The Letterpress printed at Oldham by W. E. CLEGG.
The Illustrations produced by "Collotype" process.
the loss of her popular and worthy author Mr. Ben Brierley, who
breathed his last at his residence "The Poplars," Moston Vale, on
Saturday, January 18th, 1896, in the 71st year of his age.
He was born at Failsworth, on the 26th of June, 1825, and the
humble cottage in the "Rocks," in which he first saw the light,
although now very much altered, is still standing near to the bridge
which spans the Rochdale Canal, not far off Failsworth Pole.
The locality of his birth never lost its interest for him in after
life. With it are associated the greater part of his literary
creations, many of his characters being drawn from the old hand-loom
weavers of the neighbourhood, a class of honest hard-working men to
which he himself belonged.
The many droll stories which he has told of these people are
full of a peculiar humour much relished by Lancashire readers.
They possess a pathos, too, which makes them locally appreciated.
It is not too much to say, that there is hardly a home in South
Lancashire but has been made the brighter and happier by these
efforts of Ben Brierley to faithfully portray scenes and characters,
once so familiar to him, of every-day provincial life.
Comparisons have been made between
Edwin Waugh and Ben Brierley, as
Lancashire authors, and frequently to the latter's disadvantage.
I have been an admirer of both throughout their careers as authors,
and always found it difficult and even unfair to compare the two,
there being such a marked difference both in the style and the
characters they portray. Each in his own locality was
inimitable. Waugh was in his happiest moods when describing
the heathery moorlands with their rippling rills and tumbling
cascades, or depicting the quaint humour of the sturdy farmers and
quarrymen, and other lone dwellers on the moor borders. His
songs and poems are highly treasured and will prove a lasting
monument to his fame. Brierley was no less successful in his
portrayal of the joys and sorrows of the hand-loom weavers and other
residents of Walmsley and Treadlepin Fowts, Hazelworth, Birchwood,
Daisy Nook, &c., such as "Ned i'th' Ginnel," "James o' Joe's,"
"Billy up steps," "Fause Juddie," "Jack o' Flunters," "Owd Thuston,"
"Tum Hobson," "Red Bill," "Th' Owd Poet," "Owd Shadow," and best
known of all, the Walmsley Fowt philosopher—"Ab-o'th'-Yate."
He exhibited the sterling qualities he found existing in this humble
class of society in the quiet nooks and villages of his day, where
original characters dwelt almost shrouded in obscurity. The
models from which he drew his graphic characters are now, alas!
almost passed out of existence, and now that Mr. Brierley is laid
low, Lancashire loses a chronicler of country scenes and local
events such as she may never be able to replace.
I was much amused some time ago when talking with a man who
was a stranger to me, about the merits of Lancashire authors.
He was inclined to be rather critical. He was an admirer, he
said, of Edwin Waugh's songs—Come Whoam to thi Childer an' Me;
What ails 'thee my son Robin; The Dules i' this Bonnet o'
Mine; and Sweetheart Gate. He declared them to be
gems of original poetry. He also admired Ben Brierley's songs
such as Th' Wayver o' Wellbrook; Live in a Cot o' your own;
Fotchin' th' Keaws up; and Waverlow Bells.
These, he admitted, were grand songs and true to nature; but he
wound up his enthusiasm by saying—"Yo' may talk abeawt Edwin Waugh
and Ben Brierley! but, for real Lancashire wit and humour,
"Ab-o'th'-Yate" "bangs 'em boath." He was not aware that "Owd
Ab" and "Ben " were synonymous. To place "Owd Ab" at the head
of his contemporaries in this fashion was rather a flattering
compliment to Ben Brierley.
The Manchester Weekly Times in its literary notice on
Ben Brierley says:—
"He was no great believer in himself as a poet, and his gifts in
this direction cannot even be put in comparison with those of Edwin
Waugh. Yet he could write a good ballad, with real local
humour and flavour therein, as for instance his Go tak' thi
ragged Childer and Flit, and that he could touch the note of
true pathos, is shewn in The Weaver of Wellbrook, and some of
the poems occasioned by the early death of his only child . . . .
Brierley sheaved the sterling worth of the metal he was made of.
There was humour in almost every line; there was keen observance and
loving record of the beautiful in nature; there was discernment of
the Lancashire character to its inmost nook and cranny; and there
was the power of telling in their own language the quaint and tender
and pathetic things which the people he knew so well did and said.
These gifts have enriched almost everything he has done. He
could also construct a good, elaborate, and interesting plot; and on
this point he contrasts strongly with Waugh, whose stories were
always short and sketchy. He had genuine dramatic instinct and
could group his characters effectively as well as make them speak
with homely truth and vigour."
The relationship existing between the two great Lancashire authors
thus contrasted is well seen from the following reminiscence
contributed by Mr. Thomas Lythgoe:—
AN AFFECTING INCIDENT.
"An incident of an affecting nature, and of which I was a
witness, may be of interest to a many of your readers, and
especially to the personal friends and admirers of these two
Lancashire writers. In November, 1866, I had just completed my
apprenticeship as a letterpress printer in Leigh, and was offered
and accepted a situation in Manchester. I was on very intimate
terms of acquaintance with an uncle of Mr. Brierley's, a Mr. Richard
Taylor, of whom Ben speaks so highly in his Home Memories,
and to whom he dedicated one of his early works, Irkdale.
On informing Mr. Taylor, who then resided in Leigh, of my coming to
Manchester, he gave me a letter to Mr. Brierley. After reading
the same, Mr. Brierley handed it to his wife, and it turned out to
be a request that Ben should secure me a 'safe retreat.'
Though putting herself to some inconvenience, Mrs. Brierley decided
that I must stay with them, and it was during the period that I was
under their 'protection' that the incident I am about to narrate
occurred. It appears that in the early portion of that year
some little misunderstanding existed on the part of Waugh which
created a coolness towards Ben. Ben had been advised to put
himself forward for some post which Waugh was anxious to secure.
Waugh's desire for the position was quite unknown to Ben. The
two had been almost in nightly companionship when their engagements
would allow, together with several of their friends. For many
months they had been in the habit of meeting at the Clarence Hotel,
the Shakespeare, or the Balmoral, Queen's-road, behind which
Brierley at that time was residing. A little later on in the
year Ben composed a parody on Waugh's beautiful production—Come
Whoam to thi Childer an' Me, which old Wallet, the jester, was
so fond of reciting in his circus. The parody was entitled—Go
tak thi Ragged Childer an' Flit, and was printed and
published by Abel Heywood & Son, and many thousands were sold.
This act on the part of Ben caused Waugh to completely isolate
himself from his former companion, and, on occasions when about to
meet in the street, he would cross over the road, or dart into a
shop, or down a bye street. These actions caused Ben much
pain, and after each occurrence he would moan and mutter in his
sleep, and could not take his food, which caused his wife to say
that if something did not alter soon he would be ill. One
morning, after he had been tossing about all night, Ben got up
earlier than his usual time, and, after a slight attempt at
breakfast, he went into his sanctum and remained there all day.
In the evening, soon after my arrival, he called me to him, and
handed me some slips of manuscript, asking me to read them.
When I had finished, he said, 'Well, what does t' think o' that?'
I replied, 'It should fetch him.' 'If it winno', he's a foo'.'
The production was a long poem, and was headed 'The Two Robins.'
It began by depicting the grief borne by poor Robin Ben at being
forsaken by his brother Robin Ned, who had for so long twittered and
nestled together in their nest, but
Neest seems desolate beaut
Thee hustlin' up to me.
The poem appeared in Country Words, and in the supplementary
portion of the Manchester Weekly Times, but shorn of its
original head and the first three or four verses, the following
TO EDWIN WAUGH.
What ails thee, Ned? Theau'rt not as't wur,
Or else no' what aw took thee for,
When fust theau made sich noise an' stir
I' this quare
Hast' flown at Fame wi'sich a ber
As t' break
Or ar'ta droppin' fithers, eh
An' keepin' th' neest warm till some day,
To'ard April tide or Sunny May,
An' warble eaut a new-made lay
For brids o' sung mun ha' the'r meawt,
As weel as other brids, aw deaut:
But though they peearch beneath a speaut,
Or roost 'mung
They're saved fro' mony a shiverin' beaut
Come, let Owd Mother Dumps a-be,
An' wag thi yead wi' friendly glee;
Fly o'er, a humble brid to see.
This wo'ld is
Ther's reaum for boath thee an' me,
On the Monday forenoon following its appearance in the 'Weekly
Times,' Ben and I were proceeding along Rochdale-road, he having an
appointment with some gentleman at the Fox Hotel, Victoria-street,
when just as we got to the bridge nearly opposite to Reather-street,
Ben suddenly gave a start and me a nudge, saying 'Sithi!
Does't see whoa's yon comin'?' 'Yes,' I replied, 'It's Ned.'
'Watch him scamper off, as soon as he sees us.' But Waugh was
looking straight at Ben, and came on with quickened strides, and
when about half a dozen yards from us, he jumped forward, with
outstretched hand, crying 'Ben, forgie me!' 'O reet, lad!'
And the two stood looking at each other as well as they could, for
tears of joy by the one and of regret by the other were streaming
down their cheeks. Their disengaged hands were placed on those
already locked, and both were speechless for a couple of minutes it
seemed to me. Ben was the first to recover himself, and feebly
articulated 'Wheere art beaun?' 'Nowheere,' replied Waugh. The
fact was, he was proceeding to Ben's residence to make the 'amende
honorable.' 'Well, come on,' said Ben, and we proceeded on our
way to the Fox. On arriving there, the room was empty, with
the exception of the gentleman Ben had come to meet, but in little
over half an hour the room became filled with close friends of both
parties, who had in some way been informed of the reconciliation and
of their whereabouts. 'Pop,' such as 'Ab-o'th'-Yate' partook
of when 'eating a bootjack' in London, and which 'took away mi wynt,'
flowed freely. I stayed with them some time, and on leaving,
Ben asked me to tell his wife that he should not be home for dinner.
When I narrated the incident to Mrs. Brierley, she was quite
overcome with gladness. We sat together at night awaiting
Ben's arrival, but it was not until very late that he landed, and
after being assisted to his chair, his wife smilingly addressed him
with 'Well, theau'rt a nice lookin' chap, that theau art.' 'Howd
thi noise, lass, howd thi noise, t'other chap's wur nor me!'"
As a portrayer of the Lancashire weaver-life Mr. Ben Brierley
established a reputation such as was never before attained by any
other writer in provincial literature. Having been born and
reared amongst the rattle of shuttles and buzzing of bobbin wheels
he had every opportunity of studying the weavers' characteristics
and getting thoroughly intimate with their quaint mode of expression
in the pure dialect, which then existed in the quiet "nooks,"
"fowls," and scattered villages all over the country side of south
Lancashire. Whilst a piecer in the cotton mill at Hollinwood
he began to read the earlier works of Charles Dickens, a privilege
granted to him by the manager who was a subscriber to the same.
This created in him a thirst for literature, and he began to
purchase such books as his limited means would afford, he being then
under thirteen years of age and somewhat delicate in health.
He extended his readings to Shakespeare, Burns, Shelley, and Byron,
and by the time he entered his "teens" he began to use his pen with
a determination to become an author. He was looked upon as a
precocious youth, for although young in years he had an
old-fashioned head, which seemed to have done duty upon the
shoulders of some quaint philosopher of a by-gone period. At
sixteen years of age he ventured to write an Italian tragedy, and
ere he had attained his twentieth year he was giving Shakespearian
readings in the village institute. The youthful aspirant
ventured to submit some of his early poetical effusions to his
"Uncle Dick," (Richard Taylor) a relation on his father's side, a
well-read man, and one conversant with the works of eminent authors.
His uncle used to smile at Ben's efforts, and nicknamed him, with
kindly sarcasm, "Owd Pee Colin," after a quaint character who lived
in the neighbourhood. He failed to get a favourable opinion
from that quarter however, Uncle Dick shaking his head as he
returned the manuscripts with a smile, saying "That he thought 'Owd
Pee' would make more progress in weaving silk than writing poetry."
These remarks somewhat damped Ben's efforts, but he still continued
to write being fully confident that he would in future make his mark
as an author.
