A SKETCH ON THE LANCASHIRE COAST.
CHAPTER THE FIRST.
Come unto these yellow sands,
Then take hands:
Court'sied when you have, and kiss'd,
(The wild waves whist).
AT the western edge of
that quiet tract of Lancashire, called "The Fylde," lying mainly between
Wyre, Ribble, and the Irish Channel, the little wind-swept hamlet of
Norbreck stands, half asleep, on the brow of a green ridge close to the
sea. The windows of a whitewashed cottage wink over their garden
wall, as the traveller comes up the slope, between tall hedgerows; and
very likely he will find all so still, that, but for wild birds that crowd
the air with music, he could hear his footsteps ring on the hard road, as
clearly as if he were walking on the flags of a gentleman's greenhouse. In
summer time, when its buildings are glittering in their annual suit of new
whitewash, and when all the country round looks green and glad, it is a
pleasant spot to set eyes upon, this quiet little hamlet overlooking the
sea. At that time of year it smells of roses, and of "cribs where oxen
lie;" and the place is so steeped in murmurs of the ocean, that its
natural dreaminess seems deepened thereby. I cannot find that any great
barons of the old time, or that any world-shaking people have lived there;
or that any great events which startle a nation have happened on that
ground; but the tranquil charm that fills the air repays for the absence
of historic fame.
There is seldom much stir in Norbreck, except what the elements make. The
inhabitants would think the place busy with a dozen people upon its
grass-grown road at once, whatever the season might be. It is true that on
fine days in summer I have now and then seen a little life just at the
entrance of the hamlet. There, stands a pretty cottage, of one storey,
consisting of six cosy rooms, that run lengthwise; its white walls
adorned with rose trees and fruit trees, and its windows bordered with
green trellis work. Two trim grass-plats with narrow beds of flowers, and
neat walks mosaically paved with blue and white pebbles from the sea, fill
up the front garden, which a low white wall and a little green gate
encloses from the road. In front of this cottage I have sometimes seen a
troop of rosy children playing about a pale girl, who was hopelessly
infirm, and, perhaps on that account, the darling of the household. I have
seen her rocking in the sun, and with patient melancholy, watching the gambols of these merry children, whilst they strove to please her with all
kinds of artless attentions. Poor Lucy! Sometimes, after swaying to and
fro thoughtfully in her chair, she would stop and ask questions that sent
her father out of the room to wipe his eyes. "Papa, are people lame in
heaven?" "Papa, are angels poorly sometimes, like we are here?"
* * * It is one
of those beautiful compensations that mingle with the worst mishaps of
life that such a calamity has often the sweet effect of keeping kind
hearts continually kind. The poor Lancashire widow, when asked why she
seemed to fret more for the loss of her helpless lad than for any of her
other children, said she couldn't tell, except it was "becose hoo'd had
to nurse th' poor thing moor nor o' tother put together." Surely "there
is a soul of good in all things evil." About this pretty cottage, where
little Lucy lives, is the busiest part of the hamlet in summer time. There
may chance to be two or three visitors sauntering in the sunshine; or,
perhaps, old Thomas Smith, better known as "Owd England," the sea-beaten
patriarch of Norbreck, may paddle across the road to look after his
cattle, or, staff in hand, he may be going down to "low water" a-shrimping,
with his thin hair playing in the breeze. Perhaps Lizzy, the milkmaid, may
run from the house to the shippon, with her skirt tucked up, and the neb
of an old bonnet pulled down to shade her eyes; or Tom, the cow lad, may
be leaning against a sunny wall, whistling, and mending his whip, and
wondering how long it wants to dinner-time. There may be a fine cat dozing
on the garden wall, or gliding stealthily towards the outhouses, with
dainty step, noiseless as a little cloud, and considering to herself
whether this would be a likely time to surprise the mouse which slipped
her in a certain corner of the barn yester-evening. These are the common
features of life there. For the rest, the sounds heard are mostly the
cackle of poultry, the clatter of milk cans, the occasional bark of a dog,
the distant lowing of kine, a snatch of country song floating from the
fields, the wild birds' "tipsy routs of lyric joy," and that
all-embracing murmur of the surge which fills one's ears wherever we go.
In Norbreck everything smacks of the sea. On a grassy border of the road,
about the middle of the hamlet, there is generally a pile of wreck waiting
the periodical sale which takes place all along the coast. I have
sometimes looked at this pile, and thought that perhaps to this or that
spar some seaman might have clung with desperate energy among the hungry
waters, until he sank overpowered into his uncrowded grave. The walls of
gardens and farm-yards are mostly built of cobles gathered from the beach,
sometimes fantastically laid in patterns of different hues. The garden
beds are edged with shells, and the walks laid with blue and white
pebbles. Here and there are rockeries of curiously-shaped stones from the
shore. Every house has its little store of marine rarities, which meet the
eye on cornices and shelves wherever we turn. Now and then we meet with a
dead sea-mew on the road;—and noisy flocks of gulls make fitful excursions
landward, particularly in ploughing time, when they crowd after the plough
to pick slugs and worms out of the new furrows.
