Read CHAPTER XIII of Adventures and Recollections , free online book, by Bill o'th' Hoylus End, on ReadCentral.com.

BACK TO KEIGHLEY I BECOME A VOLUNTEER

When I got home to Keighley, the authorities were busily engaged in forming a corps of Rifle Volunteers in the town. The commanding officer was the late Captain Busfeild Ferrand, of St. Ives, Bingley. I was asked to enlist by sergeant (afterwards captain) Henry Wright (now magistrate’s clerk at Keighley), but objected at first, as each Volunteer had to purchase his own clothing and accoutrements. However, I was told that if I would join I should have my uniform, &c., free; and I believe I am correct in stating that I was the first in the Keighley corps to have my outfit on these terms. I became a Volunteer. At this time the gentry of the town and district took a great deal more interest in the Volunteer movement than they do to-day. Tradesmen, especially, readily joined the corps, and it was not long ere the first Company was filled up, and a second Company started in the town. Entertainments were frequently given by the officers.

CAPTAIN BUSFEILD FERRAND GIVES A BANQUET

One of these popular functions was given by Captain Busfeild Ferrand. It took the form of a splendid banquet, which was served at the Devonshire Hotel by mine host and hostess, Mr and Mrs Cheeseborough. (Mr Cheeseborough was subsequently the superintendent of police at Keighley). The fact that the banquet cost the Captain over 1 pound per head may afford some idea of the scale of its magnificence. The guests comprised the gentry of the neighbourhood, and also many from a distance. Several military officers of high rank were present Colonel Wombwell, Captain McMurdock, &c. The Rector of Keighley (the Rev. W. Busfeild) was among the guests; also, his two sons, both of them officers in the Army. “After a sumptuous repast,” as the newspapers have it, Captain Busfeild Ferrand rose and proposed the health of the Queen, eulogising the excellent qualities of Her Majesty. The Captain was a very loyal subject, as may be judged by the severity of his threat that if any Volunteer present did not drink to the health of the Queen he would have him struck off the rolls. The Rev. W. Busfeild proposed the “Army and Navy,” and, in the course of a felicitous speech, mentioned that he was the proud father of two sons who were now officers in the Army, and of another who was in the Navy a sentiment which was applauded to the very echo. Other toasts were honoured, and speeches made, and throughout the proceedings the greatest enthusiasm and good feeling prevailed. There was one present whom I shall always remember the late Mr George Hattersley, the founder of the firm of George Hattersley & Sons, and the father of Alderman R. L. Hattersley. Mr George Hattersley was a volunteer in the days of Wellington and Bonaparte, and was one of the if not the one oldest Volunteers present. “Our comrade, Mr George Hattersley,” was toasted with musical honours and great cheering by the whole company. During the evening Captain Ferrand gave some very interesting and laughable anecdotes about his military experiences, especially as a Cavalryman during the Plug-drawing and Chartist Riots. He told us that his uncle, Major Ferrand, had commanded the Bingley corps of Volunteers, and Captain Ellis, of Bingley, the Keighley detachment. The time had come to pass, however, when they had exchanged places, Captain Ellis being placed in charge of the Bingley section, and he (Captain Busfeild Ferrand) taking the place of his uncle at Keighley. The Captain went on to tell us how he had a military “head” when he was a boy, and caused roars of laughter by saying he had frequently bestridden a donkey grazing in the field, and set off on the “war path,” imagining himself some great general. Throughout, the proceedings were almost inconceivably brilliant and enjoyable, and it was well after the “wee short hour beyont the twal” when the National Anthem was sung.

AN UNSUCCESSFUL FIELD DAY AT YORK

The first field day the Keighley Volunteers had was at York. We formed part of the West Riding Battalion, and the object of the gathering was a grand review by the Duke of Cambridge. Unfortunately the day was a very wet one, and, in consequence, the review turned out a failure. In those days the Volunteers were not provided with great coats, and a torrential downpour soon wet every man to the skin. Reviewing under these conditions would have been decidedly uncomfortable and unsatisfactory; consequently, the whole battalion was dismissed, and told to seek shelter in the best places they could find. The Keighley detachment went in batches into the city. Drill-Sergeant Chick would have me to go with him into the nearest tavern. The drill-sergeant was a remarkable man in his way, and over a glass of ale he declared, with an unblushing countenance, that he had been in some parts of the world where it had rained ten times heavier for twelve months at a time than it was doing that day. Of course, I, in my modesty kept quiet, and did not challenge the veracity of the statement of this wonderful man. Yes; there were some “fine” boys among the Volunteers in those days. We had some very popular non-commissioned officers who were very kind to us, which made it a pleasure to serve under them.

REVIEW AT DONCASTER

The next review was at Doncaster, shortly afterwards, when the day was about as hot as it was wet on the occasion of the abandoned review at York. The commissariat was ample for every man, but it was generally thought that an improvement might have been effected by substituting something for the “cayenne pies,” alias pork pies. Each man had a lb. pork pie and two pints of beer allowed. The pies were hotly peppered, and we all declared that they would have given a dog the hydrophobia. Then the pint pots for drinking ran short a cruel occurrence on a hot and dry day. Only half-a-dozen of these drinking utensils fell to the Keighley detachment, and they fell into the hands of six of the “smartest” lads in the whole corps Privates Billy Bentley, Jack Thom, John Hargreaves, Ned Thretten, Jack Wilkinson, and Long Stanhope. I, for one, badly wanted to quench my thirst, but was unable to do so, for the above-mentioned six brave soldiers stuck to their guns that is, their pint pots, manfully, and there was no prospect of a drink until they had fairly “put the dust down.” At last, however, I managed to get a pot, but had it taken from me as I was drinking. Captain Thomas Blakey went up to Private Bentley and asked, “Are you a married man, Bentley?” “Yes,” replied Bentley. “Have you got any family?” “I have,” said Bentley. “Well,” said Captain Blakey, “you’d better take a dozen of these pies home to your children.” “Does ta want me ta give ’em t’ hydrophobia? Why, I wodn’t give ’em ta t’ cat!” But at this stage “Fall in” was sounded. The parade went through with satisfaction, and the review was as much a success as that at York was a failure. General McMurdoch was the Commander-in-chief, and he specially commended the Keighley corps for the march past and volley-firing, and said his comments would be forwarded to the proper quarter.

AN AMUSING INCIDENT ON THE HOME JOURNEY

The time came round for the respective regiments taking part in the review to turn their faces homeward. The detachments from the Keighley and Bradford districts entrained together. Every man was crying out of thirst, and at Normanton one of the officers, belonging to Skipton, had the train stopped. How we blessed him for it! We detrained in a body, and rushed to the big pump on the platform (used to fill the locomotive boilers). The water was turned on, and, besides quenching his thirst on the spot, each Volunteer filled his water-bottle. This was a “movement” which took some time to execute; and it was, I must say, very considerate of the station officials to allow us to spend so much time to have a cheap drink. Major W. L. Marriner and Quartermaster Barber Hopkinson (of whom I shall have something further to say afterwards) were with us, both doing their best to pacify their men until they could have their thirst slaked. Quartermaster Hopkinson “had his hands full” in looking after his “boys.” Well, the soldiers, having all got their bottles filled with water, re-entered the train, and the journey forward to Keighley was accomplished without further incident calling for notice.

THE DRILL-SERGEANT’S DISMISSAL

When the Volunteers reached home there was the inevitable reaction the “review” men had “a drink at t’heead on ’t,” and another, and another; and for two or three days they were to be seen straggling about the streets. There was one disagreeable incident that occurred to mar the pleasant termination of the review, locally considered. That was the dismissal of Drill-sergeant Chick from the regiment at the instance of Captain Leper, who was the adjutant for the Bradford and Keighley divisional corps. The drill-sergeant’s offence consisted, it appeared, in “speaking when not spoken to.” I have previously made mention that the Keighley corps were complimented by the commanding officer for their march past and volley-firing. When making his remarks, General McMurdock wanted to know the name of the corps. Captain Leper (a Bradfordian) replied, “Bradford, sir.” Sergeant Chick, in his enthusiasm, and knowing that they were his own men who were alluded to, shouted, “No, sir; it’s Keighley.” This “flagrant misconduct” on the part of a subordinate incensed Captain Leper this was seen by the “wicked” impression on the captain’s face who was not long in telling poor Chick that he had been dismissed the regiment. This was a hard blow to the drill-sergeant, who had drilled his men so that they marched as one man; but, to Captain Leper’s credit, let it be said that he subsequently endeavoured to get Sergeant Chick re-instated. The dismissal, however had gone through the oracle of the Horse Guards, and to withdraw was impossible. Captain Leper then found employment for him at Bradford in looking after the orderly-room, &c., and with his remuneration from this source, and a small army pension, the ex-drill-sergeant managed to live in comparative comfort.

A DRILLING INCIDENT

Volunteering at Keighley went on in its own quiet and peaceful way. I might, perhaps, mention one incident which took place while the Keighley companies were drilling in the old Showfield one Saturday afternoon. Lieutenant (or Ensign, I forget which for the moment) Joseph Craven, of Steeton, was in charge of a squad of us. Now, Mr Craven was somewhat corpulent there was no mistake about that, and marching about under a hot sun was clearly not accomplished without great exertion and copious perspiration. The members of the squad soon comprehended the position in which their drill-master was, and they determined to give him “quick march.” When he gave the order “Quick march!” from the front, the “boys” did march to some tune. Their commander soon found it necessary to step from the front, and he was left a good distance behind. But he soon discovered their little “game,” and proved himself “quite up to their trick.” By calling out “halt” at intervals, he found himself able to keep up fairly well with the men. In his next drills he was considerately allowed by Captain Busfeild Ferrand to go about on horseback. Mr Craven was known among us as a very genial and sociable officer, and he enjoyed the respect and esteem of those under him. There were circumstances, however, which caused his retirement from the Volunteer corps, after a comparatively short service.