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 OFFICIALLY DEEOD

A CENSUS STORY

AW coed into Tim o’ Tum’s th’ other neet, thinkin’ aw’d have a bit o’ talk wi’ him abeawt this Parlyment Bill an’ abeawt th’ Heause o’ Lords, but aw fund him up to th’ een in a discussion wi’ theer Mally abeawt takkin’ th’ census.  Mally had been readin’ i’ th’ newspapper at there were goin’ to be a lot moore questions nor there’d ever been before, an’ hoo wur tellin’ Tim heaw careful he’d ha’ to be i’ fillin’ th’ papper up or else he’d get fin’t five peaunds an’ costs.

“Doesn’ta see,” hoo said, “’at there never wur such a census as this before?  Theau may ha’ filled census pappers up before, but theau never filled one up like this will be.  An’ doesta know what they’re doin’ it o for?”

An’ Tim admitted ’at he didn’t know.

“Well, aw’ll tell thee,” an’ hoo held her finger up at him same as if hoo wur reckonnin’ him up heaw mich he’d spent sin’ th’ last Friday.  “It
s o’ thisens. These wise folks up i’ Lunnon, what write these pappers eawt, han getten an idea i’ their yeds ’at th’ popilation’s goin’ deawn, an’ they want to stir it up a bit.”

Reference library
Reference Library, Oldham Industrial Co-operative Society.


“O, aye,” said Tim, “is that so?  But heaw is th’ fillin’ th’ census pappers up goin’ to increase th’ popilation?”

“Aw connot tell thee, Tim,” hoo onsert, “it’s noane o’ my plan, but Ailse o’ Joe’s said ‘at theer Bob had seen it i’ th’ newspapper, for he’d towd her hissel’!”

“Aye, well,” Tim said, “there’s no tellin’ what modern science an’ skoo’ board eddication will do, yet, as far as aw con see, th’ childer ’at are here are noane doin’ so badly.  They dunnot start o’ wortchin’ as soon as they did when we were’n childer, Mally, an’ they wouldn’t have as mony holidays if th’ schoomosthurs had to depend on th’ scholars skoo brass for their wages.  But what are these questions, Mally, ’at Ailse o’ Joe’s has been stuffin’ thee upwi’?”

“Hoo hasn’t been stuffin’ me up at o,” retorted Mally.  “Her an’ me, an’ Shusanah o’ th’ Nod Farm, an’ Nancy o’ Neds, an’ Betsy Ann fro’ Royley Cloof, an’ Jane o’ Johnny’s were just havin’ a bit of a chat when Ailse towd us what theer Bob had been readin’.”

“Well, aw dunnot think ’at Bob would leeov it owt short.  But what wur th’ questions? Theau con remember one or two, surely!”

“Aye! one swur ’at yo’ han to say who’s th’ yed o’ th’ family.”

“O, aye!” an’ Tim wink’d at me as aw sit hearkenin’ ’em.  “An’ heaw lung are they givin’ folks to onswer that question?”

“O, they’ll have o day at th’ Sunday,” onswert Mally.

“They connot do it i’ th’ time,” said Tim.  “Aw remember Lung Alf o’ Short Ben’s tellin’ ’at he’d been tryin’ to sattle that question at theer heause for above fifty ye’rs an’ he wur fur off at th’ finish nor he wur at th’ beginnin’.  Then, theau munnot forget ’at things are a bit different to what they were when Lung Alf were livin’.  At that time if a woman wur th’ mesthur in her own heause hoo didn’t want everybody to know abeawt it.  Aw dar say theau recollects Mary o’ Ma’tha’s hittin’ theer Billy o’ th’ top o’ th’ yed wi’ a rowlin’ pin becose he’d alleaw’d hissel’ to be proposed as a member o’ th’ Brooside Henpeck’d Club.  But neaw some folk want to turn th’ world reawnd an’ mak’ wimen into th’ lords o’ creation.”

“Well, if they dunnot cut a better figure nor some of eawr present lords they’ll be sorry specimens,” replied Mally.

“So they will,” agreed Tim, “but, of course, like o th’ suffragists, theau wants to compare th’ best o’ wimen wi’ th’ worst o’ men.”

“Nowt o’ th’ sort,” onsert Mally.  “But talkin’ abeawt suffragists reminds me at Ailse says ‘at theer Bob towd her ’at this census wur to divide th’ popilation into males, females, an’ Suffragettes.  Aw dunnot believe ’at that’s true, is it, Tim.”

”Yigh, aw think it is,” said Tim, tryin’ to look as solemn as a churchwarden.  “Doesn’ta see?  It’s o’ this road.  These great professors o’ larnin’ are awlus tryin’ to show us heaw owd species are gooin’ eawt an’ new species comin’ in.  Neaw these Suffragettes are a new species, an’ aw’ve no deaubt but what these professors want to know moore abeawt ’em, so’s they con mak’ an’ extra subject to introduce into eawr Board Schoo’s.”

“Aw believe ’at theau’rt tryin’ to mak’ a foo on me,” observ’d Mally.

“Nowt o’ th’ sort, wench,” said Tim, assurin’ly.  “Aw’m nobbut tellin’ thee what aw’ve yerd.


“An’ is it true ’at they want to know whether ev’rybody’s wed, or not, at fifteen yo’r owd?” ax’d Mally.

“Aye!  Aw believe that’s true, too,” replied Tim.

“An’ is it these professors ’at want to know that?” inquired Mally.

“I expect it is,” onsert Tim.

“Well, it simply shows th’ result o’ bein’ brawsen wi’ book larnin’, that’s o.  Aw’ll tell thee what it is, Tim,” said Mally, seriously.  “There’s a problem grooin’ ’at’ll want solvin’ some day.  Wed at fifteen, gooin’ t’ schoo’ till sixteen, nursin’ i’stead o’ workin’ at seventeen, wantin’ no wark at eighteen, an’ pension’d off, aw reckon, at thirty.  It’s a grand scheme, Tim, but heaw is it to be kept up?”

“O, there’ll be no difficulty abeawt that,” Tim assured her.  “Folks will be o Socialists then, an’ they’ll ha’ nowt to do but to touch a button an’ they’ll get owt ’at they want.”

But who’s gooin’ to attend to th’ button?” inquired Mally.

“Neaw, neaw, lass, theau’rt gooin’ too far.  Theau’rt gooin’ to upset o th’ fabric wi’ thoose sort o’ questions.”

“Questions behang’d,” retorted Mally.  “They should put thoose sort o’ questions i’ th’ census papper i’stead o’ wantin’ to know wheer folks were born an’ when they were shorten’d, an’ heaw they were browt up, an’ when they started o’ cooartin’, an’ heaw mony they cooarted, an’ heaw mony reawms they sleep in at once.  Why dun they ax sich questions, Tim?”

“Becose they want to know,” onsert Tim.  “There’s nowt like spirrin’ if theau wants to know owt.  Neaw these census pappers are to get to know heaw mony folks live i’ this country of eawrs.  An’ while they’re at it they think they met as weel get to know wheer they live an’ heaw they live.  This information will o be printed when it’s sorted eawt, an’ we’st get to know wheer there’s overcreawdin’ an’ wheer there’s undercreawdin’.  It’ll tell us heaw mony families are occupyin’ less nor one reawm apiece, an’ heaw mony are occupyin’ above a hundert reawms apiece.  An’ so’s nobody’ll be ceawnted twice o’er, an’ nob’dy miss’d bein’ ceawnted, everybody will ha’ to be book’d for th’ heause ’at they sleep in o’ Sunday neet, April 2nd.

“But heaw if they dunnot sleep in a heause that neet?” ax’d Mally.

“Oh! th’ policemen ’ll look after thoose, same as they’re supposed to do neaw.  But aw dar’ say they’ll miss one or two same as they miss’d owd Abram Lingart at one census.  Theau knew Abram, didta, Jammy?” Tim said, turnin’ to me.  “He lived to’ards Mills Hill, but he generally coom to th’ Church Inn i’ th’ Fowt when he’re on th’ spree.  Well, as aw said, they missed him one time.”

