David Lawton.

Webs from fancy's loom; poems and sketches online

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(Th' Owd Weithvur. SaMewVfth).

A uthor of ' ' Warty Rhymes for Warty Foaks,
" Village Co-operation," &c.


Co-operative Wholesale Society's Printing Works. Longsitfht



THE world is full of books, then why should I
Another add to its redundant store ?
And give, when it perchance doth want no more ?

Ah, well ! I still must sing, I scarce know why,

Unless, as sun lights up the midday sky,

And silvery brooklets run, and song birds sing,
And flowers their glorious hues show forth, and fling

Their perfumes on the air unasked, all ply

Their parts and give their best without a sigh,
Because they must. With me 'tis even so:
The springs of song within me rise and flow,

I may not let their waters stagnant lie,
And woe betide me if I hoard in greed
The streams which thirsty souls around me need.

Not fame nor profit do I hope to gain,

Though, rightly won, such things are not amiss ;
My dearest, inmost hope I feel is this :

That some sad hearts may find herein a strain

Or word of hope to ease their hidden pain,
Some thought of God to cheer their upward way,
Revive their flickering faith's expiring ray,

And help them life's best victories to attain.

Such ministry as this be mine, and then
I have my heart's most dear desire fulfilled,
All baser cravings in my soul are stilled,

That I may better serve my fellow men.
Lord, so let grace and love within me shine
That life and song may both alike be Thine.

D. L.

Spring Grove, Greenfield, Yorks.
(Written in 1898).



Pieces marked * are reprinted from " Warty Rhymes."


Preface v.

Introductory Memoir xiii.


