Huddersfield Chronicle (11/Aug/1894) - Scapegoat Hill and Golcar
SCAPEGOAT HILL AND GOLCAR.
(From Our Correspondent "Cid.")
I have seen some beautiful sky-scapes from Scapegoat Hill, but the one that now greets me is surpassingly grand. Great clouds come on in mighty battalions, sailing the aerial sea in magnificent stateliness. They advance in all the forms the imagination can depict, so different yet all so similar as the wind carves them and the sun paints them, while the panorama changes every moment. Woolpack mountains resemble the softest down and look as cool and refreshing as the virgin snow. See how delicately sculptured are their alabastor sides, and how lustrously are they rounded from their bases to their peaks. Watch the wind cleave them asunder and scatter their fragments in front, to right, and to left. Though far away they seem almost touchable. Resting on the crests of the higher elevations, they seem to hesitate whether to roll into the valleys or spread their wings in the vault again. They do both but seem to grow no less, indeed, for a time they are more shapely, until in the distance they pass away, or merge with the blue. Look around you again. Note those great patches of blue enclosing all in a wondrous shell of sapphire. All eyes turn to the dawn, all are glad to bask in the mid-day sun, and all, especially the old and wise, turn to the west to watch the sun move down the layers of clouds, casting its glorious light on the ladder-like strata as it peeps through them its good night, or illumines, with a blaze of gold and purple, the hills, the plains, the valleys, and the seas. It is then that one feels that evening is the time for thought, that in the twilight meditation is fruitful of peace, and as the last light sinks to sleep in the arms of the night clouds, man also forgets his pleasures and pains in slumber. The patches of blue on this occasion seem deeper than ever I noticed, whilst the mighty zenith is dappled by thousands of cloudlets moving in different directions, and which look like flocks of sheep feeding on the ether with space for their grazing ground. All these seem to look to earth and jubilantly invite those below to look higher, rise higher, and with them soar into the invisible beyond. Still they all seem to avoid the sun, and thus present to me their blissful purity undimmed by shade. As the wind is all but a gale they go at a tremendous pace, and look like ships on the ocean as they rise in the west, mount the meridian, swerve to north and south, and then sink in the east unendingly As I gaze at the sky I count half a dozen larks, and as their warblings fall in every direction it seems as if the echoes of heaven were streaming through the blue. Old men and young greet me pleasantly, house-wives are ever ready with their repartee, while the clear and unshrinking glances of the maidens have no forwardness in them. I have not gone far before I am overtaken by a weaver in his thirties. He eyes me from top to toe and takes my measure exactly. He is inclined to be rather witty and does not care at whose expense. I help him at that, and it suits him. I then ask him half a dozen questions that would puzzle the learned to answer, and he soon discovers that he does not know everything. Of course we are friends directly. He wants to know where I am going. I tell him I am not particular to a mile or two, and in the same breath ask him another string of questions about Golcar. He knows nearly everything about the place, and names all the hills within sight, tells me many side-splitting stories about its inhabitants, and at once offers to take me to Rockingstone Hill. Of course I go, and he turns out to be one of the best guides I ever had. I judge from his appearance that he is a rough and tumble sort of fellow, and if occasion served he could use language emphatic and startling to those unaccustomed to it. I, however, keep him too interested to think of swearing, and in the meantime we reach Rockingstone Hill, which is, indeed, a grand elevation. Unending hills can be seen, and he describes them to me as if I had never seen them before. He wonders, as many wiser men have done, how such giant boulders as are here have been perched on the hills and sometimes scattered on the plains, and when I speak to him of glaciers and the glacial period, and explain how such rocks are supposed to have been moved about the country and dropped when the sun melted the ice on great plains, and speak to him about avalanches and rivers of ice, he at once says, “I’ll bet that’s it.” He is one of the most interested pupils I ever had, and if all were recorded that passes between us there would be more laughers than criers in its perusal, and further if my readers were as interested and amused as I was they would thank me and the Chronicle for presenting it to them. Of course he tells me that Rockingstone Hill is higher than any other hill in this part of the. Yorkshire, and when I tell him that wherever I go people say the same with respect to their chief earth bumps, he laughs as if he had heard of that before, and calls me a “trump.” No matter what he mentions about mill work, or any other kind of work, he is surprised at my knowledge of it. When he tells me he once went down a pit, and I tell him about my pit experience, he looks as if he doubted my word, but when I tell him that, like him, I was a bobbin-winder for hand-loom weavers in my youth, he would have called me a liar forthwith if I had not convinced him by indisputable details. We descend and I find he is a mile and a half beyond the point where he intends to be shaved, and as I want to get to Golcar Church our ways are at right angles, and I am loth to part with him. I thank him and give him sixpence, which he accepts like one who expected nothing, tell him many things with respect to his name, family, &c., &c., which he has imperceptibly dropped in conversation, and when in reply to his — “Who told you?” I tell him he himself did, he is as near swearing as ever he was without doing it. He asks my name, and I give him a copy of my description of “Berry Brow, Armitage Bridge, Nan Hob, and Free Libraries,” when he says, “I thowt yoh wor one o’ them newspaper chaps,” and he goes his way, reading as he descends the valley.
The breeze now lessens somewhat, and immediately the sun is beclouded and there is a shower before I have time to put up my umbrella. It is a proper shower of the hills, one from which there is no escape, and I am glad to come across a public-house and take shelter. Of course I go where the company is, and find the room full of young, middle-aged, and old men, most of them unwashed so far as that day goes. Some are well on the way towards intoxication, and the features of all betoken a general tendency in that direction. Dominoes are being played and there is much noise. I should guess that the men are either playing for money or money’s worth, which is confirmed by the unnatural silence that ensues as soon as I am seen. I quickly find that I act as a restraint or wet blanket to them, while the landlord eyes me furtively as though he doubted my intentions. There is cunning and low life gleaming from every feature, and all seem on the downgrade. Money is being spent with a worse than no return, and I at once conclude that they are animalish and insanitary, and that the world would be the better if such men were driven into a public bath, and such houses had their roofs taken off. There is no defence for such shibbeens, and unless kept differently the sense of physical and moral cleanliness will see that they are swept away. The shower abates, and as I get into the open I feel like one that has escaped from a den of death. I am soon at the cricket field, of which the people here are proud. I have hitherto found the gatekeepers a shrewd lot, ever ready at repartee, and as ready to deal with rough as with smooth customers. I do not stay long with them, but feel none the worse for giving them a coppery help. I am soon at the church gates, and finding them locked I ask an old native if they are afraid of their dead being stolen at Golcar? “They’re not worth it, lad,” he replies, “but if yoh want to pick a grave for yourself goa raand to t’ front.” I do partly as he tells me, and smile at his grim advice. From this place you can get a capital view of Colne Valley. As to the church, although I have been around it many times, I only know it has an inside because I see its outside. On this occasion, however, one of the doors unexpectedly swings on its hinges, but sweet expectancy oozes from me at the gruesome spectacle which greets me. I am among the grave-digger’s tools, and imagination turns everyone of them into a spectre of sorrow. Though not afraid of the dead, and only occasionally of the living, I think of what the old native said about “picking a grave for yourself,” and have no desire to make a prolonged acquaintance with these finishing implements, so I leave the place and at the gates meet with a man who, to every question I ask about the church, says he does not attend the church and so does not know. He is inclined to be rather cynical about the Church, and I soon discover that he “goes to” a Bethel that is spireless, and it is then my turn to repay his cynicism. We are at war immediately on Church questions, and as I give him no quarter he conveniently remembers he has a call to make. A little lower in the village my evil genius tempts me to ask a young house-wife, who is putting the finishing touch to her Saturday’s cleaning, how they spell “benefit” at Golcar. She replies, “A mester dooent yoh know?” I told her they did not spell it the dictionary way on the building society’s window across the road. Would she mind telling them so? She retorts, “Nay mester yoh’d better tell ‘em yor-self. I shouldn’t know ‘em if I met ‘em.” She had the advantage of me there, and I laughed heartily as I caught her smiling at my discomfiture. I have been “taken down” by the women of Golcar more than once, and I long ago concluded that they are about the best teachers of “Mind your own business” I ever came across.