It was a near thing on 24th March, 1902, when the Colne Valley lads had taken over the great cotton-spinning firms of this unfortunate town, under the head of Robert Hyde Buckley and Sons Limited, with a share capital of £150,000. The prospectuses were out, a first instalment of payment had been sent in, and all was going on as settled; but, just at the last moment, there was a slip between the cup and the lip. Others, jealous of the success which had attended the efforts of these men, dropped by a fluke into the arrangements, gave a few pounds more — a most shabby action on the part of those concerned in the selling — and the deed was perpetrated, one of those over-reaching schemes which go far to shock men in regard to what one tradesman will do to another to gain advantage. Keen as they undoubtedly are in the valley, they have a sense of honour, and when they do make a bargain, they keep it, if they take good care not to let anyone make much out of them, but in this case the action of their opponents was downright mean and contemptible. For the sake of Mossley, it is to be hoped that no further harm will come of it, but out of an ill deed done good may follow for the benefit of the town and the workpeople, who have had a very time for a considerable period. Poverty has reigned in place of past prosperity; happiness has departed; and there has been much sorrow in place of past joy. Let us hope this is all changed for the better, and that Mossley will breathe freely again, and be more prosperous than before.
It was a wonderful place once. The Mayhalls and Buckleys used to come to the Slaithwaite Baths in great estate by special saloons. Their dances there were the best and of the most fashionable kind, exciting the keen interest of the dwellers of this side of the mountain, that to-day they stand out as some of the most dazzling things which used to astonish the natives. So much so that, being very poor in those days, they honestly thought that where there was so much wealth and happiness was a land worth going to, and with this view scores of Slaithwaite men and women went Lancashire way to that Eldorado of wealth and prosperity.
It used to be a great thing for the wanderers to return to their old homes at Slaithwaite Feast, the great time for the re-union of divided families. Besides, to the young mind, though the distance is so little, it was great; at least to young lovers, two of whom, it may be recorded, in imagination, had found it an almost insurmountable
barrier, so as to almost break their young hearts, for they were dear and fond lovers, who had pledged their troth on the banks of the Colne on a lovely moonlight night — never to be forgotten, no matter to whatever land they were destined. This momentary separation was a painful business — the Sunday school had introduced them, the singing at anniversaries had drawn them, the re-union of feast times had charmed them, the lovely gloamings had twined their hearts tighter; every hill had its attraction and every valley its joy, because they so blended their young hearts together. Judge, then, what such a separation meant in those days, though the distance was only Mossley, or some other portion, say, near of Lancashire, Cheshire, or Derbyshire. The parting was so tender. The old house at home, the village green, the little garden of lad’s love, blue lupins, daisies, sweet briar, smelling leaves, and the wild rose, etc., etc., the dear hedgerows of the old lanes, the Sunday school, and the companions of their youth — these had all to be left behind, but this could be borne with equanimity if the fond lover would be true. In hopes of this, say, the dear girl left behind her a memento, wrought with her own delicate hands, some such sentiment as this, “Forget me not,” and with many a fond embrace previous to the morning of departure, very likely, he again would vow his fidelity. Then came the separation, never to be forgotten. Just as it had been sunshine to be together, it was all dark and cold to be separated. One wondered in her absence if the Slaithwaite moon shone on her absent lover, and he in his cottage, no doubt, and to his numerous friends, was gloomy and sad — save and except the brightness of the hope that it would soon be Christmas, when they would happily meet again. Love pictures like this are bliss beyond compare. What is like it on earth? None of your money arrangements, social positions to be obtained, or advantages to be gained. No; it is a measure of the honest, devotion of your hearts who vow to love and help each other from youth to age, from early life till death.
Such are the lives of our village lads and lasses, presenting to the world lessons of purity, honest devotion, and that noble self-denial which has made English men and women the pride of the world. May they never decay or be spoiled by luxury’s contagion. Wealth is poverty compared with these beautiful ideals, and whether at Mossley or in Slaithwaite, or in any other part of the United Kingdom, may they always have plenty of work, ample wages, good health, long life, sunshine, and happiness — the deserving attributes of so no noble a race.
Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden