With Dick the last of the “Northern Lights” flickered out. Nothing now remains in the village recalling those old times. The village inn has been suppressed, and the drinking bouts are over. The old church has been entirely restored, and there is order and decency in the services. The strange thing is that it should have been possible that only forty years ago matters were in such a state of chaos and disorder, and in such need of drastic reformation.
Another Yorkshire clerk flourished in the thirties at Bolton-on-Dearne named Thomas Rollin, commonly called Tommy. He used to render Psalm cii. 6: “I am become a pee-li-can in the wilderness, and an owl in the dee-sert.” Tommy was a tailor by trade, and made use of a ready-reckoner to assist him in making up his accounts, and his familiarity with that useful book was shown when reading the second verse of the forty-fifth Psalm, which Tommy invariably read: “My tongue is the pen of a ready-reckoner,” to the immense delight of the youthful members of the congregation.
AN OLD CHESHIRE CLERK AND SOME OTHER WORTHIES
It is nearly fifty years since I used to attend the quaint old parish church at Lawton, Cheshire, situate half-way between Congleton and Crewe. It is a lonely spot, “miles from anywhere,” having not the vestige of a village, and the congregation was formed of well-to-do farmers, who came from the scattered farmsteads. How well I remember the old parish clerk and the numerous duties which fell to his lot! He united in his person the offices of clerk, sexton, beadle, church-keeper, organist, and ringer. The organ was of the barrel kind, and no one knew how to manipulate the instrument or to change the barrels, except the clerk. He had also to place ten decent loaves in a row on the communion table every Sunday morning, which were provided by a charitable bequest for the benefit of the poor widows of the parish. If the widows did not attend service to curtsy for them, the loaves were given to any one who liked to take them. Old Clerk Briscall baked them himself. He kept a small village shop about two miles from the church. He was also the village shoemaker. A curious system prevailed. As you entered the church, near the large stove you would see a long bench, and under this bench a row of boots and shoes. If any one wanted his boots to be mended, he would take them to church with him and put them under the bench. These were collected by the cobbler-clerk, carried home in a sack, and brought back on the following Sunday neatly and carefully soled and heeled. It would seem strange now if on entering a church our eyes should light upon a row of farmers’ dirty old boots and the freshly-mended evidences of the clerk’s skill. All this took place in the fifties. In the sixties a new vicar came. The old organ wheezed its last phlegmatic tune; it was replaced by a modern instrument with six stops, and a player who did his best, but occasioned not a little laughter on account of his numerous breakdowns. The old high pews have disappeared, nice open benches erected, the floor relaid, a good choir enlisted, and everything changed for the better.