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Home-Life of the Lancashire Factory Folk during the Cotton Famine by Edwin Waugh

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Many thanks to Peter Moulding who transcribed this eText.
email: p e t e r @ m o u l d i n g n a m e . i n f o







Author of "Lancashire Sketches", "Poems and Lancashire Songs",
"Tufts of Heather from the Northern Moors", etc, etc.

"Hopdance cries in poor Tom's belly for two white herrings.
Croak not, black angel: I have no food for thee."
--King Lear.


Chap. Page
I 1 Among the Blackburn Operatives
II 13 " "
III 23 Among the Preston Operatives
IV 32 " "
V 40 " "
VI 48 " "
VII 59 " "
VIII 69 " "
IX 79 " "
X 87 " "
XI 97 " "
XII 107 " "
XIII 115 " "
XIV 123 " "
XV 132 Among the Wigan Operatives
XVI 139 " "
XVII 147 " "
XVIII 155 " "
XIX 163 " "
XX 171 " "
XXI 179 " "
XXII 189 An Incident by the Wayside
XXIII 197 Wandering Minstrels; or, Wails of the Workless Poor


209 Letters of a Lancashire Lad
217 Mr Cobden's Speech
227 Speech of the Earl of Derby

253 Songs of Distress chiefly written during the Cotton


The following chapters are reprinted from the columns of the
Manchester Examiner and Times, to which Paper they were contributed
by the Author during the year 1862.

(Reprinted from the Manchester Examiner and Times of 1862)


"Poor Tom's a-cold. Who gives anything to poor Tom?"
--King Lear.

Blackburn is one of the towns which has suffered more than the rest
in the present crisis, and yet a stranger to the place would not see
anything in its outward appearance indicative of this adverse nip of
the times. But to any one familiar with the town in its prosperity,
the first glance shows that there is now something different on foot
there, as it did to me on Friday last. The morning was wet and raw,
a state of weather in which Blackburn does not wear an Arcadian
aspect, when trade is good. Looking round from the front of the
railway station, the first thing which struck me was the great
number of tall chimneys which were smokeless, and the unusual
clearness of the air. Compared with the appearance of the town when
in full activity, there is now a look of doleful holiday, an
unnatural fast-day quietness about everything. There were few carts
astir, and not so many people in the streets as usual, although so
many are out of work there. Several, in the garb of factory
operatives, were leaning upon the bridge, and others were trailing
along in twos and threes, looking listless and cold; but nobody
seemed in a hurry. Very little of the old briskness was visible.
When the mills are in full work, the streets are busy with heavy
loads of twist and cloth; and the workpeople hurry in blithe crowds
to and from the factories, full of life and glee, for factory labour
is not so hurtful to healthy life as it was thirty years ago, nor as
some people think it now, who don't know much about it. There were
few people at the shop windows, and fewer inside. I went into some
of the shops to buy trifling things of different kinds, making
inquiries about the state of trade meanwhile, and, wherever I went,
I met with the same gloomy answers. They were doing nothing, taking
nothing; and they didn't know how things would end. They had the
usual expenses going on, with increasing rates, and a fearfully
lessened income, still growing less. And yet they durst not
complain; but had to contribute towards the relief of their starving
neighbours, sometimes even when they themselves ought to be
receiving relief, if their true condition was known. I heard of
several shopkeepers who had not taken more across their counters for
weeks past than would pay their rents, and some were not doing even
so much as that. This is one painful bit of the kernel of life in
Blackburn just now, which is concealed by the quiet shell of outward
appearance. Beyond this unusual quietness, a stranger will not see
much of the pinch of the times, unless he goes deeper; for the
people of Lancashire never were remarkable for hawking their
troubles much about the world. In the present untoward pass, their
deportment, as a whole, has been worthy of themselves, and their
wants have been worthily met by their own neighbours. What it may
become necessary to do hereafter, does not yet appear. It is a
calamity arising, partly from a wise national forbearance, which
will repay itself richly in the long run. But, apart from that wide-
spread poverty which is already known and relieved, there is, in
times like the present, always a certain small proportion, even of
the poorest, who will "eat their cake to th' edge," and then starve
bitterly before they will complain. These are the flower of our
working population; they are of finer stuff than the common staple
of human nature. Amongst such there must be many touching cases of
distress which do not come to light, even by accident. If they did,
nobody can doubt the existence of a generous will to relieve them
generously. To meet such cases, it is pleasant to learn, however, as
I did, that there is a large amount of private benevolence at work
in Blackburn, industriously searching out the most deserving cases
of distress. Of course, this kind of benevolence never gets into the
statistics of relief, but it will not the less meet with its reward.
I heard also of one or two wealthy men whose names do not appear as
contributors to the public relief fund, who have preferred to spend
considerable sums of money in this private way. In my wanderings
about the town I heard also of several instances of poor people
holding relief tickets, who, upon meeting with some temporary
employment, have returned their tickets to the committee for the
benefit of those less fortunate than themselves. Waiving for the
present all mention of the opposite picture; these things are alike
honourable to both rich and poor.

A little past noon, on Friday, I set out to visit the great stone
quarries on the southern edge of the town, where upwards of six
hundred of the more robust factory operatives are employed in the
lighter work of the quarries. This labour consists principally of
breaking up the small stone found in the facings of the solid rock,
for the purpose of road-mending and the like. Some, also, are
employed in agricultural work, on the ground belonging to the fine
new workhouse there. These factory operatives, at the workhouse
grounds, and in the quarries, are paid one shilling a day--not much,
but much better than the bread of idleness; and for the most part,
the men like it better, I am told. The first quarry I walked into
was the one known by the name of "Hacking's Shorrock Delph." There I
sauntered about, looking at the scene. It was not difficult to
distinguish the trained quarrymen from the rest. The latter did not
seem to be working very hard at their new employment, and it can
hardly be expected that they should, considering the great
difference between it and their usual labour. Leaning on their
spades and hammers, they watched me with a natural curiosity, as if
wondering whether I was a new ganger, or a contractor come to buy
stone. There were men of all ages amongst them, from about eighteen
years old to white-headed men past sixty. Most of them looked
healthy and a little embrowned by recent exposure to the weather;
and here and there was a pinched face which told its own tale. I got
into talk with a quiet, hardy-looking man, dressed in soil-stained
corduroy. He was a kind of overlooker. He told me that there were
from eighty to ninety factory hands employed in that quarry. "But,"
said he, "it varies a bit, yo known. Some on 'em gets knocked up
neaw an' then, an' they han to stop a-whoam a day or two; an' some
on 'em connot ston gettin' weet through--it mays 'em ill; an' here
an' theer one turns up at doesn't like the job at o'--they'd rayther
clem. There is at's both willin' an' able; thoose are likely to get
a better job, somewheer. There's othersome at's willin' enough, but
connot ston th' racket. They dun middlin', tak 'em one wi' another,
an' considerin' that they're noan use't to th' wark. Th' hommer fo's
leet wi' 'em; but we dunnot like to push 'em so mich, yo known--for
what's a shillin' a day? Aw know some odd uns i' this delph at never
tastes fro mornin' till they'n done at neet,--an' says nought abeawt
it, noather. But they'n families. Beside, fro wake lads, sick as
yon, at's bin train't to nought but leet wark, an' a warm place to
wortch in, what con yo expect? We'n had a deeal o' bother wi 'em
abeawt bein' paid for weet days, when they couldn't wortch. They wur
not paid for weet days at th' furst; an' they geet it into their
yeds at Shorrock were to blame. Shorrock's th' paymaister, under th'
Guardians, But, then, he nobbut went accordin' to orders, yo known.
At last, th' Board sattle't that they mut be paid for weet and dry,-
-an' there's bin quietness sin'. They wortchen fro eight till five;
an', sometimes, when they'n done, they drilln o' together i'th road
yon--just like sodiurs--an' then they walken away i' procession. But
stop a bit;--just go in yon, an' aw'll come to yo in a two-thre
minutes." He returned, accompanied by the paymaster, who offered to
conduct me through the other delphs. Running over his pay-book, he
showed me, by figures opposite each man's name, that, with not more
than a dozen exceptions, they had all families of children, ranging
in number from two to nine. He then pointed out the way over a
knoll, to the next quarry, which is called "Hacking's Gillies'
Delph," saying that he would follow me thither. I walked on,
stopping for him on the nearest edge of the quarry, which commanded
a full view of the men below. They seemed to be waiting very hard
for something just then, and they stared at me, as the rest had
done; but in a few minutes, just as I began to hear the paymaster's
footsteps behind me, the man at the nearest end of the quarry called
"Shorrock!" and a sudden activity woke up along the line. Shorrock
then pointed to a corner of the delph where two of these poor
fellows had been killed the week before, by stones thrown out from a
fall of earth. We went down through the delph, and up the slope, by
the place where the older men were at work in the poorhouse grounds.
Crossing the Darwen road, we passed the other delphs, where the
scene was much the same as in the rest, except that more men were
employed there. As we went on, one poor fellow was trolling a snatch
of song, as he hammered away at the stones. "Thir't merry, owd mon,"
said I, in passing. "Well," replied he, "cryin' 'll do nought,
wilt?" And then, as I walked away, he shouted after me, with a sort
of sad smile, "It's a poor heart at never rejoices, maister."
Leaving the quarries, we waited below, until the men had struck work
for the day, and the whole six hundred came trooping down the road,
looking hard at me as they went by, and stopping here and there, in
whispering groups. The paymaster told me that one-half of the men's
wages was paid to them in tickets for bread--in each case given to
the shopkeeper to whom the receiver of the ticket owed most money--
the other half was paid to them in money every Saturday. Before
returning to town I learnt that twenty of the more robust men, who
had worked well for their shilling a day in the quarries, had been
picked out by order of the Board of Guardians, to be sent to the
scene of the late disaster, in Lincolnshire, where employment had
been obtained for them, at the rate of 3s. 4d. per day. They were to
muster at six o'clock next morning to breakfast at the soup kitchen,
after which they were to leave town by the seven o'clock train. I
resolved to be up and see them off. On retiring to bed at the "Old
Bull," a good-tempered fellow, known by the name of "Stockings,"
from the fact of his being "under-boots," promised to waken me by
six o'clock; and so I ended the day, after watching "Stockings"
write "18" on the soles of my boots, with a lump of chalk.

"Stockings" might as well have kept his bed on Saturday morning. My
room was close to the ancient tower, left standing in the parish
churchyard; and, at five o'clock, the beautiful bells of St Marie's
struck up, filling my little chamber with that heart-stirring music,
which, as somebody has well said, "sounds like a voice from the
middle ages." I could not make out what all this early melody meant;
for I had forgotten that it was the Queen's birthday. The old tower
was in full view from my bed, and I lay there a while looking at it,
and listening to the bells, and dreaming of Whalley Abbey, and of
old features of life in picturesque Blackburnshire, now passed away.
I felt no more inclination for sleep; and when the knock came to my
door, I was dressed and ready. There were more people in the streets
than I expected, and the bells were still ringing merrily. I found
the soup kitchen a lively scene. The twenty men were busy at
breakfast, and there was a crowd waiting outside to see them off.
There were several members of the committee in the kitchen, and
amongst them the Rev. Joseph V. Meaney, Catholic priest, went to and
fro in cheerful chat. After breakfast, each man received four pounds
of bread and one pound of cheese for the day's consumption. In
addition to this, each man received one shilling; to which a certain
active member of the committee added threepence in each case.
Another member of the committee then handed a letter to each of the
only three or four out of the twenty who were able to write,
desiring each man to write back to the committee,--not all at once,
but on different days, after their arrival. After this, he addressed
them in the following words:--"Now, I hope that every man will
conduct himself so as to be a credit to himself and an honour to
Blackburn. This work may not prove to be such as you will like, and
you must not expect it to be so. But, do your best; and, if you find
that there is any chance of employment for more men of the same
class as yourselves, you must write and let us know, so as to
relieve the distress of others who are left behind you. There will
be people waiting to meet you before you get to your journey's end;
and, I have no doubt, you will meet with every fair encouragement.
One-half of your wages will be paid over to each man there; the
other half will be forwarded here, for the benefit of your families,
as you all know. Now go, and do your duty to the best of your power,
and you will never regret it. I wish you all success." At half-past
six the men left the kitchen for the station. I lingered behind to
get a basin of the soup, which I relished mightily. At the station I
found a crowd of wives, children, and friends of those who were
going away. Amongst the rest, Dr Rushton, the vicar of Blackburn,
and his lady, had come to see them off. Here a sweet little young
wife stood on the edge of the platform, with a pretty bareheaded
child in her arms, crying as if her heart would break. Her husband
now and then spoke a consoling word to her from the carriage window.
They had been noticed sharing their breakfast together at the
kitchen. A little farther on, a poor old Irishwoman was weeping
bitterly. The Rev. Mr Meaney went up to her, and said, "Now, Mrs
Davis, I thought you had more sense than to cry." "Oh," said a young
Irishwoman, standing beside her, "sure, she's losin' her son from
her." "Well," said the clergyman, cheeringly, "it's not your
husband, woman." "Ah, thin," replied the young woman, "sure, it's
all she has left of him." On the door of one compartment of the
carriage there was the following written label:--"Fragile, with
care." " How's this, Dennis?" said the Catholic priest to a young
fellow nearest the door; "I suppose it's because you're all Irishmen
inside there." In another compartment the lads kept popping their
heads out, one after another, shouting farewells to their relatives
and friends, after which they struck up, "There's a good time
coming!" One wag of a fellow suddenly called out to his wife on the
platform, "Aw say, Molly, just run for thoose tother breeches o'
mine. They'n come in rarely for weet weather." One of his companions
replied, "Thae knows hoo cannot get 'em, Jack. Th' pop-shops are
noan oppen yet." One hearty cheer arose as the train started, after
which the crowd dribbled away from the platform. I returned to the
soup kitchen, where the wives, children, and mothers of the men who
had gone were at breakfast in the inner compartment of the kitchen.
On the outer side of the partition five or six pinched-looking men
had straggled in to get their morning meal.

When they had all done but one, who was left reared against the
wooden partition finishing his soup, the last of those going away
turned round and said, "Sam, theaw'rt noan as tickle abeawt thi mate
as thae use't to be." "Naw," replied the other, "it'll not do to be
nice these times, owd mon. But, thae use't to think thisel' aboon
porritch, too, Jone. Aw'll shake honds wi' tho i' thae's a mind, owd
dog." "Get forrud wi' that stuff, an' say nought," answered Jone. I
left Sam at his soup, and went up into the town. In the course of
the day I sat some hours in the Boardroom, listening to the relief
cases; but of this, and other things, I will say more in my next.


A little after ten o'clock on Saturday forenoon, I went into the
Boardroom, in the hope of catching there some glimpses of the real
state of the poor in Blackburn just now, and I was not disappointed;
for amongst the short, sad complainings of those who may always be
heard of in such a place, there was many a case presented itself
which gave affecting proof of the pressure of the times. Although it
is not here where one must look for the most enduring and
unobtrusive of those who suffer; nor for the poor traders, who
cannot afford to wear their distress upon their sleeves, so long as
things will hold together with them at all; nor for that rare class
which is now living upon the savings of past labour--yet, there were
many persons, belonging to one or other of these classes, who
applied for relief evidently because they had been driven
unwillingly to this last bitter haven by a stress of weather which
they could not bide any longer. There was a large attendance of the
guardians; and they certainly evinced a strong wish to inquire
carefully into each case, and to relieve every case of real need.
The rate of relief given is this (as you will have seen stated by Mr
Farnall elsewhere):--"To single able bodied men, 3s. for three days'
work. To the man who had a wife and two children, 6s. for six days'
work, and he would have 2s. 6d. added to the 6s., and perhaps a pair
of clogs for one of his children. To a man who had a wife and four
children, 10s. was paid for six days' labour, and in addition 4s.,
and sometimes 4s. 6d., was given to him, and also bits of clothing
and other things which he absolutely wanted." Sitting at that Board
I saw some curious--some painful things. It was, as one of the Board
said to me, "Hard work being there." In one case, a poor, pale,
clean-looking, and almost speechless woman presented herself. Her
thin and sunken eyes, as well as her known circumstances, explained
her want sufficiently, and I heard one of the guardians whisper to
another, "That's a bad case. If it wasn't for private charity they'd
die of starvation." "Yes," replied another; "that woman's punished,
I can see." Now and then a case came on in which the guardians were
surprised to see a man ask for relief whom everybody had supposed to
be in good circumstances. The first applicant, after I entered the
room, was a man apparently under forty years of age, a beerhouse
keeper, who had been comparatively well off until lately. The tide
of trouble had whelmed him over. His children were all factory
operatives, and all out of work; and his wife was ill. "What; are
you here, John?" said the chairman to a decent-looking man who
stepped up in answer to his name. The poor fellow blushed with
evident pain, and faltered out his story in few and simple words, as
if ashamed that anything on earth should have driven him at last to
such an extremity as this. In another case, a clean old decrepid man
presented himself. "What's brought you here, Joseph?" said the
chairman. "Why; aw've nought to do,--nor nought to tak to." "What's
your daughter, Ellen, doing, Joseph?" "Hoo's eawt o' wark." "And
what's your wife doing?" "Hoo's bin bed-fast aboon five year." The
old man was relieved at once; but, as he walked away, he looked hard
at his ticket, as if it wasn't exactly the kind of thing; and,
turning round, he said, "Couldn't yo let me be a sweeper i'th
streets, istid, Mr Eccles?" A clean old woman came up, with a snow-
white nightcap on her head. "Well, Mary; what do you want?" "Aw
could like yo to gi mo a bit o' summat, Mr Eccles,--for aw need it"
"Well, but you've some lodgers, haven't you, Mary?" "Yigh; aw've
three." "Well; what do they pay you?" "They pay'n mo nought. They'n
no wark,--an' one connot turn 'em eawt."

This was all quite true. "Well, but you live with your son; don't
you?" continued the chairman. "Nay," replied the old woman, "HE
lives wi' ME; an' he's eawt o' wark, too. Aw could like yo to do a
bit o' summat for us. We're hard put to 't." "Don't you think she
would be better in the workhouse?" said one of the guardians. "Oh,
no," replied another; "don't send th' owd woman there. Let her keep
her own little place together, if she can." Another old woman
presented herself, with a threadbare shawl drawn closely round her
gray head. "Well, Ann," said the chairman, "there's nobody but
yourself and your John, is there?" "Nawe." "What age are you?" "Aw'm
seventy." "Seventy!" "Aye, I am." "Well, and what age is your John?"
"He's gooin' i' seventy-four." "Where is he, Ann ?" "Well, aw laft
him deawn i' th' street yon; gettin' a load o' coals in." There was
a murmur of approbation around the Board; and the old woman was sent
away relieved and thankful. There were many other affecting cases of
genuine distress arising from the present temporary severity of the
times. Several applicants were refused relief on its being proved
that they were already in receipt of considerably more income than
the usual amount allowed by the Board to those who have nothing to
depend upon. Of course there are always some who, having lost that
fine edge of feeling to which this kind of relief is revolting, are
not unwilling to live idly upon the rates as much and as long as
possible at any time, and who will even descend to pitiful schemes
to wring from this source whatever miserable income they can get.
There are some, even, with whom this state of mind seems almost
hereditary; and these will not be slow to take advantage of the
present state of affairs. Such cases, however, are not numerous
among the people of Lancashire. It was a curious thing to see the
different demeanours and appearances of the applicants--curious to
hear the little stories of their different troubles. There were
three or four women whose husbands were away in the militia; others
whose husbands had wandered away in search of work weeks ago, and
had never been heard of, since. There were a few very fine,
intelligent countenances among them. There were many of all ages,
clean in person, and bashful in manner, with their poor clothing put
into the tidiest possible trim; others were dirty, and sluttish, and
noisy of speech, as in the case of one woman, who, after receiving
her ticket for relief, partly in money and partly in kind, whipped a
pair of worn clogs from under her shawl, and cried out, "Aw mun ha'
some clogs afore aw go, too; look at thoose! They're a shame to be
sin!" Clogs were freely given; and, in several cases, they were all
that were asked for. In three or four instances, the applicants
said, after receiving other relief, "Aw wish yo'd gi' me a pair o'
clogs, Mr Eccles. Aw've had to borrow these to come in." One woman
pleaded hard for two pair, saying, "Yon chylt's bar-fuut; an' HE'S
witchod (wet-shod), an' as ill as he con be." "Who's witchod?" asked
the chairman. "My husban' is," replied the woman; "an' he connot
ston it just neaw, yo mun let HIM have a pair iv yo con." "Give her
two pairs of clogs," said the chairman. Another woman took her clog
off, and held it up, saying,

"Look at that. We're o' walkin' o'th floor; an' smoor't wi' cowds."
One decent-looking old body, with a starved face, applied. The
chairman said, "Why, what's your son doing now? Has he catched no
rabbits lately?" "Nay, aw dunnot know 'at he does. Aw get nought;
an' it's ME at wants summat, Mr Eccles," replied the old woman, in a
tremulous tone, with the water rising in her eyes. "Well, come; we
mustn't punish th' owd woman for her son," said one of the
guardians. Various forms of the feebleness of age appeared before
the Board that day. "What's your son John getting, Mary?" said the
chairman to one old woman. "Whor?" replied she. "What's your son
John getting?" The old woman put her hand up to her ear, and

"Aw'm rayther deaf. What say'n yo?" It turned out that her son was
taken ill, and they were relieved. In the course of inquiries I
found that the working people of Blackburn, as elsewhere in
Lancashire, nickname their workshops as well as themselves. The
chairman asked a girl where she worked at last, and the girl
replied, "At th' 'Puff-an'-dart.'" "And what made you leave there?"
"Whau, they were woven up." One poor, pale fellow, a widower, said
he had "worched" a bit at "Bang-the-nation," till he was taken ill,
and then they had "shopped his place," that is, they had given his
work to somebody else. Another, when asked where he had been
working, replied, "At Se'nacre Bruck (Seven-acre Brook), wheer th'
wild monkey were catched." It seems that an ourang-outang which once
escaped from some travelling menagerie, was re-taken at this place.
I sat until the last application had been disposed of, which was
about half-past two in the afternoon. The business had taken up
nearly four hours and a half.

I had a good deal of conversation with people who were intimately
acquainted with the town and its people; and I was informed that, in
spite of the struggle for existence which is now going on, and not
unlikely to continue for some time, there are things happening
amongst the working people there, which do not seem wise, under
existing circumstances. The people are much better informed now than
they were twenty years ago; but, still, something of the old
blindness lingers amongst them, here and there. For instance, at one
mill, in Blackburn, where the operatives were receiving 11s. a week
for two looms, the proprietor offered to give his workpeople three
looms each, with a guarantee for constant employment until the end
of next August, if they would accept one and a quarter pence less
for the weaving of each piece. This offer, if taken, would have
raised their wages to an average of 14s. 6d. a week. It was
declined, however, and they are now working, as before, only on two
looms each, with uncertainty of employment, at lls. a week. Perhaps
it is too much to expect that such things should die out all at
once. But I heard also that the bricklayers' labourers at Blackburn
struck work last week for an advance of wages from 3s. 6d. a day to
4s. a day. This seems very untimely, to say the least of it. Apart
from these things, there is, amongst all classes, a kind of cheery
faith in the return of good times, although nobody can see what they
may have to go through yet, before the clouds break. It is a fact
that there are more than forty new places ready, or nearly ready,
for starting, in and about Blackburn, when trade revives.

After dinner, I walked down Darwen Street. Stopping to look at a
music-seller's window, a rough-looking fellow, bareheaded and
without coat, came sauntering across the road from a shop opposite.
As he came near he shouted out, "Nea then Heaw go!" I turned round;
and, seeing that I was a stranger, he said, "Oh; aw thought it had
bin another chap." "Well," said I, "heaw are yo gettin' on, these
times?" "Divulish ill," replied he. "Th' little maisters are runnin'
a bit, some three, some four days. T'other are stopt o' together,
welly. . . . It's thin pikein' for poor folk just neaw. But th'
shopkeepers an' th' ale-heawses are in for it as ill as ony mak.
There'll be crashin' amung some on 'em afore lung." After this, I
spent a few minutes in the market-place, which was "slacker" than
usual, as might be expected, for, as the Scotch proverb says,
"Sillerless folk gang fast through the market." Later on, I went up
to Bank Top, on the eastern edge of the town, where many factory
operatives reside. Of course, there is not any special quarter where
they are clustered in such a manner as to show their condition as a
whole. They are scattered all round the town, living as near as
possible to the mills in which they are employed. Here I talked with
some of the small shopkeepers, and found them all more or less
troubled with the same complaint. One owner of a provision shop said
to me, "Wi'n a deeal o' brass owin'; but it's mostly owin' by folk
at'll pay sometime. An' then, th' part on 'em are doin' a bit yo
known; an' they bring'n their trifle o' ready brass to us; an' so
we're trailin' on. But folk han to trust us a bit for their stuff,
dunnot yo see,--or else it would be 'Wo-up!' soon." I heard of one
beerhouse, the owner of which had only drawn ls. 6d. during a whole
week. His children were all factory operatives, and all out of work.
They were very badly off, and would have been very glad of a few
soup tickets; but, as the man said, "Who'd believe me if aw were to
go an' ax for relief?" I was told of two young fellows, unemployed
factory hands, meeting one day, when one said to the other, "Thae
favvurs hungry, Jone." "Nay, aw's do yet, for that," replied Jone.
"Well," continued the other; "keep thi heart eawt of thi clogs, iv
thi breeches dun eawt-thrive thi carcass a bit, owd lad." "Aye,"
said Jone, "but what mun I do when my clogs gi'n way?" "Whaw, thae
mun go to th' Guardians; they'n gi tho a pair in a minute." "Nay, by
__," replied Jone, "aw'll dee furst!"

