THE HOLMFIRTH ANTHEM.
WHAT WAS ITS ORIGIN?
The interest infused into the singing of the Holmfirth Anthem at Mr. Lloyd George's great meeting at Huddersfield Town Hall, and at Mr. Charles Sykes's residence, has led an "Examiner" representative to make some inquiries respecting its authorship. As at present harmonised, undoubtedly the composer of the tone was Mr Joseph Perkin, of Holmfirth, who died in 1868.
Naturally a generation has now arisen who knew not Joseph, but here and there are veterans who can recall his genius and his little eccentricities. One of these is Mr. Sydney Sykes, of White Abbey, Hade Edge, in the hills above Holmfirth. Mr. Sykes is a fiddler of some reputation, and in his early life it was his privilege to spend many happy hours with Joe Perkin.
Mr. Sykes, when interviewed on the subject, said Perkin was a native of the Netherthong district, and his wife, Eliza Perkin, was a native of Meltham. Joe Perkin was a fine tenor singer, but a better conductor and choirmaster. He was also a violin player of moderate ability, and Mr. Sykes now has in his possession the score for the first violin which Mr. Perkin wrote from "The Creation," and it bears the date 1829. Perkin was a versatile composer, and wrote about forty songs, of which only two or three were really successful.
Joe Perkin's genius was recognised by his contemporaries, and he was appointed the conductor of the first Holmfirth Choral Society of more than half a century ago. At that time Mr. Cookson Stephenson Floyd and Mr. John Harpin were patrons of the society, and greatly encouraged Perkin in his musical work.
Mr. Sykes says he well remembers how "Pratty Flowers" appeared in its present form. Mr. Floyd (who was the father of Mr. J. Peel Floyd, of Holmfirth) commissioned Perkin to write a good swinging chorus for the social gatherings of the musical community at Holmfirth. Perkin utilised a chorus that was then popular in the taverns of Holmfirth neighbourhood, and set it to music. "The Holmfirth Anthem" is the result, harmonised and arranged by Joseph Perkin, and dedicated to Mr. C.S. Floyd. Perkin did his work in three hours, and for it he received the gratuity of two guineas. The tune was lithographed and printed, and the original plates became the possession of Mr. C.S. Floyd, and from him passed to his son, Mr. J.P. Floyd.
We asked Mr. Sykes if he could throw any light on the words of the song. He replied that the words were a ditty that had come down — perhaps 200 years — when this country was at war with France or Spain. They were words very familiar to an older generation.
Perkin, he stated, was a little man, and was lame. In his younger days he was a wool sorter, but afterwards he devoted his time to music. He was so familiar with Haydn's "Creation" that he could whistle it all through. He was conductor of the best concerts in Holmfirth at the period when Mrs. Sunderland and Miss Crossland (a contralto) and other Yorkshire stars were the principals. When conducting at a choral society performance at Meltham Perkin was greatly flattered by a lady principal from Manchester, who told him that she had never known the "Creation" conducted so well. One of Mr. Joe Perkin's pupils became a soloist at Carlisle Cathedral, and when there was a vacancy there the pupil did not forget his tutor. Joe Perkin was duly appointed to the choir at Carlisle about 1847, but remained there only three years. Mr. Sykes states that the reason of his return to Holmfirth was that Joe had been airing his atheistic views, which so shocked the clerical mind at Carlisle that he had to vacate his appointment, much to the disappointment of the organist and choirmaster.
Joe Perkin's son, Mendelsohn Perkin, became a fiddler like his father, and for many years prior to his death earned his livelihood as an itinerant musician. Two or three years ago he died at Deanhouse. Joe Perkin's grand-daughter is married and settled in the Holmfirth district.