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Title: Lancashire Humour
Author: Newbigging, Thomas
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lancashire Humour" ***

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    _Lancashire Humour_

    _First Edition, December 1900_
    _Second Edition, April 1901_

    _All rights reserved_

    [Illustration: TWO DEYGHN LAYROCKS]







    J. M. DENT & CO.





      "Thae knows, that wherever aw roam,
          Aw'm fain to get back to th' owd ground."

    Vile potabis modicis Sabinum
    Cantharis, Græca quod ego ipse testa
    Conditum levi ...

       *       *       *       *       *

    Cæcubum et prelo domitam Caleno
    Tu bibes uvam: mea nec Falernæ
    Temperant vites, neque Formiani
        Pocula colles.

                   _Hor. Lib. I. Car. xx._


In the present volume I have included a number of Anecdotes and
Sketches which I had previously introduced into my _History of the
Forest of Rossendale_, and also a subsequent book of mine, entitled
_Lancashire Characters and Places_. I felt that it was admissible to
do this in a volume dealing specifically with the subject of
Lancashire Humour, and I am in hopes that readers who already possess
copies of the works named will not object to their being reproduced
here. They were worth giving in this connection, and, indeed, their
omission could scarcely be justified in a book of humorous Lancashire
incidents and anecdotes.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is surely a want of discernment shown by those who object to the
use of dialect in literature as occasion offers. A truth, or a stroke
of wit, or a touch of humour, can often be conveyed in dialect
(_rustice loqui_) when it would fail of effect in polite English. All
language is conventional. Use and wont settles much in this world.
Dialect has its use and wont, and because it differs from something
else is surely no reason for passing it by on the other side.

I don't know whether many of my readers have read the poems of T. E.
Brown. They are chiefly in the Manx dialect, not Manx as a language--a
branch of the Keltic--but _Manx dialect English_. Here was a man
steeped to the eyes in classical learning; a Greek and Latin scholar
of the first quality, as his recently published Letters testify. But
he was wise as well as learned, and his poetry, not less than his
Letters, will give him a place among the immortals, just as the
dialect poems of Edwin Waugh will give _him_ a like place. Brown did
not shrink from using the speech of the common people around him if
haply he could reach their understandings and their hearts.

The proper study of Mankind is man. Not the superfine man, not the
cultured man, only, but the man as we encounter him in our daily
walk--Hodge in homespun as well as de Vere in velvet.

       *       *       *       *       *

It will not be disputed that, apart from the use of dialect, there is
a substratum of humour in the Lancashire character which evinces
itself spontaneously and freely on occasions. There can be no doubt,
also, that this humour, whether conscious or unconscious, is usually
accentuated or emphasised when the dialect is the conveying medium,
because its quaintness is in keeping with the peculiarities of the
race. Besides, there is a naturalness, a primitivity, and therefore a
special attractiveness in _all_ dialect forms of speech which does not
invariably characterise the expression of the same ideas in literary

Now, humour is such a desirable ingredient in the potion of our human
existence, that it would be nothing less than a dire misfortune to
make a point of eschewing the setting which best harmonises with its
fullest and fairest presentation, whether it emanates from the man in
clogs or from the most cultured of our kind.

Our greatest writers have recognised the worth of dialect as a medium
for humour, and hence many of the most memorable and amusing
characters in Scott and Dickens--to take the two writers that occur to
us most readily by way of illustration--portray themselves in the
dialect of their native heath.

These remarks must be taken in a general sense, and not as having any
special bearing on the present contribution. The two, else, would not
be in proportion. My object has simply been to gather up the waifs and
strays of humorous incident and anecdote, with a view to enlivening a
passing hour.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some of the stories that I give are related of incidents that are said
to have occurred in, or of persons belonging to, both Lancashire and
the West Riding. It is difficult to locate all of them so as to be
quite certain of their parentage. I have tried, however, to limit
myself to such as have a genuine Lancashire origin, without trenching
on the domain of our neighbours in Yorkshire.

The present collection by no means exhausts the number of good stories
that are to be found on Lancashire soil. It is highly probable that
were half-a-dozen writers to devote some time to the subject, they
would each be able to present a collection differing from all the rest
in the characteristic anecdotes which they would select.

Readers outside of the County Palatine will not have any difficulty in
perusing the stories. The dialect in each has been so modified as to
admit of its being readily understood by every intelligent reader.

                                                               T. N.

    _December 10th, 1900_.

_Lancashire Humour_

"Come, Robin, sit deawn, an' aw'll tell thee a tale."
                              _Songs of the Wilsons._

If we would find the unadulterated Lancashire character, we must seek
for it on and near to the eastern border of the county, where the
latter joins up to the West Riding of Yorkshire.[1] Roughly, a line
drawn from Manchester on the south, by way of Bolton and Blackburn and
terminating at Clitheroe in the north, will cut a slice out of the
county Palatine, equal on the eastward side of this line, to about
one-third of its whole area; and it is in this portion that the purest
breed of Lancashire men and women will be found. A more circumscribed
area still, embracing Oldham, Bury, Rochdale, the Rossendale Valley,
and the country beyond to Burnley and Colne, contains in large
proportion the choicest examples of Lancashire people, and it is
within the narrower limit that John Collier ("Tim Bobbin") first of
all, then Oliver Ormerod, and, later, Waugh, Brierley, and other
writers in the vernacular, have placed the scenes of their Lancashire
Stories and Sketches, and found the best and most original of their

[1] In their speech, their employments, their habits and general
character, there is much in common between the natives of Lancashire
and their neighbours of the West Riding.

The Authors I have specifically named are themselves good examples of
that character, Waugh paramountly so--distinguished as they are by a
kindly hard-headedness, a droll and often broad wit, which exhibits
itself not only in the quality of their writings, but also in their
modes of expression, and a blending in their nature of the humorous
with the pathetic, lending pungency, naturalness and charm to their
best work.

The peculiarities to which I have referred are due to what in times
past was the retiredness of this belt of the county; its isolation,
its comparative inaccessibility, its immunity from invasion. As the
coast of any country is approached, the breed of the inhabitants will
be found to become more and more mixed, losing to a large extent its
distinctive characteristics; and it is only by an incursion into the
interior that the unadulterated aborigines are to be found in their
native purity. Even here, these conditions no longer exist with
anything like the old force, excepting, it may be, in some obscure
nook out of sound of the locomotive whistle. Of these there are still
a few left, though not many.

The old barriers of time and distance have been obliterated. The means
of, and incentives to, migration, have become so easy and great that
our "Besom Bens" and "Ab-o' th'-Yates" are grown as scarce as spade
guineas, or as the wild roses in our Lancashire hedges, and will ere
long exist only in the pages of our native humorists.

The writer of the Introduction to the 1833 edition of John Collier's
"Tummus and Meary" makes a wide claim for the antiquity and
universality of the Lancashire dialect in England in the past. He
says: "Having had occasion, in the course of interpreting the
following pages, to refer to the ancient English compositions of such
as Chaucer, Wycliffe, other poets, historians, etc., I have been led
almost to conclude that the present Lancashire dialect was the
universal language of the earliest days in England."

Without going quite so far as the writer just quoted, it may be
admitted that his contention is not without warrant, as is proved by
the very large number of words and phrases of the dialect that are to
be found in the Works of Gower, Chaucer, Spenser, Ben Jonson,
Shakespeare, and other of our older authors, as well as in the earlier
translations of the Bible. The conclusion may certainly be drawn that
in the Lancashire dialect as spoken to-day there are more archaic
words, both Celtic and Gothic, than are to be found elsewhere in

The Rev. W. Gaskell, M.A., in his lectures on the dialect, says with
truth that:--"There are many more forms of speech and peculiarities of
pronunciation in Lancashire that would yet sound strange, and, to use
a Lancashire expression, strangely 'potter' a southern; but these are
often not, as some ignorantly suppose, mere vulgar corruptions of
modern English, but genuine relics of the old mother tongue. They are
bits of the old granite, which have perhaps been polished into
smoother forms, but lost in the process a good deal of their original

[2] Two Lectures on the Lancashire Dialect, by the Rev. W. Gaskell,
M.A., Chapman & Hall, 193 Piccadilly, London, 1854, p. 13.

There have been of recent years many observant gleaners in these
fruitful Lancashire fields. Waugh, Brierley, Oliver Ormerod, Samuel
Laycock, Miss Lahee, J. T. Staton, Trafford Clegg and other writers
have done much to illustrate the character and habits of the people of
the County Palatine in their Sketches, Stories and Songs. We owe
ungrudging thanks to the writers in the vernacular for the treasures
with which, during the last thirty or forty years, they have adorned
our Lancashire literature; for the rich legacy they have left us; for
having taught us so much of homely wisdom in the quaint tongue of our
people, and opened up to us in wider measure than we previously knew,
the bright commonsense and humour that are enshrined in their hearts.

They have illustrated for us the various phases, both in speech and
thought, of a virile and otherwise important section of the people
that go to make up the inhabitants of this Island of ours. They have
exhibited the genuine homeliness and simplicity of the people of the
county, as well as their native shrewdness and strength of character;
their kindliness of heart, their natural insight and aptitude; their
characteristic humour--for the gracious gift of humour is theirs in a
remarkable degree--their flashes of wit and repartee; their
peccadilloes and graver faults, as well as their many admirable
virtues; their strenuous working lives, and their abandonment to play
as occasion serves--for it is a marked feature of Lancashire people
that they work hard and play hard.

They have shown us, also, how rich in resource is the dialect of the
county, compacting and crystallizing its phrases and proverbs, and
have proved how capable it is of giving expression to the natural
affections. It is only of comparatively recent years that we have been
able to appreciate the wealth of the dialect in these respects. All
the material was in existence before, but it needed the cunning hand
of the master to make literature of it; to weave up the warp and woof,
and present them to us in an embodied form.

A good deal of the humour of our Lancashire writers is of the
rollicking kind, no doubt. It does not always belong to the school of
high culture. But, on the other hand, we have got the characters true
to the life, and he is a fastidious critic, or worse, who would prefer
a counterfeit presentment to the genuine portrait.

The subject of Lancashire character, or, indeed, of any peculiarities
of local and provincial character in general, with its manifestations
either of pathos or humour, may not be one of very great profundity.
That is not any part of the claim we make. It may even be considered
trivial by some. Those, however, who take such a view, if there be any
such, are surely lacking in breadth of vision. To do what we propose
is to come nearer to the hearts of the people and their ways of
thinking than is possible in the higher and broader flights of the
more general historian. And, indeed, the work of the humble gleaner
often assists the more ambitious and dignified chronicler in his
labours to depict the greater personages and events in the history of
his country. The ways of thinking of the people, and also the
subject-matter of their thoughts, may be good, or they may be
commonplace, or they may be mean, but to enter into their thoughts so
as to get at their spirit, helps at least to an understanding of them.

Admitting for a moment the triviality of the subject, we cannot always
be sitting like Jove on the heights of Olympus; and even when in
loftier mood we do emulate the high emprizes of the gods, we are fain
to descend at times--and there is true wisdom in so descending--to
refresh ourselves with a touch of Mother Earth--to seek in the vale
below that necessary relaxation from the strain and stress of high

When all is said that can be said, a collection of this kind is a
contribution to an important branch of folk-lore and folkspeech, and
in that respect, if in no other, should be widely acceptable.

It is not, of course, pretended that all the anecdotes here given are
new. Some of them are "chestnuts" I am aware--though chestnuts are
generally good or they would not deserve to be chestnuts--but they
illustrate certain traits of character, and that is a sufficient
reason for reproducing them. Neither are we prepared to vouch for the
absolute truth of all the stories. Some of them, either in whole or in
part, are probably due to an effort of the imagination. In that sense
they are true, and certainly they are each characteristic of
individuals whom we all know, and who, from our experience of their
eccentricities, might safely be set down as the actors in them.

Notwithstanding all that has been done by the writers already named,
there is great abundance of good things still ungarnered, in the way
of racy anecdotes, wise apothegms, and striking sayings, all too good
to be lost--as indeed may be their fate unless pains are taken to
record them in permanent form. Even the ludicrous conclusions and
remarks of the half-witted--those of whom it is said in the vernacular
that "they have a slate off and one slithering,"--are often
sufficiently striking or amusing to be worth putting on record.

"The clouted shoe hath oft-times craft in't," as says the rustic

We have it on the authority of Shakespeare that a jest's prosperity
lies in the ear of him that hears it. This is generally so, and
especially in those instances where the jest, or the story, is clothed
in dialect, and depends for a full appreciation on a knowledge by the
listener of the peculiar characteristics of those from whom it
emanates. For this reason it is doubtful whether, say, the people of
the southern portion of our Island are able to enter into, so as to
fully enjoy, our more northerly humour; just as we of the north may
not be able to thoroughly enjoy theirs. Antipathy, also, to a
particular form and mode of spelling and pronunciation intervenes to
prevent full enjoyment on both sides. For this reason the writers in
dialect are placed at a disadvantage as regards the extent of their
audience. Most of their best things are caviere to the general, or,
rather, to the particular.

In a letter to a Rossendale friend, John Collier has an interesting
reference to the dialect and the extent to which it is used. In this
letter the writer offers an apology for, or rather a defence of, his
"Tummus and Meary" against certain strictures that had been passed
upon it on account of its broad Lancashire speech.

He says: "I am obliged to you for a peep at your friend Mr Heape's
ingenious letter. When you write, please to return him my compliments,
and thanks for his kind remembrance of me; and hint to him that I do
not think our country exposed at all by my view of the Lancashire
Dialect: but think it commendable, rather than a defect, that
Lancashire in general, and Rossendale in particular, retain so much of
the speech of their ancestors. For why should the people of Saxony,
and the Silesians be commended for speaking the Teutonic or old
German, and the Welsh be so proud (and by many authors commended too)
for retaining so much of their old British, and we in these parts
laughed at for adhering to the speech of our ancestors? For my part I
do not see any reason for it, but think it praiseworthy: and am always
well pleased when I think at the Rossendale man's answer, who being
asked where he wunned, said, 'I wun at th' riggin o' th' Woard, at th'
riggin o' th' Woard, for th' Weter o' th' tone Yeeosing faws into th'
Yeeost, on th' tother into th' West Seeo.'"

Curiously enough, the dialect in "Tim Bobbin's" day was considered as
too plebeian in character to deserve notice. It was looked upon simply
as the vulgar speech of the common people, and altogether unworthy of
attention and study by better-instructed mortals. Even well into the
present century, dialect in general was not held in estimation for any
useful purpose, and it is only in comparatively recent years that its
value as an aid to the study of racial history has been recognised.

It may be admitted that Collier, in his celebrated sketch, is
sometimes so broadly coarse as to shock even a taste which is not
fastidious; but allowances must be made for him in his efforts at the
truthful portraiture of the characters as he knew or conceived them.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the fifties, when I was a young fellow of twenty or thereabouts, I
was personally acquainted with Oliver Ormerod, the author of "A Rachde
Felley's Visit to th' Greyt Eggshibishun." He was a smart, dapper,
hard-headed Lancashire business man, of medium height, inclining to be
stout; clean and bright in appearance, and gentlemanly in his manners.
At that time he had written and published his "Rachde Felley," but
though we often conversed on the characteristics of the people of East
and South Lancashire--a subject with which he was well familiar--he
never mentioned to me the circumstance of his being the author of the
amusing sketch, which was published anonymously. I rather think that
it was but few even of his intimate friends in his native town of
Rochdale who knew or suspected at first that he was the author of that
clever and amusing brochure.

Possibly he feared that to have associated his name with the work
would have injured him in his business. For, however erroneous the
notion may be, it was at one time held that business and the
occasional excursion into the by-paths of literature were
incompatible. His case, I am glad to say, was an instance in point
refuting the too common belief that the practice of one's pen in
vagrant literary work--outside business pure and simple--is a drawback
to success, for his record as a man of business was one of the best.

Of the sterling excellence of Oliver Ormerod's little work, "Th'
Rachde Felley" there cannot be two opinions. It is original in its
conception and in the way it is carried out; full of humour, and racy
of the soil of Lancashire. The popularity of the book was immediate
and great. It rapidly went through several editions, and it has since
had many imitators. Its success led Mr Ormerod to write a second
similar work, giving the "Rachde Felley's Okeawnt o wat he and his
Mistris seede un yerd wi' gooin to th' Greyte Eggshibishun e London e
1862." This, like most other sequels, is not equal to the original,
though if it had been the first to appear it would still have been

The following from "A Rachde Felley" is a good example of his humour:

"Aw seed a plaze koed Hyde Park Cornur, whure th' Duke o' Wellington
lives, him as lethurt Boneypart; 'e's gettin an owd felley neaw. Aw
bin towd as one neet, when 'e wor at a party as th' Queen gan, as th'
owd felley dropt asleep in his cheer, an when the Queen seed 'im, hoo
went an tikelt his face whol 'e wakent. Eh! heaw aw shud o' stayrt iv
hoo'd o dun it bi me. Th' owd chap drest knots off Boney, dident 'e?
But aw'm off wi' feightin; aw'm o fur Kobden an' thame as wantin' fur
to do away wi' it otogethur, fur ther wod'nt be hauve as mony kilt i'
ther wur no feightin. O'er anent th' Duke's heawse, at th' top o' wot
they koen Constitution Hill, aw seed a kast iron likeness ov 'im oppo
horseback, as big as loife an bigger. He'd a cloak on an' a rowlur pin
i' one hond, saime as wimmen usen wen they maen mowfins. Aw' nevur
noed afore wat 'e wor koed th' Iron Duke for.