The Poet 3


New Year Thoughts 4

Springtime 5

The Birth of Spring 5

The Earth and the Sun .N 6

A Lesson from the Birds 6

A Sabbath Walk in Spring 7

A Foretaste of Summer 8

To May 9

To June 9

*A Summer Sketch 10

Summer's Dead i o

Autumn 1 1

*Autumn Leaves 12

An Autumn Evening Scene 13

Withered Leaves 14


Hie to the Fields 15

To an Early Primrose 16

To a Lark 16

In Leafy Glade 17

A Quiet Spot 17

The Sun and the Cloud 18

How Fair is Earth 18

* The Mower 19

The Storm God 19

Address to the Sun 21

*To a Mountain Stream 22

Between Two Hills : 23




A Picture 24

*To Greenfield 24

*My Native Hills 26

A Sunset Thought 27

A Sabbath Afternoon among the Hills 28

The Works of God 29


*Old Joe 30

The Lifeboat Crew 31


Love 33

Where Two Streams Meet 33

A Summer Memory 34

I Still Remember Thee 35

*A Night Thought 36

A Mother's Prayer 36

'A Mother to Her Child 37

Home 38

Little Feet 38

Woman 39

Left Alone 40

Estranged 41

Watching 42

Love and Lust 43


Brother Britons 44

Come and Join Us 45

Banish the Curse 46

Life's Purpose 47

England, Rouse Thee ! 47

Don't Despise a Fallen Brother 48

O Say not Labour is a Curse 50

Who are the Poor ? 52

A Toiler's Song 53

A Voice said "Cry!" 54

Let's Live for One Another 55

Co-operators, Lead the Way ! 55



REVEILLE continued. PACE

To Give is to Live 57

To Give is to Gain 58

A Voice from the Loom 58

The Irish Peasant's Prayer 60


Come we, Father, in child fashion 62

God in Whom we live and move 63

God of Mercy, Truth, and Love 64

Great God, beneath Whose chastening hand 64

Great God, Who rules all human things 65

Great King of Nations, hear us 66


The Passing of Victoria 68

William Ewart Gladstone 69

Mrs. W. E. Gladstone 71


Brierley, Ben 72

Clegg, John Trafford 72

Laycock, Samuel 73

Prince, John Critchley 73

Stead, William Thomas 74

Thornton, Edwin 75


Owen, Robert 76

Pioneers, O Pioneers! 76

Holyoake, George Jacob 77

Mitchell, J. T. W.~ 78

Neale, E. Vansittart 79

Pitman, Henry 80

ShiUito, John 80


Bradbury, Ralph Thomas 81

Buckley, Harold 81

Cheetham, Rev. J 82

Green, Rev. Canon T 83

Noble, John Wood 84

Platt, Owen, J.P 84

On My Thirty-fifth Birthday 85




On My Fiftieth Birthday 86

These Fifty Years 87

Wesley's Prayer Room 88

To My Elder Son 89

Castleshaw Roman Camp 89

Jubilee Day: A Meditation on Pots and Pans Hill 90

To the Millgate Monthly 92

To the Co-operative News Congress Daily 92

The New Comet, 1910 93

Peace, 1902 94


*Give Me Some Thoughts of Thee 95

As a Child 96

'Twas Night 97

God's Time is Best 99

Unrest i oo

Forgotten Days 101

I Thank Thee, Father * 102

Sabbath on the Mount 104

How Weak We Are 105

Conscience 106

Our Angel Guard 107

Our Life 108

Man was not Made to Mourn 109

*Live Well To-day no

To-day in

Lift Up Thy Head 112

*Be Not Dismayed 113

Light at Eventide 114

Soul Imprisoned 115

Our Father 116

A Prayer for England 116

Day Dreaming 117

The Creator's Care 118

Is There a God? , 118

*A Lesson from the Loom 119

Fai th 119

*Hope 121

Charity 121




Trust 122

Work 122

Men Do Not Know 123

We Need Thy Chastening Hand 123

Wouldst Thou Know Christ ? 124

In Our Gethsemane 124

The World's a Wide Exchange 125

The Multitude 125

The Angel Pain 126

Light for To-day 127

Light ! .' 128

Our Inner Life 128

Earth and Heaven 129

Death 130


*On the Delph Wesleyan Chapel Fire 133

*Forty Yers Sin 134

*Eawt o' Wark 137

*Whot's Become o' th' Owd Trade ? 138

There's a Touch o' Good in Us O 139

*On Sam Laycock's Birthplace 141

*Spoil't wi' Choice 142

*Ther's noa good i' fratchin' 144

*Foo's 147


Th' Owd Weighvur's Visit to King Edward VII 155

Ab-o'th'-Yate an* th' Queen's Monnyment 160

Th' Owd Weighvur at Owd Ab's Monnyment

Visit 1 165

Visit II 167

Visit III 171

Centenary of Ebenezer Congregational Church, Uppermill 175

Alice Wood's Mistake

Chapter 1 180

Chapter II 184

Chapter III 186




Eliza's Secret

Chapter 1 189

Chapter II , 192

A Village " Nowt "-

Chapter 1 197

Chapter II 204

Cupid in a Counting-house 208

A Witch i' Clogs 212

Love in a Loomgate

Chapter 1 219

Chapter II 223

Nobbut a Weighvur 227

Sam o' Joe's on Religious Foo's 233

Honest Jack 237


A Prayer for the Time 243

Th' Owd Weighvur's Kersmas Chat wi' King Edward's Ghost, 1915 244

In British Fields 247

Be Confident 247

List of Subscribers 249



A the moment Puritanism lies under a cloud. Possibly
in the rebound from the present over-laxity the social
and moral pendulum may swing that way again. Such
reaction would certainly be welcome if it resulted in the
creation of such home influences as surrounded the early years
of the subject of this sketch, David Lawton.

His father, Edwin Lawton, senior, was born at Fairbanks,
and his mother, Charlotte (nee Schofield, of Warlow Clough,
Greenfield), was a " Friezlonder." Grandfather Schofield was
a typical Puritan, whose chief reading was the Bible, Baxter's
Saints' Everlasting Rest, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, and
devotional books. The old gentleman's early influence over
the future poet was great, and perhaps here we are at the
source of the earnest aim so evident in all that he wrote. No
need to ask if he believed in poetry with a purpose !

It should not be inferred, however, that his parents
influence was passive or negligible far from it. They had
character, and, considering the opportunities of their generation,
they were well educated, and right to the end of their days
were able to enjoy the very best our English literature affords.
But books were dear, and hand-loom weavers' wages low, in
the middle of the nineteenth century in Greenfield.