“Heaw miss’d him?” I inquired.

“We’, they didn’t ceawnt him amung thoose ’at were wick,” said Tim.

“An’ heaw wur that?” aw wanted to know.

“Becose he wur deeod,” replied Tim.

“But he’s noane deeod yet,” aw reminded him, “for it’s noane so lung sin’ aw seed him, an’ aw’ve never yerd tell on him doin’ such a good turn as that to onybody, sin’.”

“But he wur deeod then, Jammy, an’ that wur why they didn’t ceawnt him.  At leeost he wur what they coe officially deeod.  But happen theau never yerd abeawt it.  Well, it coom abeawt this road.  Theau knows ’at nob’dy ’at ever knew Abram would ever accuse him o’ bein’ fond o’ wark.  He’d do owt obbut wortch.  I’ th’ summer time he’d hod abeawt th’ farm heauses, an’ generally get in for a bit o’ bread an’ cheese, an’ a sope o’ ’leawance, an’ i’ th’ winter he’d patronise one o’ th’ warkheauses till th’ warm weather coom reawnd.  He said ’at it did him as mich good as gooin’ to Blackpool.  It cured him of indigestion an’ he never had to wonder wheer his next meal must come fro’.”

He happen’d to be i’ Owdham Warkheause a bit afore that particular census wur ta’en.  But as th’ days began to grow breeter, an’ lunger, he felt a change would be beneficial, so he went eawt one day to visit his friends, as usual, an’ he didn’t go back.  Th’ officials never bother’d abeawt him, an’ they didn’t even go to th’ trouble o’ scrattin’ his name eawt o’ th’ books.  This wur unfortunate, as it turn’d eawt, becose another inmate o’ th’ warkheause happen’d to be coed Abram Lingart, an’ this chap made no moor a do but he deed suddenly a toothri weeks afther th’ other Abram Lingart had left.  Of course th’ officials look’d up his address, so’s they could write an’ tell his relations ’at he’d shuffled off this mortal coil, but, as luck would have it, they tumbled upon th’ wrang Abram, an’ when his relatives geet a letter tellin’ ’em ’at he wur deeod ’an axin’ ’em if they intended to fotch his body away it caused quite a flutter among ’em for they were feeart ’at they met be put to some expense.  They began to wonder, an’ to spir, as to heaw mony clubs he wur in.  Some said ’at he wur i’ th’ Yealds Green Childers’ Club, if he hadn’t run eawt.  Others remember’d yerrin’ him say ’at he wur i’ Peter Macdonald’s Club, but they didn’t know wheer his card wur.  Then it wur said ’at one or two of his brothers an’ sisters, an’ even some of his nephews, had him insur’d or back’d, as they coed it, for a nice little sum, an’ when it wur fund eawt ’at they could bury him respectably an’ ha’ middlin’ o’ brass laft, they decided to fotch his body eawt o’ th’ warkheause an’ bury it daycently i’ th’ churchyard at Middleton Junction.

There wur noane on ’em anxious to see him, so they gan a chap sixpence to goo an’ get th’ certificate so’s they could draw th’ buryin’ brass.  There wur a bit o’ trouble abeawt a grave for th’ owd mon, but at last it wur agreed ’at he must be burried wi’ his brother Isaac, seein’ as he had a grave to hissel’ which wouldn’t be wanted again as his widow had gettin’ wed again an’ her husband wouldn’t hearken to her bein’ buried wi’ her first love lest there should be bother at th’ resurrection.  Heawever, they made him a gradely nice buryin’, an’ as he didn’t belung to ony on ’em ony moore nor to another they o made a bit of a do an’ invited o th’ neighbours to their baggin’.  There were th’ owd fashion’t buryin’ cakes ’at look’d like curran’ mowfins, wi’ sticky tops, an’ there wur plenty o’ ale sarv’d eawt i’ jugs ’at had their hondles lapp’d reawnd wi’ lemon peel.  Everybody wore a sprig o’ rosemary, an’ everybody wur happy.

As they didn’t like th’ idea o’ th’ buryin’ startin’ fro’ th’ warkheause they arranged wi’ th’ undertakker to fotch th’ body i’ th’ hearse, an they’d meet it, wi’ th’ coaches, at th’ side o’ wheer th’ tow-bar used to be i’ Middleton Road.  Everythin’ passed off o reet, an’ Abram quietly wur wiped eawt.

But he wurno’ wiped eawt for lung.  One day he turn’d up at his brother Jacob’s, who kept a bit of a farm at Jumbo, an’ when his brother’s wife seed him hoo set up a terrible screeom an’ ran into th’ shippen, wheer Jacob wur milkin’ th’ ceaws.

“Murder! murder!” hoo scriked as soon as hoo seed Jacob.  It’s funny heaw wimen’ll screeom murder even if they nobbut see a blackjack.

“Whatever’s to do neaw?” said Jacob, gettin’ up off his stoo’ as unconcarn’d as if hoo wur nobbut tellin’ him ’at his porritch wur ready.

“It’s yo’r Abram,” hoo replied.  “He’s — He’s — He’s i’ th’ heause yonder.  Oh! do go to him.  Aw’m sure it’s him, or his ghost.  Eh! dear; whatever’ll become on us?  Do go to him, Jacob.”

But Jacob wurn’t in a hurry to go.  He shufflet abeawt, examinin’ th’ milk cans an’ talkin’ to th’ ceaws, same as if his wife had never spokken.  Aw dar’ say Abram wonder’t what there wur to do as hoo never awsed to come back, so he made no moore a do nor he set off to’ard th’ shippen after her.  When hoo seed him comin’ hoo samm’d howd o’ Jacob for protection an’ coed eawt, “He’s comin’ again, Jacob; he’s comin’ again.”

Jacob look’d to’ard th’ shippen dur an’ theer stood Abram, lookin’ owt obbut like a ghost.

“Well, what does theau want?” said Jacob, in as fierce a tone as he could command.

“Aw want a bit o’ bre’kfast, that’s o,” onsert Abram.

“Aw thowt ghosts didn’t need bre’kfasts,” suggested Jacob.

“But aw could do wi’ one neaw,” said Abram.  “A nice bit o’ bacon an’ some new laid eggs wouldn’t come amiss neaw, brother Jacob,” an’ he smack’d his lips as though he wur just beawn t’ taste on ’em.

“Give him some an’ let him go,” whisper’t Jacob’s wife.

But Jacob wurn’t so ready at partin’ wi’ his eggs an’ bacon.

“Heaw lung hasta been getten up?” he ax’d Abram.

“O, abeawt ten minutes,” replied Abram.

“It hasn’t ta’en thee lung to come fro’ th’ churchyard,” added Jacob.

“What churchyard?” inquired Abram, i’ surprise.

“Why, St. Gabriel’s, to be sure,” onsert Jacob.

St. Gabriel’s behang’d,” said Abram. Aw’ve been i’ no churchyard; aw’ve slept amung th’ hay, i’ thy barn, if theau wants to know wheer aw’ve slept.  An’ neaw aw could do wi’ a bit o’ bre’kfast, if theau’s no objection.

“Well, this is a corker,” mused Jacob to hissel’, as he went to’ard th’ dur, while his wife still stuck to him as if hoo wur feeart ’at Abram wur goin’ to tak’ booath him an’ her back wi’ him.  “Talk abeawt a bad shillin’ turnin’ up again, why it isn’t in it wi’ thee, Abram!  It’s noane so lung sin’ we buried thee weel, an’ wesh’d thee deawn weel, an’ here theau art again as if nowt had happen’d.  An’ theau says ’at theau hasn’t been buried, Abram?”

“Do aw look like it, Jacob?  Get me that plate o’ bacon an’ eggs ready an’ aw’ll soon show thee whether aw’m wick or deeod.”