With a single exception, all the half-dozen dwellings in Norbreck are on
one side of the road with their backs to the north. On the other side
there are gardens, and a few whitewashed outhouses, with weather-beaten
walls. The main body of the hamlet consists of a great irregular range of
buildings, formerly the residence of a wealthy family. This pile is now
divided into several dwellings, in some of which are snug retreats for
such as prefer the seclusion of this sea-nest to the bustle of a great
watering-place. A little enclosed lawn, belonging to the endmost of the
group, and then a broad field, divides this main cluster from the only
other habitation. The latter seems to stand off a little, as if it had
more pretensions to gentility than the rest. It is a picturesque house, of
different heights, built at different times. At the landward end, a
spacious yard, with great doors close to the road, contains the
outbuildings, which have an old-fashioned weather-vane on the top of them. The lowmost part of the dwelling is a combination of neat cottages of one
storey; the larger and newer part is a substantial brick edifice of two
storeys, with attics. This portion has great bow windows, which sweep the
sea-view finely, from the coast of Wales, round by the Isle of Man, to the
mountains of Cumberland. In summer time, the white walls of the cottage
part are covered with roses and creeping plants, and there is an air of
order and tasteful rusticity about the whole, even to the neat coble
pavement which borders the wayside. On the top of the porch a stately
peacock sometimes struts, like a spangled showman in front of a booth,
whilst his mate paces to and fro, cackling on the field wall immediately
opposite. There are probably a few poultry pecking about the front; and,
if it happens to be a sunny day, a fine old English bearhound, of the Lyme
breed, called "Lion," and not much unlike his namesake in the main, may
be seen stretched in a sphynx-like posture on the middle of the road, as
if the whole Fylde belonged to him by right of entail; and slowly moving
his head with majestic gaze, as if turning over in his mind whether or not
it would be polite to take a piece out of the passing traveller for
presuming to walk that way. Perhaps in the southward fields a few kine are
grazing and whisking their tails in the sunshine, or galloping from gap to
gap impelled by the gad-fly's spur; and it may happen that some wanderer
from Blackpool can be seen on the cliffs, with his garments flapping in
the breeze. Except these, and the rolling surge below, all is still at
this end of the hamlet, unless the jovial face of the owner appear above
the wall that encloses his outbuildings, wishing the passer-by "the
fortune of the day." Norbreck, as a whole, is no way painfully genteel in
appearance, but it is sweet and serene, and its cluster of houses seems to
know how to be comfortable, without caring much for display. Dirt and
destitution are unknown there; in fact, I was told that this applies
generally to all the scattered population of that quiet Fylde country. Though there are many people there whose means of existence are almost as
simple as those of the wild bird and the field mouse, yet squalor and
starvation are strangers amongst them. If any mischance happen to these
Fylde folk, everybody knows everybody else, and, somehow, they stick to
one another like Paddy's shrimps,—if you take up one you take up twenty. The road, which comes up thither from many a mile of playful meandering
through the green country, as soon as it quits the last house, immediately
dives through the cliffs, with a sudden impulse, as if it had been reading
"Robinson Crusoe," and had been drawn all that long way solely by its
love for the ocean. The sea-beach at this spot is a fine sight at any
time, but in a clear sunset the scene is too grand to be touched by any
imperfect words. Somebody has very well called this part of the coast, "the region of glorious sunsets." When the waters retire, they leave a
noble solitude, where a man may wander a mile or two north or south, upon
a floor of sand finer than any marble, "and yet no footing seen," except
his own; nor any sounds heard mingling with the mysterious murmurs of the
sea, but the cry of the wheeling gull, the piping of a flock of
silver-winged tern, or the scream of the wild sea-mew. Even in summer
there are but few stragglers to disturb those endless forms of beauty
which the moody waves, at every ebb, leave printed all over that grand
expanse, in patterns ever new.
Such is little Norbreck as I have seen it in the glory of the year. In
winter, when the year's whitewash upon its houses is getting a little
weather-worn, it looks rather moulty and ragged to the eye; and it is more
lonely and wild, simply because nature itself is so then; and Norbreck and
nature are not very distant relations.
CHAPTER THE SECOND.
The wave shall flow o'er this lilye lea,
And Penny Stone fearful' flee:
The Red Bank scar scud away dismay's,
When Englond's in jeopardise.
A TRADITION OF THE FYLDE.
IT was a bonny day in
March 1860 when I reached Norbreck, just before those tides came on which
had been foretold as higher than any for a century previous. This
announcement brought thousands of people from the interior into Blackpool
and other places on that coast. Many came expecting the streets to
be invaded by the tide, and a great part of the level Fylde laid under
water, with boats plying above the deluged fields, to rescue its
inhabitants from the towers of churches and the tops of farm-houses.
Knowing as little of these things as inland people generally do, I had
something of the same expectation; but when I came to the coast, and found
people going quietly about their usual business, I thought that, somehow,
I must be wrong. It is true that one or two farmers had raised their
stacks several feet, and another had sent his "deeds" to Preston, that
they might be high and dry till the waters left his land again, and that
certain old ladies who had been reading the newspapers, were a little
troubled thereby; but, in the main, these seaside folk didn't seem afraid
of the tide.
During the two days when the sea was to reach its height,
Blackpool was as gay, and the weather almost as fine, as if it had been
the month of June, instead of "March—mony weathers," as Fylde folk call
it. The promenade was lively with curious inlanders, who had left
their "looms" at this unusual season, to see the wonders of the great
deep. But, when it came to pass that, because there was no wind to help in
the water, the tide rose but little higher than common, many people
murmured thereat, and the town emptied as quickly as it had filled. Not
finding a deluge, they went landward again, with a painful impression that
the whole thing was a hoax. The sky was blue, the wind was still, and the
sun was shining clearly; but this was not what they had come forth to see. Though some were glad of any excuse for wandering again by the shore of
the many-sounding ocean, and bathing soul and body in its renovating
charms, the majority were sorely disappointed. Among these, I met one old
gentleman, close on seventy, who declared, in a burst of impassioned
vernacular, that he wouldn't come to Blackpool again "for th' next fifty
year, sink or swim." He said that he "wur gradely say-sick neaw, iv he
never wur afore. Their great tide were nowt i' th' world but an
sell, getten up by lodgin'-heawse keepers, an' railway chaps, an'
newspapper folk, and sich like waistril devils, a-purpose to bring country
folk to th' wayter-side, an' pike brass eawt o'their pockets. It were a lond tide at Blackpool folk were after;—an' they wanted to get it up i'
winter as weel as summer. He could see through it weel enough. But they'd
done their do wi' him. He'd to mich white in his e'en to be humbugged
twice i' th' same gate, or else he'd worn his yed a great while to vast
little end. But he'd come no moor a-seein' their tides, nor nowt else,—naw,
not if th' whole hole were borne't away, folk and o'—bigod! He didn't
blame th' say so mich,—not he. Th' say would behave itsel' reet enough,
if a rook o' thievin' devils would let it alone, an' not go an' belie it
shamefully, just for th' sheer lucre o' ill-gotten gain, an' nowt else. *
* * He coom fro Bowton, an' he're beawn back to Bowton by th' next train; an'
iv onybody ever seed him i' Blackpool again, they met tell him on't at th'
time, an' he'd ston a bottle o' wine for 'em, as who they were. They had a
little saup o' wayter aside o' whoam, that onser't for their bit so' jobs reet enough. It're nob-but a mak ov a bruck; but he'd be content wi' it
for th' futur―tide or no tide. They met tak' their say, and sup it, for
him, trashy devils! Bowton folk had brass enough to buy saut an' wayter,
an' make a say o' their own, beawt bein' behowden to a rook o'
mussel-catchers." Of course, this was an extreme case, but there were many
grumblers on the same ground, and some amusement arising of their
Down at Norbreck, about four miles north of Blackpool, though there was a
little talk, here and there about the curious throng at the neighbouring
watering-place, all else was still, as usual. "Owd England," the quaint
farmer and fisherman of the hamlet, knew these things well. He had lived
nearly seventy-four years on that part of the coast, and he still loved
the great waters with the fervour of a sea-smitten lad. From childhood he
had been acquainted with the moods and tenses of the ocean; and it was a
rare day that didn't see him hobble to "low water" for some purpose or
other. He explained to me that a tide of much lower register in the
tables, if brought in by a strong wind, would be higher in fact than this
one with an opposite wind; and he laughed at the fears of such as didn't
know much about the matter. "Thoose as are flayed," said he, "hed better
go to bed i' boats, an' then they'll ston a chance o' wakkenin' aboon
watter i' th' mornin'. Th' idea ov a whol tawny o' folk comin' to't seea
for this. Pshaw! I've no patience wi' 'em! * *
* Tide! There'll be no tide warth speykin' on,—silly divuls,—what I knaw. I've sin a fifteen faut
tide come far heigher nor this twenty-one foot eleven can come wi' th'
wind again it,—sewer, aw hev. So fittin it should, too. *
* * But some folk knawn nowt o' th' natur o' things." Lame Billy Singleton, a weather-worn
fisherman, better known by the name of "Peg Leg," sat knitting under the
window, with his dim eyes bent over a broken net. "Owd England" turned to
him and said, "It wur a fifteen fuut tide, Billy, at did o' that damage at
Cleveless, where th' bevel-men are at wark." Old "Peg Leg" lifted his
head, and replied, "Sewer, it wor, Thomas; an', by the hectum, that wor a
tide. If we'd hed a strang sou'-west wind, this wad ha' played
too. I've heeard as there wor once a place, ca'd Singleton Thorpe, between Cleveless and Rossal, weshed away by a
heigh tide, abaat three hundred
year sin'. By the hectum, if that hed happen't i' these days, Thomas, here
wed ha' bin some cheeop trips an' things stirrin' ower it." He then went
on mending his net.
Old bed-ridden Alice, who had spent most of the daylight of seven years
stretched upon a couch under the window, said, "But it never could touch
us at Norbreck,—nowt o't sooart. It's nearly th' highest point i't
country; isn't it uncle?" "Satiny," said "Owd England;"
"but," continued he, "iv ye want to see summat warth rememberin', ye mun go to
low water. It'll be a rare seet. Th' seea'll ebb far nor ever wor knawn
i'th' memory o' men; an' here'll be skeers an' rocks eawt as hesn't bin
sin ov a hundred year. Iv ye'd like to set fuut o' greawnd at nobody livin'
mun walk on again, go daan with us at five o'clock o' Friday afternoon." I
felt that this would indeed be an interesting sight, and I agreed to go
with the old fisherman to low water.
It was a cloudless, summer-like evening, when our little company of four
set out from Norbreck. As we went down between the cliffs, the track of
the declining sun's beams upon the sea was too glorious for eyes to
endure, and every little pool and rill upon the sands gleamed like liquid
gold. A general hush pervaded the scene, and we could hear nothing but our
own voices, and a subdued murmurs of the distant waves, which made the
prevailing silence more evident to the senses. "Owd England" led the
way, with his favourite staff in hand, and a basket on his arm for the
collection of a kind of salt-water snail, called "whilks," which, he
said, were "th' finest heytin' ov ony sort o' fish i' th' world for
folk i' consumptions." "Ye happen wodn't think it," said he, "bod I wor
i' danger o' consumption when I were a yang mon." As we went on, now over
a firm, swelling sand-bank; now stepping from stone to stone through a
ragged "skewer," and slipping into pools and channels left by the tide,
or wading the water in reckless glee—the fine old man kept steadily ahead,
muttering his wayward fancies as he made towards the silver fringe that
played upon the skirts of the sea. Now and then he stopped to point out
the rocks, and tell their names. "That's th' 'Carlin' an' Cowt,'―a
common seet enough. Ye see, it's noan so far eawt. * *
* Yon's 'Th' Mussel
Rock,' deawn to so'thard. There's folk mussolin' on it neaw, I believe. But we'n go that way on. Tak raand bith sond-bank their. Yaar noan shod
for wadin'; an' this skeer's a varra rough un. * * * That's 'Penny Stone,' refight afore you, toward th' seea. Ye'll hey heard o' 'Th' Penny Stone
Rock,' mony a time, aw warnd. There wor once a public-heawse where it
stons; and they sowd ale there, at a penny a pot. Bod then one connot
tell whether it wor dear or cheeop till they knaw whot size th' pot wor—an'
that I dunnot knaw. Mr. Thornbier, o' Blackpool, hes written a book abaat
this 'Penny Stone;' an' I believe at Mr. Wood, o' Bispham Schoo', hes
one. He'll land it yo in a minute, aw warnd. Ye mun send little Tom wi'
a bit ov a note. I never see 'Penny Stone' eawt so as to get raand it
afore. * * * Neaw, yon far'est, near low watter, is 'Th' Owd Woman's Heyd.' I've
oft heeard on it, an' sometimes sin a bit o't tip aboon water, bod I never
see it dry i' my life afore,—an' I never mun again,—never." He then
paddled on, filling his basket, and muttering to himself about this
extraordinary ebb, and about the shortness of human life. The sun began to
"steep his glowing axle in the western wave," and the scene was melting
every moment into a new tone of grandeur. As we neared the water, the skeers
became more rugged and wet, and, in a few minutes, we picked up a
basketful of "whilks," and a beautiful variety of the sea anemone. After
the sun had dipped, his lingering glory still crowded the western heavens,
and seemed to deepen in splendour as it died upon the scene; while the
golden ripples of the sea sang daylight down to rest. I never saw mild
evening close over the world with such dreamy magnificence. We wandered by
the water till
Was mounted high in top of heaven sheen,
And warned his other brethren joyeous
To light their blessed lamps in Jove's eternal house."
The tide was returning, and the air getting cold; so we went homewards,
with wandering steps, in the wake of our old fisherman, by way of "Penny
Stone Rock." There is a tradition all over the Fylde, that this rock, now
only visible "on the utmost verge of the retired wave," marks the
locality of a once famous hostelry. Doubtless the tradition has some
foundation in fact, as the encroachments of the sea upon this coast have
been great, and sometimes disastrous, as in the destruction of the village
of Singleton Thorpe, about a mile and a half to northward, in 1555.
In the Rev. W. Thornber's interesting little volume, called "Penny Stone; or a Tradition of the Spanish Armada," he says of the old hostelry
associated with this now submerged rock, "it was situated in a vale,
protected from the sea by a barrier of sand-hills, at a short distance
from a village called Singleton Thorpe, in the foreland of the Fylde,
Lancashire. The site of the homestead was romantic, for it was in the very
centre of a Druidical circle, described in a former tradition of the
country, one of the huge stones of which reared its mis-shapen block near
the porch. Into this stone a ring had been inserted by the thrifty Jock,
its host, to which he was wont to attach the horses of his customers
whilst they regaled themselves with a penny pot of his far-famed ale. Hither the whole country resorted on holidays to spend them in athletic
games, and to quaff the beloved beverage; nay, so renowned was the
hostel, that merrie days of hie away to Penny Stone' was common even to a
proverb. Here lay the secret enchantment of its popularity. The old
distich tells us that—
"Hops, reformation, bays, and beer,
Came into England all in a year.
"Ale was a beverage which had been well known in England, but in the reign
of Henry VIII. it assumed a new name from the infusion of hops. Now,
Jock's father, a cunning lout, was the first to commence in the Fylde this
new, and at that time mysterious system of brewing, which so pleased the
palate of his customers, that while others sold their insipid malt liquor
at twopence per gallon he vended his ale at a penny per pot. Hence his
hostel became known by the name of the Penny Stone, the resort of
revellers from far and near, notwithstanding the character of its owner
was branded with the stigma of being a wizard, a dealer in spells and
medicaments so powerful and enticing that a draft of his foaming stoop
always created a longing and a thirst after more. Jock, with the hostel,
inherited his father's receipt and character; by the former he took care
to profit, and the other, as yet, had not been injurious either to his
prosperity or his peace. His popularity as a good-hearted fellow had well
nigh obliterated all remembrance of his wizardship, except when it was
renewed by an irritated drunkard's threat, or on a stormy night, when some
old crone terrified noisy youngsters into silence by telling them that
Jock's familiar was abroad on his way to assist at the brewing at the
"The spot where Penny Stone stood was a rural retreat, not devoid of
beauty, though age and storms had destroyed most of the groves of oak
trees which once had flourished there; and though the few that protracted
their existence on the margin of a sluggish brook that meandered through
the vale were deprived of their former luxuriance by the blighting
violence of the western winds. The neatness of Jock was conspicuous around
his homestead. There was an exterior appearance of comfort, plainly
manifesting that its owner was well to do in the world. The garden in
front was laid out after the prim formal fashion of the age, while it was
well stored with radishes, skirrets, parsnips, carrots, cabbages, turnips
and sallad herb, which were then in use among the poor. The porch was
clothed with creepers and ivy, the thatch of the roof in good repair, and
the narrow lights were of different dates, some of them being latticed
with rifts of oak, others having horn set in calmes, and a few glazed with
glass. The interior also betokened the presence of a thrifty house-wife. It consisted of a thorough lobby, a hall precisely like the hull of a ship
inverted, being supported on crooks, low, dark, and picturesque, with a
parlour beyond it on one side, and the kitchens and offices, etc., on the
other. The windows were apertures, not originally intended for glass; the
floors of clay, and the partitions of rudely carved oak. The furniture
shone brightly: there was the massy long table, the carved "armary," the
dated court-cupboard, and logs, benches, and three-legged stools in
plenty. The smoky rafters (the hungry traveller might turn his eyes
towards them with delight) were laden with dried beef, bacon, and fish;
and the great "kist" in the corner was rammed with oatmeal for the
consumption of the family."
Such is the kind of embodiment Mr. Thornber has given to the common
tradition of "Penny Stone," which rock we were now approaching on our
homeward way. As we drew near it, we saw five persons come over the
shining sands towards the same spot; and we heard merry voices ringing in
the evening air. I first made out my friend Alston, of Bispham, in his
strong shooting-dress of light-coloured tweed, and attended by two
favourite terriers, "Wasp" and "Snap." We met at the rock, and I found my
friend accompanied by three "brethren of the mystic tie," one of whom was
Mr. Thornber—the veritable chronicler of "Penny Stone." The latter had
wandered thus far to avail himself of this rare chance of climbing his pet
legendary crag. His hands were full of botanical specimens from the sea,
and, in his fervid way, he discoursed upon them, and upon the geology of
the coast, in a manner which, I am sorry to say, was almost lost to my
uninitiated mind. I took the opportunity of inquiring where he found the
materials for his tradition. He answered that there was no doubt of its
fundamental truth; "but, as to the details wrought in to the story," said
he, pointing to his forehead, with a laugh, "I found them in a cellar, in
the rock there."
The gloomy mass was surrounded by a little moat of salt
water, nearly knee deep, through which we passed; and then, clinging to
its Triton locks of seaweed, we climbed the slippery peaks of "Penny
Stone." The stout lad in attendance drew a bottle from his basket; and
each in his way celebrated this unexpected meeting in that singular spot,
where we should never meet together again.
I shall never forget the sombre splendour of the scene, nor the striking
appearance of the group upon that lonely rock, when the rearward hues of
day were yielding their room to "sad succeeding night." We lingered there
awhile; but the air was cold, and the sea began to claim its own again.
Four then returned by the cliffs to Blackpool, and the rest crossed the
sands hastily to Norbreck, where, after an hour's chat by the old
fisherman's great kitchen fire, I crept to bed, with the sound of the sea
in my ears.
CHAPTER THE THIRD.
A very good piece of work, I assure you, and a merry. Now,
good Peter Quince, call forth your actors by the scroll; masters, spread
rain was tapping at the kitchen window as I sat by "Owd England's" bright
hearthstone one forenoon, hearkening to the wind, that moaned outside like
a thing in pain. I could hear by a subdued thump, that "Lizzy" was
churning in the dairy; and I knew by the smell of fresh bread, which came
from a spacious out-kitchen, that "Granny" was baking. "Little Tom," the
cow lad, had started early with the cart to Poulton for coals, making
knots on his whip lash as he went along, to help his memory, which was
crowded with orders to call at one place for meal, at another for mutton,
and at others for physic, and snuff, and such like oddments, wanted by the
neighbours. "Owd England" had gone to the seaside, with his staff and his
leather strap, to fetch the daily "burn" of firewood, and—to see what he
could see; for every tide brought something. One day he hauled a barrel of
Stockholm tar from the water; on another, part of the cabin furniture of
an unfortunate steamer; and then a great baulk of pine was thrown ashore;
in all of which the old man had a certain interest as "wreck-master."
"Peg-leg," the fisherman, was mending a net; and lame Alice lay, as usual,
wrapped up in shadow, on the couch under the window, with her pale face,
and a nose "as sharp as a pen," turned to the ceiling; while Tib, with her
soft legs folded under, lay basking luxuriously in the fire-shine,
dreaming of milk and of mice. The old clock ticked audibly in the
corner, and a pin-drop silence prevailed in the room. "That's a fine
cat," said I. "Aye," replied old Alice, "isn't it a varra fine cat?
It's mother to that as Missies Alston hes. It cam fra Lunnon, an'
it's worth a deeal o' money, is that cat. The varra day as yo cam,
it weshed it face an' sneeze't twice,—it dud, for sewer. Mssis
Eastwood wor gettin' dinner ready at th' time, an' hoo said, 'We'st hev a
stranger fra some quarter this day, mind i' we hevn't;' an' directly
after, yo cam walkin' into th' heawse, I tell yo, just as nowt were.