Boarshurst, Greenfield, was their residence on January
26th, 1851, when the first son, David, was born; his brother
Samuel being born some four years later. Though it was a
home of poverty, the mother was of the type able to make
nineteen shillings do the work of a pound, and so the two
boys were reared respectably, and taught to read and write.
At the same time it was necessary that they should " larn to
addle ther meyt," and " into the woollen " the boys went as
soon as they were big enough.

The reign of the cottage industry did not finally wane in
Greenfield till thirty or forty years ago, power-looms and



hand-looms existing side by side for many years. There was
no legislation covering home industries in the 'fifties and
'sixties, so the working day was rather long, judged by
present-day standards. From six or seven in the morning till
eight at night was the common practice, and till tea or
baggin' time on Saturdays.

Notwithstanding all the drawbacks, memories of those
days were happy. There was not the rigidity of relationship
between employer and employee that now obtains; and if
the rewards were scanty they were more equally apportioned
(locally) as between profits and wages. There was scope for
craftsmanship, too, and father and son were both justifiably
proud of their workmanship and craft.

As the cottage industry waned and yielded place to the
factory system the son found it necessary to change with the
times, and for a few years experienced the doubtful blessings
of the factory system. In early manhood he worked at Song
Mill, Delph; later, at the Cambrian Mills, Newtown; at Oak
View Mills, Greenfield; and, lastly, as overlooker at Messrs.
Bottomley's Greenfield Mills, till the stoppage of that firm in
the 'eighties.

Almost in each case of change a spell of unemployment
was experienced, and his dialect poem, " Eawt o' Wark,"
though written long afterwards, may be taken as recording
his memories of these periods.

After learning at home all that his father and mother could
teach him, his thirst for knowledge impelled him to seek
other teachers, and he became one of a band of day pupils
at Boarshurst School until he was about 13 or 14 years
of age. This was supplemented by attendance at evening
classes at the Mechanics' Institute, Uppermill. As a
youth he acquired a knowledge of Pitman's shorthand, and
was one of the earliest teachers of that subject in Saddle-
worth. Making all due acknowledgments, it may be fairly
said that he was self-taught, for the larger and better part
of his education was that gained by himself in trying to teach
others. Many clever people pour scorn upon mutual improve-
ment societies as being hotbeds of " mutual admiration," but



working people who have personal acquaintance with these
aids to culture know what a great factor they have often
proved in training men for public life. A list of the topics he
handled would astonish the reader, for there was scarcely a
literary society in the district to which he did not pay regular
visits during the last forty years of his life. During the lives
of the Saddleworth Literary and Philosophical Society and the
Saddleworth United Mutual Improvement Society he was an
active and interested member. He was always learning, and
always eager to assist others to knowledge. Each of the many
papers read by him was the outcome of exhaustive preparation
and careful revision, so that his mind became exceptionally
well stored and ready.

As the son of an ardent teetotaller and pioneer Rechabite,
it was to be expected in his youth and early manhood, when
temperance agitation was more in evidence than at present,
that he should be an earnest and enthusiastic temperance
worker. He and a few others were responsible for carrying
on a temperance society in Court Street, Uppermill, and all
his life he was a temperance advocate, contributing sketches,
model addresses, verses, and dialogues to the principal
temperance periodicals. In later life the lack of balance
shown by some intemperate temperance men in Parliament
offended his common sense, his belief being that " half a
loaf is better than no bread," especially in politics.

Brought up as he was under Nonconformist and teetotal
traditions, his youth and early manhood were dominated
politically by Bright and Gladstone; but it was their high
moral temper, more than their policy, which won his allegiance,
for, while he was a hero-worshipper who would have satisfied
the soul of Thomas Carlyle himself, he would have said, with
Lowell, " I claim the right of knowing whom I serve." He
was one of the earliest members of Greenfield Liberal Club,
strengthening the hands of those who fought to keep it free
from the taint of intoxicants, and acting as treasurer for some
years immediately prior to his final breakdown.



While his Liberalism was consistent, he firmly held that
co-operators and trade unionists were entitled to direct
representation in Parliament, on the principle that " if you
want a thing done, do it yourself; if not, send." In this
connection it is noteworthy that at a conference of
co-operators, held at Higher Hurst, in the Prestwich
constituency, in November, 1899, he read a paper advocating
the direct representation of co-operators in Parliament and
on local public bodies, which paper had a cool reception.
Though laid aside by sickness during the Prestwich by-election
of January, 1918, he was deeply interested, and very shrewdly
estimated the result. Under the heading of " Reveille "
readers will find verses which plainly set forth his political
sympathies and beliefs.