In the evening, I ran down to the beautiful suburb called
Pleasington, in the hope of meeting a friend of mine there; not
finding him, I came away by the eight o'clock train. The evening was
splendid, and it was cheering to see the old bounty of nature
gushing forth again in such unusual profusion and beauty, as if in
pitiful charity for the troubles of mankind. I never saw the country
look so rich in its spring robes as it does now.



Proud Preston, or Priest-town, on the banks of the beautiful Ribble,
is a place of many quaint customs, and of great historic fame. Its
character for pride is said to come from the fact of its having
been, in the old time, a favourite residence of the local nobles and
gentry, and of many penniless folk with long pedigrees. It was here
that Richard Arkwright shaved chins at a halfpenny each, in the
meantime working out his bold and ingenious schemes, with patient
faith in their ultimate success. It was here, too, that the teetotal
movement first began, with Anderson for its rhyme-smith. Preston has
had its full share of the changeful fortunes of England, and, like
our motherland, it has risen strongly out of them all. War's mad
havoc has swept over it in many a troubled period of our history.
Plague, pestilence, and famine have afflicted it sorely; and it has
suffered from trade riots, "plug-drawings," panics, and strikes of
most disastrous kinds. Proud Preston--the town of the Stanleys and
the Hoghtons, and of "many a crest that is famous in story"--the
town where silly King Jamie disported himself a little, with his
knights and nobles, during the time of his ruinous visit to Hoghton
Tower,--Proud Preston has seen many a black day. But, from the time
when Roman sentinels kept watch and ward in their old camp at
Walton, down by the Ribble side, it has never seen so much wealth
and so much bitter poverty together as now. The streets do not show
this poverty; but it is there. Looking from Avenham Walks, that
glorious landscape smiles in all the splendour of a rich spring-
tide. In those walks the nursemaids and children, and dainty folk,
are wandering as usual airing their curls in the fresh breeze; and
only now and then a workless operative trails by with chastened
look. The wail of sorrow is not heard in Preston market-place; but
destitution may be found almost anywhere there just now, cowering in
squalid corners, within a few yards of plenty--as I have seen it
many a time this week. The courts and alleys behind even some of the
main streets swarm with people who have hardly a whole nail left to
scratch themselves with.

Before attempting to tell something of what I saw whilst wandering
amongst the poor operatives of Preston, I will say at once, that I
do not intend to meddle with statistics. They have been carefully
gathered, and often given elsewhere, and there is no need for me to
repeat them. But, apart from these, the theme is endless, and full
of painful interest. I hear on all hands that there is hardly any
town in Lancashire suffering so much as Preston. The reason why the
stroke has fallen so heavily here, lies in the nature of the trade.
In the first place, Preston is almost purely a cotton town. There
are two or three flax mills, and two or three ironworks, of no great
extent; but, upon the whole, there is hardly any variety of
employment there to lighten the disaster which has befallen its one
absorbing occupation. There is comparatively little weaving in
Preston; it is a town mostly engaged in spinning. The cotton used
there is nearly all what is called "Middling American," the very
kind which is now most scarce and dear. The yarns of Preston are
known by the name of "Blackburn Counts." They range from 28's up to
60's, and they enter largely into the manufacture of goods for the
India market. These things partly explain why Preston is more deeply
overshadowed by the particular gloom of the times than many other
places in Lancashire. About half-past nine on Tuesday morning last,
I set out with an old acquaintance to call upon a certain member of
the Relief Committee, in George's Ward. He is the manager of a
cotton mill in that quarter, and he is well known and much respected
among the working people. When we entered the mill-yard, all was
quiet there, and the factory was still and silent. But through the
office window we could see the man we wanted. He was accompanied by
one of the proprietors of the mill, turning over the relief books of
the ward. I soon found that he had a strong sense of humour, as well
as a heart welling over with tenderness. He pointed to some of the
cases in his books. The first was that of an old man, an overlooker
of a cotton mill. His family was thirteen in number; three of the
children were under ten years of age; seven of the rest were factory
operatives; but the whole family had been out of work for several
months. When in full employment the joint earnings of the family
amounted to 80s. a week; but, after struggling on in the hope of
better times, and exhausting the savings of past labour, they had
been brought down to the receipt of charity at last, and for sixteen
weeks gone by the whole thirteen had been living upon 6s. a week
from the relief fund. They had no other resource. I went to see them
at their own house afterwards, and it certainly was a pattern of
cleanliness, with the little household gods there still. Seeing that
house, a stranger would never dream that the family was living on an
average income of less than sixpence a head per week. But I know how
hard some decent folk will struggle with the bitterest poverty
before they will give in to it. The old man came in whilst I was
there. He sat down in one corner, quietly tinkering away at
something he had in his hands. His old corduroy trousers were well
patched, and just new washed. He had very little to say to us,
except that "He could like to get summat to do; for he wur tired o'
walkin' abeawt." Another case was that of a poor widow woman, with
five young children. This family had been driven from house to
house, by increasing necessity, till they had sunk at last into a
dingy little hovel, up a dark court, in one of the poorest parts of
the town, where they huddled together about a fireless grate to keep
one another warm. They had nothing left of the wreck of their home
but two rickety chairs, and a little deal table reared against the
wall, because one of the legs was gone. In this miserable hole--
which I saw afterwards--her husband died of sheer starvation, as was
declared by the jury on the inquest. The dark, damp hovel where they
had crept to was scarcely four yards square; and the poor woman
pointed to one corner of the floor, saying, "He dee'd i' that nook."
He died there, with nothing to lie upon but the ground, and nothing
to cover him, in that fireless hovel. His wife and children crept
about him, there, to watch him die; and to keep him as warm as they
could. When the relief committee first found this family out, the
entire clothing of the family of seven persons weighed eight pounds,
and sold for fivepence, as rags. I saw the family afterwards, at
their poor place; and will say more about them hereafter. He told me
of many other cases of a similar kind. But, after agreeing to a time
when we should visit them personally, we set out together to see the
"Stone Yard," where there are many factory hands at work under the
Board of Guardians.

The "Stone Yard" is close by the Preston and Lancaster Canal. Here
there are from one hundred and seventy to one hundred and eighty,
principally young men, employed in breaking, weighing, and wheeling
stone, for road mending. The stones are of a hard kind of blue
boulder, gathered from the land between Kendal and Lancaster. The
"Labour Master" told me that there were thousands of tons of these
boulders upon the land between Kendal and Lancaster. A great deal of
them are brought from a place called "Tewhitt Field," about seven
mile on "t' other side o' Lancaster." At the "Stone Yard" it is all
piece-work, and the men can come and go when they like. As one of
the Guardians told me, "They can oather sit an' break 'em, or kneel
an' break 'em, or lie deawn to it, iv they'n a mind." The men can
choose whether they will fill three tons of the broken stone, and
wheel it to the central heap, for a shilling, or break one ton for a
shilling. The persons employed here are mostly "lads an' leet-
timber't chaps." The stronger men are sent to work upon Preston
Moor. There are great varieties of health and strength amongst them.
"Beside," as the Labour Master said, "yo'd hardly believe what a
difference there it i'th wark o' two men wortchin' at the same heap,
sometimes. There's a great deal i'th breaker, neaw; some on 'em's
more artful nor others. They finden out that they can break 'em as
fast again at after they'n getten to th' wick i'th inside. I have
known an' odd un or two, here, that could break four ton a day,--an'
many that couldn't break one,--but then, yo' know, th' men can only
do accordin' to their ability. There is these differences, and there
always will be." As we stood talking together, one of my friends
said that he wished "Radical Jack" had been there. The latter
gentleman is one of the guardians of the poor, and superintendent of
the "Stone Yard." The men are naturally jealous of
misrepresentation; and, the other day, as "Radical Jack" was
describing the working of the yard to a gentleman who had come to
look at the scene, some of the men overheard his words, and,
misconceiving their meaning, gathered around the superintendent,
clamorously protesting against what he had been saying. "He's
lying!" said one. "Look at these honds!" cried another; "Wi'n they
ever be fit to go to th' factory wi' again?"

Others turned up the soles of their battered shoon, to show their
cut and stockingless feet. They were pacified at last; but, after
the superintendent had gone away, some of the men said much and
more, and "if ever he towd ony moor lies abeawt 'em, they'd fling
him into th' cut." The "Labour Master" told me there was a large
wood shed for the men to shelter in when rain came on. As we were
conversing, one of my friends exclaimed, "He's here now!" "Who's
here?" "Radical Jack." The superintendent was coming down the road.
He told me some interesting things, which I will return to on
another occasion. But our time was up. We had other places to see.
As we came away, three old Irishwomen leaned against the wall at the
corner of the yard, watching the men at work inside. One of them was
saying, "Thim guardians is the awfullest set o' min in the world! A
man had better be transpoorted than come under 'em. An' thin,
they'll try you, an' try you, as if you was goin' to be hanged." The
poor old soul had evidently only a narrow view of the necessities
and difficulties which beset the labours of the Board of Guardians
at a time like this. On our way back to town one of my friends told
me that he "had met a sexton the day before, and had asked him how
trade was with him. The sexton replied that it was "Varra bad--nowt
doin', hardly." "Well, how's that?" asked the other. "Well, thae
sees," answered the sexton, "Poverty seldom dees. There's far more
kilt wi' o'er-heytin' an' o'er-drinkin' nor there is wi' bein'


Leaving the "Stone Yard," to fulfil an engagement in another part of
the town, we agreed to call upon three or four poor folk, who lived
by the way; and I don't know that I could do better than say
something about what I saw of them. As we walked along, one of my
companions told me of an incident which happened to one of the
visitors in another ward, a few days before. In the course of his
round, this visitor called upon a certain destitute family which was
under his care, and he found the husband sitting alone in the house,
pale and silent. His wife had been "brought to bed" two or three
days before; and the visitor inquired how she was getting on. "Hoo's
very ill," said the husband. "And the child," continued the visitor,
"how is it?" "It's deeod," replied the man; "it dee'd yesterday." He
then rose, and walked slowly into the next room, returning with a
basket in his hands, in which the dead child was decently laid out.