I offens think it's queer; bod I've sin cats as good as ony almanac for
tellin' weather, an' sich like." "Will it scrat," said I, stroking "Tib"
as she stretched and yawned in my face. "Well," replied Alice, "it's
like everything else for that; it just depends what ye do at it. Bod,
I can onser for one thing—it'll not scrat as ill as 'Th' Red Cat' at
Bispham does. I hev sin folk a bit mauled after playin' wi' that."
"Aye, an' so hev I, too," said old "Peg-Leg." "I ca'd theer tother
neet, an', by the hectum, heaw they wor gooin' on, to be sewer. I
crope into a corner wi' my gill, there wor such liltin' agate; an', ye
knaw, a mon wi' one leg made o' wood and tother full o' rheumatic pains is
nowt mich at it. Beside, I've ten a likin' to quietness,—one does,
ye knaw, Alice, as they getten owd. I geet aside of a mon as wor
tellin' abeawt Jem Duck'orth, o' Preston, sellin' his midden. Ye'll
hev heeard o' that, Alice?" "Nay, I don't know as I hev, Billy; what
isn't? I dud hear at once th' baillies were in his heawse, an' they
agreed to go away if he'd find 'em a bondsman. So Jem towd'em that
he hed a respectable owd friend i' th' next room that he thowt would be
bund wi' him to ony amount, if they'd let him fotch him. So they
towd him to bring his hond in at once, an' hev it sattle't baat ony
bother—for th' baillies wor friends o' Jem's, ye knaw; an' they didn't
want to be hard with him. Well, what does Jem do, bod go an' fotch a
great brown bear, as he'd hed mony a year, an' turns it into th' place
where th' baillies were, baat muzzle; and says, 'Gentlemen, that theer's
him!' Bod, never ye mind if th' baillies didn't go through that
window, moor sharper. * * * I've heard mony a
quare tale o' Jem. What's this abaat th' midden, Billy?"
"Well, ye knaw, Jem wor a good-tempered sort ov a mon, but full o' strange
marlocks. He wor varra strong, an' a noted feighter;—th' cock o' th'
clod in his day, for that. An' he kept a deeal o' horses that he
leet aat for hire. Well, he'd once gether't a good midden together
fra' th' stables, an' farmers began o' comin' abaat th' yard to look at
it; so, one on 'em says, 'Jem, what'll to tak for th' midden?' 'Five
paand,' says Jem. "Well, I'll gi' tho five paand,' says th' farmer.
So he ped him, an' said he'd send th' carts in a day or two. In a
bit, another comes an' axes th' price o' th' midden. Jem stack to th'
owd tale, an' said 'five paand, and cheeop too;' an' th' farmer gev him th'
brass at once. 'Sowd again,' says Jem, 'an' th' money drawn.'
Well, at th' end ov o', it happen't at both sets o' carts cam for th'
midden o' th' same day, an' there were the devil's delight agate i' th'
yard between 'em. At last, they agreed to send for Jem; so he cam wi'
a face as innocent as a flea, an' pretended to want to know whatever there
were to do. 'Didn't I buy this midden, Jem?' said one. 'Yigh,
sure, thae did,' says Jem. 'Well, an' didn't I pay tho for't at th'
same time?" "Sure thae did, owd lad—reet enough,' says Jem, '
whatever's o' this hullabaloo abeawt?' 'Well, but,' says tother,
'Didn't I buy it on tho?' 'Yigh, thae did,' says Jem, 'an' thae ped
me for't, too, honourably, like a mon,—an' I'll tak varra good care as
nob'dy but yo two hes it.' That wor awkert, ye knaw; an' I cannot
tell heaw they'd end it,—for Jem wor bad to manage. They were tellin'
it at th' 'Red Cat' tother neet, bod I could hardly yer for th' gam at wor
afoot. Lor bless you! There wor a gentleman fra Fleetwood
tryin' to donce i' th' middle o' th' floor: an' owd Jack Backh'us stood i'
one corner, wi' his yure ower his face, starin' like wild, an' recitin'
abaat th' Battle o' Waterloo. Three chaps sit uppo th' sofa as hed
been ower Wyre o' day, an' they'd etten so mich snig-pie at th' 'Shard,'
that it hed made 'em say-sick, so Tom Poole were mixin' 'em stuff to cure
it. Another were seawnd asleep on a cheer, an' little 'Twinkle,' fra
Poulton, doncin' abeawt challengin' him to feight. An' it wor welly
as bad eawtside, for there wor a oppen trap coom up wi' a lot o' trippers
as hed bin to Cleveless, an' 'Bugle Bob' uppo th' box, playin' 'Rule
Brittannia.' Bod I laft when th' bevel men fra' Rossall began o'
comin' in, singin' 'Said Dick unto Tom,' for I felt my yed givin' way
The song, "Said Dick unto Tom," alluded to by the old man, is
a rude fishing ditty, never printed before, and hardly known out of the
Fylde, to which it relates. I wrote it down from the recitation of a
friend near Norbreck. There is not much in the words except a quiet,
natural tone, with one or two graphic strokes, which breathe the spirit of
the country it belongs to. The tune is a very quaint one, which I
never heard before the time when I obtained the words. The song was
written some time ago, by William Garlick, a very poor man, and a weaver
of "pow-davy," a kind of sail cloth. These are the words:―
Said Dick unto Tom, one Friday at noon,
Loddle iddle, fol de diddle ido;
Said Dick unto Tom, one Friday at noon,
Aw could like to go a-bobbin' i' th' mornin' varra soon.
To my heigho, wi' my bob-rods an' o';
Loddle iddle, fol de diddle ido.
Then up i' th' mornin' Dick dud rise,
Loddle iddle, etc.;
Then up i' th' mornin' Dick dud rise,
An' to Tom's door like leetnin' flies.
To my heigho, wi' my worm-can an' o';
Loddle iddle, etc.
So, up Tom jumped an' deawn th' stairs dart,
Loddle iddle, etc.;
So, up Tom jumped an' deawn th' stairs dart,
To go a gettin' dew-worms afore they start.
Wi' my heigho, an' my worm-can an' o';
Loddle iddle, etc.
Then they hunted, an' rooted, an' seeched abaat,
Loddle iddle, etc.;
Then they hunted, an' rooted, an' seeched abaat,
Egad, says little Tom, there's noan so mony aat,
To my heigho, wi' my worm-can an' o';
Loddle iddle, etc.
So, off they set wi' th' bob-rods i' hond,
Loddle iddle, etc. ;
So, off they set wi' th' bob-rods i' hond,
Like justices o' pace, or governors o' lond.
To my heigho, wi' my snig-bags an' o';
Loddle fiddle, etc.
An' when they gat to Kellamoor, that little country place,
Loddle iddle, etc.
An' when they gat to Kellamoor, that little country place,
Th' childer were so freeten't 'at they dorsn't show their face.
To my heigho, wi' my bob-rods an' o';
Loddle iddle, etc.
An' when they gat to Brynin', folk thought there'd bin a mob
Loddle iddle, etc.
An' when they gat to Brynin', folk thought there'd bin a mob,
Till little Tom persuaded 'em they were bod baan to bob.
To my heigho, wi' their snig-bags an' o'
Loddle iddle, etc.
An' when they gat to Warton, they wor afore the tide,
Loddle iddle, etc.
An' when they gat to Warton, they wor afore the tide;
They jumped into a boat, an' away they both did ride.
To my heigho, wi' their bob-rods an' o'.
Loddle iddle, etc.
Soon after dinner the clouds broke, and it was fine again.
I went to the seaside; and, after pacing to and fro by the waves awhile, I
struck out towards Rossall, through the wandering byepaths of a wilderness
of sand and tall grass, called "Star-hills," upon the edge of the cliffs.
I had scarcely gone a mile before "rattlin' showers drave on the blast"
again, and the sky was all thick gloom. Dripping wet, I hurried
towards the old hotel at Cleveless, and, darting in, got planted in a snug
arm-chair by the parlour fire, watching the storm that swept furiously
aslant the window, and splashed upon the road in front. Three other
persons were in the room, one a workman from Rossall College, hard by, and
the other commercial men on their route to Fleetwood. It is
wonderful how much rough weather enhances the beauty of the inside of a
house. "Better a wee bush than nae bield." Well, we were just
getting into talk when the door opened, and a humorous face looked in.
It was a bright-eyed middle-aged man, shining all over with wet; a blue
woollen apron was twisted round his waist, and he had a basket on his arm.
Leaning against one door-cheek, and sticking a knife into the other, he
said, "By gobs, didn't I get a fine peltin' out o' that! * *
* Do yees want any oysters, gentlemen? The shells is small,"
said he, stepping forward, "but they're chock full o' the finest fish in
the world. Divul a aiqual thim oysters has in the say, for flavour;
mind I'm tellin' ye * * * Taste that!"—"Hollow,
Dennis!" said one of the company, "how is it you aren't in
Fleetwood?"—"Well, because I'm here, I suppose," said Dennis. "Bedad,
ye can't expect a man to be in two places at once—barrin' he was a burd.
Maybe it's good fortune sent me here to meet wid a few daycent customers.
Sorra one I met an the way, but rain powrin' down in lashins till the
oysters in my basket begun to think they were in the say agin."—"Well,
Dennis," said the traveller, "I'll have a score if you'll tell us about
the Irishman in the cook's shop." "Ye will? Then divul recave
the toe I stir till ye get both! * * * Will you
take another score, sir, till I tell the tale? It's little chance
ye'll have o' meetin' thim oysters agin—for they're gettin scarce.
Oh, murtherin' fortin'," continued he, putting down the basket, "how that
villain torments my poor bones this day! Many a time I was nigh
chuckun it over the hedge, an' sittin down an a shtone to shtarve right
out, for its better to die aisy an' idle, than to be slavin' to death for
nothun. * * * Begorra, see, there's a splendid
oyster! That fellow's a mouthful for a king! * * *
If it wasn't for the fun an' the comfort there is in meetin' wud rale
gentleman sometimes, I'd lose heart entirely. Things is quarely
divided in this world. * * * How-an'-ever, since
it's no better, thank God it's no worse. * * * If
I could meet wid a customer to buy the stock, an' the basket, an' the
knife, at cost price,—I'd give him the goodwill an' the run o' the country
for a pint o' porter, an' then I'd hurry to the nearest barracks, an'
change clothes. * * * But,—now for the tale," said
he, with his knife and his tongue in motion together. "It was a man
from Nenagh, in Tipperary—a kind o' ganger an the railway; an' he wint to
a cook-shop in a teawn not far from this, an', ses he to the missis o' the
heawse, 'A basin o' pay-soop, ma'am, plaze,'—for, mind ye, an Irishman's
natterally polite till he's vext, an' thin he's as fiery as Julius Sayzur.
Well, whin she brought the soop, Paddy tuk a taste mighty sly; an' turnin'
reawnd, ses he just for spooart, mind—ses he, 'Bedad, ma'am, your soop
tastes mighty strong o' the water.' Well, av coorse, the woman was
vext all out, an' she up an' tould him he didn't understand good aitin'
an' drinkin', an' he might lave the soop for thim that had bin better
eddicated. But bowld Paddy wint on widout losin' a stroke o' the
spoon; an'—purtindin' not to hear her—ses he, 'I'll go bail I'll make as
good broth as thim wud a penny candle an' a trifle o' pepper.' Well,
by gobs, this riz the poor woman's dander to the full hoight, an' she made
right at him wid her fist, an' swore by this an' by that, if he didn't
lave the heawse she'd knock him into the boiler. But Paddy was nigh
finishin' his soop, an' he made up his mind to take the last word; an' ses
he, 'Bi the powers! that'll be the best bit o' mate ever went into your
pan, ma'am;' an' wi' that, he burst into a laugh, an' the philanderin'
rogue up an 'towld her how he said it all for divarshun; an' divul a
better soop he tasted in his life. Well, she changed her tune, like
a child. By dad, it was like playin' a piano or a flute, or somethin'.
An', mind ye, there's nothin' like an Irishman for gettin' the right music
out ov a woman—all the world over. So tale's ended, an' I'd like to
see the bottom o' my basket. Ye may as well brake me, gintlemen.
There's not more nor five score. Take the lot, an' let me go home;
for I've a long step to the fore, an' I'm wet to the bone, an' the roads
is bad after dark."
CHAPTER THE FOURTH.
Still lingering in the quiet paths.
ALL THE YEAR
AFTER a good deal of
pleasantry, Dennis got rid of his oysters in the hotel at Cleveless; and,
as the storm was still raging without, he called for a glass, just, as he
said, "to keep the damp away from the spark in his heart; more by token
that he had no other fire to dry his clothes at. But, begorra, for
the matter o' that," said he, "they're not worth a grate-full o' coals.
Look at my trowsers. They're on the varge o' superannuation; an'
they'll require a substitute before long, or else, I'm thinking, they'll
not combine daycently. How-an'-ever, gentlemen," continued he,
"here's hopin' the fruition ov your purses may never fail ye, nor health
to consign their contents to utility. An' neaw," said he, lighting
his pipe, and putting the empty basket on his head like a cowl, "I must
go, iv the rain comes in pailfuls, for I'm not over well; and if I could
get home wud wishin' I'd be in bed by the time ye'd say 'trap-sticks!'
But dramin' and schamin's neither ridin' nor flyin', so I'll be trampin',
for there's no more use in wishin' than there would be in a doctor feelin'
a man's pulse through a hole in a wall wid the end ov a kitchen poker.
An' neaw, I'll be proud iv any gintl man would oblige me by comin' a
couple o' mile an the road; to see the way I'll spin over the greawnd. *
* * Ye'd rather not? Well, fun an' fine weather's not
always together, so good bye, an' long life to ye! an' here's wishin' that
your appetites an' your mate may be close companions an' good friends; an'
that yees may never die in child-bed!" and so, away went Dennis through
the rain towards Fleetwood.
Waiting for the shower to abate, I sat a while; and, as one
of the company had been to a funeral, it led to a conversation about
benefit societies; in relation to which, one person said he objected to
funeral benefits being allowed to people who had died by their own hand;
because it would encourage others to commit suicide also. A little
stiff fellow in the corner told an anecdote about a country man who, on
returning from the burial of one of his acquaintances, said he shouldn't
like to go to another funeral, "becose it wur sich a malancholy spree; an'
they sang sick' soory tunes 'at he couldn't help cryin'." From this
we glided to the subject of consecrated ground; and a question arose
respecting a man who had been accidentally buried partly in consecrated
and partly in unconsecrated ground,—as to what result would ensue from
that mistake to the poor corpse in the end of all. The doubt was as
to whose influence the unconsecrated half came under. The dispute
ran high, without anybody making the subject clearer, so I came away
before the shower was over.
Next day I went to Blackpool; and, while awaiting at the
station the arrival of a friend of mine, I recognized the face of an old
woman whom I had known in better days. Tall and thin, with a head as
white as a moss-crop, she was still active, and remarkably clean and neat
in appearance. Her countenance, though naturally melancholy, had a
spice of the shrew in it. "Eh," said she, "I'm glad to see you.
It's not oft I have a chance of meeting an old face now, for I'm seldom
out." She then told me she had been two years and a half housekeeper
to a decrepit old gentleman and his two maiden sisters, in a neighbouring
town. "But," said she, "I'm going to leave. You see I've got
into years; and, though I'm active, thank God, yet I'm often ill; and
people don't like to be troubled with servants that are ill, you know.
So, I'm forced to work on, ill or well; for I'm but a lone woman, with no
friends to help me, but my son, and he's been a long time in Canada, and I
haven't heard from him this three years. I look out for th' postman
day by day,—but nothing comes. Sometimes I think he's dead.
But the Lord knows. It's like to trouble one, you're sure.
It's hard work, with one thing and another, very; for I have to 'scrat
before I can peck,' as th' sayings, and shall to th' end o' my day now.
But, if you can hear of anything likely, I wish you would let me know,—for
leave yonder I will. I wouldn't stop if they'd hang my hair wi'
diamonds,— I wouldn't indeed. I've said it, an' signed it—so there's
an end. But what, they'll never ask me to stop, I doubt. It's
very hard. You see I have to keep my son's little boy in a
neighbour's house,—this is him,—an' that eats up nearly all my bit o'
wage,— and where's my clothing to come from? But, don't yo see, our
people are greedy to a degree. Lord bless you! They'd skin
three devils for one hide,—they would for sure. See yo; one day—(here she
whispered something which I didn't exactly catch)—they did indeed!
As Missis Dixon said, when I met her i' Friargate, on Monday forenoon, 'It
was a nasty, dirty trick!' But I've had my fill, an' I shall sing
'Oh, be joyful' when my time's up. I shall be glad to get to my own
country again,—yes, if I have to beg my bread. See; they're actually
afraid of me going out o' th' house for, fear I should talk about 'em to
th' neighbours. Bless you, they judge everybody by theirselves.
But I'd scorn the action! It is just as Missis Smith said, 'They're
frightened o' the world being done before they've done wi' th'
world,'—they are for sure. Such gripin' grindin' ways! They'll
never prosper,—never." "And is this your grandson?" said I.
"Yes, an' he's a wonderful child for his age. He's such a memory!
His father was just same. I often think he'd make a rare 'tourney,
he remembers things so, and he's such, queer sayings. I've taught
him many a piece off by heart. Come, George, say that little piece
for this gentleman. Take your fingers out of your mouth. Come
now." The lad looked a minute, and then rattled out:―
"Said Aaron to Moses, aw'll swap tho' noses;"
"Oh, for shame," said she, "not that." But he went on,
"Said Moses to Aaron, thine's sich a quare un."
"For shame!" said she. "You see they teach him all sorts o'
nonsense; and he remembers everything. Come, be quick; 'Twinkle,
twinkle.'" But here the train was ready; and, in five minutes more,
she was on her way to Preston; and, not finding my friend, I walked back
by the cliffs.
In my rambles about Norbreck I met with many racy characters
standing in relief among their neighbours, and marked with local
peculiarities as distinctly as anything that grows from the soil. In
a crowded city they might be unnoticed; but, amid "the hamlet's hawthorn
wild," where existence seems to glide as noiselessly as a cloud upon a
summer sky, save where friendly gossips meet like a choir of crickets by
some country fire, they are threads of vivid interest woven into the quiet
tale of life; and, among their own folk they are prized something like
those old books which people hand from generation to generation,—because
they bear the quaint inscriptions of their forefathers. In my
wanderings I had also the benefit of a genial and intelligent companion;
and whether we were under his own roof, among books and flowers, and
fireside talk about the world in the distance, or roving the green lanes
and coppice-trods, chatting with stray villagers by the way, or airing
ourselves in the wind, "on the beached margent of the sea," I found great
pleasure and assistance in his society. My friend lives about a mile
down the winding road from Norbreck, in a substantial hall, built about a
hundred years ago, and pleasantly dropt at the foot of a great natural
embankment, which divides the low-lying plain from the sea. The,
house stands among slips of orderly garden and plantation, with poultry
yards and out-houses at the north-east end. The front of the house
is flanked by two little groves of trees, and a tasteful well-tended
flower-garden slopes softly down to the iron railings which divide the
garden from a great level field, across which a broad, green walk leads to
the gates at the highway side. The road is just far enough removed
from the house to conceal the features of any passer by, and yet neat
enough for any familiar gait and figure to be discernible from the
windows. From this road the sound of the postman's horn comes
cheerily every forenoon, except on Sundays; and in summer, vehicles laden
with visitors from Blackpool roll lazily along through the sunshine, on
their way to Cleveless, Rossall, or Fleetwood. The green country,
sparely sprinkled with white farmhouses and cottages, spreads out in
front, far and wide, to where the fells of Lancashire bound the eastward
view. The scene is as quiet as a country church just before service
begins, except where the sails of a windmill are whirling in the wind, or
the fleecy steam-cloud of a distant train gushes across the landscape,
like a flying fountain of snow. On a knoll behind the house there is a
little rich orchard, trimly hemmed in by thick thorn hedges. I have seen
it when its shadeless walks were open to the sky, and all its holiday
glory was brooding patiently down in the cold ground; but I remember how
oft in summer, when the boughs were bending with fruit, and the leaves
were so thick overhead that the sunshine could only find its way through
chinks of the green ceiling, we have pushed the branches aside, and walked
and talked among its bowery shades; or sitting on benches at the edge of
the fish-pond, have read and watched our floats, and hearkened to the
birds, until we have risen, as if drawn by some fascination in the air,
and gone unconsciously towards the sea again. There we have spent many a
glorious hour; and there, at certain times of the day we should meet with
"Quick," or "Mitch," or some other coast-guardsman belonging to the
gunboat's crew at Fleetwood, pacing to and fro, on the look-out for
Frenchmen, smugglers, and wreck. As we returned from the shore one
afternoon, an old man was walking on the road before us, carrying what
looked in the distance like two milk pails. These he set down now and
then, and looked quietly around. My friend told me that this part of the
Fylde was famous for singing birds, especially larks. He said that
bird-catchers came from all parts of Lancashire, particularly Manchester,
to ply their craft there; and he would venture a guess that the quaint
figure before us was a Manchester bird-catcher, though it was rather early
in the season. When we overtook the old man, who had set down his covered
cages in a bye-lane, we found that he was a bird-catcher, and from
Manchester too. I learnt, also, that it was not uncommon for a clever
catcher to make a pound a day by his "calling."
