Men may come and men may go, but this seems to go on for ever and with unabated success. Fifty years since, situated as now on the wild moors and rough grass lands, with a very thin and scattered population, the attendance was necessarily small as compared with the then great feast below at Slaithwaite on one side, with its vast saturnalia, which used to be looked for by all the inhabitants, and when gone mourned as a lost friend; the one thing in all the year above another to be reverenced and bowed down to. Slaithwaite, though its feast was great, had little room for its growing population — but none of your hankey-pankey. The people were robust and honest, and most of them had an average of about eight fine healthy children, who when they grew up had to steer off to find work elsewhere. What a lot went to Mossley, Stalybridge, Oldham, Ashton, New Mills, Glossop, etc., etc! And at feast time they all came home to the old ground, like a hare, to feast on the old pastures. The streets on a Sunday were impassable, and high jinks and rich revels lasted for three days. But, as last week, the glory has all but departed. The roads were unoccupied, and the homes deserted, according to the new order of things. Now the feast extends from Greenfield to Huddersfield, and the inhabitants go off to the seaside to build up for winter. Elland, the valley of the Hebden, and Brig-house, on the other side, have done just the same, for there is nothing left unless it be the remains of what was once the great popular flower show on the banks of the Calder.
With all these vast changes, Scammonden holds its own, and the feast of Sunday was much greater than in the days of old, and that in the wet, and on a barren hill. Few live here, and many less than of old. There is the parsonage in the hollow of the hill, so that wherever the worthy vicar roams he has always to ascend — to the church up a steep hill, or to town with far greater difficulties, and even with the new tram he is three miles from the terminus. But, wet or shine, this dear old pilgrim attends to his duties as vicar of the parish and guardian of the poor. Maybe he is a little better off than Goldsmith’s prototype, who was passing rich on £40 a year. Anyway, money is not the object of this clergyman, neither does hard work hurt, for he is not afraid of this, but ready when at times he can get no help to do for himself, either at his home or on his farm.
What say you to this, ye half-spoiled members of the rich Dissenting congregations? Cannot you learn a lesson from this simple man of God, instead of railing at his church, and posing as martyrs, while ye magnify your political importance to the powers that be, and make one fear the neglect of what should be your real avocation in life. This was not the way of the dear old Mr. Holmes, of Pole Moor, who made a popular church in the wilderness, midway between Outlane and Nont Sarah’s. There was a great crowd on Sunday — bigger than ever, and more and better accommodation. There are in addition to the public-house — yes, many more and well-kept places — pleasant pastures, moorland refreshment rooms, etc. The last-named is a most beautiful place, well-fitted, and tea served on most reasonable terms. In addition to the throng there was the Atheist trying to convert the Christian, and the latter valiant to defend his faith, while between was the charming music of the Upper Slaithwaite Band, fit to play before a king.
The trams to Outlane have made this new popular place easy, for on getting off at the terminus you can have a cheap and beautiful three miles mountain ride in a comfortable trap for sixpence. No wonder at the crowds. Its popularity and the rapid development in the matter of providing for the growing numbers who avail themselves of these favourable means to get a breath of fresh air from the mountain heather make it a real health resort.
These scenes and these memories dear remind one of a little event which happened over fifty years ago — a Deanhead Thump Monday episode. The family here referred to were very poor, though highly respectable and honest — the father, a very good man, who had, unfortunately, got past hard work, and did odd jobs. On this occasion, Joah o’ Ned’s, the greengrocer, had kindly fitted him up with nuts, snap, fruit, etc., carried to the place by Dick Wood’s mule, which had been duly engaged for the occasion. The old man took his youngest boy to assist; then a smart lad with white hair, but very young indeed. So much so that with the Thump, the donkey, and the merchandise, he was fairly set up with the promise of a great opportunity, and on arriving at Sykes’ public-house (beyond Pole Moor Chapel) the goods were duly unlimbered, put on to a stall, and exposed to an admiring crowd. Soon, too soon, the father left the lad to do all the business, who, being quick, soon became an expert salesman, disposing of the goods freely, while the dear old dad was as busy in pitching with pennies for ale, and partook of so much of the latter, by means of the ready money from the stall, that at night he was dead drunk, most of the cash spent, and little left but the remainder of the stock and the tears of the youngster, who was as helpless by his youth as the father was from drink. However, some one must have sent word to the dear old mother at home, for later in the evening the two brothers came. They cleared the stall, packed up the remainder of the goods, placed them on the donkey for the return journey — the boy on the back of one dear brother, and the other took charge of the father, whose legs had lost all control. It was a curious picture that night parade home, and showed what deep love this unfortunate family had always with one another at all times and under all conditions.
Many things have happened since then. This lad is well known in the valley, on the hill, and in the town, with only one sister living alas! all the others are dead. One of these two brothers left a large fortune, honourably earned, and the other and the elder a name to be loved and remembered by all who knew him for his kind and generous labours for his town, his home, his church, and his principles.
Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden