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

OLD TIME FRIENDS

BILL SPINK, THE COBBLER

During the past few weeks I have received from friends acquired in the days of my boyhood and early manhood letters which have awakened within me a train of memories both joyful and sorrowful respecting my friends and acquaintances in the auld lang syne. That must be my apology for devoting this week’s chapter of my “Recollections” to a brief notice of several of these local worthies. Of Bill Spink, the statesman-cobbler, I have previously made mention. Spink was born in the house in West-lane (now occupied as a club) wherein Mr James Lund, of Malsis Hall, first saw the light. He was a queer chap in his way was Spink. He belonged to what I may call the Peculiar political party which also claimed as members “Little” Barnes, James Leach, Theophilus Hayes, Joseph Fieldhouse, and your humble servant; and it was in his little cobbler’s shop that the deliberations of our party were carried on. Spink took the Tory side in national politics, and frequently attended political meetings up and down the district. On one occasion, I well remember, Spink was sent by the Tory party to a Liberal meeting at Silsden. Sir Mathew Wilson was one of the speakers, and he was “tackled” on certain points during his speech by Spink, until the Radical garrison made a raid upon this undesirable invader of their citadel, and ejected him into the street. Spink was severely handled in the process, and it occupied him all his strength i.e. all that remained to walk back to Keighley. Spink was a man who must speak his mind, and could not bear to hear the views and principles which he upheld ruthlessly set at nought. He was, at bottom, a good-natured man; indeed, I think I scarcely ever came across a man with a more sympathetic disposition. In any deserving public object, or case of private distress in the town, he was the first to the rescue. Unfortunately, he suffered much from a diseased leg, which was the cause of his death. There was an unpleasant hitch at the funeral. When the party arrived at the Keighley Cemetery, it was found that the grave was too small, and it was some time before the necessary extension could be made. The circumstance of the mourners having to wait was aggravated by a heavy down fall of rain. At last, however, the remains of my old friend were duly consigned to Mother Earth. In his life time I promised Spink that I would write his epitaph, which I now produce:

Here lie the remains of the friend of the poor,
Inside of his palace without any door.
By man’s inhumanity he was oft made to flit,
But now he’s at home, where he’ll bide for a bit.
He had a large heart that beat in his breast;
Without some sensation he never could rest;
If he saw a mean action he’d cry like a calf;
If he saw a kind deed he’d cry more bi’t half.

A THEATRICAL CHUM

I must now revert to my old theatrical friend, John Spencer, who had returned from America. He was greatly changed in appearance, so that I scarcely knew him by sight; he put me in mind of a Spanish brigand. Spencer, while in the States, had gone through the Civil War, having served, he told me, on the sides of both North and South. He was first pressed into service while travelling with a circus. The request was put to the whole company, who ’listed as one man, and joined the Confederate Army. Spencer was put in as express rider, his duty being to act as mounted postman from one camp to another. It was while on one of these journeys that he was made a prisoner. He had a large amount of money in notes upon him, but this he managed to hand unnoticed to a civilian friend. As a prisoner he was taken to Washington. Being a first-class misdemeanant, he was allowed to patrol the streets, which, however, were closely watched, and it seemed an impossibility for him to pass the sentinels. But John had knocked about the world a good deal, and had had his wits sharpened, and by a “theatrical stratagem” he managed to evade the outposts and to make his escape. He stopped at a dye-house some distance out of Washington, and was fortunate enough there to meet with a friend from his native district Sam Brook, a theatrical amateur, from Crossflatts, near Bingley. Sam furnished his erstwhile companion of the stage with a dyer’s wearing apparel, and, thus disguised, Spencer managed to get back to the place where he had been captured, and to recover the notes which he had deposited with the person mentioned. With this money Spencer seems to have got back to England. Arrived at Keighley, he sent for me, and nothing would satisfy him but that I should break off work at once and help him, so to speak, to “mak t’ brass fly.” Together we travelled nearly all over Great Britain, and also paid a visit to Paris. It was in the French capital that Spencer found the money getting “beautifully less,” and he concluded that it would be better for all concerned if we returned to Keighley. This we did. Soon after, Spencer took up a position as traveller for the Bradford Old Brewery Company. But the English climate did not seem to suit him far from it; there were certain peculiarities about his constitution which said as much. It was with much pain that one morning I heard of his death, which had taken place very suddenly at the house of his father, who was landlord of the Bay Horse Inn. The Rev Mr Goodman, then the Baptist minister, officiated at the funeral of the deceased, and, I recollect, spoke of the awful suddenness of death. His remarks, I felt, were directed to myself, and I was very uncomfortable the while. Among the many persons present at the funeral was “Doctor” John Walton, who was at one time in partnership with Mr Anthony Spencer and Mr Henry Newton as herbalists, &c.

WITH THE LATE MR EDWIN WAUGH

On one particular evening which has left its imprint indelibly on my mind, I spent a few pleasant hours with a handful of local celebrities in the Commercial Inn. The chief of the party was the celebrated Lancashire poet, the late Mr Edwin Waugh, who had come to Keighley to give readings in the old Mechanic’s Hall, and was invited to join us. Another member of our party was Mr John Hopkinson, brother to Mr Barber Hopkinson. A right merry fellow he was, full of yarns and comic ditties. With him was his nephew, Mr Benjamin Hopkinson, who about the time was causing some stir in the district with several letters which he published in the Press. This trio are now gone over to the great majority. Mr Emmott, veterinary surgeon, and Mr Lacy, another local worthy, were also in the company. Very pleasant and entertaining was the time we spent together that night. Next morning I accompanied Mr Waugh to Kildwick, whither we walked on the canal bank. On the way, the Lancashire poet proved himself an intensely interesting and instructive companion. He had a large stock of funny stories, and possessed quite a knack of imparting his sensible advice to one in an inoffensive and almost unnoticeable manner. During the journey I said little, but thought much. At Kildwick we inspected the “Lang Kirk,” and other places of note in the locality, and then parted. It was soon after this visit that I wrote the following verses:

Old Kildwick Grange and Kildwick Hall,
I see them now once more;
They ’mind me of my boyish days,
Those happy days of yore.

The old White Lion in the corner stands,
Most fitting for the poets,
Where Turner from a foreign land
Would give his great exploits.

’Twas in the Indian jungle
The tiger first he saw,
With fiery eye, and open mouth,
Sharp talons on his paw.

They met, and with a desperate spring
The tiger on his prey;
While Turner’s two companions
Both cowards ran away.

But Turner fought a desperate fight,
His courage ne’er forsook,
He javelled at the tiger
Until his bayonet broke.
One part was in the savage breast,
And Turner understood
If he could grovel out the steel
’Twould draw the savage blood.

’Twas done the blood gushed out amain,
The lion-hearted brave
Beheld his foe go to a stream,
To drink and meet his grave.

. . . . .

I see the house where Turner lived;
But Turner is not here.
In the Lang Kirkyard he now may rest
Without a tiger’s fear.

“SAMMY” MOORE, AND OTHERS

Since I began these Reminiscences I have received a letter from an old friend of mine, whom I said I thought was dead. I allude to “Sammy” Moore, and I am glad to hear that he is alive and doing well. I had not heard of him for a score of years. Many are the happy hours we have spent together on the stage. His letter says he is in California, where he is occupying a good situation as registrar of a town of about 10,000 inhabitants. He says he has left off acting and wishes to know if I have done the same; and he also inquires after many of his old Keighley friends. This sentence leads me to refer to a few more of my own friends in the days of yore. There is the Rev William Thawbrey, a Wesleyan Methodist minister at Keighley, who subsequently took up work in the mission field in South Africa. Then there are the late Mr Thomas Carrodus, the manager of the Yorkshire Penny Bank at Keighley, the Brothers Kay, Mr Joshua Robinson, and Mr James Lister, all of whom were fellow stage amateurs of mine. The hand of death has passed heavily over my old friends particularly those with whom I moved on the amateur theatrical stage and I can number on my fingers those who have been left.