SINGIN’ AN’ TALKIN’ MACHINES
Owd Siah an’ Y’ung Siah wur booath musicianers. Aw believe ’at Owd Siah’s fayther wur a musicianer, too, but aw dunnot know for certain. He wur too far back for me to remember him. Aw’ve yerd folks say ’at he could play a cornet an’ a Jews harp booath at once, but aw didno’ believe ’em. Aw know ’at Owd Siah could play a cornet becose aw’ve yerd him. Aye! an’ he could whistle, too. It used to be said when he walk’d through th’ Birch-in-lea, whistlin’, as though o th’ wo’ld belung’d to him, ’at th’ brids stopp’d singin’ to hearken him. Aye! he wur a grand whistler, wur Siah. He’d whistle like a lark, an’ he’d work like one, too. He used to say ’at some folks were made to sing, some to praych, an’ some to work. Nob’dy wur a success ’at tried above one at once, an’ he believed i’ ev’ry mon to his trade. Y’ung Siah wur th’ same. He used to mak’ th’ Fowt ring again when he whistled “Owd Dog Tray,” an’ “Three Cheers for the Red, White, an’ Blue,” an’ sich like songs. But he wurn’t partic’larly fond o’ wark. He said if he’d been intended for wark he’d ha’ been made into a hoss. Hosses work’d an’ didn’t oather sing or whistle.
When he wur a lad his parents put him to l’arn th’ trade o’ mechanicin’. But he didn’t stick to it lung. He said it didn’t agree wi’ his musical eddication. He persuaded his mother to keep a bit of a towfy shop, an’ he reckon’d to go deawn‘ to Manchester ev’ry toothri days to buy th’ traycle, wholesale. When he geet into a y’ung felley he happen’d to leet of a travellin’ shop for a ﬁrm i’ Manchester, an’ rare’n weel it’s suited him, too. It doesn’t matter whether he’s travellin’ by road or rail, he con whistle. He’s travelled to other countries, too, an’ aw suppose he’s whistled theere. He tells some rare tales when he comes whoam, but aw tak’ no notice on ’em, becose he wur awlus gan to romancin’. Aw rec’let him tellin’ once, when he coom back fro’ ’Moriky, ’at he’d seen some looms wi’ sixteen shuttles apiece in ’em, an’ they o follow’d one another like ducks to a pond; an one felley minded twenty o’ these looms. Of course I hadn’t been a wayver for above ﬁfty ye’rs witheawt knowin’ better nor that.
But one thing we did like Siah for. Whenever he could he awlus attended th’ Yealds Green Sing. He wur theere last Sunday afternoon, an’ after th’ sarvice wur o’er, an’ bein’ as it rained, aw took him deawn to eawr heause to his baggin’, an’ we had a talk abeawt owd times. He said ’at he started to attend th’ Yealds Green Sing before he wur breech’d, an’ he began to roll off a lot o’ names o’ folk ’at he remember’d, oather playin’ i’ th’ band or singin’ i’ th’ choir. He used to think it wur one o’ th’ grandest seets ’at he’d ever seen in his life. Of course he hadn’t seen mich eawt-side Chadderton Fowt then, but though he’s travelled a lot sin thoose days, he likes to come to th’ owd Sing, becose he expects ’at every ye’r will be th’ last.
“Heaw’s that, Siah?” I ax’d. “Theaw’rt noane beawn’t dee i’ th’ shell, are ta? Theaw’rt nobbut y’ung yet.”
“Oh! Aw’m noane thinkin’ abeawt deein’, Jammy,” he onsert. “Aw’m nobbut thinkin’ ’at th’ owd Sing will dee eawt.“
“What mak’s thee say that ?” I inquired.
“Becose singin’s gooin’ eawt o’ fashion neaw, except by machinery,” he replied.
“Ger off wi’ thee,” aw said. “What mak’ of a game are t’ up to neaw? Dusta meeon barrel orgin singin’, or what?”
“Neawe! aw dunnot, Jammy. Thoose are gooin’ eawt o’ date too, an’ gramaphones are takin’ their place.”
“What I dusta meeon thoose wheezy, asmatic tundishes ’at theaw yers grindin’, grindin’ away everywheer?”
“Aye, thoose are ’em, Jammy,” said Siah. “They’re wonderful machines, an’ we hardly know what they will do yet. What would yo’ think, Jammy, if aw towd yo’ ’at aw went to a church in Ameriky where ther wur noather organ nor singers, and yet aw never yerd a bit o’ nicer organ music,’ nor a bit o’ ﬁner singin’ i’ my life.”
“What should aw think, Siah? Aw should think theau wur trying to gammon me as usual.”
“Just imagine,” he went on, “What a Yealds Green Sing will be like in abeawt twenty yer’s fro’ neaw. There’ll be no pretty wenches an’ bonny y’ung women dressed i’ white adornin’ one side o’ th’ gallery, nor ﬁne strappin’ lads an’ y’ung fellies winkin’ at ’em fro’ th’ other side. There’ll be noather organ, nor harmonium, nor big ﬁddles, nor little ﬁddles. There’ll be an orchestra o’ gramaphones, Jammy. There’ll be a row o’ treble gramaphones, a row o’ altos, a row o’ tenors, an’ a row o’ basses. One machine winnot try to do every part same as they do neaw. Then there’ll be a big gramaphone i’ th’ centre for th’ organ, an’ we’st be able to yer th’ grandest music at th’ Yealds Green Chapel as weel as they con at St. Paul’s i’ Lundon.”
“That seawnds very nice, Siah,”aw said,“but why not have a gramaphone pa’son, too?”
“Oh, that’ll come,” said Siah. “An’ it’ll be a bad job for a lot o’ pa’sons, too. They’ll be like th’owd hond-loom wayvurs when peawer looms coom eawt, they’ll be wantin’ to goo abeawt smashin’ th’ machinery ’at’s done ’em eawt o’ their wark. But it’ll be one blessin’, Jammy, to know ’at there’ll be no moore sittin’ to hearken dull sarmons.”
“But heaw will they go on at weddin’s, an’ kessenins, an’ buryin’s if they’re short o’ pa’sons?” aw wanted to know. “Oh,” he said, “they’ll ha’ to do th’ same then as they do wi’ buryin’s neaw. They’ll ha’ to group ’em an’ tak’ ’em i’ turns.”
“Aye! aye! Siah. That seawnds o reet, an’ happen it’ll be so. It’s nobbut like goin’ back to th’ owd times, after o, when they used to wed ’em i’ batches o’ twenty or thirty at a time at Prestwich an’ Manchester owd churches. But if it’ll be sich a good thing for churches an’ chapels what abeawt other places wheer there’s a good deeal o’ bad an’ dishonest praychin’ goin’ on?”
“What doesta meeon, Jammy?” inquired Siah.
“Oh, aw con hardly tell,” I onsert. “Sometimes aw think ’at we should ha’ moore religion an’ certainly we should ha’ less fratchin’ abeawt it, if we had fewer pa’sons. Aw think if o th’ pa’sons would go on strike for a month or two o this bother abeawt religious eddication in eawr day schoo’s would be sattlet.”
“Aw’ve no doubt it would,” agreed Siah.
“Then there’s eawr Parlyment,” aw reminded Siah. “What dishonest praychin’ there is theer, for sure. Tryin’ to mak’ workin’ folks believe ’at they’ll be better off if they’ll not only pay there own taxes but pay th’ rich folks’ taxes, too. Aw wonder they dunnot blush when they say it. But aw reckon ’at their faces han getten as hard as gramaphones wi’ practice.”
“Aw dar’ say they have,” said Siah.
“But th’ strangest thing, Siah, is ’at workin’ folks connot see it. Th’ other day aw coom across a chap o’ this sort i’ Owdham. He wur a labourer, or summat o’ th’ sort, an’ geet as mich as eighteen shillin’s a week i’ wages. Eawt o’ this he’d a wife an’ four childer to keep, an’ pay rent, rates, coal an’ gas, an’ he wur again th’ Budget. He thowt it wur hard lines on these Dukes an’ Lords to have to pay a bit of a tax eawt o’ the theawsands o’ peawnds ’at they draw for rent fro’ land at they never work’d for. That chap has an intellec’ of a gramaphone.”
“It looks like it,” an’ Siah nodded.
“Aye! Siah, and it’s w’und up like one, too. But aw think ’at th’ workin’ folks will see which side o’ their bread is butter’d this time, an’ thoose will catch it ’at try to tak ’it off ’em.”
“Yo’re reet, Jammy,” said Siah, “Aw think we may depend on th’ voters this time. But aw mun goo an’ hearken yon singers again before gramaphones knock ’em eawt o’ date.”
“Well, aw dunnot want to stop thee fro’ goin’ to th’ chapel, Siah, becose aw know theau doesn’t goo so very often, but aw dunnot think ’at theau’s ony need to hurry on acceaunt o’ what theau’s towd me. We’ve made great strides i’ machinery, aw know, but we hannot getten to singin’ an’ praychin’, an’prayin’ by it yet. There wur a good deeol o’ talk when jennys were self-acted, an’ when sewin’ machines were introduced. Folks said it wur impossible to mak’ a suit o’ clooas wi’ a sewin’ machine, and that if they did they’d o come unstitch’d again. Aw remember havin’ a pair o’ breeches on one Whissun Sunday, an’ I happen’d to poo at a loce thread ’at aw seed hangin’ deawn, an’, blow me, if o th’ breeches didn’t come unmade. I had to bowd ’em together th’ best road aw could till aw geet whoam again. But they’ve getten o’er that. Nowe everythin’ a chap wears is made by machinery. Even his stockin’s, an’ his ga’thers, an’ his boots are made by machinery. Who’d ha’ thowt when aw wur a lad ’at we should ever hay-mak’ by machinery. We used to think ’at th’ telegraph wire wur a grand thing, but neaw we con telegraph beawt wire. Neaw we con talk to one another through a wire though we’re hunderts o’ miles apart, an’ they say we’st soon be able to do that beawt wires. We used to think ’at th’ Pufﬁn’ Billy wur a marvel, an’ we rode, stood up like cattle, i’ what wur co’ed cover’d carriages. But neaw we’ve beautiful tramcars an’ up-to-date motor cars to ﬂy through streets wi’, an’, as if that wurn’t enoof, they’re neaw makin’ motor cars to ﬂy through th’ air. We con do a lot wi’ machinery, Siah, but it winnot do everythin’. It winnot spur folks on to great an’ noble deeds. It winnot inspire ’em to be just an’ generous. It winnot breathe that real love that a y’ung felley con best express when he has his arm reawnd his sweetheart’s waist. Nowe, Siah, we shannot worship by machinery yet at Yealds Green Chapel, but dunnot miss on that acceaunt.” An’ he didn’t.