This subject is a very thin ice on which to slide — how near the water — and how soon one must inevitably fall in were he even to try to skate on so slender a substance, viz., as to who may have done most to build up the better Slaithwaite, and alter the whole aspect of the Colne Valley. It is a large and difficult question, and the honour belongs to so many that it is impossible not to be invidious were an attempt to be generally made, more especially when so many good men have honourable records and deserve so well by their devotion to promote the rise and progress of the place.
I might be tempted to try it’ human nature were not so weak, jealousies so great, and ambitions so vain. It is not that one fears these things, but, like sleeping dogs, they had better lie. Then, again, it is too soon to write about the younger men; these notes have a greater reference to the old men; and maybe I should blunder and fail, being no great hand at unstinted praise. Besides, if I wrote up my friends as they deserve to be, my enemies would call me a slave, a tool, and a time-server in the hands of the rich, a position against which my independent soul revolts. No; I have had my say in my time both about the rich and poor, never failing to be free, and ever holding to principles whether they prospered or failed. We had only one idea, and that was: Is it right? If so, follow it. The few utterly selfish men never thought of these things. All they asked was: “Will it pay? With this the idealist has no chance whatever, and he may at once put up his shutters. But there is something better than this, and that is to leave the world better than we found it. Less misery and more joy, less sorrow and more happiness, less suffering and more comfort, less sickness, better health, and longer life, together with a fairer distribution of all those better things which go to make something like the world which is to be.
I do not say all the men in the valley are imbued with these ideas alone. They will tell you honestly that, while they do justice to all, they are here to make money, but the beauty of it is for humanity’s sake, that they cannot do this without benefiting the less favoured. So on the lower ground let us be generous, and bless the day that men have prospered, and to that extent as to make this district distinguished both for its honourable workers and other pioneers too numerous to mention, and, like the organist and the old blower, the two have done it together, and if one gets a little more than the other, the good time is coming when it will be more equal, and until that day let us give honour to whom honour is due.
I may be allowed to mention the woollen manufactures down to Linthwaite only, without disrespect to the many others equally deserving outside. Who can or will blame me for saying what a family the Crowthers have been — not one miss — how the Colne and the Holme have run quicker by the floods of push and energy they have been enabled to put into the two streams, and how much they owe to the gentle lady, their sainted mother? The good influence she inspired has been felt in the district by implanting one or more of this name into the successful commercial life up to and around Huddersfield. With Mr. Joe on the box it is a strong team.
At Marsden, Mr. Robinson has kept up his wicket. Mr. Bruce has been a good fielder. Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hirst have done well at point, and the Filths are all good players.
Pearson Brothers, at Commercial Mills: J. Holroyd. at Upper Mill; William Hirst, at Shaw Carr; E. Shaw, at Clough House; and Robert Bates, Platt Mills, have made progress. The good work taken over from the Meals at the dyehouse by Mr. Joseph Quarmby and Mr. Samuel Sugden, under the name of Messrs. Meal and Quarmby, proved a great success, beginning in a very small way with donkey loads to Meltham Mills and ending with two wagons a day; built the present new dyehouse, and did much as one of the most successful firms in this line of business in the district to help to build up Slaithwaite. The same dyeworks are now most successfully carried on by Messrs. William Brook and Sons, two young men who are keeping up the reputation of the place, providing a large employment here and at Honley, and doing something to advance the commercial value of the town and district. Mr. C. H. Beaumont has done well at Old Corn Mill, since extended to Shaw Carr Wood Mill; made much progress, and added materially to the general prosperity of this growing community.
Messrs. G. Mallinson and Sons and C. Lockwood and Sons (near neighbours) are very similar in prosperity, as also G. Cock and James Dyson, of worthy fame. And still the stream runs on, gaining strength as it flows with a growing tide too deep for me to enter, so I must leave its banks or be drowned if I further attempt to describe the volume of deserving men and even more successful firms which follow on below and nearer Huddersfield.
Messrs. James Woodhead, manufacturing chemist, and Willie Varley, joiner, each have obtained high honours at the Technical College for special subjects in which they had excelled, and their names are on the honourable board of mention. Mr. Thomas Lawson (Mr. Varley’s son) has gone one better, and become a distinguished professor in science at a Scottish University. Mr. Cotton has developed a large business at Tape Cotton Mill and Low Westwood: Mr. Ashton persevered with his wool, and Mr. Blackburn with his rugs
It may justly be said also that the Co-operative movement (for and by the people) has advanced with equal rapid strides, and many other good trades and men prospered.
I have not been able to touch upon or mention all that is worthy of notice, so must beg pardon for all omissions, and if I have inadvertently wounded anyone, let it pass, please, because such a thing was never intended.
Perhaps I should have mentioned the Freemason’s Lodge, its generous founders (dead and alive), the many canty days we have had with one another at the Lewisham Hotel, in the far-back time of long ago; the foresight of the brethren in selecting so favourable a site and erecting the present pile of useful buildings, not only for the lodge, but for the shops to help the noble cause if need be.
This 1645 was one of the first of the lesser lights to raise the banner from the public-house to a home of their own. Saddleworth, Meltham, Thornhill, Kirkburton, Milnsbridge, have all splendid new buildings of their own, and long may they prosper, not only in the heart, but in numbers, to carry out those noble principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth.
One more matter of satisfaction to me is that Slaithwaite has a paper all its own, not in opposition to others of older date and greater influence maybe, but because it belongs to the soil as it were. Lone may it live to grow in grace and greater usefulness and materially add to the greater happiness of its increasing population, so that the local press, representing the intellect, may be equal to its growing wealth — handmaidens, if you like — helping each other to swell the progressive tide of this most favoured valley. To use the words of my favourite poet, Robert Burns:—
Slaithwaite Notes: Past and Present (1905) by John Sugden