Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) - Chapter LXVIII

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Chapter LXVIII. Pen and Ink Sketch: Changes in Life

He lives at a beautiful home on the hillside of a lovely valley, the sides of which are clothed with healthy trees and many rich woods; indeed, in the autumn it is a charming district, with its fading green and yellow leaves. The poet has sung its praises, writers have written of its beauties, travellers have been charmed with its scenery, but none have done it full justice, and it would take the pen of a Sir Walter Scott to succeed, so that in this feeble attempt no one will blame this halting effort.

Where he lives was where we begin this short story, and it is to this we must return. The house is situated at the far side from Huddersfield, in one of the most famous woods in the neighbourhood. Here the hare could sit in solitude were it not for the prowling cats and weasels; here little bunny is at rest, and the birds sing gaily the long summer days; while on the ground the bracken is a, thing of peculiar beauty, and in winter makes bedding for cattle which cannot be surpassed. On the knoll of this interesting spot the house stands high, commanding the hills and valleys for many miles. The structure, half Gothic to begin with, has been subject to many alterations for the better. The billiard room is one to be remembered for flowers and ferns. The furniture is of the latest and best; every comfort has been anticipated, and nothing left to chance. In going through the modern houses, one is pleased to note how many useful books they have, as well as those for ornament. The grounds — yes, the grounds — they are the charm of the place, and will be when he has done making that quarry hole in the back, the beauty spot of that rock’s beautiful home.

But whatever there may be in that place, it is the love at home which decorates it best; indeed, he is blest with a charming family, one of the best of partners, who has been able to supply that of which he was in most need, together with combined and successful effort.

Considering what has gone before, the numerous readers of the Slaithwaite Guardian will understand that the owner of the above fairy land was not always so fortunate, and to the past this story is devoted, and not to win favour by abject flattery or undue adulation.

Then let us turn to a valley almost as lovely, and there is a village that tops yon neighbouring height that many a tale could tell — but this time only of the other house in which the subject of this chapter was born. Here it was hard fare, but the best of mothers made a heaven of small things by her constant devotion to her family and the sensible manner in which she brought up her children, and would you know the spell? She was a Slaithwaite lass, and this to the writer has a double charm and meaning.

Come back to her home, then, and see her numerous family in that small house and workshop, for they weave at home for their living, and the looms and bits of furniture completely fill the house. And here’s the rub. How do they sleep, and where? Maybe the father and mother have a turn-up bed, and this is the sacred thing in the house. But what of the lads? Where do they recline and get a good night’s rest? This to the uninitiated would be a perfect riddle, but to those in the know, and on looking up they would have found right up to the skylight, where in summer it was particular hot, and in winter almost as cold as last Monday (hunting on Linthwaite Edge Tops). Yes, at the roof, and fixed on the top of the loom, was a bed for three. But how did they get there? And this almost beats Crafty, the once famous acrobat of the Colne Valley. But they did; and how, think you, but to climb up the loom after undressing downstairs, for there was no room for this kind of thing; neither was there any mock modesty about it.

All, how happy they were when everything was pleasing and there was nothing vile! The wealth and happiness of latter days do not exceed the joy of the former, and, oh, how with a miser’s care he needs must look back and dwell on the days of his youth. But one little incident was hardly all to his liking, and that was when going to bed one night in the dark (and they had always to do this — candles were dear, and there was no electric light as now) — no; up that steep incline he must go, groping his W ay as best he could, lint in an unfortunate moment he lost his grip and down came the climber, body and all, first alighting on the “twelve apostles” (the bobbin wheel). This was turned over on to the open tub, containing water to wet the bobbins, in which he at last alighted, happily more wet than hurt, and the little episode, simple as it may be, is one of the little points in a life which makes history, though at the time quite unthinking.

These are some of the incidents which mark the Colne Valley. Many were the beds similarly situated; but now how different, and how much better! But the hard lessons learnt in the past have made most of the wise men of to-day, and may their sons and daughters never despise these things, but always remember that a sweet kindness is 1 letter than great riches alone.

Following this latter thought, the gentleman is now highly respected, justly occupies many very high positions, a director of a number of great industrial concerns, the chairman of a district council. These all good and important as they are, the one above all others for which he is honoured is the large Sunday school class (at a mission church) which he conducts weekly with love, care, and ability, to the no small satisfaction of the teacher and the taught.

Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden