It is not just so with the history of a place, or a town, or of a city, or a nation, though there are many examples in the past very like the life of man, and there are many more hastening to the same end. Happily this does not apply to England. The dear old country seems to be rejuvenating into the youngest, the finest nation on earth, with every prospect of being even more so, and offering peace, plenty, and happiness all over the globe where the British flag flies. Hence the great diamond jubilee during the reign of our late beloved Queen, and what would have been the greatest function in the world, viz., the coronation of our present King, only stopped for a time by the tragic illness, which happily passed away. From the ends of the earth all classes and conditions of men and women came to rejoice with and to honour the King. The Queen of Sheba in all her glory was not in it in our day; that pageant was as a toy compared with ours. The preparations at home had been tremendous, every town being not only ready but anxious for the fray. No place for its size was more ready, or more amply provided for, or more enthusiastically ready to enter into’ the spirit of loyalty than Slaithwaite. To me the scene will ever be before my eyes as one of gratitude to God to see such happiness and prosperity in my native town.
The pleasing sight made me look back to the far-distant days of our youth, when poverty, stagnation, and non-progress were the order of the day, with population and rateable value going down, and little hope of better things. Those were dark days for Slaithwaite, but a better sign came with the energy of a number of energetic sons and daughters and the better rule, which had been brought about after a long battle with the lord of the manor and the parson. The latter gave up the contest, and the former (Lord Dartmouth) is now the best landlord in the kingdom for concession and fair dealing. This has helped Slaithwaite most materially, and gone far to help to make the place that prosperous community that it is to-day, so ready and able to coronate, as we have said before.
Those having the control had acted wisely to go on with the proceedings as arranged. All the circumstances favoured them; the King’s improvement and the weather did wonders to make it a glorious success — so much so that the reader will forgive me for mentioning these things to make a chapter to be printed with these notes as a memento of the great day’s rejoicing, and the noble part played by this the Queen Village of the Colne Valley. Not more prosperous than the immediate and happy neighbours, but more central and beautifully situated in the lovely valley which has attained such a wide reputation for its progress and prosperity.
If I had the pen of Goldsmith, I could from pure love write of this inhabited place as the genial poet wrote of his deserted village, and call it, without offence to adjacent towns,
Or, again (and the kind reader will let me say from the same beloved author; it will amply repay to read the whole poem): —
No wonder, then, that the far-distant past, the dawn of the middle age, and the maturity of to-day should have such a fascination for me, and when those in power rose so nobly to do honour to the King, one may judge of my gratitude, and how heartily I congratulate all on the grand display they made on that memorable Friday — the best selection, as it turned out to be, that could be made for the festivities. Though the King was ill, he was rapidly getting better, and this gave heart to the whole proceedings.
Where everything was done so well, it would be invidious to particularise, but who could have thought to have lived to see such a display as Slaithwaite made? The thousands of quiet, orderly people, looking on amid a blaze of sun, and beaming satisfaction witnessed all round.
The children from the various schools made a vast throng, and, what was best, it was as it ought to be with those going to heaven — there was no distinction or bickering on the way. Then the politicians joined together, as they always should when national honour is required or a service to the State needed. The Freemasons, the oldest known Order, joined with others to do honour to the occasion. There were the picturesque, the historical and local figures; and as nobody has mentioned my old friend, Dan Wood, I am sure, for the sake of auld lang syne, he will not let me say that he was remarkable, and cut a bold figure in the gay assemblage.
The trade exhibits would have done credit to Huddersfield, and that is saying a great deal. But to me the little May Queens were the bonniest in the lot. There was only one regret, and that was that there were different prizes. For to me they were all good alike, and may the dear little things live until they are old, not only as an emblem of one of the greatest events in the world’s history, but as the sweet queens of an ever-growing town, with no possibility of decay — of a continuous growth, not only in the future, but of all that is best to make that greater Britain the wonder and admiration of the world.
Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden