Honley Feast (1851)

The 1851 Honley Feast took place between Sunday 21 September and Tuesday 23 September.

The Huddersfield Chronicle reported that young children had been heard chanting the following verse in the days before the event:[1]

Honley feast is coming on,
    Boys and girls are plenty ;
Every lad shall have a lass,
    But I'll have four and twenty.

The Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner reported that the feast had been "generally well attended" and that Honley Railway Station had been "litterally beseiged with visitors" throughout the event.[2]

Honley Annual Temperance Festival

Perhaps to try and counter the excesses of the feast, the Honley Temperance Society held its annual festival on Tuesday 23 September at the National School Rooms. Dr. Frederic R. Lees of Leeds gave a length speech the "great social evil" of drink that was "corrupting the character of the young." Afterwards, Mrs. L. Peace sang the popular Temperance songs "The Gin Fiend" and "The Dream of the Reveller", both based on poems by Charles Mackay.[3]

"The Gin Fiend"
The Gin-Fiend cast his eyes abroad,
    And look’d o’er all the land,
And number’d his myriad worshippers
    With his bird like, long right hand.
He took his place in the teeming street,
    And watch’d the people go ;
Around and about, with a buzz and a shout,
    For ever to and fro ;—
"And it’s hip !" said the Gin-Fiend, "hip, hurra!
    "For the multitudes I see,
"Who offer themselves in sacrifice,
    "And die for the love of me."
There stood a woman on a bridge,
    She was old, but not with years—
Old with excess, and passion, and pain,
    And she wept remorseful tears
As she gave to her babe her milkless breast ;
    Then, goaded by its cry,
Made a desperate leap in the river deep,
    In the sight of the passers-by !
"And it's hip!" said the Gin-Fiend, "hip, hurra!
    "She sinks ;— but let her be !
"In life or death, whatever she did,
    "Was all for the love of me."
There watch'd another by the hearth,
    With sullen face and thin ;
She utter'd words of scorn and hate
    To one that stagger'd in.
Long had she watch'd, and when he came
    His thoughts were bent on blood ;—
He could not brook her taunting look,
    And he slew her where she stood.
"And it's hip !" said the Gin-Fiend, "hip, hurra
    "My right good friend is he ;
"He hath slain his wife, he hath given his life,
    "And all for the love of me."
And every day, in the crowded way,
    He takes his fearful stand,
And numbers his myriad worshippers
    With his bird-like, long right hand ;
And every day, the weak and strong,
    Widows, and maids, and wives,
Blood-warm, blood-cold, young men and old,
    Offer the Fiend their lives.
"And it's hip !" he says, "hip ! hip ! hurra !
    "For the multitudes I see,
"That sell their souls for the burning drink,
    "And die for the love of me."
"The Dream of the Reveller"
Around the board the guests were met, the lights above them beaming,
And in their cups, replenish’d oft, the ruddy wine was streaming ;
Their cheeks were flush’d, their eyes were bright, their hearts with pleasure bounded,
The song was sung, the toast was given, and loud the revel sounded.
I drain'd a goblet with the rest, and cried, "Away with sorrow !
Let us be happy for to-day ; what care we for tomorrow ?"
But as I spoke, my sight grew dim, and slumber deep came o'er me,
And, 'mid the whirl of mingling tongues, this vision pass'd before me.
Methought I saw a demon rise : he held a mighty bicker,
Whose burnish'd sides ran brimming o'er with floods of burning liquor,
Around him press'd a clamorous crowd, to taste this liquour, greedy,
But chiefly came the poor and sad, the suffering and the needy ;
All those oppress’d by grief or debt, the dissolute, the lazy,
Blear-eyed old men and reckless youths, and palsied women crazy ;
"Give, give !" they cried, "Give, give us drink, to drown all thought of sorrow ;
If we are happy for to-day, what care we for tomorrow ?"
The first drop warm'd their shivering skins, and drove away their sadness ;
second lit their sunken eyes, and fill'd their souls with gladness ;
third drop made them shout and roar, and play each furious antic ;
fourth drop boil'd their very blood ; and the fifth drop drove them frantic.—
"Drink !" said the Demon, "Drink your fill ! drink of these waters mellow ;—
They'll make your eye-balls sear and dull, and turn your white skins yellow ;
They'll fill your homes with care and grief, and clothe your backs with tatters ;
They'll fill your hearts with evil thoughts; but never mind !— what matters !
"Though virtue sink, and reason fail, and social ties dissever,
I'll be your friend in hour of need, and find you homes for ever ;
For I have built three mansions high, three strong and goodly houses,
To lodge at last each jolly soul who all his life carouses.—
first, it is a spacious house, to all but sots appalling,
Where, by the parish bounty fed, vile, in the sunshine crawling,
The worn-out drunkard ends his days, and eats the dole of others,
A plague and burthen to himself, an eyesore to his brothers.
"The second is a lazarhouse, rank, fetid, and unholy ;
Where, smitten by diseases foul and hopeless melancholy,
The victims of potations deep pine on the couch of sadness,
Some calling Death to end their pain, and some imploring Madness.
third and last is black and high, the abode of guilt and anguish,
And full of dungeons deep and fast, where death-doom'd felons languish ;
So drain the cup, and drain again ! One of my goodly houses
Shall lodge at last each jolly soul who to the dregs carouses !"
But well he knew — that Demon old — how vain was all his preaching,
The ragged crew that round him flock'd were heedless of his teaching ;
Even as they heard his fearful words, they cried, with shouts of laughter,—
"Out on the fool who mars to-day with thoughts of an hereafter !
We care not for thy houses three ; we live but for the present ;
And merry will we make it yet, and quaff our bumpers pleasant."
Loud laugh'd the fiend to hear them speak, and, lifting high his bicker,
"Body and soul are mine !" said he ; "I'll have them
both for liquor."

Notes and References

  1. "Honley: The Feast" in Huddersfield Chronicle (20/Sep/1851).
  2. "Honley Feast" in Huddersfield and Holmfirth Examiner (27/Sep/1851).
  3. "Honley Annual Temperance Festival" in Huddersfield Chronicle (27/Sep/1851).