Consequent on a bequest of £50 made by the late Mrs. Aspinall, of Hill Top, to the old folks of Slaithwaite, a meeting was held some time ago to make preliminary arrangements for holding an old folks’ treat. A committee was formed and collectors appointed to canvass subscribers, and as a result of those efforts a very successful function was brought to a happy and memorable issue on Saturday last at the Spa. Upwards of 400 people over sixty years of age were recipients of the invitation to tea and entertainment, and with few exceptions the old people were present. Those who through infirmity or illness were unable to be present were not forgotten. Many good things were carefully stowed away in baskets, and despatched to the homes of the unfortunate absentees. A willing band of subscribers and committee, together with wives and helpers, made light work of preparing and serving the tea, and the old folks had a right merry time over their cups. Animated conversation was kept up with never a flag through the whole course of the meal. After tea some of the guests wandered about the beautiful grounds, what time the Upper Slaithwaite Brass Band discoursed inspiriting music from the kiosk. After the tables had been cleared, the entertainment was proceeded with. Mr. Thomas Varley (president) occupied the chair, and on behalf of the committee extended a hearty welcome to all the old folks present, and expressed the hope that they would all thoroughly enjoy themselves. He had much pleasure in asking an old Slaithwaite friend to say a few words to them.
Alderman John Sugden, J.P., said he was thankful to be called to a meeting of the old brigade — a function he had never been at before — for he liked youth, with all its glorious promises, rather than the frosty period f advancing years, and wished to ever be young in hopes and aspirations for the good of the people. He might have been wrong at times as to the modes of procedure, but never in the object to help struggling humanity to a higher plane, and when he considered that he had been at it, along with others (some living and some dead), for fifty years, it made him feel a very old man, notwithstanding his determination to be young as long as he could. He paid a compliment to Mr. Varley, the chairman, for the business-like manner in which he had brought the proceedings to such a successful issue, and said how delighted he was that one of his dear relations had contributed £50 to the fund which was to make the old people of Slaithwaite and Lingards (above sixty years of age) happy one day in each year, at least, by a grand assemblage, a good tea, and a God bless their “silver yure.” It had, in spite of its brightness, a melancholy side. It brought to him “John Anderson, my jo, John.” The time when “their locks were like the raven, when their bonnie brows were brent”; the many canty days they had with one another, to the tottering down the hill of life, when at the bottom they would have to sleep together. Might the time be far away, and many the happy reunions, when they could give each other a helping hand and a winning smile, to help each other to finish the last lap of life. They had the most beautiful grounds to meet in, their own band of music, the large and commodious rooms — all their own — advantages which few other urban districts possessed, and he paid a warm tribute of respect to those who had devoted noble lives to secure these blessings, not only for the present generation, but for all time to come — to be the happy “summer” home and hope of the generations which are to follow — to live happily together in what he always hoped would be this ever-prosperous Colne Valley, of which the Spa Grounds was the beauty spot, and their old people’s tea that day was one of the crowning points of its glory. In all these things he told them with Waugh, that
This to him was the highest form of riches in this world, and long might they live to enjoy them; and when next they called the aged together might there be non missing, and, like John Gilpin, might he be there to see. (Applause.)
Mr. William Crowther, J.P., made a few appropriate remarks, and showed his sympathy by being present. He was as yet only a lad, and unqualified in years to be one of the old party; but it was fast coming on, against his will and inclination, when he would, unfortunately, be one of them. He thought it was a very sensible thing to have these parties in mid-summer, when the trees, the flowers, and the weather were all at their best, and in that way they made it doubly pleasing, having the most pleasure with the least possible harm. He hoped the old people would live long, and be able to come to those very pleasant gatherings for many years.
During the evening songs were rendered by Messrs. R. Stead, F. Gunby, J.T. Ferrior, and James Saville — being known as “Timmy Twist.” The latter was attired in full fireman’s toggery, and led off the solo in the “Holmfirth Anthem,” in which chorus the whole company joined with hearty enthusiasm. Mr. T. W. Thorpe, of Golcar, delighted the old folks with his comic reading about a man making: his invalid wife a pancake of cement and a Yorkshireman’s description of having his “tooith pooled.” Mrs. R. Stead and Mrs. Saile sang a duet, and the Golcar Orpheus quartet party gave a number of musical selections. Mr. Cowgill, of Leeds, himself nearly eighty years of age, gave several recitations with fine elocutionary skill and dramatic intensity. Messrs. J.A.H. Eagland, Lewis H. Eagland, and Thomas Ferrior shared the duties of accompanist. During the progress of the entertainment the old folks were liberally supplied with liquid refreshment, and those who were addicted to the fragrant weed were furnished with “churchwardens” and tobacco of a suitable blend to suit all tastes.
Mr. Edward Walker proposed a comprehensive vote of thanks. Mr. Oliver Armitage seconded, naively observing that if the committee thought fit to call them together twice a year instead of once, he didn’t think they (the old folks) would object. (Laughter.)
Mr. Sam Haigh (treasurer) asknowledged the vote of thanks on behalf of the committee, entertainers, etc., and said that if the subscriptions in future were equal to those of this year, the old folks’ treat was an assured institution for many years to come. (Applause.)
Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden