with tho, an'
The burly yeoman smiled quietly, and took his seat at the
other end of the table; and two finer specimens of the old English
breed rarely faced one another.
"Now lads," said Giles, "are yo getten sattle't into yor
"Ay, we're o' reef," said Jone o' Gavelock's " we're o' reet,
if I can get Craddy, here, to hutch a bit fur off."
"Craddy," said Giles, "hutch up lower, mon; an' draw nar to
th' table. Thou looks as if thou were beawn to fire a gun.
Thou's no 'casion to be fleyed. I want yo to have fair elbow-reawm,
for yo'n a deeol to do. . . . Come, that's better."
"Now, then," said Giles, knocking upon the table with his
carving-knife, "are yo ready?"
"O' ready," replied Jone o' Gavelock's.
"Well, then," said Giles, rising from his seat, "God bless
everybody 'ats i' this house an' everybody o'th outside on't,
for a start! Lads, yo're as welcome as th' flowers o' May!
Yo seen what there is afore yo. I hope you're in good fettle;
an' I hope it'll agree wi' yo! Fo' to, an' spare nought! . .
. Who says beef?"
"Britons, strike home!" said Jem o' th Har-barn, at the other
end of the table, seizing his carving-knife. "Who says goose?
It's as prime a brid as ever I clapt e'en on! Come, Craddy,
owd lad; I'll gi' thee a leg to begin wi'. Jone, help him to
"Buttle out, free!" cried Giles to the servants, "an look
after these plates!"
And to it they fell, all round the jovial board, hammer and
tongs; and for the next hour or so there was a ceaseless clatter of
knives and forks and plates; and the servants were kept in continual
motion among the guests.
"Come, Lapstone," said Giles, "back thi cart up, an' fill
"Stop, an' rosin a minute," replied Lapstone; "I'll be theer
"Now, Craddy, my lad, how arto gettin' on!"
"O' reet," said Craddy, "I'm nobbut wyndin' (taking breath) a
"Don't stop short of up, lads," said Giles; "let another reef
out, an' start again! . . . Jem, thou'rt lookin' after thisel', I
guess; amung th' rook."
"We're doin' weel here," replied Jem. "If thou'll mind
that end o' th' table, I'll keep 'em goin' here."
"Giles," said old Bonny Mouth, "I'll trouble yo for a bit
moore o' that under-cut."
"Ay; an' thou'st have it, my lad," replied Giles; "thou'st
have it, if this knife hondle stops on."
"Come, Gavelock, owd brid, wakken up; thought noan sto'in
(getting tired) arto?"
"By th' mon, it's gettin' time, I think. Thou doesn't
want to see mo brawsen, doesto? I measure's a hond-bradth off
between my singlet an' th' table, afore we started, an' they're
welly met. I've done very weel, Giles, I've done very weel."
"What! thou'll have a bit o' cheese, sure?"
"Well, aye, aye, a bit o' cheese, as thou says. I
think I've an odd nook laft for that."
At last the festive fray sank down into peace; the hungriest
of the hungry had eaten his fill, and the knives lay at rest.
"Come, Jone," said Giles to Jone o' Gavelock's, "say a word
or two afore we gettin' up."
The old weaver rose slowly from his seat, and looking quietly
round the board, he said: "Lads, we'n had a rare supper. I've
played a good stick mysel', an' I'm thankful. We dunnot leet
o' sich a do as this every day. It's a bit o' Kesmass
sunshine! Giles, here's good luck to thee an' thine! I
wish we may never do ony wur nor wean done this neet; an' I wish
that everybody i'th' world may do as weel; for there's a deeol o'
folk 'at's noan so weel off, an' one connot help but think about it
at a time like this, yo known. But, as far as I'm consarn't, I
feel fain 'at I'm wick, an' yo looken as breet as a rook o'
squirrels o' round, except Craddy, theer; I think he'll repent
to-morn 'at he hadn't a bit moore o' that beef."
"Oh nay," cried Craddy; "I've done very weel! I
couldn't bant another smite!"
"Well then, that'll do," continued the old weaver. "God
bless yo o'! Giles, owd lad, here's luck to tho again!
An' now I think that'll do."
And the old man sat down, amidst cries of "Amen to that! "
and "Bravo, Jone!"
When they had drunk the health of the host and hostess, with
"three times three and one cheer more," which made the
mistletoe-bush twirl round upon the ceiling, as if it enjoyed the
fun, old Giles returned thanks in a few hearty words, and then said,
"Now, lads, let's go out an' stretch er legs a bit till they siden
these things. It'll help to sattle your suppers. An'
when they're getten o' reet, we're come back an' have a bit of a