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 A REMINISCENCE


IT was during the recent severe frost.  A goodly company was gathered together, and the conversation naturally turned on the distress caused to the out-door workpeople and those dependent upon them.

First one and then another would tell of the needy circumstances of some of his acquaintances, and praises were bestowed upon those kindly people who had contributed towards the relief of the suffering by means of soup kitchens, &c.  Instances were narrated of little children, shivering with cold, waiting with jugs in their hands for their turn to be served with what would, perhaps, be their only meal during the day.  “Aye! aye!” said one, “heaw true it is that one hawve o’ th’ world doesn’t know heaw t’ other hawve lives.  Look at Jerry o’ Tum’s, neaw.  He’s a fine strappin’ chap, an’ willin’ to work when there’s ony wark to be getten, but he’s be’n eawt o’ collar over sin’ this frost started.  Aw know ’at there’s thoose sort o’ folks who say that we o owt to put summat by for a rainy day, and that nearly o poverty is th’ result of improvidence.  My opinion abeawt thoose sort o’ philosophers is ’at the’r summat like dry lond sailors.  They con talk a lot abeawt their experiences i’ storms at sea, but if there’s nobbut a little puff o’ wynt comes reawnd th’ corner wheer they happen to be stonnin’ they rush into th’ heause as if they wur feart ’at th’ world wur comin’ to an end.  Nawe I nawe, chaps! if ther’ wur no moore poverty nor what wur caused by improvidence, this world would be a lot happier an’ moore comfortable nor what it is.  Neaw, Jerry wur doin’ weel not so long sin’.  He lived in a nice house ’at wur pretty weel furnished for a workin’ chap.  He’s a lot o’ little childer, yo’ know, but they wur awlus cleon an’ tidily dressed.  But he’s had a lot o’ bad luck.  He’s had three o’ th’ childer deawn poorly o at once, an’ aw’m sorry to say ’at th’ prattiest o’ th’ bunch on ’em wur ta’en away an’ laid deawn to its long rest.  Breeksettin’s bad yo’ known, so ther’s no signs of ony wark for Jerry yet, an’ what mak’s matters worse his wife’s just had another youngster.  They’re gradely full up, aw con tell yo’.  That neet ’at it wur born they wur in ya regular pickle.  They wur frozen up.  They’d noather a leet nor a drop o’ wayter i’ th’ heause, an’ Jerry wur runnin’ up an’ deawn tryin’ to borrow a candle.  But, what wur worse, they’d nowt t’ ate i’ th’ heause, an’ aw con hardly tell heaw aw felt when aw see’d one o’ th’ little wenches waitin’ of her turn for a pint o’ soup th’ day after.  See yo’, aw believe ’at, mony ea time, ther’s moore disgrace i’ wealth nor poverty.”

Theau’rt reet, Sammy,” said Bob o’ th’ Broo, “theau’rt reet.  Yo’ may think ’at awm rayther nicely off neaw, but aw’ve known what clemmin’ an’ starvin’ wur.  An’ if aw haven’t known it moore it wur becose my parents clemm’d an’ starved for me.  Aw’ve known ’em go beawt summat t’ ate a whole day, mony a time, so as th’ childer could ha’ the’r ballies full.  Talk abeawt improvidence!  Folks ’at talk like that dunnot know ’at they’re born.  Aw wonder if they remember th’ Cotton Panic?  Aw wur nobbut a little lad at th’ time, but aw recollect it as if it wur yesterday.  Ther’ wur my feythur, my mother, an’ five childer, an’ aw wur th’ owdest but one.  My feyther couldno’ work if there’d be’n ony wark, becose he wur too poorly; an’ me an’ my elder brother work’d at Platt’s shop.  Aw’d a hawve a creawn a week when aw work’d full time, but we wur on then abeawt three an’ a hawve days a week.  Heaw we managed to poo throo aw con hardly tell yo’, an’ ther’ wur ’at wur worse off than us.  Aw’d porritch an’ churnmilk to my breakfast; aw took a little bit o’ dinner wi’ me, which aw used to have warm’t up i’ th’ owd wood cabin ’at stood on Featherstall Road, an’ then aw’d porritch an’ churnmilk to my baggin’ at th’ neet.  Fleaur, yo’ known, wern’t as chep then as it is neaw.  What bit o’ bread ’at we had wur‘ oather breawn tommy or grund-deawn.  Scores o’ times aw’ve had lard spread o’ my bread i’ th’ place o’ butter.  Threacle cakes used to be moore common then than they are neaw.  Of a Sunday mornin’ by way of a treat, we o had eawr porritch tem’d on separate plates, an’ instead o’ churnmilk, we made a hole i’ th’ middle o’ th’ porritch where we had abeawt a tay spoonful o’ threacle an’ a little bit o’ sugar.  Eh! but thoose wur happy days after o.  Things, heawever, went fro’ bad to worse, an’ ther’ wur no prospect of a break i’ th’ cleawds.  Relief funds wur started, an’ “dow” began to be th’ order o’ th’ day.  My parents wur a bit before they could bring the’rsel’ to applyin’ for “dow.”  Yo’ see we’d a bit o’ pride in us, though we wur poor.  Then, yo see, livin’ like a bit eawt i’ th’ country, th’ circumstances of every family wur pretty weel known to the’r neighbours, an’ they help’d one another o ’at they could.  Awst never forget owd Tim Smith.  He wur a famer, an’ a bit o’ a terror to th’ lads ’at used to go blackberryin’, bridneezin’, an’ turmit stalin’, but he wur noan a bad-bottom’d chap after o.  We used to have eawr milk off him, an’ i’ times like these he’d keep on supplyin’ us wi’ milk an’ tell us to pay him when we could.  Then when a ceaw cawved he’d give beeast to o his regular customers.  Eh, heaw aw liked thoose times!  What custarts we used to have!  Sometimes he sowd us a looad o’ potatoes chepper nor we could buy onywheer else, witheawt pressin’ for ready brass.  We put ’em i’ th’ loomheause, an’ aw used to goo o gettin’ feearn for t’ lay ’em on.  Worst on it wur ’at they generally went damp an’ rotten before they wur o done, but we had to mak’ th’ best on ’em.

At last, i’ spite of o we could do, we had to come to th’ “dow.”  My mother didno’ like it, but ther’ wur nowt else for it.  Lookin’ back to thoose times, aw see noather improvidence nor disgrace abeawt it.  A friend who wur on th’ Relief Committee at Chadderton Church volunteered to lay eawr case before ’em, an’ aw had to go an’ fotch th’ “dow.”  Aw went every week, but one time ther’ wur summat went wrung, an’ aw wur sespected of havin’ had two lots wheer aw should only have had one.  Ther’ wur a bit o’ bother abeawt it, an aw had to appear before th’ Committee.  It wur fund eawt after ’at aw knew nowt abeawt it, an’ that it had be’n gan to somebody else in a mistake.  That wur th’ only time i’ my life that aw wur suspected o’ roguin’.  Shortly after th’ system wur altered, an’ tickets wur gan which yo’ could change at ony respectable grocers for food, &c.  These tickets didn’t apply t’ th’ Store at th’ first, becose aw suppose th’ Store wurn’t considered respectable.  We wur members o’ th’ Store then, an’ we pleaded for charity in this respect, which after a while wur granted, but aw believe ’at no divi. wur allowed i’ thoose cases.  Aye, thoose wur tryin’ times, an’ aw never see these folks gooin’ for soup neaw but aw think o’ my “dow” days. 
 

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