Our rambles sometimes took us by the farmstead of John Whiteside, a man
well known and respected in that part. A romantic thing lately befel this
old Fylde farmer. It seems that about sixteen years before the time of my
last visit to Norbreck, he found a man lying in the "Star-hills," or sandy
cliffs, close to the shore, nearly naked, and almost dead with hunger and
cold. Now, he had compassion on him, and took him to his own house, and
had him nursed there, until he recovered strength. The man was a painter,
and he remained there, painting the carts and other things, and working in
the hay. The farmer took a liking to him, and paid him well for his
labour, and thus enabled him to clothe himself, and send money to his
family. At the end of six weeks, he said that he must depart; but, if ever
he was able to reward the farmer for his kindness, he would do so. He then
went his way, and in a little while was forgotten. Now, when sixteen years
had passed away, without any tidings of the man, a stranger came up to the
farmer's door, saying that the once destitute painter was now dead. He
then produced a duly-attested copy of his will, in which be had bequeathed
to the farmer land and other property, to the value of sixteen hundred
pounds, in return for the kindness shown to him sixteen years before.
The primitive little parish church of Bispham was always an interesting
object to me. It stands on a knoll, about a quarter of a mile over the
fields from Norbreck; and its foundation is of great antiquity. It appears
that the Roman Catholic form of worship was celebrated in this church
until the ascension of Elizabeth to the throne. Speaking of the time of
the Reformation, the following passage occurs in Mr. Thornber's "Penny
Stone; or, a Tradition of the Spanish Armada;"—"Lancashire at this period
was particularly torn by adverse parties; for while in other parts of the
kingdom the new religion progressed rapidly, there it was retrograde;
Romanists multiplied, the mass was commonly performed, priests were
harboured, many churches shut up, and the cures unsupplied, except by the
rejected. In the Foreland of the Fylde, local circumstances had increased
the dissatisfaction, which had been chiefly excited by the dissemination
of the infamous publications of Dr. Allen, a native of Rossall—the
preaching of Campian and others, while in hiding at the Heskets' of the
Maynes, Poulton, and at the Rigbys' of Layton Hall—by the unjust ejection
of Widow Allen and her daughter from Rossall Grange, before the expiration
of their lease—its plunder and sacking—the constant repetition of acts of
oppression—and finally, by the deprivation of Jeromine Allen, the
respected cure of Bispham church, who from the smallness of his cure, and
the insignificance of its yearly value was probably screened from the
notice of the reformers." The last time this Jeromine Allen officiated in
Bisphain church was On the 25th of March 1559. After the celebration of
the mass, the old priest preached from the text "Obey the powers that be,
for they are ordained of God;" and then, taking a solemn farewell of his
congregation, he departed, to spend the remainder of his days at Lambspring in Germany. The grave-yard of Bispham church contains some
interesting memorials, but none more solemnly eloquent than a certain row
of mounds covering the remains of the unknown drowned washed upon that
coast from time to time. Several of these, which drifted ashore after the
burning of the Ocean Monarch off the coast of Wales, in 1848 lie
mouldering together in this quiet country churchyard, all unknown, save a
lady from Bury, in Lancashire, to whose memory a tombstone is erected
As the great tides declined, the weather began to be troubled with wintry
fits, but when the day of my return came it brought summer again. After
dinner at Bispham House, I went up with my friend to bid farewell to "Owd
England" at Norbreck; and it was like parting with some quaint volume of
forgotten lore. Nursed here in the lap of nature, the people and customs
of the country were part of himself; and his native landscape, with all
the shifting elements in the scene, was a kind of barometer, the slightest
changes of which were intelligible to him. At the eastern edge of
Norbreck, a low wall of Coble stones encloses his garden. Here, where I
have sometimes made a little havoc among his "Bergamots," "Old Keswicks,"
and "Scotch Bridges," we walked about, whilst I took a parting look at the
landscape. Immediately behind us the sea was singing its old song; and
below lay the little rural parish, "where," as I heard the rector say in
one of his sermons, "a man cannot walk into the open air but all his
neighbours can see him." Beyond, the tranquil Fylde stretches out its
drowsy green, now oblivious of all remembrance of piratical ravage, which
so soften swept over it in ancient times. Yonder the shipping of Fleetwood
is clearly in sight to the north. And there, a sunbeam, stealing between
the fleecy clouds, glides across the land from field to field, with a kind
of plaintive grace, as if looking for a lost garden. Over meadow, over
wood and little town it goes, dying away upon yon rolling hills in the
east. The first of these hills is Longridge, and behind it, weird old
Pendle, standing in a world of its own, is dimly visible. Northward, the
hills roll on in bold relief, Parlick, and Bleasdale, and the fells
between Morecambe and "time-honoured Lancaster." Still northward, to where
yon proud brotherhood of snow-crowned giants, the mountains of Cumberland
and Westmorland, look so glorious in the sunlight; awaking enchanting
dreams of that land of romance, the "Lake District," hallowed by so many
rich associations of genius. They toss their mighty heads on westward,
till solemn old "Black Coomb" dips into the Irish Sea. Altogether a fine
setting for the peaceful scene below.
The afternoon was waning, so, taking leave of the old fisherman and his
household, I turned from Norbreck like a man who rises from his dinner
before he is half satisfied. Accompanied by my friend, I walked four
miles, on highways and bye-ways, to meet the train at Poulton. The road
was pleasant, and the day was fine; and I reached Manchester before
midnight, feeling better in soul and body for my sojourn at this little
hamlet down by the western sea.