"That's o' that's laft on it neaw," said the poor fellow. Then,
putting the basket upon the floor, he sat down in front of it, with
his head between his hands, looking silently at the corpse. Such
things as these were the theme of our conversation as we went along,
and I found afterwards that every visitor whom it was my privilege
to meet, had some special story of distress to relate, which came
within his own appointed range of action. In my first flying visit
to that great melancholy field, I could only glean such things as
lay nearest to my hand, just then; but wherever I went, I heard and
saw things which touchingly testify what noble stuff the working
population of Lancashire, as a whole, is made of. One of the first
cases we called upon, after leaving the "Stone Yard," was that of a
family of ten--man and wife, and eight children. Four of the
children were under ten years of age,--five were capable of working;
and, when the working part of the family was in full employment,
their joint earnings amounted to 61s. per week. But, in this case,
the mother's habitual ill-health had been a great expense in the
household for several years. This family belonged to a class of
operatives--a much larger class than people unacquainted with the
factory districts are likely to suppose--a class of operatives which
will struggle, in a dumb, enduring way, to the death, sometimes,
before they will sacrifice that "immediate jewel of their souls"--
their old independence, and will keep up a decent appearance to the
very last. These suffer more than the rest; for, in addition to the
pains of bitter starvation, they feel a loss which is more
afflicting to them even than the loss of food and furniture ; and
their sufferings are less heard of than the rest, because they do
not like to complain. This family of ten persons had been living,
during the last nine weeks, upon relief amounting to 5s. a week.
When we called, the mother and one or two of her daughters were busy
in the next room, washing their poor bits of well-kept clothing. The
daughters kept out of sight, as if ashamed. It was a good kind of
cottage, in a clean street, called "Maudland Bank," and the whole
place had a tidy, sweet look, though it was washing-day. The mother
told me that she had been severely afflicted with seven successive
attacks of inflammation, and yet, in spite of her long-continued
ill-health, and in spite of the iron teeth of poverty which had been
gnawing at them so long, for the first time, I have rarely seen a
more frank and cheerful countenance than that thin matron's, as she
stood there, wringing her clothes, and telling her little story. The
house they lived in belonged to their late employer, whose mill
stopped some time ago. We asked her how they managed to pay the
rent, and she said, "Why, we dunnot pay it; we cannot pay it, an' he
doesn't push us for it. Aw guess he knows he'll get it sometime. But
we owe'd a deal o' brass beside that. Just look at this shop book.
Aw'm noan freetend ov onybody seein' my acceawnts. An' then, there's
a great lot o' doctor's-bills i' that pot, theer. Thoose are o' for
me. There'll ha' to be some wark done afore things can be fotched up
again. . . . Eh; aw'll tell yo what, William, (this was addressed to
the visitor,) it went ill again th' grain wi' my husband to goo
afore th' Board. An' when he did goo, he wouldn't say so mich. Yo
known, folk doesn't like brastin' off abeawt theirsel' o' at once,
at a shop like that. . . . Aw think sometimes it's very weel that
four ov eawrs are i' heaven,--we'n sich hard tewin' (toiling), to
poo through wi' tother, just neaw. But, aw guess it'll not last for
ever." As we came away, talking of the reluctance shown by the
better sort of working people to ask for relief, or even sometimes
to accept it when offered to them, until thoroughly starved to it, I
was told of a visitor calling upon a poor woman in another ward; no
application had been made for relief, but some kind neighbour had
told the committee that the woman and her husband were "ill off."
The visitor, finding that they were perishing for want, offered the
woman some relief tickets for food; but the poor soul began to cry,
and said; "Eh, aw dar not touch 'em; my husban' would sauce me so!
Aw dar not take 'em; aw should never yer the last on't!" When we got
to the lower end of Hope Street, my guide stopped suddenly, and
said, "Oh, this is close to where that woman lives whose husband
died of starvation. "Leading a few yards up the by-street, he turned
into a low, narrow entry, very dark and damp. Two turns more brought
us to a dirty, pent-up corner, where a low door stood open. We
entered there. It was a cold, gloomy-looking little hovel. In my
allusion to the place last week I said it was "scarcely four yards
square." It is not more than three yards square. There was no fire
in the little rusty grate. The day was sunny, but no sunshine could
ever reach that nook, nor any fresh breezes disturb the pestilent
vapours that harboured there, festering in the sluggish gloom. In
one corner of the place a little worn and broken stair led up to a
room of the same size above, where, I was told, there was now some
straw for the family to sleep upon. But the only furniture in the
house, of any kind, was two rickety chairs and a little broken deal
table, reared against the stairs, because one leg was gone. A quiet-
looking, thin woman, seemingly about fifty years of age, sat there,
when we went in. She told us that she had buried five of her
children, and that she had six yet alive, all living with her in
that poor place. They had no work, no income whatever, save what
came from the Relief Committee. Five of the children were playing in
and out, bare-footed, and, like the mother, miserably clad; but they
seemed quite unconscious that anything ailed them. I never saw finer
children anywhere. The eldest girl, about fourteen, came in whilst
we were there, and she leaned herself bashfully against the wall for
a minute or two, and then slunk slyly out again, as if ashamed of
our presence. The poor widow pointed to the cold corner where her
husband died lately. She said that "his name was Tim Pedder. His
fadder name was Timothy, an' his mudder name was Mary. He was a
driver (a driver of boat-horses on the canal); but he had bin oot o'
wark a lang time afore he dee'd." I found in this case, as in some
others, that the poor body had not much to say about her distress;
but she did not need to say much. My guide told me that when he
first called upon the family, in the depth of last winter, he found
the children all clinging round about their mother in the cold
hovel, trying in that way to keep one another warm. The time for my
next appointment was now hard on, and we hurried towards the shop in
Fishergate, kept by the gentleman I had promised to meet. He is an
active member of the Relief Committee, and a visitor in George's
ward. We found him in. He had just returned from the "Cheese Fair,"
at Lancaster. My purpose was to find out what time on the morrow we
could go together to see some of the cases he was best acquainted
with. But, as the evening was not far spent, he proposed that we
should go at once to see a few of those which were nearest. We set
out together to Walker's Court, in Friargate. The first place we
entered was at the top of the little narrow court. There we found a
good-tempered Irish-woman sitting without fire, in her feverish
hovel. "Well, missis," said the visitor, "how is your husband
getting on?" "Ah, well, now, Mr. T----," replied she, "you know,
he's only a delicate little man, an' a tailor; an' he wint to work
on the moor, an' he couldn't stand it. Sure, it was draggin' the
bare life out of him. So, he says to me, one morning, "Catharine,"
says he, "I'll lave off this a little while, till I see will I be
able to get a job o' work at my own trade; an' maybe God will rise
up some thin' to put a dud o' clothes on us all, an' help us to pull
through till the black time is over us." So, I told him to try his
luck, any way; for he was killin' himself entirely on the moor. An'
so he did try; for there's not an idle bone in that same boy's skin.
But, see this, now; there's nothin' in the world to be had to do
just now--an' a dale too many waitin' to do it--so all he got by the
change was losin' his work on the moor. There is himself, an' me,
an' the seven childer. Five o' the childer is under tin year old. We
are all naked; an' the house is bare; an' our health is gone wi' the
want o' mate. Sure it wasn't in the likes o' this we wor livin' when
times was good." Three of the youngest children were playing about
on the floor. "That's a very fine lad," said I, pointing to one of
them. The little fellow blushed, and smiled, and then became very
still and attentive. "Ah, thin," said his mother, "that villain's
the boy for tuckin' up soup! The Lord be about him, an' save him
alive to me,--the crayter ! . . . An' there's little curly there,--
the rogue! Sure he'll take as much soup as any wan o' them. Maybe he
wouldn't laugh to see a big bowl forninst him this day." "It's very
well they have such good spirits," said the visitor. "So it is,"
replies the woman, "so it is, for God knows it's little else they
have to keep them warm thim bad times."


The next house we called at in Walker's Court was much like the
first in appearance--very little left but the walls, and that
little, such as none but the neediest would pick up, if it was
thrown out to the streets. The only person in the place was a pale,
crippled woman; her sick head, lapped in a poor white clout, swayed
languidly to and fro. Besides being a cripple, she had been ill six
years, and now her husband, also, was taken ill. He had just crept
off to fetch medicine for the two. We did not stop here long. The
hand of the Ancient Master was visible in that pallid face; those
sunken eyes, so full of deathly langour, seemed to be wandering
about in dim, flickering gazes, upon the confines of an unknown
world. I think that woman will soon be "where the weary are at
rest." As we came out, she said, slowly, and in broken, painful
utterances, that "she hoped the Lord would open the heavens for
those who had helped them." A little lower down the court, we peeped
in at two other doorways. The people were well known to my
companion, who has the charge of visiting this part of the ward.
Leaning against the door-cheek of one of these dim, unwholesome
hovels, he said, "Well, missis; how are you getting on?" There was a
tall, thin woman inside. She seemed to be far gone in some
exhausting illness. With slow difficulty she rose to her feet, and,
setting her hands to her sides, gasped out, "My coals are done." He
made a note, and said, I'll send you some more." Her other wants
were regularly seen to on a certain day every week. Ours was an
accidental visit. We now turned up to another nook of the court,
where my companion told me there was a very bad case. He found the
door fast. We looked through the window into that miserable man-
nest. It was cold, gloomy, and bare. As Corrigan says, in the
"Colleen Bawn," "There was nobody in--but the fire--and that was
gone out." As we came away, a stalwart Irishman met us at a turn of
the court, and said to my companion, "Sure, ye didn't visit this
house." " Not to-day;" replied the visitor. "I'll come and see you
at the usual time." The people in this house were not so badly off
as some others. We came down the steps of the court into the fresher
air of Friargate again.

Our next walk was to Heatley Street. As we passed by a cluster of
starved loungers, we overheard one of them saying to another,
"Sitho, yon's th' soup-maister, gooin' a-seein' somebry." Our time
was getting short, so we only called at one house in Heatley Street,
where there was a family of eleven--a decent family, a well-kept and
orderly household, though now stript almost to the bare ground of
all worldly possession, sold, bitterly, piecemeal, to help to keep
the bare life together, as sweetly as possible, till better days.
The eldest son is twenty-seven years of age. The whole family has
been out of work for the last seventeen weeks, and before that, they
had been working only short time for seven months. For thirteen
weeks they had lived upon less than one shilling a head per week,
and I am not sure that they did not pay the rent out of that; and
now the income of the whole eleven is under 16s., with rent to pay.
In this house they hold weekly prayer-meetings. Thin picking--one
shilling a week, or less--for all expenses, for one person. It is
easier to write about it than to feel what it means, unless one has
tried it for three or four months. Just round the corner from
Heatley Street, we stopped at the open door of a very little
cottage. A good-looking young Irishwoman sat there, upon a three-
legged stool, suckling her child. She was clean; and had an
intelligent look. "Let's see, missis," said the visitor, "what do
you pay for this nook?" "We pay eighteenpence a week--and they WILL
have it--my word." "Well, an' what income have you now?" "We have
eighteenpence a head in the week, an' the rent to pay out o' that,
or else they'll turn us out." Of course, the visitor knew that this
was true; but he wanted me to hear the people speak for themselves.
"Let's see, Missis Burns, your husband's name is Patrick, isn't it?"
" Yes, sir; Patrick Burns." "What! Patrick Burns, the famous foot-
racer?" The little woman smiled bashfully, and replied, "Yes, sir; I
suppose it is." With respect to what the woman said about having to
pay her rent or turn out, I may remark, in passing, that I have not
hitherto met with an instance in which any millowner, or wealthy
man, having cottage property, has pressed the unemployed poor for
rent. But it is well to remember that there is a great amount of
cottage property in Preston, as in other manufacturing towns, which
belongs to the more provident class of working men. These working
men, now hard pressed by the general distress, have been compelled
to fall back upon their little rentals, clinging to them as their
last independent means of existence. They are compelled to this,
for, if they cannot get work, they cannot get anything else, having
property. These are becoming fewer, however, from day to day. The
poorest are hanging a good deal upon those a little less poor than
themselves; and every link in the lengthening chain of neediness is
helping to pull down the one immediately above it. There is, also, a
considerable amount of cottage property in Preston, belonging to
building societies, which have enough to do to hold their own just
now. And then there is always some cottage property in the hands of

Leaving Heatley Street, we went to a place called "Seed's Yard."
Here we called upon a clean old stately widow, with a calm, sad
face. She had been long known, and highly respected, in a good
street, not far off, where she had lived for twenty-four years, in
fair circumstances, until lately. She had always owned a good
houseful of furniture; but, after making bitter meals upon the
gradual wreck of it, she had been compelled to break up that house,
and retire with her five children to lodge with a lone widow in this
little cot, not over three yards square, in "Seed's Yard," one of
those dark corners into which decent poverty is so often found now,
creeping unwillingly away from the public eye, in the hope of
weathering the storm of adversity, in penurious independence. The
old woman never would accept relief from the parish, although the
whole family had been out of work for many months. One of the
daughters, a clean, intelligent-looking young woman, about eighteen,
sat at the table, eating a little bread and treacle to a cup of
light-coloured tea, when we went in; but she blushed, and left off
until we had gone--which was not long after. It felt almost like
sacrilege to peer thus into the privacies of such people; but I hope
they did not feel as if it had been done offensively. We called next
at the cottage of a hand-loom weaver--a poor trade now in the best
of times--a very poor trade--since the days when tattered old "Jem
Ceawp" sung his pathetic song of "Jone o' Greenfeelt"--

"Aw'm a poor cotton weighver, as ony one knows;
We'n no meight i'th heawse, an' we'n worn eawt er clothes;
We'n live't upo nettles, while nettles were good;
An' Wayterloo porritch is th' most of er food;
This clemmin' and starvin',
Wi' never a farthin'--
It's enough to drive ony mon mad."

This family was four in number--man, wife, and two children. They
had always lived near to the ground, for the husband's earnings at
the loom were seldom more than 7s. for a full week. The wife told us
that they were not receiving any relief, for she said that when her
husband "had bin eawt o' wark a good while he turn't his hond to
shaving;" and in this way the ingenious struggling fellow had
scraped a thin living for them during many months. "But," said she,
" it brings varra little in, we hev to trust so much. He shaves four
on 'em for a haw-penny, an' there's a deal on 'em connot pay that.
Yo know, they're badly off--(the woman seemed to think her
circumstances rather above the common kind); an' then," continued
she, "when they'n run up a shot for three-hawpence or twopence or
so, they cannot pay it o' no shap, an' so they stoppen away fro th'
shop. They cannot for shame come, that's heaw it is; so we lose'n
their custom till sich times as summat turns up at they can raise a
trifle to pay up wi'. . . . He has nobbut one razzor, but it'll be
like to do." Hearken this, oh, ye spruce Figaros of the city, who
trim the clean, crisp whiskers of the well-to-do! Hearken this, ye
dainty perruquiers, "who look so brisk, and smell so sweet," and
have such an exquisite knack of chirruping, and lisping, and sliding
over the smooth edge of the under lip,--and, sometimes, agreeably
too,--"an infinite deal of nothing,"--ye who clip and anoint the
hair of Old England's curled darlings! Eight chins a penny; and
three months' credit! A bodle a piece for mowing chins overgrown
with hair like pin-wire, and thick with dust; how would you like
that? How would you get through it all, with a family of four, and
only one razor? The next place we called at was what my friend
described, in words that sounded to me, somehow, like melancholy
irony,--as "a poor provision shop." It was, indeed, a poor shop for
provender. In the window, it is true, there were four or five empty
glasses, where children's spice had once been. There was a little
deal shelf here and there; but there were neither sand, salt,
whitening, nor pipes. There was not the ghost of a farthing candle,
nor a herring, nor a marble, nor a match, nor of any other thing,
sour or sweet, eatable or saleable for other uses, except one small
mug full of buttermilk up in a corner--the last relic of a departed
trade, like the "one rose of the wilderness, left on its stalk to
mark where a garden has been." But I will say more about this in the
next chapter.


Returning to the little shop mentioned in my last--the "little
provision shop," where there was nothing left to eat--nothing,
indeed, of any kind, except one mug of buttermilk, and a miserable
remnant of little empty things, which nobody would buy; four or five
glass bottles in the window, two or three poor deal shelves, and a
doleful little counter, rudely put together, and looking as if it
felt, now, that there was nothing in the world left for it but to
become chips at no distant date. Everything in the place had a sad,
subdued look, and seemed conscious of having come down in the world,
without hope of ever rising again; even the stript walls appeared to
look at one another with a stony gaze of settled despair. But there
was a clean, matronly woman in the place, gliding about from side to
side with a cloth in her hands, and wiping first one, then another,
of these poor little relics of better days in a caressing way. The
shop had been her special care when times were good, and she clung
affectionately to its ruins still. Besides, going about cleaning and
arranging the little empty things in this way looked almost like
doing business. But, nevertheless, the woman had a cheerful, good-
humoured countenance. The sunshine of hope was still warm in her
heart; though there was a touch of pathos in the way she gave the
little rough counter another kindly wipe now and then, as if she
wished to keep its spirits up; and in the way she looked, now at the
buttermilk mug, then at the open door, and then at the four glass
bottles in the window, which had been gazed at so oft and so eagerly
by little children outside, in the days when spice was in them. . .
. The husband came in from the little back room. He was a hardy,
frank-looking man, and, like his wife, a trifle past middle age, I
thought; but he had nothing to say, as he stood there with his wife,
by the counter side. She answered our questions freely and simply,
and in an uncomplaining way, not making any attempt to awaken
sympathy by enlarging upon the facts of their condition. Theirs was
a family of seven--man, wife, and five children. The man was a
spinner; and his thrifty wife had managed the little shop, whilst he
worked at the mill. There are many striving people among the factory
operatives, who help up the family earnings by keeping a little shop
in this way. But this family was another of those instances in which
working people have been pulled down by misfortune before the
present crisis came on. Just previous to the mills beginning to work
short time, four of their five children had been lying ill, all at
once, for five months; and, before that trouble befell them, one of
the lads had two of his fingers taken off, whilst working at the
factory, and so was disabled a good while. It takes little
additional weight to sink those whose chins are only just above
water; and these untoward circumstances oiled the way of this
struggling family to the ground, before the mills stopped. A few
months' want of work, with their little stock of shop stuff oozing
away--partly on credit to their poor neighbours, and partly to live
upon themselves --and they become destitute of all, except a few
beggarly remnants of empty shop furniture. Looking round the place,
I said," Well, missis, how's trade?" "Oh, brisk," said she; and then
the man and his wife smiled at one another. "Well," said I, "yo'n
sowd up, I see, heawever." "Ay," answered she, "we'n sowd up, for
sure--a good while sin';" and then she smiled again, as if she
thought she had said a clever thing. They had been receiving relief
from the parish several weeks; but she told me that some ill-natured
neighbour had "set it eawt," that they had sold off their stock out
of the shop, and put the money into the bank. Through this report,
the Board of Guardians had "knocked off" their relief for a
fortnight, until the falsity of the report was made clear. After
that, the Board gave orders for the man and his wife and three of
the children to be admitted to the workhouse, leaving the other two
lads, who were working at the "Stone Yard," to "fend for theirsels,"
and find new nests wherever they could. This, however, was overruled
afterwards; and the family is still holding together in the empty
shop,--receiving from all sources, work and relief, about 13s. a
week for the seven,--not bad, compared with the income of very many
others. It is sad to think how many poor families get sundered and
scattered about the world in a time like this, never to meet again.
And the false report respecting this family in the little shop,
reminds me that the poor are not always kind to the poor. I learnt,
from a gentleman who is Secretary to the Relief Committee of one of
the wards, that it is not uncommon for the committees to receive
anonymous letters, saying that so and so is unworthy of relief, on
some ground or other. These complaints were generally found to be
either wholly false, or founded upon some mistake. I have three such
letters now before me. The first, written on a torn scrap of ruled
paper, runs thus:--"May 19th, 1862.--If you please be so kind as to
look after __ Back Newton Street Formerly a Resident of __ as i
think he is not Deserving Relief.--A Ratepayer." In each case I give
the spelling, and everything else, exactly as in the originals
before me, except the names. The next of these epistles says:--
"Preston, May 29th.--Sir, I beg to inform you that __, of Park Road,
in receipt from the Relief Fund, is a very unworthy person, having
worked two days since the 16 and drunk the remainder and his wife
also; for the most part, he has plenty of work for himself his wife
and a journeyman but that is their regular course of life. And the
S___s have all their family working full time. Yours respectfully."
These last two are anonymous. The next is written in a very good
hand, upon a square piece of very blue writing paper. It has a name
attached, but no address:--"Preston, June 2nd, 1862.--Mr. Dunn,--
Dear Sir, Would you please to inquire into the case of __, of __.
the are a family of 3 the man work four or more days per week on the
moor the woman works 6 days per week at Messrs Simpsons North Road
the third is a daughter 13 or 14 should be a weaver but to lasey she
has good places such as Mr. Hollins and Horrocks and Millers as been
sent a way for being to lasey. the man and woman very fond of drink.
I as a Nabour and a subscriber do not think this a proper case for
your charity. Yours truly, __." The committee could not find out the
writer of this, although a name is given. Such things as these need
no comment.

The next house we called at was inhabited by an old widow and her
only daughter. The daughter had been grievously afflicted with
disease of the heart, and quite incapable of helping herself during
the last eleven years. The poor worn girl sat upon an old tattered
kind of sofa, near the fire, panting for breath in the close
atmosphere. She sat there in feverish helplessness, sallow and
shrunken, and unable to bear up her head. It was a painful thing to
look at her. She had great difficulty in uttering a few words. I can
hardly guess what her age may be now; I should think about twenty-
five. Mr Toulmin, one of the visitors who accompanied me to the
place, reminded the young woman of his having called upon them there
more than four years ago, to leave some bedding which had been
bestowed upon an old woman by a certain charity in the town. He saw
no more of them after that, until the present hard times began, when
he was deputed by the Relief Committee to call at that distressed
corner amongst others in his own neighbourhood; and when he first
opened the door, after a lapse of four years, he was surprised to
find the same young woman, sitting in the same place, gasping
painfully for breath, as he had last seen her. The old widow had
just been able to earn what kept soul and body together in her sick
girl and herself, during the last eleven years, by washing and such
like work. But even this resource had fallen away a good deal during
these bad times; there are so many poor creatures like herself,
driven to extremity, and glad to grasp at any little bit of
employment which can be had. In addition to what the old woman could
get by a day's washing now and then, she received 1s. 6d. a week
from the parish. Think of the poor old soul trailing about the
world, trying to "scratch a living" for herself and her daughter by
washing; and having to hurry home from her labour to attend to that
sick girl through eleven long years. Such a life is a good deal like
a slow funeral. It is struggling for a few breaths more, with the
worms crawling over you. And yet I am told that the old woman was
not accustomed to "make a poor mouth," as the saying goes. How true
it is that "a great many people in this world have only one form of
rhetoric for their profoundest experiences, namely--to waste away
and die."

Our next visit was to an Irish family. There was an old woman in,
and a flaxen-headed lad about ten years of age. She was sitting upon
a low chair,--the only seat in the place,--and the tattered lad was
kneeling on the ground before her, whilst she combed his hair out.
"Well, missis, how are you getting on amongst it?" "Oh, well, then,
just middlin', Mr T. Ye see, I am busy combin' this boy's hair a
bit, for 'tis gettin' like a wisp o' hay." There was not a vestige
of furniture in the cottage, except the chair the old woman sat on.
She said, "I did sell the childer's bedstead for 2s. 6d.; an' after
that I sold the bed from under them for 1s. 6d., just to keep them
from starvin' to death. The childer had been two days without mate
then, an' faith I couldn't bear it any longer. After that I did sell
the big pan, an' then the new rockin' chair, an' so on, one thing
after another, till all wint entirely, barrin' this I am sittin' on,
an' they wint for next to nothin' too. Sure, I paid 9s. 6d. for the
bed itself, which was sold for 1s. 6d. We all sleep on straw now."
This family was seven in number. The mill at which they used to work
had been stopped about ten months. One of the family had found
employment at another mill, three months out of the ten, and the old
man himself had got a few days' work in that time. The rest of the
family had been wholly unemployed, during the ten months. Except the
little money this work brought in, and a trifle raised now and then
by the sale of a bit of furniture when hunger and cold pressed them
hard, the whole family had been living upon 5s. a week for the last
ten months. The rent was running on. The eldest daughter was twenty-
eight years of age. As we came away Mr Toulmin said to me, "Well, I
have called at that house regularly for the last sixteen weeks, and
this is the first time I ever saw a fire in the place. But the old
man has got two days' work this week--that may account for the

It was now close upon half-past seven in the evening, at which time
I had promised to call upon the Secretary of the Trinity Ward Relief
Committee, whose admirable letter in the London Times, attracted so
much attention about a month ago. I met several members of the
committee at his lodgings, and we had an hour's interesting
conversation. I learnt that, in cases of sickness arising from mere
weakness, from poorness of diet, or from unsuitableness of the food
commonly provided by the committee, orders were now issued for such
kind of "kitchen physic" as was recommended by the doctors. The
committee had many cases of this kind. One instance was mentioned,
in which, by the doctor's advice, four ounces of mutton chop daily
had been ordered to be given to a certain sick man, until further
notice. The thing went on and was forgotten, until one day, when the
distributor of food said to the committeeman who had issued the
order, "I suppose I must continue that daily mutton chop to so-and-
so?" "Eh, no; he's been quite well two months?" The chop had been
going on for ninety-five days. We had some talk with that class of
operatives who are both clean, provident, and "heawse-preawd," as
Lancashire folk call it. The Secretary told me that he was averse to
such people living upon the sale of their furniture; and the
committee had generally relieved the distress of such people, just
as if they had no furniture, at all. He mentioned the case of a
family of factory operatives, who were all fervent lovers of music,
as so many of the working people of Lancashire are. Whilst in full
work, they had scraped up money to buy a piano; and, long after the
ploughshare of ruin had begun to drive over the little household,
they clung to the darling instrument, which was such a source of
pure pleasure to them, and they were advised to keep it by the
committee which relieved them. "Yes," said another member of the
committee," but I called there lately, and the piano's gone at
last." Many interesting things came out in the course of our
conversation. One mentioned a house he had called at, where there
was neither chair, table, nor bed; and one of the little lads had to
hold up a piece of board for him to write upon. Another spoke of the
difficulties which "lone women" have to encounter in these hard
times. "I knocked so-and-so off my list," said one of the committee,
"till I had inquired into an ill report I heard of her. But she came
crying to me; and I found out that the woman had been grossly
belied." Another (Mr Nowell) told of a house on his list, where they
had no less than one hundred and fifty pawn tickets. He told, also,
of a moulder's family, who had been all out of work and starving so
long, that their poor neighbours came at last and recommended the
committee to relieve them, as they would not apply for relief
themselves. They accepted relief just one week, and then the man
came and said that he had a PROSPECT of work; and he shouldn't need
relief tickets any longer. It was here that I heard so much about
anonymous letters, of which I have given you three samples. Having
said that I should like to see the soup kitchen, one of the
committee offered to go with me thither at six o'clock the next
morning; and so I came away from the meeting in the cool twilight.