Subsequently Ben's favourite companion, William Crossley,
submitted a poem in manuscript to Uncle Dick, asking his opinion of
the verses. After carefully reading the lines he pronounced
them to be excellent and well worthy of a place in the "poets'
corner" of the newspaper, and he eagerly enquired who was the
author. Crossley replied that "Benny" had written them, but
that he, Crossley, had had them copied in another handwriting in
order to get an unbiassed criticism. The uncle was struck with
astonishment and exclaimed, "Has 'Owd Pee Colin' really composed
that poem? Well, I must admit that it is very good, and he
seems to have more in him than I have previously given him credit
for." Ben, as may be imagined, was in ecstacy when his friend,
Crossley, made known to him the result of the stratagem he had
devised to obtain Uncle Dick's unprejudiced opinion. Elated
with the compliment thus paid him, Ben's ambition was aroused, and
he was determined to venture into the field of literature as an
He began to write in a vigorous and original style, and soon
made his mark as a humorist, his pictures of Lancashire life and
character being strikingly true to nature.
About that time Brierley and his companions established an
Amateur Dramatic Society in Failsworth, where he soon became an
adept and versatile actor, the role of characters for which he was
cast ranging from Shakespeare's tragic heroes down to the rollicking
Irish comedian. This part of his history, however, will best
be told in his own words, for it was a memorable event in Brierley's
life when the Old School in Pole Lane, Failsworth, was transformed
into a Thespian Temple.
BRIERLEY AS AN AMATEUR
ACTOR AND DRAMATIST.
"We set about at once and planned a stage. Rude and
meagre were the materials out of which we proposed to do honour to
the histrionic art. A number of planks that served as a
gallery for the choir at 'Charities' and Christmas 'piece speakings,'
were appropriated to our use; and, in the absence of scenery, we had
a pair of green bed-quilts strung across the stage. An
orchestra composed of a flute, a clarionet and a bassoon, played the
'overture,' which had been arranged out of a dovetailing of several
hymn tunes. Our first piece was 'Ducks and Peas; or the
Newcastle Rider,' a little behind Shakespeare, but good enough for a
start. I played 'Joseph,' which brought down the advice of my
mother, not to be 'too consequential.'
The success of our first attempt at acting led us to try
another rung on fame's ladder. This was Christmas, and the
interval betwixt then and Easter would afford us time to cook
something bigger than 'Ducks and Peas.' The ambition of a
Bonaparte fired my breast,—I would write the piece; and set about
the work with as much assurance as if I had written all
Shakespeare's plays, and allowed him for a consideration to claim
the authorship. In a few days, during which my father thought
the loom was very silent, as I did not weave in the same room as he
worked in, I produced a terrible tragedy under the title of 'Marinello
the Monk; or, the Italian Lovers.'
With what a shout of approval it was welcomed! Every
character was a 'part,' so that there was no murmuring at the cast.
There were daggers to be used in the piece,—two tin ones, cost
threehalfpence each, and a veritable pistol,—an old flint and steel
that sometimes would not 'go off' when murder was to be committed,
but create a scare when it was not in the plot. Being the
author, I had the privilege assigned to me of taking the leading
part,—the villain of the piece. Almost smothered beneath the
folds of a black cloak belonging to an aunt, I stalked about the
stage—planks, I mean—intent upon my murderous design, in a manner
that I have imagined since, Irving must have copied, it was so
When the performance was over, all who had taken part in it
were lionized, excepting myself, who had created such a dislike that
my little sweetheart declared she would have nothing more to say to
'sich a bad un as thee.' That cured me of dramatic authorship
for a very long time. If I am suffering from a severe cold,
and wish to sweat it away, I think of that attempt to become great;
and perspiration requires no additional stimulus to make it boil out
I would advise those who wish to know more about the early
career of Mr. Brierley to read his Autobiographical Sketch Home
Memories. It is teeming with racy humour, and is a graphic
little history of his native village at that period.
Reverting to the time when Brierley began to aspire to
literary fame he became quite a notable in his little community.
Being full of confidence in his ability to succeed as an author he
ventured into print with a few of his short sketches, which created
no little envy amongst his associates, who were reluctant enough to
admit his literary talent. Adverse criticism on his early
productions apparently served only to stimulate him to renewed
energy, for he had a soul within him which soared above
difficulties, and to use his own words which he has often been heard
to express,—"I had to make my own ladder before I could climb."
I remember a companion of Mr. Brierley's once asking me if I
had seen an article in the Manchester Spectator the previous
Saturday from the pen of a gentleman named "Saxon Wallbridge,"
describing a summer ramble in the country. I replied that I
had read the article named and considered it to be very good.
"Good? It is excellent!" exclaimed my interrogator,
"and decidedly the best sketch written in the dialect that I ever
read. That man, whoever he is, will make his mark in that
class of literature," and he wound up by saying, "If I were Ben
Brierley I would never again venture as a Lancashire writer because
he cannot compare with Saxon Wallbridge." When he had finished
his laudations I told him that I was very glad to hear him express
such a favourable opinion, because I confidently believed that Saxon
Wallbridge and Ben Brierley were one and the same person. Ere
I had read many paragraphs I concluded from certain local incidents
mentioned therein that no other person but Ben Brierley could
possibly have written the story. The critic pooh-poohed my
assertions and walked away sceptically, shaking his head, but in a
short time afterwards he had to admit that my judgment was correct.
Meeting with Mr. Brierley some time afterwards I began to
talk the matter over with him about the unknown author. He
seemed rather reticent at first, but I noticed a faint smile on his
countenance when I began to beat about the bush for information.
At length I ventured to enquire if Saxon Wallbridge was any relation
of Ben Brierley's. His smile was soon transformed into a
hearty laugh, and he replied, "Gex agen and theau'll happen be fur
off th' mark."
It afforded him much amusement when I told him the opinion of
his friend and would-be critic on his popular story, A Day out,
or a Summer Ramble to Daisy Nook. Amongst his voluminous
productions that sketch stands yet unsurpassed for truthful and
graphic description. It provokes the risible faculties with
its broad humour, and draws the tear of sympathy with its pathetic
At the time The Day Out was published in the
Spectator, I carefully cut out the slips and posted them to
Samuel Bamford, the Lancashire
poet and author, who at that time was employed at Somerset House,
London. I considered that he would be a good authority to
judge of their literary merits, and I sent him the real name of the
writer. Shortly afterwards I received a letter from Bamford
which contained the following reply:—"I cannot say that I have the
pleasure of knowing the Mr. Brierley you mention; he is, however, a
clever person, there is no doubt about that; the slips you sent
me—and for which I thank you—are sufficient proof of his power as a
writer, whilst his orthography of the Lancashire dialect is as good
as any I have read, since I could read, and that is saying a good
deal, since Waugh is in the field. Indeed I had seen one or
two slips in the Spectator, and I had not the remotest idea
that any other than Waugh had written them or could have written
them. I am getting old, and must soon drop these kind of
things, but I am really happy to think that after I am laid low
others will remain to do justice, I hope, to the local records, and
homely, kindly modes of expression of days long past." Such
was the honest, out-spoken opinion of Bamford on the merits of a
rising literary genius, for such Ben Brierley has proved himself to
be, as his works bear testimony.
Mr. Brierley has not confined himself to the dialect, but has
written many stories in current English, with great success.
Cast upon the World he considered the best amongst his
His "Ab-o'th'-Yate's" stories are in the main broadly
humorous, and may be said, in loom-house phraseology, to be a warp
of reality "picked" with the weft of fiction.
It is said of Fielding in the preface to "Joseph Andrews,"
that "there was scarce a character or action which he had not taken
from his own observation and experience, but the characters were so
disguised that it would be impossible to guess at them with
certainty." The same remarks are applicable to Mr. Brierley's
writings. "Owd Thuston," "Fause Juddie," and "Sam Smithies,"
who take prominent parts in "Ab-o'th'-Yate's" little comedies, were
drawn from real life, and the originals were all well known to me
before they were laid in their graves.
The late Mr. Samuel Broadbent, of Mossley, who formerly was
in the silk trade at Woodhouses, was proud of being the original of
"Sam Smithies"—"Ab's" friend and patron. "Owd Thuston" ("Owd
Smethurst ") was a well-to-do farmer who lived in a fold in
Failsworth. From this place the author got his idea of "Walmsley
Fowt "where the dwellings of "Ab-o'th'-Yate" and "Fause Juddie" are
supposed to be located.
You may search in vain for "Fause Juddie's" grocer's shop,
where he sailed for bacon in a flour tub when the cellar was
flooded, his frail boat capsizing ere he had reached the "Cheshire
"Ab-o'th'-Yate" is a mythical character of the author's own
creation, but the "Walmsley Fowt" philosopher is well drawn and
resembles several well-known country humorists ingeniously rolled
into one person, and he has been the happy medium through which the
author tells his droll stories, many of which are pure inventions of
his fertile brain.