"At tis present toime it started o' raynin', an' so aw thrutch'd mi
road as fast as aw cud goo in a greyt creawd o' foke, an' as aw wor
gooin' on, a homnibus koome past, an' a chap as stoode at th' bak
soide on't bekont on me fur to get in. Thinks aw to mesel 'e's a gud
naturt chap; aw gues 'e sees as aw'm gettin mi sunday clewus deetud.
'E koed o' th' droiver fur to stop, an' ax'd me iv aw wur fur th'
Greyt Eggshibishun, an' aw sed, ah, an' wi' that 'e towd me fur to get
in, an' in aw geet. We soon koome to th' Krystil Palus. Eh! wat a rook
o' foke ther wor theere, aw never seed nawt loike it afore, never! Aw
geet eawt o' th' homnibus, an' aw sed to th' felley as leet me ride:
Aw'm very mich obleeght to yo aw'm shure, an' aw con but thank yo, an'
aw wur turnin' reawnd fur to goo into th' Palus, wen 'e turn'd on me
as savidge as iv he'd a hetten me, an' ax'd me fur forepenze.
Forepenze, aw sed, what for? An' 'e made onsur, for ridin', to be
shure, Sur. Waw, aw sed, didn't theaw koe on me fur to get in? But o'
as aw cud say wor o' no mak o' use watsumever, an' th' powsement sed
as iv aw didn't pay theere an' then, he'd koe a poleese as wor at th'
other side o' th' road, an', bi th' mon, wen aw yerd that, aw deawn
wi' mi brass in a minnit. Aw seed as aw wor ta'en in; same toime, it
wor a deyle bettur fur to sattle wi' th' powsedurt, nur get into th'
New Bailey so fur fro whome. Thinks aw ti mesel', iv aw'm done ogen i'
this rode aw'm a Dutchmun."

Ormerod, like that other genial humorist, Artemus Ward, affected a
peculiar spelling, or rather mis-spelling, of his words, which, in my
opinion, was a mistake. There was no necessity for this. It does not
enhance the humour of his sketches in any special degree, but only
renders him more difficult to read. Dialectical spelling need not
necessarily be bad English.

       *       *       *       *       *

As a writer of Lancashire stories, Waugh is unsurpassed. His pages
overflow with a humour which is irresistible and almost cloys by its
exuberance. But even about his drollest characters there is a pathetic
tenderness which touches the heart. It is not easy, for example, to
read some parts of "Besom Ben" and "The Old Fiddler" without a lump in
one's throat, so much akin are laughter and tears in the hands of this
master. If it were not that his themes are principally the work-a-day
Lancashire folk, and that the dialect limits and muffles his fame,
Waugh would be ranked (as he is ranked by those who know him) as one
of the first humorists of the century.

Waugh is incomparable in his curious ideas and touches and turns of
expression, ludicrous enough many of them, but all rich in Lancashire
humour and well calculated to excite the risible faculty. Speaking of
a toper in one of his sketches he says:

"Owd Jack's throttle wur as drufty as a lime brunner's clog."

Again: "Some folk are never content; if they'd o' th' world gan to
'em, they'd yammer for th' lower shop to put their rubbish in!"

Oatmeal he calls "porritch powder."

Again: "Rondle o' th' Nab had a cat that squinted--it catched two mice
at one go."

Addressing his donkey, Besom Ben said: "Iv thae'd been reet done to,
thae met ha' bin a carriage horse bi neaw!"

"Robin o' Sceawter's feyther went by th' name o' 'Coud 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 out o' owd dur-latches an' reawsty nails. Robin
th' carrier is his owdest lad; an' he favours a chap at's bin brought
up o' yirth-bobs an' scaplins."

These are of course the merest example of the many curious sayings and
comparisons that are lavishly scattered through Waugh's pages.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ben Brierley was an adept at telling a short Lancashire story. In
giving expression to the drollest figures of speech he maintained a
mock gravity which greatly enhanced the presentment, whilst the
peculiar puckering of the corners of his mouth and the merry twinkle
in his eye told how thoroughly he entered into the spirit of the
characters he portrayed. His "Ab' o' th' Yate" in London bubbles over
with humour, and it is a true, if somewhat grotesque, account of what
would be likely to arrest the attention of a denizen of that
out-of-the-way village of "Walmsley Fowt" on a visit to the great

Some years ago I attended a meeting held at Blackley where Ben gave a
number of racy Lancashire anecdotes, told in his own inimitable way. I
may quote one or two of these which are not given in the collected
edition of his writings.

"Long Jammie wur a brid stuffer, an' it used to be his boast ut he'd
every fithert animal, or like it, ut ever flew on wing, or hung on a
wall. He'd everything fro' a hummabee to a flying jackass, an' he'd
ha' a pair o' thoose last if Billy o' Bobs would alleaw hissel' to be

"Theau'rt one thing short," Billy said one day as he're looking reaund
Jammie's Musaum, as he co'd his collection.

"What's that?" Jammie ax'd.

"It's a very skase brid," Billy said, "Co'd a sond brid."

"Ay, it mun be skase or else I should ha' had a speciment i' my
musaum," Jammie said. "But what is it like?"

"It's like o' th' bit-bat gender," Billy said. "It's a yead like a
cat, and feet like a duck, an' when it flies it uses its feet like
paddles to guide itsel'."

"But why dun they co' it a sond brid?"

"Well, theau sees, it's a native o' th' Great Desert o' Sara, an' when
it's windy, it flies tail first to keep th' sond eaut o' its een."

       *       *       *       *       *

Billy Kay had had a lot of his hens stown, an' he never could find
eawt who th' thief wur. He'd set a trap, but someheaw it didno' act.
Shus heaw, it never catch't nowt.

Bill had a parrot ut wur a bit gan to leavin' th' cage an' potterin'
abeaut th' hencote when th' hens wur eaut. But as it had bin brought
up to a soart o' alehouse life, it wanted company. It had learnt to
crow so natural ut th' owd cock wur curious to know what breed it
belonged to. So he invited Pol to spend a neet wi' him an' th' family,
an' gie' th' cote a rooser. Th' parrot went, and they'd a merry time
on't. It wur late when they went to roost, an' they'd hardly had a
wink o' sleep when Pol yerd summat oppen th' cote dur. Then ther a
hont lifted to the peearch, an' one after another o' th' hens wur
snigged off, till it coome to th' owd cock. Pol thowt it wur gettin'
warm, so hoo says to th' owd rooster, "Hutch up, owd lad, it's your
turn next!" Ther no moore hens stown!

       *       *       *       *       *

"Owd Neddy Fitton's Visit to the Earl o' Derby" is one of the finest
sketches in the vernacular; giving, as it does, a realistic picture of
the old-time Lancashire farmer. It is bright with humour, not wanting
in pathetic touches, and with that warm human interest that lends
charm and distinction to the homeliest story.

Miss Lahee, the writer, was Irish both by birth and up-bringing.
Coming to Rochdale, where she lived for many years, the character of
the Lancashire people and their idiom won her sympathy, and she
studied both to such purpose as to produce not only the story in
question, but a number of other sketches and stories in the dialect.
It is no disparagement to these latter to say that none of them is
equal to her sketch of "Neddy Fitton." This has long been popular in
the county Palatine, and its intrinsic merit is such that it deserves
a still wider circle of readers.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lancashire has from time immemorial been famous for its
mathematicians, botanists, and naturalists among the humbler ranks,
and Crabtree as an Astronomer has his niche in the temple of fame.
There was another worthy of rather a different stamp who professed
acquaintance with that sublime science, Astronomy, though his
credentials will hardly be considered sufficient to justify the claim.
Jim Walton was a well-known character, at one time living at
Levenshulme. Modest enough when sober, when he had imbibed a few
glasses of beer Jim professed to be great in the mysteries of
"ass-tronomy." The names of the planets, their positions and motions
in the heavens were as familiar to him as the dominoes on the tap-room
table, and he knew all the different groups of stars and their
relative positions. One night Jim was drinking in the village "Pub"
with a number of boon companions, topers like himself--and the
conversation, as was usual when he was present, got on to the stars
and other heavenly bodies, on which Jim expatiated at length. A
mischievous doubt, however, was expressed by one of the company,
whether, after all, Jim really knew as much about astronomy as he
professed to do. So, to maintain his reputation by proving his
knowledge, Jim made a bet of glasses round with his opponent that the
_moon would rise at a quarter past nine o'clock that night_.

Accordingly, about ten minutes before the time named, the company all
staggered out into the backyard to see the moon rise as predicted.

"Now then, chaps, look here!" cried Jim, "Let's have a fair
understondin'. Recolect, it's on th' owd _original_ moon 'at awm
betting, noan o' yer d----d new ones!"

Needless to say this was a poser for their bemuddled brains, and with
sundry expletives at Jim and the qualification he had announced, they
all staggered back to their places in the more comfortable tap-room.

Jim's idea of "th' owd original moon," and his thorough contempt for
quarter and half moons, strikes us as irresistibly funny. We can
imagine the new, vague light that would dawn on the minds of the
half-fuddled roysterers as he announced his reservation in favour of
the whole or none.

       *       *       *       *       *

However prejudiced, as a rule, the British workman may be against the
introduction of labour-saving appliances in the way of automatic
machinery, circumstances sometimes arise when he can fully appreciate
their value and advantages. This will appear by the following
characteristic anecdote:--

An Oldham chap, who, for some misdemeanour, had found his way into
Preston House of Correction, was put on to the tread-mill. After
working at it for some time till his back and legs ached with the
unwonted exercise, he at length exclaimed:

"Biguy! if this devil had been i' Owdham, they'd a had it turned bi
pawer afore now!"

Another good story of an "Owdham" man is the following: At one of the
Old Trafford County Cricket matches we overheard a conversation that
took place between two Owdhamers. A pickpocket, plying his avocation,
had been caught in the act of taking a purse, and quite a commotion
was created in that corner of the field as the thief was collared by a
detective and hauled away to the police station. Says the Oldham man
to his friend who was seated next him:

"Sharp as thoose chaps are, they'd have a job to ta' my brass. Aw'll
tell thi what aw do, Jack, when aw comes to a place o' this sooart; aw
sticks mi brass reet down at th' bottom o' mi treawsers pocket, and
then aw puts abeaut hauf a pint o' nuts at top on't; it tae's some
scrawpin out, aw can tell thi, when tha does that!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Pigeon fancying and flying is an absorbing pursuit with many of the
Wigan colliers. Men otherwise ignorant (save of their daily work in
the mine), are profoundly versed in the different breeds and
capabilities of the birds. The training of them to fly long distances
on their return to their lofts and within a comparatively brief space
of time, is a passion which absorbs all their thoughts.

One such enthusiastic pigeon flyer was lying sick unto death, with no
prospect of recovery. The parson paid him a visit and endeavoured to
turn his thoughts to his approaching end. The casual mention by the
parson of heaven and the angels interested the dying man. He had seen
angels depicted in the picture books with wings on their shoulders. An
idea struck him and he enquired:

"Will aw ha' wings, parson, when aw get to heaven?"

"Yes, indeed," replied the parson, willing to humour and console him
as best he might.

"An' will yo ha' wings too when yo get theer?"

"Oh yes, I'll have wings too, we'll both have wings."

"Well, aw tell thi what," said the dying pigeon fancier, his eye
brightening as he spoke, "Aw tell thi what, parson, when tha comes up
yon, aw'll flee yo for a sovereign!" A striking example of the ruling
passion strong in death!

       *       *       *       *       *

It is well known that an admiration for dogs of a high quality, not
less than for pigeons, is a weakness of the Lancashire collier, who
will spend a small fortune to gratify his taste in this direction. A
Tyldesley collier had a favourite bull-pup. This canine fancier with
his dog and a friend were out for a ramble in the fields, and to make
a short cut to get into the lane, his friend began scrambling through
a hole in the hedge. The dog, unable, it may be presumed, to resist
the sudden temptation, seized the calf of the disappearing leg with a
grip which caused the owner of the said leg to shriek with pain.
Despite his frantic wriggles and yells the brute held fast, and its
master, appreciating the situation, clapped his hands in enthusiastic
admiration, at the same time calling out to his beleaguered companion:

"Thole it, Bill! Thole it, mon! Thole it! It'll be th' makin' o' th'

Another such on returning home and finding that the day's milk had
disappeared from the milk basin, angrily enquired what had become of
it, and receiving for answer from his better-half that she had "gan
it to th' childer for supper!" exclaimed: "Childer, be hang'd! thae
should ha' gan it to th' bull pup!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Some years ago there appeared in _Punch_ sundry sketches of incidents
in the mining districts. These may not all be true in the sense that
the occurrences represented actually took place. But there is a spirit
of truth in them, in that they illustrate a phase of the rudeness that
often accompanies untutored tastes and undesirable habits.

       *       *       *       *       *

The appearance of a stranger in the mining village, especially if he
happens to wear a black cloth coat, is sometimes resented by the
denizens of the place.

The new curate, a meek-looking individual, had arrived, and passing
the corner of a street where a group of colliers had assembled, one of
them asked:

"Bill, who's yon mon staring about him like a lost cat?"

"Nay, I doan't know," replied the other, "a stranger belike."

"Stranger, is he?" responded the first, "then hey've a hauve brick at

       *       *       *       *       *

The same, accosting one of his flock resting on a gate, and wishing
to make himself agreeable, tried to open a conversation with the

"A fine morning, my friend," was pulled up with the reply:

"Did aw say it war'nt?--dun yo' want to hargue?"

       *       *       *       *       *

It is surprising how a person of regular habits feels the lack of any
little comforts and companionships to which he has been accustomed. A
Lancashire collier had lost a favourite dog by death, that, on
Saturday afternoons or Sundays, he had been in the habit of taking
with him for a stroll. An acquaintance sitting on a gate saw the
bereaved collier coming along the road trundling a wheelbarrow.

"What's up wi' thee, Bob--what ar' t' doin' wi' th' wheelbarrow, and
on good Sunday too?"

"Well, thae sees," replied Bob, "aw've lost mi dog, an' a fellow feels
gradely lonesome bout company, so aw've brought mi wheelbarrow out for
a bit of a ramble."

       *       *       *       *       *

These stories go to prove that the Lancashire collier is a simple
unsophisticated being, and the following[3] is still further evidence
of the fact:

[3] Quoted from an article on "Quacks" by Mr R. J. Hampson in the
_East Lancashire Review_ for November 1899.

"Many interesting anecdotes could be given of the methods adopted by
travelling Quacks. I will relate one respecting the oldest and best
known now on the road, who lately visited a colliery village near
Manchester. He had a very gorgeous show, a large gilded chariot with
four cream-coloured smart horses, and four Highland pipers. He 'made a
pitch' on some land on the main Manchester road side. There was a
severe struggle on at the time between the miners and the colliery
owners. This Quack was asked if he would allow the miner's agent, then
Mr Thomas Halliday, to address the men from his chariot, and he
consented on condition that he (the Dr) should speak before the men
dispersed. This was readily agreed to. He was a man of fine physique,
handsome and smartly dressed. He began:

"'Aye, I have longed for this day when I should have the honour and
privilege of speaking to a large assemblage of Lancashire colliers. I
left my comfortable mansion and park to come and encourage you in this
fight of right against might. Yes, men, what could we do without
colliers? Who was it that found out the puffing-billy? Was it a king?
Was it a lord? Was it a squire? No, my dear men, it was a
collier--George Stephenson!' (loud cheers, during which the learned
doctor opened a large case and brought out a small round box). He
continued: 'Men, they cannot do without colliers. The colliers move
the world' (and holding up the box of pills, shouted) 'and these pills
will move the colliers! They are sixpence a box. My Pipers will hand a
few out!' _Something_ moved the colliers, for he sold 278 boxes of
pills, and _he_ moved away before morning."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Rev. Robert Lamb in his "Free Thoughts by a Manchester Man"[4]
relates several good clerical stories. He remarks, that, in ordinary
discourse with the poor, it is safest to avoid all flights of
metaphor. We heard of a young clergyman not long ago being suddenly
pulled down in his soarings of fancy.

[4] In two volumes published anonymously in 1866, but they were known
to have been written by Mr Lamb, sometime Rector of St Paul's,
Manchester. They consist of a number of Essays and Sketches which had
been contributed by him to _Fraser's Magazine_ and they deal chiefly
with Lancashire subjects.

"I fear, my friend," he said to a poor weaver, to whose bedside he had
been summoned, "I fear I must address you in the language that was
addressed to King Hezekiah, 'Set thine house in order for thou shalt
die and not live.'"

"Well," was the man's reply, as he rose languidly on his elbow, and
pointed with his finger, "I think it's o' reet, but for a brick as is
out behint that cupboard."

Sometimes from this species of misconception a ludicrous idea is
suggested to the clergyman's mind, when he least wishes one to

"Resign yourself under your affliction, Ma'am," one of our friends not
long ago said to a sick parishioner, "be patient and trustful; you are
in the hands of the good Physician, you know."

"Aye, sir," she replied innocently, "Dr Jackson is said to be a
skilfu' man."

       *       *       *       *       *

We are assured that the following incident occurred to a Manchester
clergyman in one of his visits to an old woman in her sickness. He had
been to Oldham and afterwards called on his patient. She was a person
on whom he could make no impression whatever, but remained
uninterested and impassive under all his efforts to rouse and instruct
her. A thought suddenly came into his mind that he would try a new
method with her; so, after stating that he had been at Oldham and thus
detained a short time, he began by giving her the most glowing
description of the new Jerusalem as portrayed by St John in the
Apocalypse; when at length she seemed to be aroused, and looking
earnestly at him, she said with a degree of emotion never before
exhibited by her,--

"Eh, for sure, an' dud yo see o' that at Owdham? Laacks, but it mon
ha' been grand! Aw wish aw'd bin wi' yo'!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The late esteemed Bishop of Manchester, Dr Fraser, whose genial and
kindly disposition was well known and appreciated, was one day walking
along one of the poorer streets in Ancoats, and seeing two little
gutter boys sitting on the edge of the pavement busy putting the
finishing touches to a mud house they had made, stopped, and speaking
kindly to the urchins asked them what they were doing.

"We've been makin' a church," replied one of them.

"A church!" responded the Bishop, much interested, as he stooped over
the youthful architect's work. "Ah, yes, I see. That, I suppose, is
the entrance door" (pointing with his stick). "This is the nave, these
are the aisles, there the pews, and you have even got the pulpit! Very
good, my boys, very good. But where is the parson?"

"We ha'not gettin' muck enough to mak' a parson!" was the reply.

The answer was one which the good Bishop would much enjoy, for he had
a happy sense of humour. Patting the heads of the urchins he bade them
be good boys and gave them each a coin. As he strode along the street
the unconscious humour of the artists in mud must have greatly tickled

       *       *       *       *       *

Yet another clerical anecdote:

In her charming little volume of "Lancashire Memories,"[5] Mrs Potter
gives a racy story of the new vicar of a Lancashire Parish in an
encounter with one of the natives. She remarks: "There is a quaint
simplicity about the country people in Lancashire, that wants a name
in our vocabulary of manners, as far removed from the vulgarity of the
lower orders in the town on the one hand, as from the polished
conversationalisms of the higher classes on the other; a simplicity
that asserts itself because of its simplicity, and that never heard,
and if it did, never understood 'who's who.' Imagine the surprise of
the new vicar of the parish, fresh from Emmanuel College, Cambridge,
in all the dignity of the shovel hat and garments of a rigidly
clerical orthodoxy, accustomed to an agricultural population that
smoothed down its forelocks in deference to the vicar, but never
dreamed of bandying words with him: imagine him losing his way in one
of his distant parochial excursions, and inquiring, in a dainty
south-country accent, from a lubberly boy weeding turnips in a field,
'Pray, my boy, can you tell me the way to Bolton?'

[5] "Lancashire Memories," by Louise Potter. Macmillan & Co., London,

"'Ay,' replied the boy. 'Yo' mun go across yon bleach croft and into
th' loan, and yo'll get to Doffcocker, and then yo're i' th' high
road, and yo' can go straight on.'

"'Thank you,' said the vicar, 'perhaps I can find it. And now, my boy,
will you tell me what you do for a livelihood?'

"'I clear up th' shippon, pills potatoes, or does oddin; and if I may
be so bou'd, win yo' tell me what yo' do?'

"'Oh, I am a minister of the Gospel; I preach the Word of God.'

"'But what dun yo' do?' persisted the boy.

"'I teach you the way of salvation; I show you the road to heaven.'

"'Nay, nay,' said the lad; 'dunnot yo' pretend to teach me th' road to
heaven, and doesn't know th' road to Bow'ton.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

Certain shrewd remarks are sometimes made which imply a good deal more
than they express. The following will illustrate what I mean. As
justifying the regrettable fact that men who have risen from the
ranks, and, having attained to opulence, are often found to change
their politics, we have heard a "Radical" defined as "a Tory beawt
brass." This is akin to John Stuart Mill's specious saying, that some
men were Radicals because they were not Lords.

Alluding to the recent death of a person of wealth whose character was
not of the best, a Lancashire man remarked:

"Well, if he took his brass wi' him, it's melted by this time!"

Waugh used to tell the story of a man having run to catch a train, and
was just in time to see it leaving the railway station, puff, puff,
puff. He stood looking at it for a second or two, and then gave vent
to his injured feelings by exclaiming: "Go on, tha greyt puffin' foo,
go on! aw con wait!"

The girl at the Christmas Soirée was pressed to take some preserves
to her tea and bread and butter: "No, thank yo'," she responded, "aw
works wheer they maks it."[6]

[6] "The image-maker does not worship Buddha; he knows too much about
the idol."--Chinese saying.

Old stingy Eccles was talking one day to his coachman, who he was
trying to impress with his own super-excellent quality, though he had
never used his old Jehu over-well in the matter of wages.

"John," he said, "there's two sorts of Eccleses; there's Eccleses that
are angels, and Eccleses that are devils."

"Ay, maister," responded John, "an' th' angels ha' been deod for mony
a yer!"

A temperance meeting was being held in a Lancashire village, and one
of the speakers, waxing eloquent, not to say pathetic, exclaimed:

"How pleased my poor dead father must be, looking down on me, his son,
advocating teetotalism from this platform!"

One of the audience, interrupting him, rose and interjected:

"Nay, nay, that'll do noan, mon; if aw know'd thi feythur reet when
he're alive, he's moar like lookin' _up_ than deawn!"

I was amused with the answer given by a working man to an
acquaintance. He was hurrying to the railway station with a small
hand-bag on "Wakes Monday morning."

"Wheer ar't beawn, Jack?"

"Aw'm fur th' Isle o' Man."

"Heaw long ar't stayin'?"

"Thirty bob," was the laconic reply, meaning that the length of his
stay would depend on the time his money might last.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lancashire Proverbs are numerous and much to the point, and they
generally inculcate their lesson with a touch of dry humour.

An expressive saying is that: "_He hangs th' fiddle at th' dur sneck_"
applied to a person who is all life and gaiety when with his boon
companions, but sullen and sour of temper at home.

Another proverb has it that "_There's most thrutching where there's
least room_." Hence, probably, the Lancashire fable: "The flea and the
elephant were passing into the Ark together, said the flea to his big
brother: 'Now then, maister! no thrutching!'"

There is quaint wisdom in the saying, "_It costs a deal more playing
than working_."

"_Th' quiet sow eats o' t' draff_," is another Lancashire proverb of
deep significance as applied to any one who speaks little, but
appears to take in all that he hears, and uses it to his own

When one gets married "_he larns wot meyl is a pound_."

The safe rule as to food for children, is, "_rough and enough_."

In choosing a wife the swain is warned that "_Fine faces fill no
butteries, an' fou uns rob no cubbarts_."

The Lancashire farmer says that, "_A daisy year is a lazy year_,"
because when daisies are plentiful in the fields the crop of grass is
usually light.

Other proverbs tell us that "_An honest mon an' a west wind alus go to
bed at neet_," and "_Fleet at meyt fleet at wark_." "_The first cock
of hay drives the cuckoo away._"

Attempting to cross a busy thoroughfare in front of a moving omnibus
with an impetuous friend, the cautious Lancashire man will say: "Nay,
howd on! _There's as mitch room behint as before._" And in response to
one who is exaggerating in his language:--"Come! tha's said enough,
thou'rt over doing it, owd lad; _there's a difference between
scrattin' yor head and pullin th' hair off_!"

When disputation waxes high and hot, the same humorist will say:
"Come, come lads! no wranglin', let's go in for a bit o' peace and
quietness, as Billy Butterworth said when he put his mother-in-law
behint th' fire."

Of any one whose nasal organ is unusually prominent, in other words,
when it is large enough to afford a handle for ridicule, it is said
that "he was n't behint th' door when noses were gan out!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The etiquette of mourning for lost relations has its ludicrous side.
Many of the working-classes in Lancashire, especially in
out-of-the-way villages, take pride in the style of their funerals. On
such occasions it is usual to have a "spread" in the shape of a "thick
tay" on returning to the house after the "burying," when the relations
and friends assemble and talk over the virtues of the dear departed.
To omit such a provision is looked upon as a neglect of duty not to be
passed over without comment. A ham, boiled whole, and served cold
along with the tea, is the favourite "thickening" on those occasions.

One matron was much scandalized that her next door neighbour had made
no further provision for the funeral guests than a "sawp o' lemonade"
and a few sweet cakes.

"Aw 've laid mi husband an' three childer i' th' churchyard," remarked
this censor of her neighbour's conduct, "an', thank the Lord, aw
buried 'em o' wi' 'am!"

My next story must not be taken as fairly exemplifying the Lancashire
female character, which, indeed is usually of a very different
complexion. It is, however, related as a fact that a poor old fellow
as he lay dying, and who, in an interval of reviving consciousness,
detected the smell of certain savoury viands that were being prepared,
managed in his weakness to say to his better-half who was busy near
the fireplace:

"Aw think aw could like a taste o' that yo've gettin i' th' pot,

"Eh! give o'er talkin' that way, Jone," was the response, "thae cannot
ha' noan o' this; it's th' _'am_, mon, as aw'm gettin ready for th'

       *       *       *       *       *

There is sarcastic humour in the remark made by one to his friend who
had just buried his uncle, the latter when alive having been something
of a rip:

"I've known worse men, John, than your uncle."

"Oh, I'm glad to hear you speak so well of my uncle," was the response
of the other, with just a touch of surprise in his look.

"Ay," continued the first speaker, "I've known worse men than your
uncle, John, but not so d----d many!"

The Lancashire artizan, like others in higher station who should, but
do not always, set him a better example, is prone to the occasional
use of an oath, generally a petty oath, to emphasize his speech. It is
an objectionable habit, doubtless, even when no irreverence is
intended. Curiously enough, instead of being employed to express
aversion to the object to which it is applied, the expletive is often
used as a term of endearment. For example, we sometimes hear the
expression: "He's a clever little devil!" applied by a father in
admiration of the budding intelligence of his own little boy. An
anecdote will best exhibit this peculiar turn of speech.

Some time ago, I had occasion to stay at Stalybridge over night, and
after dinner I left my hotel and took a turn along one of the streets
leading towards the outskirts of the town. It was a fine evening and
the lamps were lighted. At a short distance before me I observed three
working men, as I judged by their speech and gait, dressed in their
best black toggery, and with each a tall silk hat on his head.
Evidently they were returning from a funeral. They were stepping
leisurely along, and, as I neared them from behind, I overheard part
of their conversation. One of them, as he approached a lamp post, took
his hat off, and began expatiating to the others on its quality.

"Ay," he said, holding the hat at arm's length that it might catch the
rays from the gas lamp overhead, "Ay, aw guv ten bob for this when it
wur new!" (looking at his two friends to note if they expressed
surprise and admiration), "that's mooar than ten years sin'. Ay"
(stroking it with his arm and again admiringly holding it out till it
twinkled in the lamp rays), "Ay, an' th' devul shines like a raven

Another incident in illustration of the same peculiarity is said to
have occurred in the experience of a well-known actor, who, with his
company, while starring it in the provinces, was playing for a few
nights at Wigan. During the daytime Mr ---- took a turn into the
country, and, feeling tired with his walk, called to rest and refresh
at a way-side "Public." As he entered the hostelry he observed in the
sanded drinking room to the left of the passage, two colliers sitting
each with a pot of ale before him on the table. So, instead of taking
the room to the right, which was the more luxurious parlour fitted for
guests of his quality, he turned into that where the colliers sat
conversing, hoping, as he was a student of human nature, to add
something to his store of observation in that respect. He was not

One of the men was evidently overcome with grief at some mischance
that had befallen him. It turned out that he had just lost by death a
favourite son of tender years to whom he had been fondly attached. The
sorrowing parent leaned with his elbows on the table; and occasionally
stroking his forehead with his hands, or resting his chin upon them,
he would look vacantly into space and sigh deeply. His friend was
endeavouring to comfort him.

"It's hard to bear, aw know, Jack; but cheer up, mon, an' ma' th' best
ov a bad job."

"Ah! he wur a fine little lad wur our Jamie! It breaks mi heart to
part wi' him."

"That's true enough, Jack," responded his companion. "But, what mon!
he's goown and tha connot mend it! Cheer up and do th' best tha con."

"Ay, ay, aw connot mend it. That's th' misfortun on't. But he wur a
rare bit of a lad wur our Jim!"

"Well, come, bear't as weel as tha con," patting his friend on the
shoulder. "We's o' ha' to dee some time, keep thi heart up an' ma' th'
best on't. Tha knows tha connot bring 'im back."

The other buried his face in his hands and remained silent for a time.
Then, suddenly stretching himself up, he struck his hard fist on the
table as he exclaimed:

"Aw tell thi what, Sam. If it wurn't for th' law, aw'd ha' th' little
devul stuffed!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The Rifle Volunteer movement, with its excellent motto, "Defence, not
Defiance," has stood the test of time, having proved itself to be not
only an ornamental but a useful and even necessary arm of defence,
where, in this free country, a levy by conscription would not be
tolerated. In its earlier stages, however, it encountered much
opposition from many persons, who treated it with ridicule, and took
every opportunity of speaking contemptuously of the "Saturday
afternoon soldiers." This is well illustrated in a good story told by
the late Mr John Bright. Speaking to an old fellow-townsman in
Rochdale about the movement at the time of its inception, when corps
were being formed throughout the country and enrolment was proceeding

"Yea," said the old Lancashire man to Mr Bright, "I always knew there
wur a lot o' foo's i' this world, but I never knew how to pyke 'em out

Mr Bright himself had a fund of Lancashire humour which came out at
times in his speeches. He was also quick at repartee, not always
without a touch of acrimony. On one occasion when he was dining with a
well-known Manchester citizen the conversation turned on the subject
of the growth and development of the United States.

"I should like," said his host, who is an enthusiastic admirer of the
great Republic, "I should like to come back fifty years after my death
to see what a fine country America has become.'"

"I believe you will be glad of any excuse to come back," was Mr
Bright's wicked remark.

One of Disraeli's admirers, in speaking of him to Mr Bright, said:

"You ought to give him credit for what he has accomplished, as he is a
self-made man."

"I know he is," retorted Mr Bright, "and he adores his maker."

       *       *       *       *       *

In a recent number of the _Spectator_, a writer remarks that "after
reading the drawn-out platitudes of some politicians, how refreshing
it is to find that 'a voice' in the gallery so often puts the whole
case in a nutshell, and performs for the audience and the country what
the orator was unable to do."[7] The remark is much to the point.
Political meetings are often the occasion of a good deal of
spontaneous wit or humour on the part of the audience. A Lancashire
audience excels in repartee at such gatherings, and when the speaker
of the moment is himself good at the game, the encounter is
provocative of mirth.

[7] "The Use and Abuse of Epigram," _Spectator_, Nov. 4th, 1899.

Sir William Bailey gives what he asserts is an unfailing recipe for
silencing a hesitating and tiresome speaker. This is for a person in
the audience to shout at the moment of one of the orator's pauses:
"Thou'rt short o' bobbins!" The roar of laughter which follows this
sally effectually covers the orator with ridicule, and any attempt on
his part to take up the thread of his discourse is useless. The
reference to "bobbins" is well understood by a Lancashire audience.
The spinning frames in the cotton factories are fed from bobbins
filled with roved cotton, and when these fail from any cause the
machinery has to stand.

On the other hand, the worthy knight himself silenced a noisy and
persistent meeting-disturber in a very effective way. Sir William, in
the course of delivering a political speech was greatly annoyed by a
person in front of the platform uttering noisy ejaculations with the
object of interrupting the argument. As it happened, the fellow had an
enormous mouth, as well as an unruly tongue and great strength of
lungs. Sir William, suddenly stopping and pointing with his finger at
the disturber, exclaimed: "If that man with the big mouth doesn't
keep it shut, I'll jump down his throat--aw con do!" at the same time
setting himself as if to take a spring. This had the desired effect
and he continued his speech without further interruption. The real fun
was in the final three words: "Aw con do!" The threat of jumping down
the fellow's throat was not a mere idle threat; his mouth was big
enough to allow of the threat being carried out.

       *       *       *       *       *

At election times some of the drollest questions are put to the
candidates in the "heckling" that takes place after the speech, where
the audience is allowed to interrogate the aspirant for parliamentary
honours. The following occurred in my own experience. A Socialist
candidate was stumping a wide outlying division in North-East
Lancashire, and in the course of a stirring address in the village
school-room he expatiated on the heavy cost with which, as he
asserted, the country was saddled in the up-keeping of royalty.
Amongst other items of expenditure he enumerated the number of horses
that had to be maintained for the royal use, and made a calculation of
the huge quantity of oats, beans, hay and other fodder which the
animals consumed every week throughout the year, with the heavy cost
which these entailed, and he concluded by pathetically pointing out
how many working men's families might be maintained in comfort with
the money.

Questions being invited, an old farmer, who had been intently
listening to the harangue, rose and said:

"Maister Chairman, aw have been very much interested wi' the speech o'
th' candidate, and mooar especially wi' that part on't where he towd
us abeaut th' royal horses, an' th' greyt quantity ov oats, beans and
hay ut they aiten every week, an' th' heavy taxes we han to pay for
th' uphowd o' thoose. But there's one thing, maister Chairman, ut he
has missed out o' his speech, an' aw wish to put a question: Aw wud
like if th' candidate wod now tell us heaw much they gettin every week
for th' horse mook!"

Whether the question was put ironically or in sober earnest it is
difficult to say, for the questioner maintained the gravity of a judge
even in the midst of the roar of laughter that ensued. Probably he was
quite in earnest, and considered that the "tale" was not complete
until credit had been given on the other side of the account for the
residual product.

During the Home-Secretaryship of the Right Hon. Sir Richard (now Lord)
Cross, the mode of executing criminals was widely discussed in the
newspapers, and created some considerable difference of opinion. At
one of his election meetings in South-West Lancashire, a person in the
audience asked leave to say a word, and convulsed the meeting by
putting this question: "Aw want to know," he said, "an' aw could like
to have a straight answer: is the honourable candidate in favour of a
six-foot drop?"

       *       *       *       *       *

A Member, representing one of the Lancashire divisions, who had for
some reason or other made himself unpopular with his constituents, was
seeking a renewal of their confidence at the general election. He was
giving an account of his stewardship at a crowded meeting, pointing
out how he had devoted his time to the interests of the division; how
he had attended to his Parliamentary duties during the long session,
_sitting up_ night after night recording his votes, when he was
interrupted in his harangue by "A voice from the gallery":

"We'll _ma'_ thae _sit up_, devil, before we ha' done wi' thae!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Another M.P., dilating on the services he had rendered to "the Borough
which he had the honour to represent," asked, with a flourish of his
arms towards the assembled electors and non-electors, "Now, what do
you think your Member has recently been doing in London?"

"Aye! there's no telling!" was the response of an honest dame,
suspiciously shaking her head as she sat near to the platform
listening to the orator.

       *       *       *       *       *

Barristers, as becomes their calling, are usually sharp-witted and
often sharp-tongued. At the recent general election the candidates in
the Eccles (Lancashire) division were Mr O. Leigh Clare, Q.C.,
Conservative, and Mr J. Pease Fry, Liberal. Mr Clare had finished
addressing one of his meetings when an elector rose and put the
following conundrum: "Mr Fry at his meeting last night stated that Mr
Chamberlain was the cause of the Boer War, and Dr Quayle, one of his
supporters, declared that the war might have been averted by a little
careful diplomacy; will the Conservative candidate give us his opinion
on the statements of these two gentlemen?"

"Yes," was Mr Leigh Clare's reply, "I shall be only too happy. In my
opinion Dr Quayle should be left to Fry, and Mr Fry should be left to
Quayle!" Judging by the manner in which the sally was received by the
meeting, the answer was eminently satisfactory.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Lancashire dialect occasionally finds its way into the British
Houses of Parliament to point a moral or adorn a tale. Recently Mr
Duckworth, M.P. for Middleton, told with effect the anecdote about Sam
Brooks, and his advice to his brother John, on the latter being asked
to stand as a City Councillor.[8]

[8] _Post_, page 94.

Lord Derby ("the Rupert of debate"), many years before, related the
following story in the House, greatly to the amusement of their
lordships. In the neighbourhood of Rochdale a big, hulking collier had
an extremely diminutive wife, who, it was currently reported, was in
the habit of thrashing her husband.

"John," said his master to him one day, "they really say that your
wife beats you. Is it true?"

"Ay, aw believe it is," drawled John, with provoking coolness.

"Ay! you believe it is!" responded the master; "what do you mean, you
lout? A great thumping fellow like you, as strong as an elephant, to
let a little woman like your wife thrash you?"

"Whaw," was the patient answer, "it ple-ases hur, maister, an' it does
me no hurt!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Lancashire humour, though hilarious, is largely unconscious. The
unconsciousness resting with the originator and the hilarity with the
auditory. In this respect it is allied to Irish more than to Scotch
humour, the former having a rollicking and blundering quality, the
latter being more subdued, pawky, and intentional. The following were
not intended as humorous sallies, and, indeed, they are only humorous
from the point of view of the intelligent observer or listener; that
is to say, the jest's prosperity lay in the ear of him who heard it,
not in the tongue of him that made it.

During the recent great strike of the Lancashire colliers, coal was
scarce and dear, and those who had anything of a stock in their
backyards had to keep an eye on it to prevent its being depleted by
hands other than their own. One, more fortunate than his neighbours,
had reason to suspect that somebody was helping himself to what
wasn't his own--for the reserve of the precious fuel was evidently
being tampered with. Accordingly, one night he determined to sit up in
the back-kitchen and find out, if possible, whether his suspicions
were justified. Shortly he heard a rustling in the coalbunk in the
yard, and putting his head half out of the window, which he had left
partly open, called out to the depredator:

"You're pykin' 'em out, aw see!"

"Nay, thou'rt a liar, owd mon," was the ready response, "Aw'm ta'en
'em as they come."

The thievish neighbour resented the imputation that he was "picking
and choosing" instead of "playing fairation" by taking the small and
the cobs together. Clearly he was not lost to _all_ sense of honour.
It would hardly have been fair to be picking and choosing under the
circumstances. Beggars, much less thieves, have no right to be

       *       *       *       *       *

"Owd Sam," a well-known Bury character, was tired of being domiciled
in the Workhouse and thought he would try and get a living outside if
he could. Passing by the "Derby" he saw Mr Handley, the landlord,
standing on the front steps. Seeing Owd Sam coming hobbling up the

"Hello!" said Handley, "You're out o' th' Workhouse again, Sam, I

"Ay, maister Handley, aw am for sure, aw'm tiert o' yon shop, an'
aw've been round to co' on some o' mi friends, and they've promised to
buy me a donkey; but aw'm short of a cart; and, maister Handley, if
yo' lend me as much as wod buy me a cart, aw'd pay yo back again as
soon as ever aw could; aw want to begin sellin' sond and rubbin'
stones, an' things o' that mak, just to mak' a bit ov a livin', fur
aw'm gradely tiert o' yon shop."

"Well, well, Sam, but what security can you give me if I lend you the

"Aw just thowt yo'd ax mi that," responded Sam, "an aw've been
thinkin' abeawt it, an' aw'll tell yo what aw'll do, maister Handley,
if yo'll lend mi th' bit o' brass, _thae shall ha' thi name painted up
o' th' cart_."

To fully realise the ludicrous nature of Owd Sam's proposal, it should
be noted that Mr Handley was a smart, dapper, well-dressed personage,
a man of substance withal, who knew his importance as the landlord of
the "Derby," the chief hotel in the town.

       *       *       *       *       *

A tramp between Bolton and Bury accosted an old stonebreaker by the
road side, and asked him how far it was to the latter place.

"There's a milestone down theer, thae con look for thi' sel'," was the

"But aw connot read," pleaded the interrogator.

"Well, then, that milestone 'll just suit thee, owd lad. It has nought
on it. Th' reading 's gettin' o' wesht off. Go look for thi' sel'. If
thae connot read, that milestone 'll just suit thee."

       *       *       *       *       *

A would-be "feighter again th' Boers" enlisted in one of the
Lancashire regiments, but, before final acceptance, was sent up to
undergo medical examination for fitness. Being rejected by the doctor
on account of the bad state of his teeth, he expressed his disgust and
astonishment by remarking: "Aw thowt as aw'd ha' to shoot th' Boers!
aw didn't know as aw'd ha' to worry 'em!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Socialistic ideas have not taken very deep root among the masses in
Lancashire. Such ideas, indeed, were more prevalently discussed ten
years ago than they are to-day. Admirable as the propagandism is in
many respects, and desirable in every sense as is the amelioration of
the lot of working people, there is a tendency to drifting away from
the saner precepts of its earnest advocates towards the levelling
notions that engage the minds of the more ignorant and unthinking of
its disciples. One of these had read, or been told, that if all the
wealth of England were divided equally amongst the people, the
interest on each person's share would yield an income of thirty
shillings a week for life. Our Lancashire Socialist friend,
expatiating upon the theme to some of his working-men comrades, began
to speculate how he would occupy his spare time when in the enviable
position of having thirty shillings per week without working. One
thing he would do; he would save something out of his allowance and
make a trip by train to London at least once a year to feast his eyes
on the sights of the Metropolis. One of the listeners, however,
demurred to the views expressed, suggesting that the train would have
to be drawn by an engine, that this would require a driver and a
stoker; a guard also would be necessary to manage the train, with
others to attend to his comfort on arrival at his destination. These
would be as little inclined to work, possibly, as himself. This view
of the matter had not struck our leveller, but it was now brought home
to him. So, after ruminating for a moment, and scratching his head to
assist at the solution of the difficulty, he responded: "Well, it
seems that _some_ devils would ha' to work, but _aw_ wouldn't!" That
chap had evidently made up his mind.

       *       *       *       *       *

The genuine Lancashire native is noted for his aptness in conveying
the idea he wishes to express. Referring to a mild and open winter one
of them remarked, speaking to a friend, "I'm a good deal older than
thee, Jim, and I've known now and then for a Summer to miss, but I've
never known a Winter to miss afore." Another, winding up a wrangle
with a relative who possessed more of this world's goods than himself
and assumed airs in consequence, said, "We are akin, yo' cannot scrat
that out!"[9]

[9] Licet superbus ambules pecunia,
    Fortuna non mutat genus.
                _Hor. Ep. Carm. IV._

Another, quaintly and cautiously expressing his opinion as to the
stage of inebriation reached by his friend, said that "He wasn't
exactly drunk, but one or two o' th' glasses he'd had should ha' been
left o'er till to-morrow."

       *       *       *       *       *

To drop the aspirate is a common failing of half-educated Lancashire
people (though this special weakness is by no means peculiar to
Lancashire folk), and sometimes gives a ludicrous turn to a remark.

Speaking with a working-man friend of mine about the desirability of
everyone cultivating some pursuit or hobby outside of one's daily
employment: "Ah!" replied my friend, "a man with an 'obby is an 'appy
man!" to which sensible expression of opinion I assented with a smile.
The same person, curiously enough, would put in the aspirate where it
was not required. Looking at the picture of an ancient mansion, he
asked: "Is that a hold habbey?" I have even heard a fairly
well-educated person speak of the "Hodes of Orrace."

Jack Smith was a well-known Blackburn character in his day. He began
life as a quarryman, rose to be a quarrymaster, and became Mayor of
his native town. Mr Abram, the historian of Blackburn, relates that
"when in February 1869, Justice Willes came down to Blackburn to hear
the petition against the return of Messrs Hornby and Fielden at the
Parliamentary election in the November preceding, Mayor Smith attained
the height of his grandeur and importance. On the morning of the
opening of the Court, the room was thronged with counsel, solicitors,
witnesses and active politicians interested in the trial on one side
or the other. The Mayor, Jack Smith, took his seat on the Bench by the
side of Justice Willes, who found the air of the Court rather too
close for him. He was seen to say a few words in an undertone to the
Mayor, who nodded assent, and rising, shouted in his heavy voice,
pointing to the windows at the side of the Court: "Heigh, policemen,
hoppen them winders, an' let some hair in." As he reseated himself,
Jack added, chidingly, addressing the group of constables in
attendance: "Do summat for yor brass!" Few of the audience could
resist a laugh at the quaint idiom of the Right Worshipful, and even
the Judge's severe features for a moment relaxed into a half smile.

An incident in _Punch_ has reference to the same failing. The
Inspector had been visiting a school, in which a Lancashire magnate
took great interest, being something of an enthusiast in the
educational movement. In commenting upon the progress of the pupils in
care of the schoolmistress, the Inspector, on leaving, remarked to the
patron of the school:

"It strikes me that teacher of yours retains little or no grasp upon
the attention of the children--not hold enough, you know--not hold

"Not _hold_ enough!" exclaimed the magnate in surprise. "Lor' bless
yer--if she ever sees forty again, I'll eat my 'at!"

To fully convey the humour of the incident, Charles Keene's picture
(for it is one of his) should accompany the recital.

At one of the political meetings of the Eccles division, during the
recent general election contest, a working man who occupied the chair,
and prodigal of his _aitches_, in introducing Mr O. L. Clare, Q.C.,
the Conservative candidate, convulsed the audience by strenuously
aspirating the two initials of the honourable candidate's name.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some illiterate men, again, are fond of using or misusing big words.
They are content, following the example of Mrs Malaprop, that the
sound shall serve just as well as the sense. For example: you will
sometimes hear an old gardener remark that the soil wouldn't be any
the worse of some "manoeuvre." One that I knew used to talk of
"consecrating" the footpaths. He meant concreting.

An old mechanic of my acquaintance, who is learned in the mysteries of
steam raising and steam pressure, is wont to dilate on his favourite
subject, and will persist in holding forth on what he describes as
"Th' expression up o' th' steawm." Truly, a nice "derangement of

The same, speaking of Lord Roberts' generalship in outflanking the
Boer armies, remarked, "Ay, he's a surprising mon, for sure, is
General Roberts, an' he does it o' wi' his clever tictacs."

And again: "Aw nobbut wish he could get how'd o' owd Krooger, and send
him to keep Cronje company at St Helens."

       *       *       *       *       *

A confusion of ideas sometimes extends to other subjects. Another
simple friend of mine, relating the treatment he had been subjected to
by a ferocious tramp in a lonely neighbourhood, declared that the
would-be highwayman "Clapped a pistol to mi bally, and swore he'd blow
mi brains out if aw didn't hand over mi money!" Possibly the thief
knew better where his brains lay than my friend did himself.

An equally ludicrous confusion of ideas is shown in the next example.
Owd Pooter, the odd man who tidied up the stable yard and pottered
about the garden, was troubled with a neighbour's hens getting into
the meadow and treading down the young grass. So, speaking to his
master one day, he said,

"Maister, I durn't know what we maun do if thoose hens are to keep
comin' scratt, scrattin' i' th' meadow when they liken; we'st ha'e no
grass woth mentionin."

"Put a notice up," suggested his employer.

"Put a notice up!" responded Pooter, looking as wise as a barn owl.
"Eh! maister, if aw _did_ put a notice up there isn't one hen in a
hundred as could read it!"

Another hen story is worth relating. A poultry farmer calling on a
grocer one day was told by the latter that he must be prepared to give
him more than fourteen eggs for a shilling. "The grocers have had a
meeting," said his customer, "and they have come to the conclusion
that there must be at least sixteen eggs for a shilling." The poultry
farmer listened but said nothing. Next time he called he counted out
his eggs--sixteen for a shilling--but they were all very small--pullet
eggs in fact.

"Hello! what does this mean? How comes it that your eggs are so
small?" asked the grocer.

"Well, yo see," was the reply, "th' hens have had a meetin' and they
have coom to th' conclusion that they connot lay ony bigger than thur
at sixteen for a shillin!" Evidently the shrewd farmer had profited by
the knowledge that the animal creation, as Æsop has taught us, can
hold converse and come to as sensible decisions as their betters.

The same owd Pooter, already mentioned, being much out of sorts,
consulted the doctor on his state of health, who, after hearing his
story and making the necessary examination of the patient, recommended
him to eat plentifully of _animal food_. Pooter, looking somewhat
askance, said he would do his best to follow the doctor's advice, but
he feared his "grinders wur noan o' th' best for food o' that mak."
"Try it for a week," said the doctor, "and then call and see me
again." At the expiration of a week Pooter repeated the visit. "Have
you done what I recommended?" asked the physician. "Aw've done mi
best," replied Pooter, "aw have for sure, an' as lung as aw stuck to
th' oats an' beans, aw geet on meterley; but aw wur gradely lickt when
aw coom to th' choppins!" Pooter's idea of "animal food" was the
horse's diet of oats, beans and choppings.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among the ridiculous stories that are told, are the three following,
which are more imaginative than true in their details. The fact of
their invention, however, is a proof that the author possessed a
considerable share of happy humour. The old fellow who went to _see_
"Elijah," the Oratorio of that name, on being asked if he had seen the
prophet, replied: "Yea, aw did." "Well, what was he like?" "Wha, he
stood theer at th' back o' th' crowd up o' th' platform, an' he kept
rubbin a stick across his bally, an' he groant, and groant--yo could
yer 'im all o'er th' place!" He took the double-bass 'cello-player to
be Elijah.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Wardens of the church at Belmont determined to move the structure
a few yards to make room for a gravel path, so, laying their coats on
the ground to mark the exact distance, they went round to the opposite
side and pushed with all their might. Whilst they were thus engaged a
thief stole the coats. Coming back again to observe the effect of
their exertions, and being unable to find their stolen garments,
"Devilskins!" they exclaimed, "we have pushed too far!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Mother, to her hopeful son standing at the door one night:

"Come in an' shut th' door, John, what ar't doin' theer?"

"Aw'm lookin' at th' moon."

"Lookin' at th' moon! Come in aw tell thae, an' let th' moon alone."

"Who's touching th' moon?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The Municipal Authorities of a Lancashire town, in laying out a public
park which had been presented by a wealthy citizen, added to its other
attractions a large ornamental lake, formed by damming up a stream
that ran through the grounds. One of the park committee, in the
course of a speech extolling the beauty of the lake, suggested that
they might put a gondola upon it. Another of his confreres on the
Council, thinking that a swan or other aquatic fowl was meant,
responded: "What's th' use o' having only one gondola? let's ha' two
and then they con breed."

As likely as not this was a stroke of wit rather than a blunder.

       *       *       *       *       *

In Lancashire, as is well known, there are hosts of what are popularly
designated "Co-op. Mills"--cotton factories worked on the joint stock
principle--and many of the mill-hands hold shares, more or less. The
manager of one of these one day encountered a mill-hand "larking" on
the stairs instead of attending to his work, and giving him a kick
behind ordered him off to his room. The culprit turned round, and,
rubbing the affected part, faced the manager with the expostulation,
half comic, half serious: "Keep thi foot to thi sel' and mind what
tha'rt doing; dos't know 'at aw'm one o' thy maisters?"

He held a five-pound share or two in the concern.

A praiseworthy devotion to their employer's interests is a marked
feature in many of our Lancashire working-men; and this devotion is
all the more valuable when accompanied with intelligent observation
and the quality of saying the right thing at the right moment. My next
story exemplifies this in a striking degree.

Jim Shackleton, better known by the nickname of "Jamie-go-deeper," was
a sturdy Lancashire ganger, honest and shrewd as they make 'em, a hard
and steady worker--faithful and staunch and true to his employers. In
his younger days Jim had wielded the pick and spade and trundled the
wheel-barrow, but at the time of which I speak he was the boss or
ganger over a regiment of navvies. He used to speak of puddle and clay
and earthwork as though he loved them.

Jim was employed on the Manchester Ship Canal when it was in course of
construction--down below Latchford Locks. The Company, as is well
known, had in several places to trench on private property, which had
to be purchased from the owners either by agreement or on arbitration
terms, and some of the owners, not over-scrupulous, valued their lands
at fabulous sums, on account, as was asserted, of their prospective
value, as being favourably situated for building purposes, or because,
as was alleged, of the valuable minerals in the ground. One such claim
was being contested and there were the usual arbitrators, umpire and
counsel, with a host of expert valuers on each side. The owner in this
instance claimed that there was a valuable seam of coal underneath,
and he had set men to make borings on the pretence of finding it.

Jim, who was employed, as I have said, by the Canal Company, had been
subpoenaed by the owner of the land in question with a view of
making him declare that he had seen this boring for coal going on in a
field which he had to cross daily in going to and coming from his
lodgings in the neighbourhood. Counsel is questioning Jim after being

"Your name is James Shackleton?"

"For onything aw know it is," replied Jim.

"And you are employed as a ganger on this section of the Canal?"

"Aw believe aw am."

"And you lodge over here?" pointing to a group of cottages shown on a
map of the particular locality.

"Aw do," answered Jim.

"And you cross this field" (again pointing to the map) "daily--two or
three times a day--going to and coming from your work?"

"Yea," was Jim's reply.

"And in going and coming you have, of course, seen men engaged in
boring for coal?"

"Noa aw haven't," said Jim in reply, shaking his head.

"You have not seen men boring for coal in this particular field?"
(again pointing out the place on the map).

"Noa!" said Jim, stolidly.

"And yet you live here, and pass and repass this field several times a

"Yea aw do."

"And you actually tell me that you have never seen workmen boring for
coal in this field?"

"Aw do," said Jim.

"Now, on your oath, be careful--have you not seen men engaged in
making borings in this field?"

"Oh! ay," replied Jim, "Aw've seed 'em boring."

Counsel smiled triumphantly, stretched himself up, and looked round
the Court and towards the umpire with a self-satisfied air.

"You _have_ seen them boring for coal, then?"

"Noa," responded Jim with an imperturbable face.

Counsel fumed. "You have not seen them boring for coal!" (shaking his
finger at Jim).

"Noa, not for coal. Aw _have_ seen 'em boring."

"Then what the d----l _were_ they boring for?"

"They wur boring for compensation!"

That was sufficient. Jim had landed his salmon, and there was a shout
of laughter in the Court as the discomfited counsel resumed his seat.
Jim was troubled with no more questions. His last answer put the value
of the land on its true basis. Humour is a wonderful lever in aiding
the accomplishment of one's purpose. If Jim had bluntly expressed his
opinion at the outset that this was a case of attempted imposition,
the opinion would only have been taken for what it was worth, and the
result might have been very different. The imperturbable way in which
he led the learned counsel up to the climax, which, when reached,
rendered further argument superfluous, was of the drollest.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Lancashire man abroad does not lose his individuality. He is not
great as a philosopher, and therefore has a wholesome contempt of
foreigners. The world is not _his_ parish as it might be if peopled by
his own kith and kin. This insular prejudice against the foreigner on
the part of our working men is exemplified by a circumstance which
occurred in my own experience.

When I was engaged in certain engineering work in Brazil, I got out
from Lancashire three skilled men to carry out a contract that I had
in hand. They had been in that country a few weeks, when I asked one
of them how he liked the place.

"Oh, tidy well," replied he, "it wouldn't be a bad place at all if
there weren't so many d----d foreigners about!"

Not for a moment recognising the fact that it was _he_ who was the
foreigner, and not the natives whom he affected to despise: a trait in
our character which I fear is not confined to the lower classes,
whether in Lancashire or elsewhere, in England.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ludicrous situation in which Ben Brierley was one day placed was
related to me by Ben himself. One Saturday afternoon Ben was passing
along Piccadilly (Manchester) on the Infirmary side, and seeing an old
woman with a basket of fine oranges before her--three for
twopence--Ben selected three for which he tendered a shilling, having
no smaller coin. The old orange-vendor was unable to change it, but,
unwilling to lose a customer, she whipped up the shilling, saying:
"Howd on a bit, maister, and tent my basket while I goo get change."
Before Ben could expostulate--and, indeed, before he could realise the
position--she was off to seek change for the shilling. For full five
minutes Ben had to stand guard behind the basket. If he had not done
so, its contents would quickly have been purloined by some of the
mischievous lads always hanging about the Infirmary flags. Ben
declared that during the interval, which seemed an age, he never
before felt so ridiculous and queer. The street was thronged with foot
passengers, but fortunately none seemed to recognise "Ab o' th' Yate,"
though several stared hard at the respectable-looking orange-vendor.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the _Cornhill Magazine_ (for Feb. 1899) the following examples are
given of the "Humours of School Inspection."

"A pupil teacher in a Lancashire school was asked to describe the way
in which he had spent his Easter holidays. This was the answer: 'At
Easter I and a companion went to Knot Mill Fair. We did not take much
account of the show except for the marionettes and wild beasts. But we
much preferred the latter, _in cages_, for we were thus enabled to
study the works of God, without the danger of being torn in pieces!'"
"Here," says the writer, "the Lancashire shrewdness is finely

And here, from the same source, is an instance of the total
annihilation of a smart young Inspector by some intelligent infants in
another Lancashire school. H.M.I. was examining the six-year-olds in
object lessons before the Vicar and his lively daughter, thus:--

_H.M.I._ What is this made of (producing a penny)?

_Children._ Copper.

_H.M.I._ No, children, you are mistaken; it is made of bronze, which
is a mixture of tin and copper. Now, what is it made of?

_Children._ Bronze.

_H.M.I._ And this? (showing a sixpence).

_Children._ Silver.

_H.M.I._ Quite right; and this? (fumbling for a half-sovereign, but on
failing to find it, rashly flourishing his seal ring in their faces).

_Children_ (to the infinite amusement of the Vicar's daughter). Brass!

_H.M.I._ My dear children, no! It's gold. Look more closely at it,
now--yes, you may hand it round. Now what use do you think I have for
this ring?

_Little Girl._ Please, Sir, to be married with. (Vicar's daughter
convulsed in the corner.)

_H.M.I._ No, no! _Men_ don't wear wedding rings. But when your father
seals a letter what does he do it with?

_Little boy_ (briskly). Please, sir, a brass farden.

Another good school story is told by the late Rev. Robert Lamb,
already quoted.

This was also a school examination, and the particular topic the
Apostles' Creed. I may venture to repeat the story without being
charged with irreverence, considering that it is told by a clergyman.
The boys in the class had evidently been drilled in the subject for
some days previously, and each of them had his own special portion to
repeat as his turn came.

"By whom was He conceived?" the Examiner asked from the book.

"He was conceived by the Holy Ghost," was the ready answer.

"Of whom was He born?" was the question to the next boy.

"He was born of the Virgin Mary," responded the youth boldly.

"Under whom did He suffer?" was the question addressed to the third in

"He was crucified, dead and buried," said the boy in a whining,
hesitating tone, as if conscious that all was not right.

"No, no! _Under_ whom did He suffer? _By_ whom was he crucified?"

The lad repeated the same words in the same drawling tone. The
question was put a third time, and the same answer returned; when one
of the class, more intelligent than the rest, stepped forward, and,
after a twitch of his frontal lock, and an awkward scrape of the foot,
said, in a tone half supplicatory, half explanatory:

"Please, Sir, Pontius Pilate has getten th' ma-sles!" Meaning, of
course, that the boy who had been crammed to give the answer to that
particular question was laid up at home of the measles.

An exacting critic of the story might be ready to object and say that
it was within the right of the Examiner to put his questions to the
boys in an "order promiscuous." Well, I can only answer that he
didn't; besides, it is not the proper thing to spoil a good story by
captious criticism.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the earlier days of gas-lighting an old fellow in a Lancashire town
had the new light introduced into his house. It gave great
satisfaction at first, but later the light began to be troublesome by
bobbing up and down, and at times flickering out. Unable to remedy the
defect he sought the gas office and angrily lodged his complaint with
the manager. The latter promised to send a man to have the lights put
in order.

"Yo can do as yo liken," replied the complainant, "but after yon box
(alluding to the gas meter) is empty, we'll ha' no mooar!"

       *       *       *       *       *

As an example of ready wit, we have the story of Dicky Lobscouse, a
well-known Leyland character, who was brought up before the "Bench"
for being found drunk and incapable. After hearing the officer's
statement, and the culprit having nothing to say for himself, the
Chairman of the Bench pronounced the sentence usual in such
cases--"Five shillings and costs, or a week in Preston gaol."

"Thank yo, yor worship," said Lobscouse, pulling his front hair lock
and then holding out his hand, "aw'll tak' th' five shillin an'

       *       *       *       *       *

The factory Doffers of Lancashire are noted for their love of frolic
and mischief. For the information of readers it may be explained that
the Doffers (the "Devil's Own," as they are sometimes called) are lads
employed in the throstle room of the cotton factory. Their work
consists in removing the full bobbins of yarn from the spinning
frame--hence the name "Doffer," _i.e._ to doff or divest--and
supplying their places with empty bobbins to receive the yarn as it is
spun. This they accomplish with a dexterity that beats conjuring. For
a stranger visiting a cotton mill there is no greater treat than to
see the Doffers at work.

When the process of doffing is being performed the machine is stopped,
so, to stimulate the boys to greater rapidity at their work and thus
increase the productiveness of the machinery, they are allowed to
spend the intervals between the several doffings in exercise out of
doors, or in any other way they choose, always provided they do not go
beyond ear-shot of the "throstle jobber," who is a kind of "bo's'n" in
this department of the mill, and who summonses them with a whistle to
their work as often as they are required. The quicker their duties are
performed, the more time they have to themselves, hence the amount of
leisure and liberty the lads enjoy.

It has been suggested that the Doffers are the missing link
desiderated by Darwin; and, judged by their mischievous pranks, one
might almost be led to conclude that such is the fact, for they are
equally dexterous at mischief as at work. Their working dexterity is,
for the nonce, carried into their play.

I was an eye-witness of a practical joke played by a band of Doffers
upon an unsuspecting carter. He had got a cart-load of coals which he
was leisurely conveying to their destination along one of the
bye-streets; and having occasion to call at a house on the way, he
left his horse and cart standing by the road side. A swarm of Doffers
from a neighbouring factory espied the situation, laid their heads
together for a moment or two, and then came running stealthily up to
the cart, undid all the gears save what barely supported the cart from
dropping so long as the horse remained fairly quiet. Having completed
their arrangements they as quietly retired, and took their stand at a
cautious distance behind the gable-end of a house, whence in safety
they could reconnoitre the enemy. It was an enjoyable picture to me
who was in the secret, and for very mischief kept it, to see half a
score of little, greasy, grinning faces peeping from past the house
end, expectation beaming from every wicked eye.

The unwitting carter at length reappeared, and, giving a brisk crack
of his whip, had scarce got the "awe woy" from his lips, when Dobbin,
laying his shoulders to his work, ran forward with an involuntary
trot for ten or fifteen yards, whilst the cart shafts came with sudden
shock to the ground, and a row of cobs that had barricaded the smaller
coal flew shuttering over the cart head into the street. Fortunately
no damage resulted--the shafts by a miracle stood the shock.

The amazement of the victim of the trick may be imagined but scarcely
described. He gazed with open mouth at the catastrophe, and his
fingers naturally found their way to his cranium, which he scratched
in perplexity. The knot of jubilant faces at the street corner in the
distance soon supplied the key to his difficulty. The truth flashed
upon his mind. "Devilskins!" he muttered, and seizing one of the
biggest cobs he could grasp in his hand, he let fly at vacancy; for
before you might say "Jack Robinson," the mischievous elves had
vanished with a war-whoop, and ere the missile had reached the ground,
were probably knee deep in their next adventurous exploit.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the Rossendale district, with which I was acquainted for many
years, I knew some of the quaint old inhabitants, long since passed
away, whose remarks, as well as their reminiscences recounted to me,
interested and amused me, and some of which I have tried to recall.

Bull baiting was formerly a common sport in Rossendale as in other
parts of the country. A stake was fixed in the centre of the baiting
ground, to which the bull was tethered by a rope, when its canine
tormentors were let loose upon it amidst the yelling of a brutalised
mob. I once, curiously enough, in my own experience, met with an
example of the actual memory of the pastime having survived to a
recent date. An old Rossendale man one day attended a camp-meeting
held in a field at Sharneyford some distance away, and on afterwards
inquiring if he got to the meeting in time, "Yea," was the reply, "I
geet theer just as they wur teein' th' bull to th' stake." Meaning
that the preacher was just about opening the services. Rossendale was
by no means singular in its relish for the degrading practice. The
late John Harland, in his introduction to the "Manchester Court Leet
Records," recounts the fact that in Manchester in former times,
amongst the heaviest fines, or, as they were called, "amercements," on
the butchers, were those for selling bull beef, the bull not having
been previously baited to make the flesh tender enough for human food!
A significant commentary this on the morals and civilisation of our

To the introduction of water and steampower machinery in the earlier
part of the century, there were no stronger or more bitter opponents
than the Rossendale folks. In the early days, in many of the larger
houses were hand machines for the carding, spinning and weaving of
wool, whilst nearly every one of the smaller houses had its hand-loom.
When the factory system began to be introduced into the district, and
water-power was employed in turning the machinery, the strong
prejudices of the inhabitants found vent in a form of prayer which, in
seasons of drought, ran thus:

"The Lord send rain to till the ground, but not to turn the engines

The woollen carding engines are here referred to, these being put in
motion by the water-wheel.

But times of extreme drought in Rossendale are not of frequent
occurrence. The hills bring down the rain, and in the "Barley times,"
as the famine times at the beginning of the century were called, the
people had a saying that there was "plenty of porridge wayter in
Rossendale, if there was only the meal to put into it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Hareholme Mill in the Rossendale valley was one of the first mills,
as well as the most important mill, in the district. It belonged to a
Quaker firm, and was built at the end of last century. The chimney of
the mill, which was erected at a later date, is a curiosity. It
resembles a champagne bottle, with its broad base quickly gathered in
near the centre, and tapering to the summit. The cap or coping of the
structure is an exact copy of a Quaker's broad-brimmed hat, without
doubt intended by the humourist of a builder to exemplify the
religious tenets of the members of the firm. The Ram which surmounts
the belfry, typical of the woollen manufacture, was executed by an
ingenious workman named John Nuttall, and bears an admirable likeness
to the original. An architect from a neighbouring town, criticising it
freely and trying to display his superior taste, expressed an opinion
that the model of the Ram as designed was all very well done excepting
the horns. Whereupon Nuttall naively replied that whatever the merits
of the body of the animal, the horns were just as God had made them.
As a matter of fact they were an actual pair of ram's horns that he
had used.

       *       *       *       *       *

The power-loom breaking riots of 1826 were another exemplification of
the bitter feelings evoked by the application of steampower to the
turning of machinery. The rioters in Rossendale made havoc with the
new-fangled looms, which, they believed, would ruin their trade as
hand-loom weavers and take the bread out of their mouths. Their mode
of procedure on attacking a mill was to place a guard outside, then
the ringleaders entered; first they cut out the warps and destroyed
the reeds and healds, and then with a few well aimed blows they
demolished the looms. On the cry being raised: "Th' soldiers are
coming!" one old fellow cried out: "Never mind, lads, we met as weel
be shot by th' soldiers as clemmed by th' maisters!"

I have mentioned this circumstance by way of introducing "Long
George," the constable of Bacup during those disturbed times, an
eccentric character whom I knew well. George stood six feet two inches
in his stockings, hence the prefix, "Long" to his name. It was but
little that George and his myrmidons could do to prevent the mischief,
and so, with the instinctive sagacity of the "watch," they wisely kept
aloof from the scenes of outrage and spoliation.

Long George was a familiar figure in Bacup for many years after being
superseded in the duties as constable by the Peelers or police, as we
now have them.

At the beginning of his time, when he was village constable, he lived
in Lane Head Lane. On one wintry night, cold and stormy, the snow
drifting heavily, a night when folks could scarcely keep their
nightcaps from being blown off, some young fellows determined they
would play a trick on George. So they waited until they knew he had
got well into bed, and then they went up to his house in the Lane and
thundered at the door.

George got up, put his head out of the window, and saw two or three
snow-covered figures down below.

"Whatever dun yo want, chaps, at this time o' neet?" he called out.

"George, yo're wanted down at th' Dragon yonder, first thing!" One of
them shouted back in reply:

"What's th' matter theer?" asked George.

"There's about twenty on 'em yonder feighting o' of a rook, an' if
thae doesn't look sharp and come down and sunder 'em, they'll be one
hauve on 'em kilt!"

But George was not to be caught as easily as they imagined; he saw
through the trick that was attempted to be played on him, and,
ruminating for a moment, answered:

"I'll tell yo what yo maun do, chaps."

"What maun we do? What maun we do, George?" they asked.

"Go yor ways back to th' Dragon," said George, "an' lay 'em out on th'
tables, as money on 'em as gets kilt, an' i' th' morning I'll come
down an' count 'em," and with that he crashed the window down again,
leaving the discomfited jokers to find their way back to the
bar-parlour of the Dragon as best they might.

Latterly, George did duty as a bailiff, attending auction sales,
keeping the door, and handing the drink round to the thirsty bidders.
He wore a blue coat with metal buttons, knee-breeches and brown
stockings, with a pair of clogs at least fourteen inches in length,
and a sole an inch and a half thick. He was also adorned with a blue
apron which was usually tucked round his waist, and he wore for years
an old felt hat that had scarcely a vestige of brim left.

George, when I knew him, lodged with two elderly maiden sisters, Ann
o' th' Kiln and Judie, but he kept his own room in order, and did his
own cooking. One evening George's supper was on the hob, and some
practical jokers, being on the look out, attracted his attention
outside, whilst one of them slipped in and emptied a cupful of salt
into the pot.

George, on sitting down to his evening meal, found the porridge so
over-seasoned that it was impossible to eat them. He tried again and
again, muttering to himself: "Tha'll ha' to come to 't, George! Tha'll
ha' to come to 't!" but it was of no use, he had to give them up at

Determined, however, that they should not be thrown away or otherwise
wasted, he got a pudding cloth, and tying them up in this, hung them
from a hook in the ceiling of his room, and instead, thereafter, of
salting his porridge in the usual way, he cut a slice from the
over-salted compound as long as it lasted and put it in the pot, so
saving both salt and oatmeal. By frugality and self-denial George
managed to save a considerable sum of money, and was in the habit of
lending it out on security at good interest.

       *       *       *       *       *

Somewhat akin to this display of frugality was the action of some of
the first co-operators in Bacup. They early followed the example of
the Rochdale Pioneers, their society being established in the year
1847. They had a good deal to learn in those early days, and made
mistakes in buying. One of the mistakes, I remember, was the purchase
of a small cargo of Dutch or American cheeses. These, when they came
to hand, proved to be so hard that a knife blade stood no chance with
them. They were more like "young grindlestones" (as one of the shopmen
expressed it) than cheeses.

What was to be done? It would never do to throw them away--that was
out of the question. A hatchet would have mauled them and spoilt their
appearance; so Abram o' Bobs, who was equal to the emergency, brought
his hand-saw one night and divided them into a number of saleable
pieces. When cut, they had the appearance of brown ivory, and were
nearly as hard. There must have been some aching teeth and jaws before
those same cheeses were finally polished off!

It is not often that Rossendale men are so taken in. Waugh in one of
his sketches remarks that the men of Rossendale are "a long way
through." That is quite true as regards many of them. For that reason
they are also a long way round, and it is not easy "coming round" one
of the pure breed.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was amused with a remark made on one occasion by an old fellow best
known by the sobriquet of "Jobber Pilling's feyther." He had a
two-foot rule, and was trying to take the dimensions of a deal board
on which he was at work. The figures on his two-foot, however, were
quite illegible by reason of the blade being either soiled or worn.
Spitting on it, and giving it a rub with his coat sleeve, he looked
shrewdly at me, and remarked: "This thing wants kestnin' o'er again."
Whether he meant that the application of water would improve it, or
that the figures would do with recutting, I don't just know, but the
christening simile would be applicable either way.

By the way, we often find in Lancashire the sons and daughters having
the names of their father or mother applied to them along with their
own by way of recognition; as for example, "George o' Bob's," "Dick o'
owd Sally's," "Bill o' Jack's," and so on; but this is the only
instance I remember of the father being distinguished by a reference
to the son. Jobber Pilling, the son, was the more pronounced character
in the family, and so the elder representative of the name was known
as "Jobber Pilling's feyther."

When people are reputed to be wealthy, and especially if they make a
parade of their wealth, it is sometimes said in the vernacular that
"they fair stinken o' brass." Vulgar as is this phrase, it has the
true Chaucerean ring about it. One might almost take it to be a
quotation from the Canterbury Tales. For expressiveness and force it
cannot be surpassed.

In Rossendale, a red herring is called "a sodjer."

The stories that are told of some of the wealthier inhabitants of
Rossendale are curious and amusing. "Same as yo, Maister George," has
become a classic saying. It originated thus: The occasion was the
election of a poor-law guardian--an exciting event when political
parties, Whig and Tory, brought out their candidates, and put forth
their strength in the contest. Political feeling ran high then as now,
and guardians were elected on the colour of their politics quite
independently of their special fitness for the position.

George Hargreaves, Esquire, J.P., was the ruling Tory spirit in the
very heart of the Rossendale Valley in bygone years--a man of staunch
integrity and blameless life, and Tory to the backbone. The voters,
many of whom were dependent on him in various ways because he was a
man of property and an employer of labour, were crowding into the
school-room to record their votes, George himself marshalling his
partizans, and scanning the faces of doubtful supporters.

"Who are you voting for, Sam?" spoke out Mr Hargreaves to a sturdy
Rossendalean elbowing his way among the crowd.

"Same as yo', Maister George," answered Sam with a nod, "Same as yo',"
and "maister George" nodded back with a gratified smile. So it is
"same as yo', maister George," when the opinion of any present day
political or other weak-backed inhabitant is in question.

       *       *       *       *       *

A number of stories are related of John Brooks of Sunnyside, and Sam
Brooks, the well-known Manchester banker; John and Sam were brothers.
One of the stories is too good to be lost. When the Act of
Incorporation was obtained for, and government by a municipality was
first introduced into Manchester, it is said that John Brooks was
asked to stand as a Town-Councillor or Alderman. Being doubtful as to
the expediency of taking such a step, he promised to consult his
brother Sam and be guided by his advice.

Accordingly, he spoke to Sam on the subject, informing him that he
(John) had been asked to take office as a new-fangled Town-Councillor.
What did he think of it? Would it be wise or prudent for him to comply
with the request?

"Will they pay you for it?" enquired Sammy with a quick interrogative
glance at his brother.

"O, no!" John replied, "there 'll be no pay for th' job--nothing for
it but the honour of the position."

"Humph! honour be hanged!" responded Sam, "let me gi'e thee a bit of
advice, John; whenever thae does ought for nought, do it for

On one occasion Mr Sam Brooks had advertised for a dog. Sitting in his
breakfast-room, which looked out towards the entrance gate, he saw a
rough tyke of a youth coming along the drive partly dragging, partly
holding back with a cord, a mongrel-looking brute that had been sent
in answer to the advertisement.

Mr Brooks, rising, went to the door and accosted the youth:

"What have you got there, my lad?"

"A dog that mi feyther has sent."

"Thae feyther has sent it, has he? Hum!" (The millionaire banker
walked leisurely round the animal and surveyed its points.)

"How much does thae feyther want for it, my lad?" at length he asked.

"He wants a sovereign for it." "A sovereign! That's a devil of a

"Ay," was the response, "an mi feyther says that this is a devil of a

Doubtless Sam enjoyed the answer of the ingenuous youth, for he
relished a joke, but whether he purchased the uncommon animal at the
price asked for it is another question.

The following story by Mr George Milner[10] is another added to the
number. It is related of Mr Brooks, that on the occasion of a severe
illness, being told by his physician, at a time when money was at a
high rate of interest, that he must certainly prepare for the worst as
there was but slender hope of his recovery, he answered: "What? die!
and money at eight per cent.? Never, doctor, never!" The idea of
leaving his capital when it was more than usually remunerative was
more than he could bear.

[10] From an Article, "Table Talk" in _St Paul's (MS.) Magazine_.

       *       *       *       *       *

The following is a tale in a double sense. Rossendale farmers are not,
as a rule, given to practical joking, but an anecdote will show that
sometimes, at least, they can usefully indulge in that pastime. A
certain farmer was greatly perplexed as to the reason of the sudden
illness that occurred from time to time among his beasts, and which in
each case appeared to be the result of fright. To learn the cause of
this he set a watch, when he discovered that a neighbour's dog was in
the habit of running among the cattle and worrying them. This
neighbour was one of his best customers and particularly fond of his
dog, and caution was therefore necessary in approaching him on the

The aggrieved farmer spoke to his neighbour one day, told him of his
troubles, and suggested that a cure could be effected by cutting off
the end of the dog's tail, which would, he said, be better than
killing the animal or parting with it. To this the neighbour assented,
and the culprit being secured was held in position by the farmer,
while its owner stood with uplifted hatchet, ready to descend on the
animal's tail. The signal being given, down came the hatchet, when,
lo! instead of the tail-end dropping off, the dog's head was
completely severed; the farmer exclaiming: "By gum! but thad wur a
near do!" and declared that he knew it would cure it.

       *       *       *       *       *

A diminutive hunchback, being out of collar, applied for a situation.
"What can you do, my man?" asked the employer.

"Well," was the reply, "aw can dreyve a horse and cart."

"Drive a horse and cart! Why, man, the horse would tread on you."

"Would he, though?" was the ready response, "He'd ha' to get into th'
cart first!"

       *       *       *       *       *

The inhabitants of the Dean Valley in Rossendale have long been
celebrated for their excellence as musicians, both vocal and
instrumental; and it is from this fact that their appellation of
"Deyghn Layrocks" has arisen. From records more than a century and a
half old, we learn that they were in the habit of meeting in each
others' houses by turns, and practising together the compositions,
sacred and secular, which our country can boast in such rich
abundance. Many pieces of their own composing bear the impress of
ability far beyond mediocrity, and deserve to be more generally known.
Some of these have, indeed, already gone abroad into the world, and
are sung in places widely apart; being admired by those who are unable
to recognise either their origin or authorship.

I have in my possession a collection in manuscript of no fewer than
fifty sacred pieces, consisting of Psalm tunes and chants, composed by
residents in the Dean Valley, and in other parts of Rossendale. Large
as is this number, I have reason to believe that it is but a
fractional part of what might be collected in the locality. Some of
the names given to the pieces are characteristic of the dry humour of
the authors--a quality which is largely possessed by many of the old
inhabitants of the Forest. Among the list we find "Happy Simeon,"
"Little Amen," "Bocking Warp," "Strong Samson," "Old Methuselah," and
"Spanking Rodger."

In handloom days, when every man's house was his workshop, it was
usual for the Deyghners to repair to each other's houses alternately
after the Sunday's service at the Chapel, and continue their practice
of music far into the small hours of the Monday morning; and, on
rising after a brief repose, the Monday was spent in a similar manner.
Very often the Tuesday also was devoted to the like purpose. But
sound, however sweet, is but sorry food for hungry stomachs, and,
consequently, during the remaining days of the week, the loom had to
be plied with unremitting vigour to supply the ever-recurring wants of
the household.

It is related of two of the "Layrocks"--father and son--that they had
been busy trying to master a difficult piece of music, one with the
violin, the other with the violoncello, but were still unable to
execute certain of the more intricate movements to their satisfaction.
They had put their instruments aside for the night, and had retired to
rest. After his "first sleep," the younger enthusiast, in ruminating
over the performance of the evening, thought that if he might only
rise and attempt the piece _then_, he should be able to manage it.
Creeping from under the bed-clothes, he awoke his father, who also
arose; and soon the two in their shirts might have been seen, through
the unscreened window, flourishing their bows at an hour when ordinary
mortals are laid unconscious in the arms of Somnus. The lonely
traveller, had there been one at that untimely hour, would surely,
like Tam o' Shanter as he passed by "Alloway's auld haunted Kirk,"
have felt his hair rising on end at the sight of two ghostly
individuals scraping music at the dead of night, and in such unwonted

       *       *       *       *       *

The early Bacup Baptists used to immerse in the river Irwell at Lumb
Head. A story is related of an irreverent wag who placed a prickly
thorn at the bottom of the pool when old "Ab o' th' Yate" was
baptized. On complaining of the injuries he had sustained in the
process of immersion, Ab was consoled by being assured that it must
have been his sins that were pricking him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Richard Taylor of Bacup, the Rossendale "Ale-taster," was a humorist
of the first water. His proper calling was that of a spindle maker,
hence his sobriquet of "Spindle Dick," a rare workman at his trade
when he chose, and in his soberer hours. He was a fellow of infinite
jest, not lacking in sound judgment, but with that kind of twist in
his nature that would never allow him for two minutes at a spell to
treat any subject in a serious mood. In his hands there was nothing
incongruous or far-fetched in the office of ale-taster. Its duties,
incrusted with the antiquity of centuries, came as naturally to him as
though he had been living in the time of the Heptarchy, and was to the
manner born. The incongruity was when he forsook, as he occasionally
did, his ale-tasting duties and applied himself assiduously to his
business of spindle making.

The appointment of ale-taster took place annually along with those of
the greave, moor and hedge lookers, bellman and officers for the
assize of bread at the Halmot Court of the Lord of the Honor.

In earlier days the punishment for brewing or publicly vending bad ale
was either a fine or a two hours' seat upon the cuck-stool before the
culprit's own door. The drink, if pronounced by a discriminating judge
to be _undrinkable_, being handed over to the poor folk.

It is only in a district like Rossendale, that such an interesting
relic of the olden time could have survived. Regularly as the month
of October came round, Dick put in an appearance at the Halmot Court
and was reinstated in his office with due formality. A memorial
presented by him to the Court Leet contains some touches of dry humour
highly characteristic of the man. In this he says:

"From a natural bashfulness, and being unaccustomed to public
speaking, which my friends tell me is a very fortunate circumstance, I
am induced to lay my claim in writing before your honourable Court.

"The appointment which I hold is a very ancient one, dating, as you
are aware, from the time of the good King Alfred, when the Court Leet
appointed their head-borough, tithing-men, burs-holder and ale-taster;
which appointments were again regulated in the time of Edward III.;
and through neglect this important office to a beer-imbibing
population ought not to be suffered to fall into disrepute or

"In Rossendale there are countless numbers of practical followers of
the school to which that illustrious Dutchman, Mynheer Van Dunck,
belonged, and while they imbibe less brandy, they make up for it in
beer. For some Rossendale men, indeed, beer is meat, drink, washing
and lodging: and do away with the office of ale-taster, an inferior
quality of the beverage may be sold, and the consequent waste of
tissue among the working classes would be something awful to
contemplate. Your honourable Court, then, cannot but perceive the vast
importance of my office.

"At the time when Rossendale was in reality a forest, and a squirrel
could jump from one tree to another from Sharneyford to Rawtenstall
without touching the ground, the office of ale-taster was no doubt a
sinecure; but with the growth of population and the spread of
intelligence in Rossendale there has been a proportionate increase of
licensed public-houses and beer-shops, which has created a
corresponding amount of responsibility in my duties.

"For three years I have upheld the dignity of your honourable Court as
ale-taster without emolument, stipend, fee or perquisite of any kind.
I have even been dragged before a subordinate Court and fined five
shillings and costs whilst fulfilling the duties of my office. My
great service should receive some slight acknowledgment at your hands,
and thus would be secured the upright discharge of those duties you
expect me to fulfil; and my imperial gill measure, which I carry along
with me as my baton of office, should bear the seal of your
honourable Court.

"The quality of the beer retailed at the Rossendale public-houses is
generally good, and calculated to prevent the deterioration of tissue,
and I do not detect any signs of adulteration. The only complaint I
have to make is of the quality of the ales sold at Newchurch during
the week in which 'Kirk Fair,' is held; they are not then up to the
mark in point of strength and flavour; but this is a speciality, and
it is the only speciality that I feel bound to comment upon, excepting
that which immediately concerns your obedient servant, Richard Taylor,
Ale-taster for that part of Her Majesty's dominions known as

On a later occasion Mr Taylor sent in his resignation to the Halmot
Court as follows:

"Gentlemen, I respectfully, but firmly, tender my resignation as the
ale-taster of the Forest, an office which I have held for seven years
without any salary or fee of any description. During that period I
have done my duty both to his grace the Duke of Buccleuch (Lord of the
Honor of Clitheroe in which is the Forest of Rossendale) and to the
inhabitants generally. From feelings of humanity I refrain from
suggesting anyone as my successor, for unless he possesses an iron
constitution, if he does his duty to the appointment, he will either
be a dead man before the next Court day, or he will have to retire
with a shattered constitution."

The Court, however, declined to entertain Mr Taylor's petition, and
reappointed him to the office he had so long filled with so much
credit to himself (though with very questionable benefit) and to the
advantage of the many thirsty souls within his jurisdiction.

The reference to "Kirk Fair," and to the quality of the ale sold there
on those occasions will be appreciated by those who know the district.
For three successive days the streets of the village are thronged with
a surging mass of people on pleasure bent. As many of these come long
distances in the heat of summer, with their parched throats and high
spirits, they are naturally less critical of the quality of their
drink than at ordinary times; and the publicans, with what amount of
truth beyond the declaration of the official ale-taster, I am not
prepared to vouch, were suspected of taking advantage of the
circumstances to thin down and lengthen out their ales.

When in discharge of the functions of his curious calling of
ale-taster, Dick carried in his coat pocket a pewter gill measure of
his own fashioning, of peculiar old-world shape, with a turned
ebony-wood handle in the form of a cross that projected straight from
the middle of the side. This symbol of his office was secured by a
leathern thong about half a yard in length, one end being round the
handle, the other through a button-hole in his coat. After a day's
official work he might occasionally be seen, with unsteady gait,
wending his way up the lane to his domicile on the hillside, with the
gill measure dangling below his knee.

Not unfrequently he had to appear before the Bench for being drunk and
incapable, and though he was sometimes mulcted in a fine, as often as
not some smart sally of wit won the admiration and sympathy of the
"Great Unpaid," who let him down as softly as their sense of duty
would permit. Dick, on those occasions, would declare that it was his
legs only, and not his head, that was drunk. He would assert that,
like a barrel, he was easily upset when only partially filled; but,
when full to the bung and end up, he was steady as a rock.

At one time in his career Dick kept a beer-house, the sign over the
door being a representation of the Globe, with the head and shoulders
of a man projecting through it, and underneath it the legend: "Help me
through this World!" By way of counteracting any bad moral effects
that arose from his vending of beer on week-days, he taught a
Bible-class in a room over the beer-shop on Sundays. He christened one
of his sons "Gentleman," Gentleman Taylor, being determined, as he
said, to have one gentleman in the family, whatever else.

Poor Dick Taylor! I always felt grateful to his personality and to the
humour which girt him round. He was a link that bound us to the past;
a kind of embodied poetical idea in keeping with the ancient Forest
and its traditions. I have more than half a suspicion that he must
have been lying dormant for centuries in the muniment-room of
Clitheroe Castle, and, like Rip Van Winkle, awoke at length to resume
his interrupted duties. I never conversed with him without being
carried in imagination back to bygone times, and on such occasions it
was with a half-resentful feeling of annoyance that the proximity of a
later--should we be justified in saying, a higher?--civilization, in
the guise of a smoky factory chimney, dispelled the illusion.

The post of ale-taster, though still nominally maintained, is in
reality obsolete, and could not be revived, even in out-of-the-way
places, without committing an anachronism. Even in Dick Taylor's day
the office was looked upon as belonging to the past--a relic of a
bygone age, in which a social system, different from the present,
prevailed. It belonged to the days of stocks and pillories, of ducking
and cucking stools and scolds' bridles; of sluggard wakeners and dog
whippers. _Tempora mutantur._ It needed a genial humorist to assume
the duties of the office in this latter half of the nineteenth
century, and a vulgar imitator would find no favour.

In a wide and populous district the duties, when conscientiously
performed, were more than mortal stomach could bear unharmed, even
though the paunch were like that of Falstaff, which Dick's was not,
and leaving out of account the temptations which beset such an
official. Dick took to ale-tasting as a jest, though he fulfilled his
duties with a mock gravity that enhanced the fun of the situation.
Keen as was his taste for ale, he had a keener relish for the humour
of the position. Alas! it was joking perilously near to the edge of a
precipice. The last of the Ale-tasters died, a martyr to duty, on the
10th day of October, 1876. _Sic itur ad astra._

A number of curious legends, not lacking in humour, are current in the
Rossendale district. It is said that some of the youths of
Crawshawbooth village were amusing themselves at football on a Sunday
afternoon in the field between Pinner lodge and Sunnyside House. A
gentlemanly personage, dressed in black, approached and stood looking
at them for some time apparently interested in the game of the
Sabbath-breakers. The ball at length rolled to his feet, and, unable,
perhaps, to resist the temptation, he took it in his hand, and gave it
a kick that sent it spinning into the air; but instead of the ball
returning to _terra firma_, it continued to rise until it vanished
from the sight of the gaping rustics.

Turning to look at the stranger who had performed such a marvellous
feat, they espied--what they had not observed before--the cloven hoof
and barbed tail (just visible from underneath the coat) of his Satanic
Majesty! The effect of this unexpected discovery on the onlookers may
be imagined. Had the wall round the field been twelve feet high
instead of four it could hardly have prevented their exit. As for the
cause of their sudden dispersion, he vanished in a blaze of fire, and
the smell of the brimstone fumes produced by his disappearance was
felt in the village for many weeks after.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another story of the same personage is the following: At the corner of
the field between Stacksteads and the railway is a large
irregularly-shaped mound made up of earth, clay and coarse gravel. The
debris of which it is composed has probably been washed down out of
"Hell Clough," a depression in the hills immediately opposite, and
deposited at this place at a remote period of time. But there is a
legend connected with it. It is said that before the river Irwell had
scooped out its present channel through the Thrutch Glen--a narrow
gorge about eighty feet wide, through which the river, the road and
the railway run side by side--the whole of the valley extending thence
up to Bacup foot was covered by a vast sheet of water--a great lake
embanked by the surrounding hills. At Hell Clough it is said that his
Satanic Majesty had a country seat and was accustomed to perform his
ablutions in the lake in question. One day the water, swollen by heavy
rains, and lashed into fury by the wind, overflowed its banks at the
Thrutch, ploughing out a passage through the rock and shale which
hitherto had barred its progress. His Majesty of the cloven foot, who
stood upon the edge of the lake enjoying the storm himself had raised,
began to perceive the sudden withdrawal of the water from his feet.
Divining the cause, he slipped on a large apron, and, hastily filling
it with soil and gravel, made with all speed to repair the breach.
But, just as he reached the place where the mound described is
situated, his apron strings broke, and the mass of rubbish which he
carried fell to the ground, where it has lain to this day.

It is some such tradition of the close proximity of the devil to the
district which has given rise to the saying, quoted by Samuel Bamford:
"There's a fine leet i' th' welkin, as th' witch o' Brandwood said
when th' devil wur ridin' o'er Rossenda."

The "witch o' Brandwood" was probably concerned in the following
incident. It would appear that the intention of the founders of the
old Church at Kirk was to build it on a site at Mitchellfield-nook,
and that the materials for the structure were deposited at that
place--when one morning it was discovered that the whole had been
transported overnight by some unseen power to the hillside on which
the Church stands.

Not to be diverted from their purpose, the inhabitants again conveyed
the materials to the place which they had originally fixed upon, and
appointed a watch to frustrate any further attempts at removal. But
one night as the sentinel slumbered at his post--an enchanted sleep,
probably--the unseen hands had again been busy, with similar results.

A third time the materials were deposited on the chosen site, and, on
this occasion, three of the inhabitants appointed to keep watch and
ward. As these sat toasting their toes at a wood fire they had
kindled, an old lady with a kindly countenance, coming past, saluted
them with a pleasant "good e'en," at the same time offering them each
a share of some refreshment which she carried. This they had no sooner
partaken of, than a profound drowsiness overtook them, ending in a
deep and protracted sleep--from which in the morning they were
aroused by the shouts of the bewildered rustics who came only to find
that the pranks had a third time been repeated. So, yielding to the
decision of a power which was not to be outmanoeuvred, the builders
erected the church on its present site.[11]

[11] A somewhat similar legend exists in connection with the old
churches at Rochdale and Burnley.

       *       *       *       *       *

Reverting again to hand-loom days, and stepping over by Sharneyford
and Tooter Hill--"th' riggin' o' th' world," as Tim Bobbin called
it--the high ridge separating Rossendale from the Todmorden Valley, by
way of Dulesgate (Devil's gate), where Waugh assisted at the poker
weighing--we may encounter some of the finest examples of Lancashire
and Yorkshire border character, their conversation overflowing with
mother-wit and ready repartee. Speaking of some one who had a "good
conceit of himself," said old John Howorth to me; "there's only three
spoonfuls o' wit (sense) i' th' world, and yon mon has gettin' two on'

One old dame, recounting the struggles of poor folk in the days when
there was plenty of law, but a sad lack of justice--not to speak of
mercy--dealt out to the workers, and describing the kind of men and
their head servants who held the noses of the poor to the grindstone
while they themselves were laying the foundations of big fortunes,
spoke thus:

"Yei, it wur hard work for poor folk i' thoose days. We geet sixpence
a cut for weyving cuts, and in a whool week, working long hours, we
couldna' get through moore nor about nine or ten cuts--for they were
twenty yards long apiece. That would mak' five shillin' a week at
moast; an' when we had finished 'em, we had to carry 'em on our backs
two or three mile to th' taker-in.

"I con remember my owd mon once takin' his cuts in, and he had tramped
through th' weet and snow on a cowd winter's mornin', and when he had
gettin' his cuts passed by th' taker-in, he axed him if he would gi'e
him a penny to buy a penny moufin to eat as he wur goin' back whoam;
but th' taker-in said to him: 'Eh mon! if I wur to gi'e thee a penny
it would be gi'en' thee o' th' profit 'at our maisters get fro' a cut,
(whereas at the time they were probably making a clear guinea by each
of them). They're nearly working at a loss now by every cut yo
weyving. No, it'll never do to gi'e thee pennies in that reckless
fashion, Jone!'

"It wur hard work i' thoose days, I can tell thi', to get porritch and
skim milk twice a day, wi' happen a bit o' bacon on Sundays. Once I
had to go fro' near to Stoodley Pike, across Langfield Moor, wi' my
cuts. It were a raw cowd morning, very early, before it wur gradely
leet. An' when I geet to th' taker-in--eh! an' they wur hard uns,
thoose takers-in!--he says when he seed me:

"'Hillo! are yo here so soon, Betty? Warn't yo fley'd o' meetin' th'
de'il this morning as yo coom across Langfield Moor?'

"'Nowt o' th' soart,' I said, I wur noan feart o' meetin' th' de'il up
o' th' moor, for I knew th' hangmets weel that I'd find th' de'il when
I geet here!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Saving habits, to a much greater extent than prevail in the larger
towns, are a characteristic of the working people in these outlying
and semi-rural districts. This is accounted for to some extent by the
absence of temptation to the spending of money, and so the habit of
thrift gains in strength by the daily practice of it; just as the
opposite holds good where the opportunities for squandering money and
the temptation to do so are multiplied.

By reason, also, of the comparative isolation, a more marked
simplicity of character is observable among the people. Rambling with
a friend over the moors above Walsden, we called at a lonely farmhouse
to obtain such refreshments with bread and cheese as the goodwife
might be able to provide. With as much gravity as he could command, my
friend inquired of the damsel who waited on us, at what hour the
theatre opened up there. She hesitated for a moment as though trying
to realize the idea of a theatre, and then with equal gravity and
greater sincerity explained that there was no theatre in their
locality, though occasionally in the schoolroom, some mile and a half
distant, they had Penny Readings in Winter, and at times a Missionary

The theatre is a luxury in which they do not care to indulge very
largely, even if they had the opportunity of doing so. It may be that
the matter-of-fact qualities of their minds have been cultivated at
the expense of the imagination, like those of the youth to whom I
lent a copy of the "Pilgrim's Progress," recommending him to read it,
and believing it would interest him. When he brought it back I asked
him how he had enjoyed the book. His answer was scarcely what I
expected, and it was spoken in a contemptuous tone: "Why," said he,
"it's nobbut a dreyam!" One might be justified in coming to the
conclusion that in this youth there was the making of a hard-headed,
practical Lancashire cotton spinner.

But the Lancashire operative class are not all lacking in imagination,
as the next incident will show. Chancing to be in London one evening,
and going along the Strand, I came across two old Lancashire
acquaintances--working men--sauntering in the opposite direction. They
had come up on a three days' cheap trip to view the sights of the
Metropolis. Desiring to be of assistance to them in that direction,
and to make myself agreeable, I invited them to go with me to one of
the theatres. This proposal, however, did not seem to attract
them--the theatre was hardly in their line; so, by way of alternative,
and remembering that they were strong politicians, I suggested that
they should accompany me to the "Coger's Hall," at the bottom of Fleet
Street, and listen to a political discussion. This suggestion they
eagerly accepted, and, strolling along, we shortly found ourselves
snugly ensconsed in the discussion forum, each in an arm-chair, a pint
of stout in a pewter on the table in front of each of us, and long
clay pipes in our mouths. The subject of the evening was a burning
political question, and the discussion went on with great animation. I
saw that my friends were enjoying it immensely; at length, nudging one
of them, I inquired:

"How do you like it, Jim?"

Taking his pipe from between his teeth, his face beaming with a kind
of solemn satisfaction:

"Like it," he replied, "it's same as being i' heaven!"

He had in fact attained to the very acme of enjoyment; comfortably
seated in his chair, enjoying his pipe, his sense of hearing charmed
by the orators' well-turned periods, and, as he expressed it, "he
could sup when he'd a mind!" I have often seen my friends since then,
and I find that that evening spent in the discussion room at Coger's
Hall is marked with a red letter in their memory.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Drufty Ned" was well named, and he had numberless ways of raising the
wind when he wanted a gill with never a bodle to pay for it. One day
he called at Owd Sall o' Croppers, who kept the "Hit or Miss"
beerhouse and sold oatcake baked in Lancashire fashion on a

"Let's ha' hauve a dozen o' yor oatcakes, Sall," said Ned, as he sat
down by the fireside and leaned his elbows on the well-scrubbed table
in the tap-room.

The cakes were brought. "Bring me a gill o' ale, Sall, while aw warm
mi toes a bit." The ale was tabled, and Ned pretending he was short of
change, hands Sall back two of the oatcakes.

"Here, Sall, take pay for th' ale wi' two o' th' oatcakes." Sall
looked at him dubiously, but took the proffered payment.

Shortly, Ned knocked on the table with his empty pot, and called for
another gill. This was brought, and Ned handed back two more of the
oatcakes in exchange.

A third time the order was given, and shortly, Ned, having finished
both his ale and the cakes, began to clunter out towards the door,
calling out, "Good day, Sall."

"Here!" cried Sall, "tha hasn't paid for th' ale."

"Paid for th' ale," responded Ned, "aw paid for th' ale wi' th'

"Aw lippen thae did," said Sall a bit moidart, "aw lippen thae did,
but aw want payin' for th' oatcakes then."

"Payin' for th' oatcakes!" replied Ned, looking at the landlady in an
injured way, as though protesting that she wanted to impose upon him,
"payin' for th' oatcakes! Thae's gettin thi oatcakes, hasn't thae?"

"Yai, aw have," responded Sall. "It's queer, but it'll happen be

       *       *       *       *       *

Miss Lahee in one of her amusing sketches points out that in East and
South Lancashire, parents sometimes have their male progeny named in
baptism according to the profession or position they should like
them to attain in after life, hence we find such names as the
following applied to people for the most part in humble
circumstances:--"Captain" Duckworth, "Major" Fitton, "Doctor" Hall,
"Squire" Crawshaw, "Lord" Massey, and even "Canon" Ball. To these may
be added "Lord" Tattersall and "Gentleman" Taylor. One aspiring mother
had her hopeful son christened "Washington," but by some mistake the
name in the register got set down as "Washing done"!

       *       *       *       *       *

"What size was it?" the witness was asked when in the witness box
giving evidence.

"It was about th' mickle of a piece of chalk," was the answer.[12]

[12] This is nearly as explicit as the description given by a person
of the hailstones that fell during the thunder-storm. He said that
they varied in size from a shilling to eighteen-pence.