“Well, this is a corker,” said Jacob again.  “Aw never knew owt like this.  Come thy ways i’ th’ heause, Abram, an’ dunnot let onybody see thee.  There’s goin’ to be some bother o’er this, aw con see.  We’ve buried th’ wrang mon.  Some on us’ll be had up for manslowter, as sure as we’re here.”

When Jacob’s wife yerd this hoo screeom’d again, an’ Jacob had a job to pacify her, but at last he persuaded her to cook th’ eggs an’ bacon while he thowt things o’er a bit.  But moore he thowt abeawt ’em an’ worse they seem’d to goo.  They’d not only buried Abram but they’d spent his club brass, too.  He dursn’t tell him that.  Then what abeawt th’ other chap ’at they had really buried?  Who wur he, an’ what wur he, an’ wur he really deeod?  Jacob went in a cowd sweat when he thowt abeawt it.  What would th’ other felley’s family an’ relations say when they fund it eawt ’at he’d been buried eawt of his turn?

Jacob kept thinkin’ this o’er, but he could see no road eawt o’ th’ scrape ’at they’d tumbled into.  He kept lookin’ reawnd in the hope ’at he met see summat ’at would suggest some road eawt of it.  But it wur no use.  Then his gaze fell on th’ census papper, which wur put on th’ cornish for readiness.  That set him o of a dither.  It wur th’ day for fillin’ it up.  It wur o straight forrud before, but what must be done neaw?  Abram had slept on his premises an’ should be entered on th’ census papper.  But Jacob dursn’t do it.  Abram wur deeod.  Deeod an’ buried, altho’ he wur at that minute fillin’ his bally wi’ eggs an’ bacon.

He wur officially deeod, an’ he couldn’t enter him on th’ papper as being officially wick.  Whatever wur he to do?  He thowt he’d tak’ a bit of a walk to think things o’er, but his wife wouldn’t alleaw it for a minute.  Hoo wur noane beawn’t stop i’ th’ heause wi’ someb’dy ’at hoo didn’t know whether it wur a ghost or a felley.

Then a happy thowt coom to Jacob.  He mentioned it to his wife an’ hoo slipp’d her shawl on an’ ran for th’ village policeman.  Abram wur just finishin’ his bre’kfast when th’ bobby arrived, an’ he wondert whatever wur to do.  Were they goin’ to try an’ lock him up becose they’d buried wrang mon?

Th’ bobby pood his notebook eawt of his pocket an’ wur goin’ to ax Abram a lot o’ questions, but Abram stopped him.  “Here, owd man,” he said, “theau con shut thy book up.  If yo’ve had no moore sense nor bury th’ wrang mon it’s nowt to do wi’ me.  Yo’ mon goo an’ sattle wi’ him.”

“Silence,” th’ bobby coed eawt, “if you are impudent I shall run you in.”

“O, theau will, wilta?” said Abram.  “An’ what wilta say when theau’s gettin’ me theer?  Wilta charge a deeod man wi’ bein’ impident?”

Th’ bobby seed ’at he’d a deawtful case i’ hont, an’ he wur for leeovin’ ’em, but Jacob geet howd on him: 
“What am I to do wi’ this papper?” he ax’d.  “Is he to go deawn wick or deeod?”

But th’ bobby wouldn’t ’leeten him.  He said ’at th’ guardians had turn’d him eawt as deeod an’ they were responsible.  He promised to see th’ cheermon o’ th’ board o’ guardians abeawt it an’ let ‘em know th’ result.  He did so, but th’ cheermon couldn’d help him.  He talk’d big an’ said he’d never known anything like it in the whole course of his twenty-one years’ experience.  He didn’t think it was possible for anyone to come to life again after having died in the workhouse, and he did not think it was possible for the officials to have made such a stupid blunder as to have sent out the wrong man.  There was no doubt about it if the guardians said he was dead, he was dead.  Not even the L.G.B. could alter that fact.

Th’ bobby went back an’ reported.  He didn’t think it wur ony use botherin’ ony fur.  He said it wur evident, according to th’ highest authority, ’at Abram wur deeod.  He therefore couldn’t be entered on th’ census papper.

An’ he wurn’t.  He wur deeod, officially deeod. 
 

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