If Mr. Brierley had been asked who "Ab-o'th'-Yate" really
was, he would have been puzzled to answer the question—quite as much
so as Washington Irving was to define the original of the "Stout
Gentleman" or the "Great Unknown" in "Bracebridge Hall." His
answer to the enquiry was, that he was as anxious to know as his
readers, and was often at a loss to distinguish in his own works
what to believe,—reality being so interwoven with fiction.
Some of the "Ab-o'th'-Yate" stories may be thought to be
improbable; perhaps they may be so, but be it remembered that "Ab"
was an eccentric dreamer, and we all know the strange vagaries of
the mind when rambling in dreamland.
Mr. Brierley may also be said to be the architect of several
of the villages mentioned in his stories. "Th' Owd Bell," "Pig
and Fork," and "Wheel and Barrels," quaint old country inns, named
in his sketches of Hazelworth, Langleyside, Birchwood and Waverlow,
also the old halls and rustic cottages, are real material gathered,
as it were, in different parts of the countryside and "knocked
together," as an artist would say, to make up a picture—fact blended
For a period of about 30 years Mr. Brierley was before the
public as a reader of his own works and was very successful in that
capacity. When Samuel Bamford, the Lancashire author, returned
from London about 1858, I introduced Mr. Brierley to him at his
cottage in Hall Street, Moston, and a very cordial greeting took
place. Mr. Bamford having recently been reading the Daisy
Nook Sketches, complimented the author upon his cleverly written
stories, and from that time a friendship sprang up between them
which lasted until the old veteran was laid low in Middleton Church
yard. When Bamford was over 70 years of age he commenced to
give readings in public as a means of obtaining a livelihood, Mr.
Brierley assisting him in several entertainments. Thus the two
weavers for a time wove as it were on the same loom, but it was
evidently too late in life for Bamford to engage in such an
undertaking and eventually a number of his admirers kindly allowed
him a competency of five pounds a month and smoothed his declining
days, his death taking place April 20th, 1872, when he was
eighty-four years of age. Mr. Brierley continued to give
readings in public, until about the year 1889, when his health broke
down. At one time he was writing stories to eleven local
papers, some of which were afterwards published in book form and
proved a fair source of income. In 1869 he commenced his
Ben Brierley's Journal, which he piloted with success for about
16 years, the stories which appeared from his pen being eagerly
read, more especially his "Ab-o'th'-Yate" papers.
Mr. Brierley dramatised the following selections from his
Popular stories:—Thistledown Hall; The Cobbler's Stratagem;
Fratchingtons of Fratchingthorpe; The Layrock of
Langleyside; and Ab-o'th'-Yate Insuring his Life.
Mr. Brierley was frequently engaged to appear in their production in
such parts as 'Joe o' Dicks;' 'Solomon Mak' a Penny,' &c., his most
successful character being Joe o' Dicks in The Layrock of
Langleyside. This play had a successful run of several
nights at the Theatre Royal, Manchester, with the stock company of
that period. Mr. Brierley was highly complimented by the press
for his clever and humorous acting of the wily old weaver, and was
especially successful in the "courting" scene with Widow Andrew.
With close application to mental work for so long a time, his
health gave way, and about 1880 he paid a visit to America to
recruit his energies. He paid a second visit about four years
afterwards, and the result of his two trips are now before the
public in a volume of 324 pages, entitled Ab-o'th'-Yate in
From this book an extract was published in the Manchester
Guardian entitled, How Englishmen have risen in America,
and as a proof that it was well received in that country, a
gentleman connected with the American shipping trade asked Mr.
Brierley's permission to reprint 50,000 copies, which may be
regarded as a tribute to the breadth and accuracy of the statements
the book contained.
It was previous to Mr. Brierley's setting sail to America
that a public testimonial was set on foot to be presented to him on
His native townspeople entertained him at a soiree and
presented him with a splendid album containing twenty-seven
photographic views of familiar places, as well as the portraits of a
large number of friends and celebrities.
He was also feted at Manchester, Oldham, Leigh, and Clayton
Bridge. A performance was given at the Prince's Theatre,
Manchester in aid of the testimonial fund, and the example was
followed at the Theatre Royal, Oldham. The testimonial was
presented to Mr. Brierley in the Mayor's parlour of the Town Hall,
Manchester, in the presence of a large number of friends and
admirers. The Mayor (Mr. Alderman Harwood), presided, and
after several complimentary speeches had been made, he presented Mr.
Brierley with a silk purse shaped like an old stocking which
contained a cheque for £650. In the course of his remarks, the
Mayor said that Brierley and Burns were very much alike in one
respect, for Burns said of his father—
He bade me act an honest part,
Though I had ne'er a farthing,
For man without a manly heart
Is never worth regarding.
Mr. Brierley, he said, might properly say the same of his father.
He wished him every blessing, and that he might enjoy good health,
and consecrate his remaining days to doing good to those who needed
Mr. Brierley received a grant, many years afterwards, from
the Royal Literary Fund of £150. This sum was well bestowed at
the time, because in his shattered state of health he was unable to
follow his literary pursuit, his right side being disabled by an
attack of paralysis and his speech was much impeded.
It was a source of consolation to Mr. Brierley to live to see
his talents substantially recognised by English-speaking people in
almost every part of the globe, for wherever Lancashire men have set
foot, (and in what part of the world have they not?) they have to
thank Ben Brierley for many joyous hours whilst perusing his graphic
glimpses of the old home life.
The following lines by Mr. David Lawton, of Greenfield, which
appeared in several of the local newspapers shortly after Ben
Brierley's death, are much too good to be lost, and are very
suitable for insertion here:—
BEN BRIERLEY (AB-O'TH'-YATE),
Died January 18th,
voices now are hushed, three singers sweet
Are gone to sing their stirring songs elsewhere:—
Brierley; now, methinks, they greet
And mingle voices in yon happier sphere.
Each one—a son of toil, a child of song—
Has added to his county's fair renown,
Has striv'n to make his fellows pure and strong
And worthily has worn the poet's crown.
Not least, though last to go, we mourn to-day
Fun loving, mirth provoking Ben, whose mind
Was like a child's,—transparent, yet refined,—
And whose creations cannot pass away.
Now by his darling's* side lay him to rest,
And may each mourner feel that God knows best.
Jany 10th, 1896.
* Referring to his only
child, Annie, who died in her nineteenth year, on the 13th of June,
In the preparation and selection of these sketches and short
stories, I have received considerable assistance from Mr. John
Dronsfield, whose intimacy with the writings of Mr. Brierley is well
known through his public recitals.
With the exception of the frontispiece to the first volume,
which is a truthful portrait of the author, from a photograph taken
in June, 1894, the illustrating of the three volumes has been
intrusted to Mr. Fred W. Jackson, whose intimate acquaintance with
Lancashire life in the districts from whence the author found most
of his material has been of much service in finding and drawing
characters suitable to the text. Mr. Jackson has drawn nine
good pictures, all of which have been most carefully reproduced by
the "Collotype" process, and add considerably to the interest of
The following lines are probably the last which Ben Brierley
wrote. They reveal a side of his character which was scarcely
known except to his intimate friends. Mrs. Brierley found them
a few days after his death, written in lead pencil, amongst the
papers he had last handled:—
SONGS OF THE ANGELS.
Round the Great Creator's throne,
Hear the loud hosannas ring;
Earth is silent when 'tis known
We can hear the angels sing.
How sweetly now the music steals
Through the air in liquid strains
Each tone the sacred truth reveals,
That in heaven Jehovah reigns.
2nd June, 1896.
It is the mournful duty of the
Publisher of these volumes to announce that the Editor, Mr. JAMES
DRONSFIELD, died on the
24th of June last, after a short illness of eighteen days' duration,
having been stricken by an apoplectic fit whilst in the performance
of his ordinary occupation.
duties as Editor were, with one or two exceptions, completed a few
days before his attack. What he left undone in the way of
examining and passing the proof sheets has been ably performed by
his son, Mr. JOHN DRONSFIELD,
and Mr. CHARLES WALTERS.
To these gentlemen the Publisher's thanks are due, and he hereby
gratefully acknowledges their kind services.
25th September, 1896.