Slaithwaite people have had their feast time, and maybe when now at work again will be interested to learn how others spend theirs. These feasts and wakes, of what vast importance they are in the north! Every town and village sends its contingent to the seaside, and what a time they have of it! Who could find in their heart to deny it to those who have from year to year to stare at the walls of a factory, and to hear the machinery grind? No wonder the young people are as merry as crickets when every prospect pleases, and only vile when the weather disappoints with teeming rain, as was the case at Douglas last Sunday — one of the most wretched days that ever the sun did not shine upon. “Oh, the young darlints!” The dear young girls were kept in like caged birds, and had no chance to turn out in their gay feathers to sport on the promenade (poor things!), but there was nothing for it but to make the best of it by playing like tame kittens at the doors of their lodges. Older birds had their work set to get through such a day without moping or thinking of the absent ones at home. One of these old stagers, however, managed it in this way. There was Gipsy Smith preaching in the town. Wading through the rain up Victoria Street, a vast throng was discovered in a large and commodious chapel, waiting nearly one hour before the time for this popular preacher to come in. There was the usual well-dressed tradesman to show people to their seats, to boss the show, and make the collection. After long waiting the preacher turned up, with his dark moustache, dark eyes and dark hair, well-chiselled face, a musical voice, and a taking manner. He was at once at his ease, and held the audience from first to last, with his earnestness, plain speaking, and honest truths of the John Ploughman stamp. It made one think that if every Wesleyan minister adopted the same style it would not take long to empty the chapels of the wealthy and better-to-do. No; there was no chance for the religious man who says he does business on business lines, and that religion is a different thine. The latter is everything with Smith, and the rest nowhere. There were a few there who would wonder at this, to them a strange doctrine, but the eloquent preacher seemed to get them to swallow it very nicely, with now and then a bit of sugar.
The text was a long one from the ninth chapter of St. Mark, and from this he drew tears and laughter, and lifted many a bosom to heave for better things and resolve to do better deeds, and then finished with beautifully singing a selected hymn, along with his daughter.
After so good a morning one may be indulged with a sacred concert for the evening, especially in the Colne Valley, where three of the principal performers were Slaithwaite lads. This was at the Palace, and oh how beautiful they have made the place since the fire! The decorations are of the best, the balconies very tine, the painting grand, and the floor magnificent; but greater than these things was the vast audience, and the galaxy of talent for the evening’s entertainment, commencing with that well-known hymn, “Arise, Lord, and shine,” to the tune “Darwen,” in which all the people joined.
The band was at its full capacity, assisted by Mr. Daniel Wood, from London, and other clever men, and one lady at the pianoforte, under the perfect control of Mr. Harry Wood, who seemed to revel in the work. Dressed to perfection, he looked much better in his evening dress than in that short jacket, which is not so graceful or suitable to his person, but the work he did told in every department. The first piece was “In Memoriam” (Sullivan), performed faultlessly, as a tribute of respect to the memory of the late Lord Salisbury. Then came Mr. William Green, the tenor, with the song, “Onaway, awake! beloved” (Coleridge-Taylor), a very fair performance, and for an encore sweetly gave “The Anchor’s Weighed.” Brightly following this was Miss Ella Russell with that dramatic scena, “Adonais” (Langdon Ronald), specially composed for this lady, and the words selected from Shelley’s poem by Vernon Blackburn. How she delighted the audience: played with the top and bottom notes as only a very great artist can do; and again she fetched them with an undeniable encore by her winsome response of “‘Twas within a Mile of Edinboro’ Town,” and again her marvellous singing of “II Bacio” (Arditi), and “In Maytime” (Dudley Buck). In all the recalls she did a womanly thing: she insisted in sharing the honour with Harry Wood, the conductor, who richly deserved it. Mr. Green also gave effectively “O vision entrancing” (Goring Thomas) and “An Evensong” (Blumenthal); but to the writer two of the gems of the evening may be fairly claimed for the youthful brother, Haydn Wood, who was loudly applauded on making his appearance, and more so as he retired after each clever performance, in the first place in a piece of his own, entitled “Souvenir de Pesth,” and in the second solo, “Rondo Capriccioso” (Saint-Saens). Such playing was never dreamed of by the old stagers dying off, and it would be a great pity if he were allowed to stop here. He must go on and on, until he attains the highest rung in his profession, and that is by going to Italy or Germany to the greatest masters, to prepare for what all his numerous friends believe to be a great career. The band was very successful in a selection, Tschaikowsky’s “Bridal March,” and a great concert ended, having given delight to thousands on a wet and miserable night.
I was largely the means of Harry Wood being a fiddler, and I have written the above to encourage the younger brother to be greater by sending the youth to the best masters.
Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden