Huddersfield Chronicle (07/Jul/1894) - Sport, Newsome and Primrose Hill, and a Carlilian Reformer
SPORT, NEWSOME AND PRIMROSE HILL, AND A CARLILIAN REFORMER.
(From Our Correspondent "Cid.")
Do you love sport? I do. And would encourage it? Yes, when reasonable and free from palpable cruelty. What about betting and the evils ascribed to sport? No proficiency can be attained without expense and much time in practice, and I would rather pay to see games of skill done well than that they should not be practised for want of means. Most of the out-door games, too, are exceptionally healthy, and in-door pastimes can be made so. To spend or stake money on games of chance has no defence, but on sports where skill, dexterity, pluck, and stamina are required there is a complete defence. Those who would blot sporting news from the press overshoot the mark, and aim at the impossible. Emulation seems to be innate in man, and will, therefore, persist in asserting itself in all the forms the human frame is capable of adapting itself to, or the mind can invent, in the individual, collectively, with or without the lower creation. I generally find that those who decry games were, in their youth, failures in such things, and, therefore, they are all the more ready to perceive the evils attendant on athletics. Still, sports of all kinds increase, and seem likely to increase. Of course, if the animal propensities are allowed to predominate over the intellectual, and when money is aimed at more than the wholesome desire to excel, it is bad and must ever be bad, but that all sport and sportsmen can be controlled and regulated is daily seen, consequently, instead of standing aloof, and looking with holy horror on the worst side of games and athletics, men of intellect, of statesmanlike qualities, and of eloquence, able to expose wrong and excess, would interest themselves in the pastimes of the people, they might prevent more sin than by preaching to the elect or at those who see no harm in the rivalrous pursuit of athletics. There is every reason to believe that by cultivating local contests, county contests, and international contests, where the best skill and prowess are required, instead of enviously preparing to be ready to slaughter each other, such contests would act as safety-valves to the welling strength of nations, while the happy uncertainty of success would train appreciation for one another’s skill which words, words, words, would never accomplish. Further, there is nothing that maintains the influence of the British people throughout the world more than the sports they practise and take with them wherever they go. As the sun ever shines on the British dominions, so does it ever give light to the sports of their inhabitants, and illumines the glow of expectancy of the winners, or makes plain the momentary gloom of the losers, while the manliness induced by the unstinted recognition of skill and pluck by both is ever pleasurable and commendable. I once heard a lecturer of the cleverest intellect, and the highest attainments, discourse exhaustively, but most interestedly, on the trade of the world, especially that of Britain, during which he held between his finger and thumb the font letter “e,” and said he had more faith in the printers’ art as a civiliser than in all the speechmaking the world could listen to. A man of eloquence and power may command, lead, or drive the multitude; he may expound well thought out doctrines and high ideals; he may cast a dazzling light on subjects that hitherto seemed beclouded with doubt and mystery; he may, in the exuberance of his oratory, and in his excessive zeal, even make the impossible seem possible; he may, with a terrible flow of words, make the bad dreadfully repulsive and the good so pure and exalted that the earth would seem a paradise and virtue the prevailing joy of existence; he may tap the tears of delight and draw forth the salt drops of sorrow and remorse, but unless he would guard against a revulsion of feeling his eloquence must be supplemented, if not prompted, by the press and the virile strength of the nation.
These thoughts rush through my mind as I pass up Bluebell Hill and sniff the fragrance from the allotments to the right, which are just now at their best and bespeak a plentiful crop of fruit and vegetables. Yet, even here two men are quarreling about politics. As one digs or prunes the other talks, then they shout defiantly at each other, and there is evidently a great diversity of opinion between them, which sounds strange amid such calm loveliness. I am informed that they have been thus debating for an hour, and as I leave there seems no possibility of their settling anything, indeed, they approach each other spade in hand, and, if I did not know them, I should think they intended to brain each other. Bluebell Hill is the resort of wobbling butterflies. From Lockwood Scarr up the gully to Close Hill they chase or meet each other in zigzag gladsomeness, flapping their creamy wings hither and thither, up and down, as if they knew that their conspicuousness exposed them to feathered enemies. I am soon at Newsome. I dare assert that no one has mounted to this pleasant place, for the purpose of escaping from the valley of smoke, if not of death, so often as I. I take pleasure in being able to change from a unit in the throbbing, striving, grimy throng to a monarch of the hills and the fresh air, and if not of all I survey I can at least feel as if I were. From this place you have a delightful view. You may at once be refreshed and see something worth seeing, especially if you pass along the bridle-road towards Berry Brow. There are Beaumont Park, Butternab, Dungeon Wood, Deyn Wood, Big Valley, Netherton Moor, Honley, and up and up to the grand line that merges with the sky and the clouds. Then you can never escape dear old Castle Hill. If you were to breathe “Castle Hill” in any part of the globe you would find ears to listen to you, the owners of which would wait for no introduction before they either claimed kinship or acquaintanceship with you. From Newsome I have enjoyed much varied scenery, and seen Huddersfield draped as only the sun, moon, frost, snow, rain, hail, cloud, mist, and smoke can set it forth or hide it. If the town be shrouded by muddy, brown-black, smutty smoke you may generally escape it here. I have pushed through the cloud morn, noon, and night many times. It is a sight to be remembered when you are bathed in sunshine, while the valley and Huddersfield are shrouded like death and the grave, from which occasionally others like yourself emerge as if from the dead. If the mist be that of the morning, or newly-formed, you will see it gradually change its hue as thousands of chimneys throw off unused fuel, and you will be able to see pillars of black smoke rise above the sea of vapour, and watch them collapse and sink like drowning demons, spreading their sprawling arms as they gaspingly disappear and leave on the surface of the rolling sea the inky frothings of their stiffling fumes. On such an occasion you see a reversion of things. Instead of the clouds being above they are below you, now scattering, then coalescing like waves of the ocean, but all so stately and calm. It is grand to watch them as the sun plays on them, and paints the pure a whiter hue, and the foul a deeper shade, drawing the former to itself, and repelling the latter. Lindley and Fixby are clear and smile in the light, as do the hills in every direction, but the valley is drowned as by a mighty flood, and you feel what a helpless creature man would be if such a flood refused to be moved by the breeze or dispersed by the sun. Then, if the wind freshens from the west you soon see a mighty commotion. Chimneys hold up their heads and seem glad to catch the light. House tops occasionally glimmer in the sunshine. Fantastic forms are shaped which are constantly changing. As some of the foul vapours sink or are blown over Huddersfield, and their places are filled by the sweet mists from Spring Vale, there is a marvellous struggle for mastery, which almost always ends iu victory for the black miasmic fiend. Still, as the breeze reaches half a gale, and the sun remains unclouded, both black and white are dispersed and dissolved in a very short time, and you then see your lovely town arrayed in sunny robes. On the present occasion Huddersfield looks bright, rich, and happy. There is music in the air; anon the pistols crack, and then loud shouts come from Primrose Hill, where the sports are in progress. Of course I am going there, if not in a direct route. I am not quite as anxious to see the first and the last events, and all that come between, as I once was. In those days I was not only an enthusiastic onlooker, but an interested principal, breasting the tape, tipping the bar, jumping the distance, putting the shot, or wrestling the two out of three in the sturdy Lancashire style. These are memories, but I take pleasure in fighting the battles over again. When I enter the field I find myself among a crowd of boys, and discover myself shouting as loud and am as interested as any of them.
I soon, however, want a refresher, and am glad when I see temptation near at hand. As I prefer a seat I enter the “Crimea.” The naming of these inns after great men and historic events is ever a tax on my purse, which I gladly pay. If I see a “Waterloo,” a “Wellington,” a “George and Dragon,” a “Lord Nelson,” a “Hastings,” a “King Charles,” or a “Royal Oak,” I go in to look, and of course make the house a penny, and feel all the better for it. Somehow, in such places, I never fail to find someone who knows a lot more than I, and who is glad of the opportunity of enlightening me. I occasionally meet as big liars as ever lied, but if the case is exceptional I take as much pleasure in listening to his exaggerated imaginings as I do in hearing some people’s sour and severe truth. On this occasion there is so much noise and gabble about the sports that I cannot “hear myself think.” A big event, however, soon follows, and then, as if by magic, comparative quietness reigns, and I find myself almost alone with a pleasant-looking middle-aged gentleman, who eyes me enquiringly as I return the compliment. We are engaged in conversation immediately. After we have tested each other by repartee I soon find that he has something to say and that he is determined to say it, in fact he is full of his subject or subjects. He is a reformer, and, like many others bearing that name, he would go to the root of things, notwithstanding the prevailing public opinion. He certainly prefers to lop the branch, prune redundancy, support the straggling boughs, and engraft new life when the trunk will bear it, but, if not, he would, without fear of consequences, cut down or uproot the tree. He is a student of Carlyle, indeed, he is a Carlilian reformer. With that great writer he says, “Make yourself an honest man, then you will be sure there is one rascal less in the world.”