Old Preston looked fine to me in the clear air of that declining
day. I stood a while at the end of the "Bull" gateway. There was a
comical-looking little knock-kneed fellow in the middle of the
street --a wandering minstrel, well known in Preston by the name of
"Whistling Jack." There he stood, warbling and waving his band, and
looking from side to side,--in vain. At last I got him to whistle
the "Flowers of Edinburgh." He did it, vigorously; and earned his
penny well. But even "Whistling Jack" complained of the times. He
said Preston folk had "no taste for music." But he assured me the
time would come when there would be a monument to him in that town.


About half-past six I found my friend waiting at the end of the
"Bull" gateway. It was a lovely morning. The air was cool and clear,
and the sky was bright. It was easy to see which was the way to the
soup kitchen, by the stragglers going and coming. We passed the
famous "Orchard," now a kind of fairground, which has been the scene
of so many popular excitements in troubled times. All was quiet in
the "Orchard" that morning, except that, here, a starved-looking
woman, with a bit of old shawl tucked round her head, and a pitcher
in her hand, and there, a bare-footed lass, carrying a tin can,
hurried across the sunny space towards the soup kitchen. We passed a
new inn, called "The Port Admiral." On the top of the building there
were three life-sized statues--Wellington and Nelson, with the Greek
slave between them--a curious companionship. These statues reminded
me of a certain Englishman riding through Dublin, for the first
time, upon an Irish car. "What are the three figures yonder?" said
he to the car-boy, pointing to the top of some public building.
"Thim three is the twelve apostles, your honour," answered the
driver. "Nay, nay," said the traveller,"that'll not do. How do you
make twelve out of three?" "Bedad," replied the driver, "your honour
couldn't expect the whole twelve to be out at once such a murtherin'
wet day as this." But we had other things than these to think of
that day. As we drew near the baths and washhouses, where the soup
kitchen is, the stream of people increased. About the gate there was
a cluster of melancholy loungers, looking cold and hungry. They were
neither going in nor going away. I was told afterwards that many of
these were people who had neither money nor tickets for food--some
of them wanderers from town to town; anybody may meet them limping,
footsore and forlorn, upon the roads in Lancashire, just now--
houseless wanderers, who had made their way to the soup kitchen to
beg a mouthful from those who were themselves at death's door. In
the best of times there are such wanderers; and, in spite of the
generous provision made for the relief of the poor, there must be,
in a time like the present, a great number who let go their hold of
home (if they have any), and drift away in search of better fortune,
and, sometimes, into irregular courses of life, never to settle
more. Entering the yard, we found the wooden sheds crowded with
people at breakfast--all ages, from white-haired men, bent with
years, to eager childhood, yammering over its morning meal, and
careless till the next nip of hunger came. Here and there a bonny
lass had crept into the shade with her basin; and there was many a
brown-faced man, who had been hardened by working upon the moor or
at the "stone-yard." "Theer, thae's shap't that at last, as how?"
said one of these to his friend, who had just finished and stood
wiping his mouth complacently. "Shap't that," replied the other,
"ay, lad, aw can do a ticket and a hafe (three pints of soup) every
morning." Five hundred people breakfast in the sheds alone, every
day. The soup kitchen opens at five in the morning, and there is
always a crowd waiting to get in. This looks like the eagerness of
hunger. I was told that they often deliver 3000 quarts of soup at
this kitchen in two hours. The superintendent of the bread
department informed me that, on that morning, he had served out two
thousand loaves, of 3lb. 11oz. each. There was a window at one end,
where soup was delivered to such as brought money for it instead of
tickets. Those who came with tickets--by far the greatest number--
had to pass in single file through a strong wooden maze, which
restrained their eagerness, and compelled them to order. I noticed
that only a small proportion of men went through the maze; they were
mostly women and children. There was many a fine, intelligent young
face hurried blushing through that maze--many a bonny lad and lass
who will be heard of honourably hereafter. The variety of utensils
presented showed that some of the poor souls had been hard put to it
for things to fetch their soup in. One brought a pitcher; another a
bowl; and another a tin can, a world too big for what it had to
hold. "Yo mun mind th' jug," said one old woman; "it's cracked, an'
it's noan o' mine." "Will ye bring me some?" said a little, light-
haired lass, holding up her rosy neb to the soupmaster. "Aw want a
ha'poth," said a lad with a three-quart can in his hand. The
benevolent-looking old gentleman who had taken the superintendence
of the soup department as a labour of love, told me that there had
been a woman there by half-past five that morning, who had come four
miles for some coffee. There was a poor fellow breakfasting in the
shed at the same time; and he gave the woman a thick shive of his
bread as she went away. He mentioned other instances of the same
humane feeling; and he said, "After what I have seen of them here, I
say, 'Let me fall into the hands of the poor.'"

"They who, half-fed, feed the breadless, in the travail of distress;
They who, taking from a little, give to those who still have less;
They who, needy, yet can pity when they look on greater need;
These are Charity's disciples,--these are Mercy's sons indeed."

We returned to the middle of the town just as the shopkeepers in
Friargate were beginning to take their shutters down. I had another
engagement at half-past nine. A member of the Trinity Ward Relief
Committee, who is master of the Catholic school in that ward, had
offered to go with me to visit some distressed people who were under
his care in that part of the town. We left Friargate at the
appointed time. As we came along there was a crowd in front of
Messrs Wards', the fishmongers. A fine sturgeon had just been
brought in. It had been caught in the Ribble that morning. We went
in to look at the royal fish. It was six feet long, and weighed
above a hundred pounds. I don't know that I ever saw a sturgeon
before. But we had other fish to fry; and so we went on. The first
place we called at was a cellar in Nile Street. "Here," said my
companion, "let us have a look at old John." A gray-headed little
man, of seventy, lived down in this one room, sunken from the
street. He had been married forty years, and if I remember aright,
he lost his wife about four years ago. Since that time, he had lived
in this cellar, all alone, washing and cooking for himself. But I
think the last would not trouble him much, for "they have no need
for fine cooks who have only one potato to their dinner." When a
lad, he had been apprenticed to a bobbin turner. Afterwards he
picked up some knowledge of engineering; and he had been "well off
in his day." He now got a few coppers occasionally from the poor
folk about, by grinding knives, and doing little tinkering jobs.
Under the window he had a rude bench, with a few rusty tools upon
it, and in one corner there was a low, miserable bedstead, without
clothing upon it. There was one cratchinly chair in the place, too;
but hardly anything else. He had no fire; be generally went into
neighbours' houses to warm himself. He was not short of such food as
the Relief Committees bestow. There was a piece of bread upon the
bench, left from his morning meal; and the old fellow chirruped
about, and looked as blithe as if he was up to the middle in clover.
He showed us a little thing which he had done "for a bit ov a
prank." The number of his cellar was 8, and he had cut out a large
tin figure of 8, a foot long, and nailed it upon his door, for the
benefit of some of his friends that were getting bad in their
eyesight, and "couldn't read smo' print so low deawn as that."
"Well, John," said my companion, when we went in, "how are you
getting on?" "Oh, bravely," replied he, handing a piece of blue
paper to the inquirer, "bravely; look at that!" Why, this is a
summons," said my companion. "Ay, bigad is't, too," answered the old
man. "Never had sich a thing i' my life afore! Think o' me gettin' a
summons for breakin' windows at seventy year owd. A bonny warlock,
that, isn't it? Why, th' whole street went afore th' magistrates to
get mo off." "Then you did get off, John?" "Get off! Sure, aw did.
It wur noan o' me. It wur a keaw jobber, at did it. . . . Aw'll tell
yo what, for two pins aw'd frame that summons, an' hang it eawt o'
th' window; but it would look so impudent." Old John's wants were
inquired into, and we left him fiddling among his rusty tools. We
next went to a place called Hammond's Row--thirteen poor cottages,
side by side. Twelve of the thirteen were inhabited by people
living, almost entirely, upon relief, either from the parish or from
the Relief Committee. There was only one house where no relief was
needed. As we passed by, the doors were nearly all open, and the
interiors all presented the same monotonous phase of destitution.
They looked as if they had been sacked by bum-bailiffs. The topmost
house was the only place where I saw a fire. A family of eight lived
there. They were Irish people. The wife, a tall, cheerful woman, sat
suckling her child, and giving a helping hand now and then to her
husband's work. He was a little, pale fellow, with only one arm, and
he had an impediment in his speech. He had taken to making cheap
boxes of thin, rough deal, afterwards covered with paper. With the
help of his wife he could make one in a day, and he got ninepence
profit out of it--when the box was sold. He was working at one when
we went in, and he twirled it proudly about with his one arm, and
stammered out a long explanation about the way it had been made; and
then he got upon the lid, and sprang about a little, to let us see
how much it would bear. As the brave little tattered man stood there
upon the box-lid, springing, and sputtering, and waving his one arm,
his wife looked up at him with a smile, as if she thought him "the
greatest wight on ground." There was a little curly-headed child
standing by, quietly taking in all that was going on. I laid my hand
upon her head; and asked her what her name was. She popped her thumb
into her mouth, and looked shyly about from one to another, but
never a word could I get her to say. "That's Lizzy," said the woman;
"she is a little visitor belongin' to one o' the neighbours. They
are badly off, and she often comes in. Sure, our childer is very
fond of her, an' so she is of them. She is fine company wid
ourselves, but always very shy wid strangers. Come now, Lizzy,
darlin'; tell us your name, love, won't you, now?" But it was no
use; we couldn't get her to speak. In the next cottage where we
called, in this row, there was a woman washing. Her mug was standing
upon a stool in the middle of the floor; and there was not any other
thing in the place in the shape of furniture or household utensil.
The walls were bare of everything, except a printed paper, bearing
these words:

"The wages of sin is death. But the gift of God is eternal life,
through Jesus Christ our Lord." We now went to another street, and
visited the cottage of a blind chairmaker, called John Singleton. He
was a kind of oracle among the poor folk of the neighbourhood. The
old chairmaker was sitting by the fire when we went in; and opposite
to him sat "Old John," the hero of the broken windows in Nile
Street. He had come up to have a crack with his blind crony. The
chairmaker was seventy years of age, and he had benefited by the
advantage of good fundamental instruction in his youth. He was very
communicative. He said he should have been educated for the
priesthood, at Stonyhurst College. "My clothes were made, an'
everything was ready for me to start to Stonyhurst. There was a
stagecoach load of us going; but I failed th' heart, an' wouldn't
go--an' I've forethought ever sin'. Mr Newby said to my friends at
the same time, he said, 'You don't need to be frightened of him;
he'll make the brightest priest of all the lot--an' I should, too. .
. . I consider mysel' a young man yet, i' everything, except it be
somethin' at's uncuth to me." And now, old John, the grinder, began
to complain again of how badly he had been used about the broken
windows in Nile Street. But the old chairmaker stopped him; and,
turning up his blind eyes, he said, "John, don't you be foolish.
Bother no moor abeawt it. All things has but a time."


A man cannot go wrong in Trinity Ward just now, if he wants to see
poor folk. He may find them there at any time, but now he cannot
help but meet them; and nobody can imagine how badly off they are,
unless he goes amongst them. They are biding the hard time out
wonderfully well, and they will do so to the end. They certainly
have not more than a common share of human frailty. There are those
who seem to think that when people are suddenly reduced to poverty,
they should become suddenly endowed with the rarest virtues; but it
never was so, and, perhaps, never will be so long as the world
rolls. In my rambles about this ward, I was astonished at the dismal
succession of destitute homes, and the number of struggling owners
of little shops, who were watching their stocks sink gradually down
to nothing, and looking despondingly at the cold approach of
pauperism. I was astonished at the strings of dwellings, side by
side, stript, more or less, of the commonest household utensils--the
poor little bare houses, often crowded with lodgers, whose homes had
been broken up elsewhere; sometimes crowded, three or four families
of decent working people in a cottage of half-a-crown a-week rental;
sleeping anywhere, on benches or on straw, and afraid to doff their
clothes at night time because they had no other covering. Now and
then the weekly visitor comes to the door of a house where he has
regularly called. He lifts the latch, and finds the door locked. He
looks in at the window. The house is empty, and the people are gone-
-the Lord knows where. Who can tell what tales of sorrow will have
their rise in the pressure of a time like this--tales that will
never be written, and that no statistics will reveal.