       *       *       *       *       *

In one of the hamlets lying beyond Todmorden, in the Burnley valley,
there was a curious specimen of the Lancashire border character, Hiram
Fielden, who kept a grocer's shop, and dealt also in the other
commodities expected to be inquired for by a village community. In his
younger days Hiram had been a cotton weaver in a mill, but his
ambition was to save a little money, get married, and open a "Badger's
Shop." By the exercise of great frugality, along with the help of the
savings which his wife, Betty, brought him, he achieved his purpose.

He began business in a humble way at first; but gradually as his
customers increased, his business grew, and instead of continuing to
vend treacle from a two-gallon can, he at length ventured on giving an
order for a whole hogshead at once! The arrival of this consignment
created quite a sensation in the village; the like had never been seen
there before, and the urchins who watched the process of unloading
the precious cask, and saw it safely deposited end up in the corner of
the store, smacked their lips as their imagination pictured the
luscious reservoir of sweets. In the course of the day a further
consignment--this time of whitewash brushes--arrived, and Betty,
mounting a chair in the corner, and thence stepping on to the top of
the treacle barrel, was just in the act of hanging the brushes on the
hook in the ceiling, when the barrel end gave way underneath her, and
down she settled gradually up to the arm-pits into the syrupy mass!

Hiram, who was busy at the back of the shop, hearing the crash,
hurried in to ascertain the cause, and stood for a few moments gazing
in consternation at the head of his better-half barely visible above
the barrel edge. What was to be done? Ruin and disgrace and ridicule
stared him in the face, but with great presence of mind he ran to the
shop door, closed it, shot the bolt, and then drew down the window

Mounting the barrel and securing a footing on its edge, he succeeded,
by the help of a clothes-line which he looped on to the hook overhead,
and which she stoutly grasped, in gradually extricating Betty from her
savoury bath. Carefully he stroked the treacle from her as she rose
ceilingwards, and, that no loss of merchandise might ensue, at the
same time wiping her down with a cloth dipped in a bucket of water;
thus all traces of Betty's misadventure were soon obliterated, and
nobody but themselves was any the wiser.

Hiram, in recounting the circumstance to me, confidentially, after
long years had elapsed, declared that the run on that hogshead was
immense. It was relished by his customers, old and young, and was the
occasion of more oatmeal being consumed in the village than had ever
previously been known, so that what at first appeared to Hiram to be
an irretrievable misfortune, turned out profitable in more ways than

"Eh! but, mon," said Hiram, shaking his head, and with a solemn
countenance, "that hogshead o' treacle wur th' ruination o' me."

"Ruination!" I exclaimed in puzzled surprise. "How do you mean?"

"Well, yo' see, me and our Betty had been wed for three yer, and up to
then we'd had no childer, but hoo began from that time forrud, and
never once stopped till hoo had thirteen! Eh! that hogshead o' treacle
wur t' ruination o' me!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr Milner thus describes and explains a curious old Lancashire custom:
"When a young fellow goes courting his sweetheart on a Friday night,
the neighbours come out and ring a frying-pan to scare him away. The
reason of the practice is clear. Friday is the especial night when in
working men's houses the Penates are worshipped with pail and brush,
and a fellow skulking about the place is an intrusion and a hindrance.
In a quiet street the well-understood sound heard, then all the people
rush to their doors, and probably catch a glimpse of the swain who
loves not wisely but too well, darting down a passage or round a
corner, glad to escape with his face unseen!"

"Riding the Stang," or pole, is still common in out-of-the-way
Lancashire villages. It is usually resorted to in those rare instances
where a wife has given her husband a thrashing. The neighbours mount a
boy on a "stang," or pole, and carry him through the streets in the
neighbourhood where the incident has occurred. The procession stops at
intervals, and the boy recites the following doggerel rhymes to the
accompaniment of the drumming of pans and kettles:--

    "Ting, tong to the sign o' the pan!
    She has beat her good man.
    It was neither for boiled nor roast,
    But she up with her fist, an'
    Knocked down mesther, post!"

Some of the older two-storied houses in Bolton at one time were let
out in flats, the upper floor being reached by a flight of about a
dozen or fifteen steps running up outside the gable. These were
generally unprotected by a handrail, and even the landing at the top
was equally unprotected and dangerous. Dick Windle, noted as much for
his reckless character as for his ready wit, was visiting an
acquaintance whose domicile was reached by such a flight of steps as I
have described. They had had a glass or two in the course of the
evening, and, on leaving, Dick's head was none of the clearest; and
although the night was not very dark, yet, emerging from the
gaslighted room, the steps were not easily discernible. Instead of
turning to the right as he came out by the door on to the landing,
Dick strode clean off the landing edge in front of him, and came down
with a crash to the bottom! Happily, except for a severe shaking, he
was unhurt. Gathering himself up, and whilst yet on all fours, he
called out to his friend, who was staring over the landing edge in
consternation at Dick's sudden disappearance: "D--n it, Bill! How mony
mooar steps is there o' this mak?" The prospect of a dozen more of the
same depth before he could reach the street level, might well prompt
the anxious question.

       *       *       *       *       *

Journeying one day to fulfil a professional engagement at Whittingham
Lunatic Asylum near Preston, I arrived at the Junction where
passengers alight to reach the Asylum by the single line of railway
which has been made expressly for the use of that institution.

It was a bleak winter day, the sleet was driving before a nor'-west
wind, and I turned into the waiting-room at the station to warm myself
at the fire until the engine with its two carriages came up the branch
line. I happened to be the only passenger that had come by the train.
As I sat on a chair with my feet on the fender at one side of the
fire, a sturdy middle-aged man joined me, and seated himself also on a
chair on the opposite side.

"Good morning," said I, by way of introduction. He looked intently at
me for a second or two, as if to take stock whether I was a possible
lunatic on my way to the House, and then replied: "Same to yo,"
bending towards the fire and warming his hands.

"I suppose that is the Lunatic Asylum that we can see over yonder,"
jerking my thumb towards the window through which the Asylum buildings
were visible in the distance.

"Yai, it is," he replied, again looking intently in my face.

"There's a lot of mad folk in it, I suppose?"

"Ay, there is," was the answer.

"More than two thousand," I remarked.

"Ay, mooar than two thousand."

Here there was a pause for a minute in our conversation, when he
blurted out with startling suddenness:

"Aw'm one o' th' mad 'uns!"

The information came upon me so unexpectedly, and was conveyed with
such emphasis, and in such gruesome manner, that I could not help an
involuntary start and an instinctive glance towards the waiting-room
door to see whether it was open. Collecting myself, and pushing my
chair back a bit to put a little more distance between us, I resumed:

"You're one o' th' mad 'uns, are you?"

"Ay, aw am."

"You don't look like it, friend," I said.

"Ay, but aw am, though!"

"Well, and how do you happen to be here?" I inquired.

"Why?" he replied, "Aw'm th' asylum poastman. Aw come to meet th'
trains as brings th' poast-bags."

Just then the lilliputian train from the Asylum ran into the siding at
the station, and my mad friend, shouldering the letter-bags that he
had placed at the waiting-room door, got into the lunatic carriage and
I into the other. The engine whistled, and away we sped down the line
towards the abode of sorrow.

There was a pathetic humour in the conversation I had had with "one
o' th' mad 'uns," and my reflections turned upon the varying degrees
of madness that afflict not only the inmates of an asylum, but also we
their more favoured brethren outside its walls.



    Ab' o' th' Yate, 3, 18, 101

    Abram, Mr, Historian of Blackburn, 61

    Abram o' Bobs, 91

    Ale-taster of Rossendale, the, 101, 103

    Amen, Little, 99

    Animal food, 66

    Ann o' th' Kiln and Judie, 89

    Apostles' Creed, the, 77

    Aspirate, dropping the, 61, 62, 63

    Astronomer, Crabtree, the, 21

    Asylum, Whittingham Lunatic, 128

    Authors in Lancashire Dialect, 2, 5


    Badger's shop, a, 123

    Bailey, Sir William, 49

    Ball, Canon, 122

    Bamford, Samuel, 112

    Barley Times, 85

    Belmont Churchwardens, 67

    Besom Ben, 3, 16

    Bill o' Jack's, 92

    Blackley, meeting at, 18

    Bobbin, Tim, 2, 3, 10, 11, 12

    Bobbins, thou'rt short o', 49

    Bocking Warp, 99

    Boring for compensation, 73

    Brandwood, witch o', 112

    Brierley Ben, 2, 5, 18, 75

    Bright, John, 47, 48

    Brooks, John, of Sunnyside, 94

    Brooks, Sam, Manchester banker, 94, 95, 96

    Bull-baiting in Rossendale, 83

    Burs-holder, 103


    Chaucer, 4

    Christmas soiree, girl at, 37

    Clare, O. Leigh, Q.C., M.P., 53, 63

    Clegg, Trafford, 5

    Coal strike in Lancashire, 55

    Coger's Hall, 118

    Collier, John, 2, 3, 10, 12

    Consecrating the footpaths, 63

    Co-op. Mills, 69

    Coud an' hungry, 17

    Court Leet, 103

    Court, Halmot, 102

    Crabtree, the astronomer, 21

    Crawshaw, Squire, 122

    Crawshawbooth Sabbath breakers, 110

    Cronje at St Helens, 64

    Cross, Lord, 52


    Daisy year, a, 40

    Derby, Lord, 54

    Devil of a dog, a, 96

    Deyghn Layrocks, 98, 100

    Dialect, antiquity of the Lancashire, 3

    Dick o' owd Sally's, 92

    Dick, Spindle, 101

    Disraeli, Mr Bright on, 48

    District of Lancashire Dialect, choicest, 1, 2

    Doffers, Lancashire Factory, 80

    Dog's tail, cutting off a, 97

    Drufty Ned, 120

    Duckworth, Captain, 122

    Duckworth, Mr, M.P. for Middleton, 54

    Dulesgate, 114


    Eccles and his coachman, 38

    Election questions, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54

    "Elijah," the Oratorio of, 67


    Factory Doffers, 80

    Fair, Kirk, 106

    Fiddler, the old, 16

    Fielden, Hiram, 123

    Fielden, Mr, M.P. for Blackburn, 62

    Fitton, Major, 122

    Fitton's visit to the Earl o' Derby, 20

    Flea and elephant, the, 39

    Foreigners, prejudice against, 74

    Fraser, Dr, Bishop of Manchester, 34

    Free thoughts by a Manchester man, 32

    Friday night courting, 126

    Fry, J. Pease, 53

    Funerals of the working classes, 41


    Gaskell, Rev. W., M.A., on dialect, 4

    Gas-lighting, 79

    Gentleman Taylor, 108, 122

    George, Long, constable of Bacup, 87

    George o' Bob's, 92

    Girl at Christmas soiree, 37

    Gower, 4

    Great Unpaid, the, 107


    Hall, Dr, 122

    Halliday, Thomas, 31

    Halmot Court, 102

    Hampson, R. J., on Quacks, 28

    Handley, Mr, landlord of the "Derby," 57

    Handloom days, in, 99, 114

    Happy Simeon, 99

    Hareholme Mill in Rossendale, 85

    Hargreaves, George, J.P., 93

    Harland, John, 84

    Head-borough, 103

    Hell Clough, 111

    Hit or Miss, 120

    Horace, quoted, 60

    Hornby, Mr, M.P. for Blackburn, 62

    Howorth, John, 114

    Humour as a lever, 73

    Hunchback, diminutive, 98


    Image-maker and Buddha, the, 38

    In handloom days, 99

    Inspection, humours of School, 76, 77

    Insular prejudice, 74

    Irish and Lancashire humour compared, 55

    Isle of Man tripper, 39


    Jammie, Long, brid-stuffer, 19

    Jobber Pilling's feyther, 92

    John's uncle, 42

    Jonson, Ben, 4

    Justice Willes, 61


    Kay, Billy, and his parrot, 19

    Keene, Charles, picture in "Punch," 63

    Kiln and Judie, Ann o' th', 89

    Kirk Fair, 106

    Knot Mill Fair, 76

    Krooger, Owd, 64


    Lahee, Miss, 5, 20, 122

    Lamb, Rev. Robert, 32, 77

    Lancashire character, examples of, 2, 5

    Lancashire Dialect, antiquity of, 3

    Lancashire Factory Doffers, 80

    Lancashire man abroad, the, 74

    Lancashire memories, by Mrs Potter, 35

    Lancashire proverbs, 39

    Landlord of the "Derby," the, 57

    Laycock, Samuel, 5

    Layrocks, Deyghn, 98, 100

    Lectures, Gaskell's, on Lancashire Dialect, 4

    Leyland character, a, 79

    Little Amen, 99

    Lobscouse, Dicky, of Leyland, 79

    Long George, constable of Bacup, 87

    Long Jammie, brid-stuffer, 19

    Lunatic Asylum, Whittingham, 128


    Maister George, 93

    Malaprop, Mrs, 63

    Manchester clergyman and the sick woman, the, 33

    Manchester Court Leet Records, 84

    Manchester Ship Canal, 70

    Massey, Lord, 122

    Memories, Lancashire, by Louise Potter, 35

    Methuselah, Old, 99

    Milestone, the, 58

    Mill, Stuart, 37

    Milner, George, 96, 126

    Mining village, stranger in, 27


    Nab, Rondle o' th', 17

    Names of recognition, 92

    Ned, Drufty, 120

    Nuttall, John, 86


    Old Trafford County cricket match, 24

    Oldham woman and the New Jerusalem, 33

    One o' th' mad 'uns, 129

    Orange-woman and Ben Brierley, 75

    Oratorio of "Elijah," the, 67

    Ormerod, Oliver, 2, 12, 16

    Owd Neddy Fitton's visit to the Earl o' Derby, 20

    Owd Jack's throttle, 17

    Owd Pooter, 64, 66

    Owd Sam and Mr Handley, 56

    Owdham Chap at Old Trafford, th', 24

    Owdham Chap on the tread-mill, th', 23


    Parrot, Billy Kay's, 19

    Pyckin' 'em out, you're, 56

    Pigeon-flyer, the dying, 25

    Pilgrim's Progress, nobbut a dreyam, 118

    Pilling's feyther, Jobber, 92

    Pioneers, Rochdale, 90

    Pooter, Owd, 64, 66

    Porritch powder, 17;
      water, 85

    Postman, Whittingham Lunatic Asylum, 128

    Potter's Memories, Louise, 35

    Power-loom breaking riots of 1826, 86

    Preston House of Correction, 23, 79

    Proverbs, Lancashire, 39

    Put a notice up, 65


    Quacks, R. J. Hampson on, 28

    Quiet sow, th', 39


    Rachde Felley in London, the, 12, 13, 14

    Recognition, names of, 92

    Riding the Stang, 126

    Riggin' o' th' world, th', 11, 114

    Riots of 1826, power-loom breaking, 86

    Roberts, General, 64

    Robin o' Sceawter's feyther, 17

    Rochdale Pioneers, the, 90

    Rodger, Spanking, 99

    Rondle o' th' Nab's cat, 17

    Rossendale loom breakers, 87

    Rough and enough, 40


    Sall o' Croppers, 120

    Sam, Owd, of Bury, 56

    Samson, Strong, 99

    School Inspection, humours of, 76, 77

    Scotch and Lancashire humour contrasted, 55

    Shakespeare, 4, 9

    Shackleton, Jim, and boring for compensation, 70

    Ship Canal, Manchester, 70

    Shooting or worrying th' Boers, 58

    Simeon, Happy, 99

    Sixteen eggs for a shilling, 65

    Smith, Jack, of Blackburn, 61

    Socialist, a Lancashire, 59

    Sond brid, the, 19

    Spanking Rodger, 95

    Spenser, 4

    Spindle Dick, 101

    Stalybridge man and his hat, 43

    Stang, riding the, 126

    Staton, J. T., 5

    Steam pressure, 64

    Stuart Mill, 37


    Ta'en 'em as they come, 56

    Taker-in, the, 115

    Tattersall, Lord, 122

    Taylor, Gentleman, 108, 122

    Taylor, Richard, the Rossendale ale-taster, 101

    Thrutch, the, 111

    Tim Bobbin, 2, 3, 10, 11, 12

    Tithing-men, 103

    Touching th' moon, 68

    Tramp and the stonebreaker, 58

    Treacle barrel, the, 124

    Tummus and Meary, John Collier's, 2, 10

    Tyldesley collier and his bull-dog, the, 21


    Unpaid, the Great, 107


    Volunteer movement, 47


    Walmsley Fowt, 18

    Walton, Jim, the astronomer, 21

    Ward, Artemus, 16

    Warp, Bocking, 99

    Waugh, Edwin, 2, 5, 16, 17, 37, 91, 114

    Wheelbarrow, collier and, 28

    Whittingham Lunatic Asylum Postman, 128

    Wigan collier and his boy, 45

    Willes, Justice, 61

    Windle, Dick, 127

    Witch o' Brandwood, 112

    Working man going to the Isle of Man, the, 38

    Worrying or shooting th' Boers, 58

    Wycliffe, 4


    You're pykin' 'em out, 56

    Young grindlestones, 91


Transcriber's Note:

Inconsistent and archaic punctuation and spelling retained.

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