When Time, who steals our hours away.
Shall steal our pleasures too;
The memory of the past shall stay
And half our joys renew.
As I grow older my thoughts often revert to the past, and like the old Persian poet, Khosros, when he walked by the churchyard and thought how many of his friends were numbered with the dead, I am often tempted to exclaim: “The friends of my youth! where are they?” but there is only the mocking echo to answer, as if from a far-distant land, “Where are they?”
“One generation passeth away; and another generation cometh,” and enormous changes have taken place in this country during the past seventy years, which one can only realise by looking back and comparing the past with the present.
The railways then were gradually replacing the stage-coaches, of which the people then living had many stories to tell, and the roads which formerly had mostly been paved with cobble or other stones were being macadamised; the brooks which ran across the surface of the roads were being covered with bridges; toll-gates still barred the highways, and stories of highway robbers were still largely in circulation, those about Dick Turpin, whose wonderful mare “Black Bess” could jump over the turnpike gates, being the most prominent, while Robin Hood and Little John still retained a place in the minds of the people as former heroes of the roads and forests.
Primitive methods were still being employed in agriculture. Crops were cut with scythe and sickle, while old scythe-blades fastened at one end of a wooden bench did duty to cut turnips in slices to feed the cattle, and farm work generally was largely done by hand.
At harvest time the farmers depended on the services of large numbers of men who came over from Ireland by boat, landing at Liverpool, whence they walked across the country in gangs of twenty or more, their first stage being Warrington, where they stayed a night at Friar’s Green, at that time the Irish quarter of the town. Some of them walked as far as Lincolnshire, a great corn-growing county, many of them preferring to walk bare-footed, with their shoes slung across their shoulders. Good and steady walkers they were too, with a military step and a four-mile-per-hour record.
The village churches were mostly of the same form in structure and service as at the conclusion of the Civil War. The old oak pews were still in use, as were the galleries and the old “three-decker” pulpits, with sounding-boards overhead. The parish clerk occupied the lower deck and gave out the hymns therefrom, as well as other notices of a character not now announced in church. The minister read the lessons and prayers, in a white surplice, from the second deck, and then, while a hymn was being sung, he retired to the vestry, from which he again emerged, attired in a black gown, to preach the sermon from the upper deck.