Trinity Ward swarms with factory operatives; and, after our chat
with blind John, the chairmaker, and his ancient crony the grinder
from Nile Street, we set off again to see something more of them.
Fitful showers came down through the day, and we had to shelter now
and then. In one cottage, where we stopped a few minutes, the old
woman told us that, in addition to their own family, they had three
young women living with them--the orphan daughters of her husband's
brother. They had been out of work thirty-four weeks, and their
uncle--a very poor man--had been obliged to take them into his
house, "till sich times as they could afford to pay for lodgin's
somewheer else." My companion asked whether they were all out of
work still. "Naw," replied the old woman, "one on 'em has getten on
to wortch a few days for t' sick (that is, in the place of some sick
person). Hoo's wortchin' i' th' cardreawn at 'Th' Big-un.'" (This is
the name they give to Messrs Swainson and Birley's mill.)

The next place we called at was the house of an old joiner. He was
lying very ill upstairs. As we drew up to the door, my companion
said, "Now, this is a clean, respectable family. They have struggled
hard and suffered a great deal, before they would ask for relief."
When we went in, the wife was cleaning her well-nigh empty house.
"Eh," said she," I thought it wur th' clubman comin', an' I wur just
goin' to tell him that I had nothin' for him." The family was seven
in number--man, wife, and five children. The husband, as I have
said, was lying ill. The wife told me that they had only 6s. a-week
coming in for the seven to live upon. My companion was the weekly
visitor who relieved them. She told me that her husband was sixty-
eight years old; she was not forty. She said that her husband was
not strong, and he had been going nearly barefoot and "clemmed" all
through last winter, and she was afraid he had got his death of
cold. They had not a bed left to lie upon. "My husband," said
she,"was a master joiner once, an' was doin' very well. But you see
how we are now." There were two portraits--oil paintings--hanging
against the wall. "Whose portraits are these?" said I. "Well; that's
my master--an' this is me," replied she. "He would have 'em taken
some time since. I couldn't think o' sellin' 'em; or else, yo see,
we've sold nearly everything we had. I did try to pawn 'em, too,
thinkin' we could get 'em back again when things came round; but, I
can assure yo, I couldn't find a broker anywhere that would tak' 'em
in." "Well, Missis," said my companion, "yo have one comfort; you
are always clean." "Eh, bless yo!" replied she, "I couldn't live
among dirt! My husban' tells me that I clean all the luck away; but
aw'm sure there's no luck i' filth; if there is, anybody may tak' it
for me."

The rain had stopt again; and after my friend had made a note
respecting some additional relief for the family, we bade the woman
good day. We had not gone far before a little ragged lass looked up
admiringly at two pinks I had stuck in my buttonhole, and holding up
her hand, said, "Eh, gi' me a posy!" My friend pointed to one of the
cottages we passed, and said that the last time he called there, he
found the family all seated round a large bowl of porridge, made of
Indian meal. This meal is sold at a penny a pound. He stopped at
another cottage and said, "Here's a house where I always find them
reading when I call. I know the people very well." He knocked and
tried the latch, but there was nobody in. As we passed an open door,
the pleasant smell of oatcake baking came suddenly upon me. It woke
up many memories of days gone by. I saw through the window a stout,
meal-dusted old woman, busy with her wooden ladle and baking-shovel
at a brisk oven. "Now, I should like to look in there for a minute
or two, if it can be done," said I. "Well," replied my friend, "this
woman is not on our books; she gets her own living in the way you
see. But come in; it will be all right; I know her very well." I was
glad of that, for I wanted to have a chat with her, and to peep at
the baking. "Good morning, Missis," said he; "how are you?" "Why,
just in a middlin' way." "How long is this wet weather going to
last, think you?" "Nay, there ye hev me fast;--but what brings ye
here this mornin'?" said the old woman, resting the end of her ladle
on the little counter; "I never trouble sic like chaps as ye." "No,
no," replied my friend; "we have not called about anything of that
kind." "What, then, pray ye?" "Well, my friend, here, is almost a
stranger in Preston; and as soon as ever he smelt the baking, he
said he should like to see it, so I took the liberty of bringing him
in." "Oh, ay; come in, an' welcome. Ye're just i' time, too; for
I've bin sat at t' back to sarra (serve) t' pigs." "You're not a
native of Lancashire, Missis," said I. "Why, wheer then? come, now;
let's be knowin', as ye're so sharp." "Cumberland," said I. "Well,
now; ye're reight, sewer enough. But how did ye find it out, now?"
"Why, you said that you had been out to sarra t' pigs. A native of
Lancashire would have said 'serve' instead of 'sarra.'" "Well,
that's varra queer; for I've bin a lang time away from my awn
country. But, whereivver do ye belang to, as ye're so bowd wi' me?"
said she, smiling, and turning over a cake which was baking upon the
oven. I told her that I was born a few miles from Manchester.
"Manchester! never, sewer;" said she, resting her ladle again; "why,
I lived ever so long i' Manchester when I was young. I was cook at
th' Swan i' Shudehill, aboon forty year sin." She said that, in
those days, the Swan, in Shudehill, was much frequented by the
commercial men of Manchester. It was a favourite dining house for
them. Many of them even brought their own beefsteak on a skewer; and
paid a penny for the cooking of it. She said she always liked
Manchester very well; but she had not been there for a good while.
"But," said she, "ye'll hev plenty o' oatcake theer--sartin." "Not
much, now," replied I; "it's getting out o' fashion." I told her
that we had to get it once a week from a man who came all the way
from Stretford into Manchester, with a large basketful upon his
head, crying "Woat cakes, two a penny!" "Two a penny!" said she;
"why, they'll not be near as big as these, belike." "Not quite,"
replied I. "Not quite! naw; not hauf t' size, aw warnd! Why, th'
poor fellow desarves his brass iv he niver gev a farthin' for th'
stuff to mak 'eni on. What! I knaw what oatcake bakin' is."

Leaving the canny old Cumberland woman at her baking, we called at a
cottage in Everton Gardens. It was as clean as a gentleman's
parlour; but there was no furniture in sight except a table, and,
upon the table, a fine bush of fresh hawthorn blossom, stuck in a
pint jug full of water. Here, I heard again the common story--they
had been several months out of work; their household goods had
dribbled away in ruinous sales, for something to live upon; and now,
they had very little left but the walls. The little woman said to
me, "Bless yo, there is at thinks we need'n nought, becose we keepen
a daycent eawtside. But, I know my own know abeawt that. Beside, one
doesn't like to fill folk's meawths, iv one is ill off."

It was now a little past noon, and we spent a few minutes looking
through the Catholic schoolhouse, in Trinity Ward--a spacious brick
building. The scholars were away at dinner. My friend is master of
the school. His assistant offered to go with us to one or two Irish
families in a close wynd, hard by, called Wilkie's Court. In every
case I had the great advantage of being thus accompanied by
gentlemen who were friendly and familiar with the poor we visited.
This was a great facility to me. Wilkie's Court is a little cul de
sac, with about half-a-dozen wretched cottages in it, fronted by a
dead wall. The inhabitants of the place are all Irish. They were
nearly all kept alive by relief from one source or other; but their
poverty was not relieved by that cleanliness which I had witnessed
in so many equally poor houses, making the best use of those simple
means of comfort which are invaluable, although they cost little or
nothing. In the first house we called at, a middle-aged woman was
pacing slowly about the unwholesome house with a child in her arms.
My friend inquired where the children were. "They are in the houses
about; all but the one poor boy." "And where is he?" said I. "Well,
he comes home now an' agin; he comes an' goes; sure, we don't know
how. . . . Ah, thin, sir," continued she, beginning to cry, "I'll
tell ye the rale truth, now. He was drawn away by some bad lads, an'
he got three months in the New Bailey; that's God's truth. . . . Ah,
what'll I do wid him," said she, bursting into tears afresh;
"what'll I do wid him? sure, he is my own!" We did not stop long to
intrude upon such trouble as this. She called out as we came away to
tell us that the poor crayter next door was quite helpless. The next
house was, in some respects, more comfortable than the last, though
it was quite as poor in household goods. There was one flimsy deal
table, one little chair, and two half-penny pictures of Catholic
saints pinned against the wall. "Sure, I sold the other table since
you wor here before," said the woman to my friend; "I sold it for
two-an'-aightpence, an' bought this one for sixpence." At the house
of another Irish family, my friend inquired where all the chairs
were gone. "Oh," said a young woman," the baillies did fetch
uvverything away, barrin' the one sate, when we were livin' in
Lancaster Street." "Where do you all sit now, then?" "My mother sits
there," replied she, "an' we sit upon the flure." "I heard they were
goin' to sell these heawses," said one of the lads, "but, begorra,"
continued he, with a laugh, "I wouldn't wonder did they sell the
ground from under us next." In the course of our visitation a
thunder storm came on, during which we took shelter with a poor
widow woman, who had a plateful of steeped peas for sale, in the
window. She also dealt in rags and bones in a small way, and so
managed to get a living, as she said, "beawt troublin' onybody for
charity." She said it was a thing that folk had to wait a good deal
out in the cold for.

It was market-day, and there were many country people in Preston. On
my way back to the middle of the town, I called at an old inn, in
Friargate, where I listened with pleasure a few minutes to the old-
fashioned talk of three farmers from the Fylde country. Their
conversation was principally upon cow-drinks. One of them said there
was nothing in the world like "peppermint tay an' new butter" for
cows that had the belly-ache. "They'll be reet in a varra few
minutes at after yo gotten that into 'em," said he. As evening came
on the weather settled into one continuous shower, and I left
Preston in the heavy rain, weary, and thinking of what I had seen
during the day. Since then I have visited the town again, and I
shall say something about that visit hereafter.


The rain had been falling heavily through the night. It was raw and
gusty, and thick clouds were sailing wildly overhead, as I went to
the first train for Preston. It was that time of morning when there
is a lull in the streets of Manchester, between six and eight. The
"knocker-up" had shouldered his long wand, and paddled home to bed
again; and the little stalls, at which the early workman stops for
his half-penny cup of coffee, were packing up. A cheerless morning,
and the few people that were about looked damp and low spirited. I
bought the day's paper, and tried to read it, as we flitted by the
glimpses of dirty garret-life, through the forest of chimneys,
gushing forth their thick morning fumes into the drizzly air, and
over the dingy web of Salford streets. We rolled on through
Pendleton, where the country is still trying to look green here and
there, under increasing difficulties; but it was not till we came to
where the green vale of Clifton open out, that I became quite
reconciled to the weather. Before we were well out of sight of the
ancient tower of Prestwich Church, the day brightened a little. The
shifting folds of gloomy cloud began to glide asunder, and through
the gauzy veils which lingered in the interspaces, there came a dim
radiance which lighted up the rain-drops "lingering on the pointed
thorns;" and the tall meadow grasses were swaying to and fro with
their loads of liquid pearls, in courtesies full of exquisite grace,
as we whirled along. I enjoyed the ride that raw morning, although
the sky was all gloom again long before we came in sight of the

