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The Rev. M.E. Jenkins writes his remembrances of several old clerks.
There was dear old Robert Livesay, of Blackburn parish church, whom every one knew, his large rubicund face beaming with good nature and humour—a very kindly old soul. In 1870 I was appointed to an old-world Dale’s parish, which had one of the real old Yorkshire clerks, Frank Hutchinson. He was lame and blind in one eye, and well do I recall his sonorous and tremulous response, his love for the Psalms (Tate and Brady’s); he “reckoned nought o’ Hymns Ancient and Modern.” I used generally to find him with a long pipe in the vestry on my return from afternoon service. He was a great authority on the ancient history of the parish, and was formerly schoolmaster. He had brought up most respectably a large family of sons and daughters on the smallest means, many of whom still survive. I had a great respect for the old man, and so he had for me. He was very great at leading that peculiarly dirge-like wail at the huge Yorkshire funerals. I never could quite make out any words, but as a singularly effective and musical cadence in a minor key, it was no doubt a survival, as I once heard Canon Atkinson say, the famous vicar of Danby, my immediate neighbour on the moors. At last I attended Frank Hutchinson daily in his prolonged decay, and received his solemn blessing and commendation on my work; and he received at my hand a few hours before his death his last communion, surrounded by all his children and grandchildren, in his small bedroom, by the light of a single candle. I can still see his thin face uplifted. It is thirty-five years ago, and I can still hear the striking of his lucifer match in the midst of the afternoon service, and see him holding up close to his own eye the candle and the book, and can hear his tremulous “Amen,” quite independent of the choral one sung by a small choir in the chancel. He was great in epitaphs. A favourite one, which he would recite ore rotunda, was:
“Let this record,
what few vain marbles can,
Here lies an honest man.”
Another, which, by the way, is in Egton churchyard, ran as follows:
“Life is but a
Some breakfast and away,
Others to dinner stop and are full fed,
The oldest man but sups and goes to bed.”
He was a genuine old Dalesman of a type passed away. His spirits really never survived the abolition of the stringed instruments in the western gallery with its galaxy of village musicians. “I hugged bass fiddle for many a year,” he once told me. Peace be to his memory.
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Canon Atkinson tells of his good and harmless but “feckless” parish clerk and schoolmaster at Danby, whom, when about to take a funeral, he discovered sitting in the sunny embrasure of the west window, with his hat on, of course, and comfortably smoking his pipe. The clerk was a brother of the old vicar of Danby, and they seem to have been a curious and irreverent pair. The historian of Danby, in his Forty Years in a Moorland Parish, fully describes his first visit to the clerk’s school, and the strange custom of weird singing at funerals to which Mr. Jenkins alludes.