LAST VISIT TO YELDS GREEN OWD SING
It wur threatenin’ for rain. Th’ cleauds hung low an’ th’ wind wur blowin’ steadily from Ashton. Aw’d had an invitation fro’ my friend, Mesthur Fitton, to pay another visit to th’ Owd Sing at Yelds Green, but aw wur i’ some deawts what to do. Thur’s no trams, yet, up to Yelds Green, an’ it’s rayther a bad place to be catched i’ th’ rain. It’s a lovely road on a ﬁne day for cooarters, but an umbrell is a poor shelter for two when th’ rain’s pourin’ deawn i’ torrents. Even an Owd Sing, heawever grand it is, is a poor compensation for a weet shirt. So aw thowt aw’d goo by car as far as aw could. There wur nobbut two moore passengers, so aw thowt there wur noane so mony goin’ to th’ Owd Sing fro’ that part, at ony rate.
Aw sit mi deawn at th’ side of ’em an’ aw wondert whether they wur mon an’ wife or not, but aw concluded ’at they wurnot as they seemed too mich interested i’ one another for that. We wur just goin’ up Henshaw Street an’ he wur tellin’ her abeawt a place coed th’ Hop Hole an’ what rare doin’s there used to be at that place at election times. Then he towd her abeawt a place ’at they used to coe th’ “Pigeon Cote,” where the real Founders of Owdham used to taych one another readin’ an’ writin’ an’ heaw to do sums. It wur a grand schoo, tho’ it wur nobbo’ a poor buildin’, an’ yo had to go to it up a ﬂight o’ stairs at th’ eawtside. There wur no professors, nor high ﬂown taychers, but they turnt eawt some ﬁne scholars that wur the real builders of Owdham. Thoose wur th’ days o’ mutual improvement societies, an’ we’ve a lot to thank ’em for i’ th’ education of Owdham.
When we geet into Barker Street he towd her what an awteration ther’d been made theer. Th’ top side wur cover’d wi’ green ﬁelds that wur fenced with a lung stone wall. At th’ top end there wur a big ﬁne heause ’at stood in its own greaunds an’ wur built by a mon coed Barker ’at wur a partner wi’ another chap coed Henshaw in a big hat manufactory. That wur why one wur coed Barker Street an’ th’ other wur coed Henshaw Street.
When we geet lower deawn, he showed her a white stone ’at stood eawt o’ th’ greaund an’ which he towd her wur once a lond mark to guide th’ folks o’er th’ moor. Its been shifted mony a time to mak’ reawm for fresh buildin’s, but that’s nobbo’ like plenty of other londmarks. Some have been shifted eawt o’ th’ seet otogether.
He showed her wheer Robin Hill coalpit used to be, an’ wheer Rowland’s facthry an’ Tummy o’ Bob’s facthry used to stond. But one’s gone un tothers left. In a minute th’ car stopt at th’ Black Ceaw, but not th’ Black Ceaw as we used to know it. I’ th’ place of a little country aleheause ’at stood by th’ roadside, with a bit of a cobbled pavement i’ th’ front on it, its been magniﬁed into a big drinkin’ heause, an’ th’ owd-fashion’d Black Ceaw knows it no more.
As th’ car went no further aw geet eawt, an’ my companions did th’ same. Aw didn’t know wheer they wur goin’, but aw thowt ’at they wur goin’ to th’ Owd Sing, so aw just went on i’ th’ front a bit. Aw couldn’t yer him so weel neaw, but aw could mak’ it eawt ’at he wur describin’ heaw Burnley Lone used to be, wheer th’ farm heauses used to stond, an’ heaw, an’ why th’ Riﬂe Range Inn wur awthered from a loomheause to a aleheause. An’ he towd her abeawt Chadderton Church bein’ built an’ heaw th’ owd wood Church stood a bit nar th’ brook, an’ what a grand place Chadderton Hall used to be.
As they slackened a bit, here, aw went on an’ aw geet i’ th’ school before so mony folks had arrived, but I hadn’t been in so long before my unknown companions coom trudgin’ up an’ planked theirsels deawn at th’ side o’ me.
“Theighur,” hoo says, “aw’m fain that’s o’er. Aw think ’at they’ll ha’ to lay trams a bit fur before aw come to th’ Owd Sing again.”
“Well,” he said “theau con rest thee a bit, neaw, as we’ve nearly a hauve an hour to wait.”
So hoo sattled deawn a bit an’ put her hair straight, an’ stretched her bonnet an’ felt if her collection brass wur o reet. Then hoo looked reawnd to see if there wur onybody in ’at hoo knew. Hoo stared when hoo seed a piano theer, an’ one or two big ﬁddles reared up ready for a performance, an’ hoo wonder’d if they wur goin’ to have a hond reel. Then hoo axed if they’d have a drum, but hoo hoped they wouldn’t, as hoo didn’t like a drum. But her friend assured her ’at there wouldn’t be a drum. There’d nobbut be one big drum to-day, an’ that would be th’ preacher.
“Heaw do yo’ mak’ that eawt?” hoo said.
“Why,” he onswered, “he’s th’ biggest drum, or th’ biggest gun, ’at there is here. Dunnot yo’ know ’at he’s a sir? We’ve never had a sir i’ Chadderton before, sin’ Sir Watts Horton lived at th’ Ho. This is Sir William Barton.”
“Well, awm blowed!” hoo said.
An’ hoo wur. Hoo wur a bit before hoo could get o’er it. In the meantime th’ chapel wur ﬁllin’ up fast an’ they started to bring in moore cheers an’ forms, an’ thoose wur soon ﬁlled up.
Then th’ orgin blower coom in, an’ it wur evident that somedy wur shappin’. Yo’ know yo’ connot do beawt orgin blower. Yo’ con ha’ th’ ﬁnest orgin in the world, an’ yo’ con ha’ th’ ﬁnest player in the world, but if yo’ han no blower it, as th’ Owd Book says, is nothin’. Well, he blowed a bit, an’ then o th’ ﬁddles began o tunin’ up, an’ while they wur at their racket th’ singers coom in an’ geet sit i’ thur places, an’ th’ pracher coom in his place, an’ th’ conductor coom to his place, an’ we wur o’ ready. An’ then we started off.
Aye! we wur o alive ’at wur theer, but as aw looked reawnd, aw couldnot help being reminded ’at there wur several ’at used to be theer ’at wurno theer, an’ as aw thowt of one an’ then another, aw felt a lump come in my throat ’at stopped me fro’ singin’. There wur a portrait hung o’er th’ platform of one who never used to miss that sing, but he misses neaw. There wur others ’at coom to my mind an’ th’ hymn papper grew dim an’ th’ seawnds grew fainter, an’ though th’ congregation wur singin’ as they never sang before, their voices travelled far away ’an aw seemed to yer nowt nobbut thoose voices that are still. It wur a hymn of true worship when we communed with o eawr dear ones that had gone on before.
Then we had a sweet upliftin’ prayer an’ th’ choir sang “Hear, O Israel.” Aye, an’ awm sure if th’ children of Israel sang like that choir they’d joy an’ gladness i’ their hearts. But th’ choir wur i’ good fettle that afternoon. They gan “He Gave Them Hailstones,” an’ yo’ could yer ’em rattlin’ again th’ windows, an’ folks shivered as if they could feel ’em again their faces. After that it wur natural ’at they should brast eawt wi’ “Praise the Lord.” Aye, an’ they did praise Him. Everybody praised Him. We felt glad, an’ we o’ sang:
an’ then we sattled deawn to hearken what th’ great preacher had to say. Aw thowt ’at he wur a little bit bothered at ﬁrst — aw dar’say he’d a job to keep off politics — but he managed very weel. He towd us heaw if we didn’t invest eawr talents we should have ’em ta’en off us an’ gan to somedy else ’at had moore nor us, an’ it behoved us to use ’em an’ make the world better. He didn’t meeon ’at we wur to invest ’em like some folks have been investin’ i’ shares lately, but we wur to use ’em to beneﬁt one another. Awm sure we felt better for his kind words, an’ we wur o ready to be gladdened by th’ choir givin’, i’ ﬁne style, “Glorious is Thy Name,” fro’ th’ “Twelfth Mass.” It wur a splendid ﬁnish. Aw’ve no deaubt th’ congregation put part o’ their gratitude i’ th’ collection box.
If it hadn’t been hailin’ it had been rainin’ when we geet eawtside. In fact it wur rainin’ then. There wur nowt for it nobbo pikein’ off whoam at once.
“What shall we do?” aw said to my new friends. “Shall we go back up Burnley Lone, or shall we dart across th’ Park an’ catch th’ car i’ Middleton Road?”
“Eh! Awm not particular which,” th’ chap replied; but th’ woman wurnot so readily satisﬁed. “You’re noan beawn to set off i’ th’ rain, are yo?” hoo said to him. “Yo’ll be weet to th’ skin before you getten far. Yo’ come as far as Ailse o’ Yeb’s wi’ me. Aw know as hoo expects me, an’ another baggin’ winnot mak’ mich difference.”
“Well, but what mun aw do?” th’ chap said. “Ailse o’ Yeb’s doesn’t know me.”
“Nawe! An’ aw didn’t know yo‘ two heurs sin? But, aw know yo’ neaw, an’ hoo’ll know yo’ before another hauve hours o’er.”
“But what will it look like, yo’ an’ me goin’ together, same as if we’d been goin’ together o eawr lives?”
“Well, we couldn’t go together before, becose we never let o’ one another before.”
“But hoo met think we wur cooartin’, or summat,” he urged.
“Well, supposin’ hoo did. We needn’t tell her awt different. Come on before theaurt weet through.”
An’ he went.
It wur a champion Owd Sing.