I met my friend, in Preston, at half-past nine; and we started at
once for another ramble amongst the poor, in a different part of
Trinity Ward. We went first to a little court, behind Bell Street.
There is only one house in the court, and it is known as "Th' Back
Heawse." In this cottage the little house-things had escaped the
ruin which I had witnessed in so many other places. There were two
small tables, and three chairs; and there were a few pots and a pan
or two. Upon the cornice there were two pot spaniels, and two
painted stone apples; and, between them, there was a sailor waving a
union jack, and a little pudgy pot man, for holding tobacco. On the
windowsill there was a musk-plant; and, upon the table by the
staircase, there was a rude cage, containing three young throstles.
The place was tidy; and there was a kind-looking old couple inside.
The old man stood at the table in the middle of the floor, washing
the pots, and the old woman was wiping them, and putting them away.
A little lad sat by the fire, thwittling at a piece of stick. The
old man spoke very few words the whole time we were there, but he
kept smiling and going on with his washing. The old woman was very
civil, and rather shy at first; but we soon got into free talk
together. She told me that she had borne thirteen children. Seven of
them were dead; and the other six were all married, and all poor. "I
have one son," said she; "he's a sailmaker. He's th' best off of any
of 'em. But, Lord bless yo; he's not able to help us. He gets very
little, and he has to pay a woman to nurse his sick wife. . . . This
lad that's here,--he's a little grandson o' mine; he's one of my
dowter's childer. He brings his meight with him every day, an'
sleeps with us. They han bod one bed, yo see. His father hasn't had
a stroke o' work sin Christmas. They're badly off. As for us--my
husband has four days a week on th' moor,--that's 4s., an' we've 2s.
a week to pay out o' that for rent. Yo may guess fro that, heaw we
are. He should ha' been workin' on the moor today, but they've bin
rain't off. We've no kind o' meight i' this house bod three-ha'poth
o' peas; an' we've no firin'. He's just brokken up an owd cheer to
heat th' watter wi'. (The old man smiled at this, as if he thought
it was a good joke.) He helps me to wesh, an' sick like; an' yo'
know, it's a good deal better than gooin' into bad company, isn't
it? (Here the old man gave her a quiet, approving look, like a good
little lad taking notice of his mother's advice.) Aw'm very glad of
a bit o' help," continued she,"for aw'm not so terrible mich use,
mysel'. Yo see; aw had a paralytic stroke seven year sin, an' we've
not getten ower it. For two year aw hadn't a smite o' use all deawn
this side. One arm an' one leg trail't quite helpless. Aw drunk for
ever o' stuff for it. At last aw gat somethin' ov a yarb doctor. He
said that he could cure me for a very trifle, an' he did me a deal
o' good, sure enough. He nobbut charged me hauve-a-creawn. . . . We
never knowed what it was to want a meal's meight till lately. We
never had a penny off th' parish, nor never trouble't anybody till
neaw. Aw wish times would mend, please God! . . . We once had a pig,
an' was in a nice way o' gettin' a livin'. . . . When things began
o' gooin' worse an' worse with us, we went to live in a cellar, at
sixpence a week rent; and we made it very comfortable, too. We
didn't go there because we liked th' place; but we thought nobody
would know; an, we didn't care, so as we could put on till times
mended, an' keep aat o' debt. But th' inspectors turned us out, an'
we had to come here, an' pay 2s. a week. . . . Aw do NOT like to ask
for charity, iv one could help it. They were givin' clothin' up at
th' church a while sin', an' some o' th' neighbours wanted me to go
an' ax for some singlets, ye see aw cannot do without flannels,--but
aw couldn't put th' face on." Now, the young throstles in the cage
by the staircase began to chirp one after another. "Yer yo at that!
"said the old man, turning round to the cage; "yer yo at that!
Nobbut three week owd!" "Yes," replied the old woman; "they belong
to my grandson theer. He brought 'em in one day --neest an' all; an'
poor nake't crayters they were. He's a great lad for birds." "He's
no worse nor me for that," answered the old man; "aw use't to be
terrible fond o' brids when aw wur yung."

After a little more talk, we bade the old couple good day, and went
to peep at the cellar where they had crept stealthily away, for the
sake of keeping their expenses close to their lessening income. The
place was empty, and the door was open. It was a damp and cheerless
little hole, down in the corner of a dirty court. We went next into
Pole Street, and tried the door of a cottage where a widow woman
lived with her children less than a week before. They were gone, and
the house was cleared out. "They have had neither fire nor candle in
that house for weeks past," said my companion. We then turned up a
narrow entry, which was so dark and low overhead that my companion
only told me just in time to "mind my hat!" There are several such
entries leading out of Pole Street to little courts behind. Here we
turned into a cold and nearly empty cottage, where a middle-aged
woman sat nursing a sick child. She looked worn and ill herself, and
she had sore eyes. She told me that the child was her daughter's.
Her daughter's husband had died of asthma in the workhouse, about
six weeks before. He had not "addled" a penny for twelve months
before he died. She said, "We hed a varra good heawse i' Stanley
Street once; but we hed to sell up an' creep hitherto. This heawse
is 2s. 3d. a week; an' we mun pay it, or go into th' street. Aw
nobbut owed him for one week, an' he said, 'Iv yo connot pay yo mun
turn eawt for thoose 'at will do.' Aw did think o' gooin' to th'
Board," continued she, "for a pair o' clogs. My een are bad; an' awm
ill all o'er, an' it's wi' nought but gooin' weet o' my feet. My
daughter's wortchin'. Hoo gets 5s. 6d. a week. We han to live an'
pay th' rent, too, eawt o' that." I guessed, from the little paper
pictures on the wall, that they were Catholics.

In another corner behind Pole Street, we called at a cottage of two
rooms, each about three yards square. A brother and sister lived
together here. They were each about fifty years of age. They had
three female lodgers, factory operatives, out of work. The sister
said that her brother had been round to the factories that morning,
"Thinking that as it wur a pastime, there would haply be somebody
off; but he couldn't yer o' nought." She said she got a trifle by
charing, but not much now; for folks were "beginnin' to do it for
theirsels." We now turned into Cunliffe Street, and called upon an
Irish family there. It was a family of seven--an old tailor, and his
wife and children. They had "dismissed the relief," as he expressed
it, "because they got a bit o' work." The family was making a little
living by ripping up old clothes, and turning the cloth to make it
up afresh into lads' caps and other cheap things. The old man had
had a great deal of trouble with his family. "I have one girl," said
he, "who has bothered my mind a dale. She is under the influence o'
bad advice. I had her on my hands for many months; an', after that,
the furst week's wages she got, she up, an' cut stick, an' left me.
I have another daughter, now nigh nineteen years of age. The trouble
I have with her I am content with; because it can't be helped. The
poor crayter hasn't the use of all her faculties. I have taken no
end o' pains with her, but I can't get her to count twenty on her
finger ends wid a whole life's tachein'. Fortune has turned her dark
side to me this long time, now; and, bedad, iv it wasn't for
contrivin', an' workin' hard to boot, I wouldn't be able to keep
above the flood. I assure ye it goes agin me to trouble the
gentlemen o' the Board; an' so long as I am able, I will not. I was
born in King's County; an' I was once well off in the city of
Waterford I once had 400 pounds in the bank. I seen the time I
didn't drame of a cloudy day; but things take quare turns in this
world. How-an-ever, since it's no better, thank God it's no worse.
Sure, it's a long lane that has never a turn in it."


"There's nob'dy but the Lord an' me
That knows what I've to bide."

The slipshod old tailor shuffled after us to the door, talking about
the signs of the times. His frame was bowed with age and labour, and
his shoulders drooped away. It was drawing near the time when the
grasshopper would be a burden to him. A hard life had silently
engraved its faithful records upon that furrowed face; but there was
a cheerful ring in his voice which told of a hopeful spirit within
him still. The old man's nostrils were dusty with snuff, and his
poor garments hung about his shrunken form in the careless ease
which is common to the tailor's shopboard. I could not help admiring
the brave old wrinkled workman as he stood in the doorway talking
about his secondhand trade, whilst the gusty wind fondled about in
his thin gray hair. I took a friendly pinch from his little wooden
box at parting, and left him to go on struggling with his
troublesome family to "keep above the flood," by translating old
clothes into new. We called at some other houses, where the features
of life were so much the same that it is not necessary to say more
than that the inhabitants were all workless, or nearly so, and all
living upon the charitable provision which is the only thin plank
between so many people and death, just now. In one house, where the
furniture had been sold, the poor souls had brought a great stone
into the place, and this was their only seat. In Cunliffe Street, we
passed the cottage of a boilermaker, whom I had heard of before. His
family was four in number. This was one of those cases of wholesome
pride in which the family had struggled with extreme penury, seeking
for work in vain, but never asking for charity, until their own poor
neighbours were at last so moved with pity for their condition, that
they drew the attention of the Relief Committee to it. The man
accepted relief for one week, but after that, he declined receiving
it any longer, because he had met with a promise of employment. But
the promise failed him when the time came. The employer, who had
promised, was himself disappointed of the expected work. After this;
the boilermaker's family was compelled to fall back upon the Relief
Committee's allowance. He who has never gone hungry about the world,
with a strong love of independence in his heart, seeking eagerly for
work from day to day, and coming home night after night to a
foodless, fireless house, and a starving family, disappointed and
desponding, with the gloom of destitution deepening around him, can
never fully realise what the feelings of such a man may be from
anything that mere words can tell.

In Park Road, we called at the house of a hand-loom weaver. I
learnt, before we went in, that two families lived here, numbering
together eight persons; and, though it was well known to the
committee that they had suffered as severely as any on the relief
list, yet their sufferings had been increased by the anonymous
slanders of some ill-disposed neighbours. They were quiet, well-
conducted working people; and these slanders had grieved them very
much. I found the poor weaver's wife very sensitive on this subject.
Man's inhumanity to man may be found among the poor sometimes. It is
not every one who suffers that learns mercy from that suffering. As
I have said before, the husband was a calico weaver on the hand-
loom. He had to weave about seventy-three yards of a kind of check
for 3s., and a full week's work rarely brought him more than 5s. It
seems astonishing that a man should stick year after year to such
labour as this. But there is a strong adhesiveness, mingled with
timidity, in some men, which helps to keep them down. In the front
room of the cottage there was not a single article of furniture
left, so far as I can remember. The weaver's wife was in the little
kitchen, and, knowing the gentleman who was with me, she invited us
forward. She was a wan woman, with sunken eyes, and she was not much
under fifty years of age. Her scanty clothing was whole and clean.
She must have been a very good-looking woman sometime, though she
seemed to me as if long years of hard work and poor diet had sapped
the foundations of her constitution; and there was a curious
changeful blending of pallor and feverish flush upon that worn face.
But, even in the physical ruins of her countenance, a pleasing
expression lingered still. She was timid and quiet in her manner at
first, as if wondering what we had come for; but she asked me to sit
down. There was no seat for my friend, and he stood leaning against
the wall, trying to get her into easy conversation. The little
kitchen looked so cheerless and bare that dull morning that it
reminded me again of a passage in that rude, racy song of the
Lancashire weaver, "Jone o' Greenfeelt"--

"Owd Bill o' Dan's sent us th' baillies one day,
For a shop-score aw owed him, at aw couldn't pay;
But, he were too lat, for owd Billy at th' Bent
Had sent th' tit an' cart, an' taen th' goods off for rent,--
They laft nought but th' owd stoo;
It were seats for us two,
An' on it keawr't Margit an' me.

"Then, th' baillies looked reawnd 'em as sly as a meawse,
When they see'd at o'th goods had bin taen eawt o' th' heawse;
Says tone chap to tother, 'O's gone,--thae may see,'--
Says aw, 'Lads, ne'er fret, for yo're welcome to me!'
Then they made no moor do,
But nipt up wi' owd stoo,
An' we both letten thwack upo' th' flags.

"Then aw said to eawr Margit, while we're upo' the floor,
'We's never be lower i' this world, aw'm sure;
Iv ever things awtern they're likely to mend,
For aw think i' my heart that we're both at th' fur end;
For meight we ban noan,
Nor no looms to weighve on,
An' egad, they're as good lost as fund.'"

We had something to do to get the weaver's wife to talk to us
freely, and I believe the reason was, that, after the slanders they
had been subject to, she harboured a sensitive fear lest anything
like doubt should be cast upon her story. "Well, Mrs," said my
friend, "let's see; how many are you altogether in this house?"
"We're two families, yo know," replied she; "there's eight on us all
altogether." "Well," continued he,"and how much have you coming in,
now?" He had asked this question so oft before, and had so often
received the same answer, that the poor soul began to wonder what
was the meaning of it all. She looked at us silently, her wan face
flushed, and then, with tears rising in her eyes, she said,
tremulously, "Well, iv yo' cannot believe folk--" My friend stopped
her at once, and said, "Nay, Mrs_, you must not think that I doubt
your story. I know all about it; but my friend wanted me to let you
tell it your own way. We have come here to do you good, if possible,
and no harm. You don't need to fear that." "Oh, well," said she,
slowly wiping her moist forehead, and looking relieved," but yo
know, aw was very much put about o'er th' ill-natur't talk as
somebody set eawt." "Take no notice of them," said my friend; "take
no notice. I meet with such things every day." "Well," continued
she," yo know heaw we're situated. We were nine months an' hesn't a
stroke o' wark. Eawr wenches are gettin' a day for t' sick, neaw and
then, but that's all. There's a brother o' mine lives with us,--he'd
a been clemmed into th' grave but for th' relief; an' aw've been
many a time an' hesn't put a bit i' my meawth fro mornin' to mornin'
again. We've bin married twenty-four year; an' aw don't think at him

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