His connection with Sunday School work was life-long.
As a boy he was connected with Ebenezer Congregational
Sunday School, Uppermill, and, except for a short tune spent
in Newtown, Mon., he was a life member of Ebenezer
Congregational Church. Early in the 'eighties, however, then
living at Hey Top, and the Greenfield Wesleyan School being
in need of help, he turned in to assist, and up to his last illness
took a class regularly. In July, 1913, a rather noteworthy
photograph was taken, consisting of a group of no less than
eight male teachers who had served terms of from 27 to 38
years without break in the same Sunday School. In passing,
it may be noted that father's death made the first break in
the group. He must have been a Sunday School teacher for
nearly fifty years.

While early teachings and influences left their impress,
his mind was too liberal and independent to be trammelled by
theological superstitions, no matter how venerable and
respectable. An inveterate and discriminating reader, he
thought for himself, and readers of his poems will find that
his creed may be reduced simply to a belief in the Fatherhood
of God, revealed to us through the life of Christ as recorded
in the New Testament; and, as a corollary, the Brotherhood
of Man, with all the duties and privileges involved in such
relationships. Those who knew him best will agree that in



religion he achieved at once breadth, depth, and simplicity
of ideas, manifested with great consistency in his life.

Like Holyoake, he might have said: " I have cared most
for co-operation." In January, 1887, the Greenfield Co-
operative Society decided to appoint a full-time secretary and
cashier, and from a number of applicants he was chosen.
Whilst in Newtown (1874-7), the place of Owen's birth and
death, he assisted at the forming of a co-operative society,
and made out its first annual return. The year 1879 saw him
back in Greenfield, acting first on the shops and hall com-
mittee (in May), and later on the general committee.
Appointed in 1895 on the Oldham District Conference Associa-
tion, he read for that body a baker's dozen of papers. As
secretary of the Greenfield Society he spent himself without
stint to serve his neighbours in all the varied ways open to an
official of a workers' organisation.

Education was taken up by the Greenfield Society in 1892,
and for the first session the secretary of the general committee
was secretary of the education department as well. Housing
schemes were initiated by the society in 1892, 1897, 1901, and
1909, and as he was an enthusiastic housing reformer it was
natural that a large share of the work fell to him. During
the year 1906 Greenfield Society celebrated its jubilee, and
one of the forms taken was the presentation to each member
of a copy of the history of the society. This he compiled,
giving it the title of Village Co-operation; and with its
illustrations of bygone worthies, giving honour where due,
it proved very acceptable.

Saddleworth has seven co-operative societies, and it was
one of his dreams to get them to amalgamate. A joint com-
mittee was formed in 1911, and ran a trip to Luton and
London, which trip was a great success from every point of
view; and in 1913 the "co-operation of co-operators" was
carried a step further by a joint issue of the localised magazine,
the Wheatsheaf, of which he was appointed editor.

Yet were not his activities or sympathies limited to
co-operation, for in 1904 he was co-opted to the Saddleworth



Sub-Committee of the West Riding Education Committee,
on which body he steadily served till his death; and in 1910
he was made a Justice of the Peace for the West Riding of

Fortunately for his editor, he was unlike many writers
methodical in filing and dating his pieces, so that there is little
doubt that his first poetic attempt was a hymn composed
and sung at the corner-stone laying of Ebenezer Chapel,
Uppermill, on April 27th, 1872; and his first appearance in
the weekly press was in the Oldham Chronicle of July 27th,
1872, with a poem " Passing Away," which he would not have
included in a later collection; but one piece of that period
was " My Native Hills," first written in August, 1873, which
stands in the present volume with very slight alteration.

His connection with the Oldham Chronicle lasted to the
end, and the Reporter of Ashton had an equal share of his
attention, contributions appearing in both papers regularly
for over forty years. Occasionally, too, the Herald (Ashton)
printed his poems and sketches.

It was to be expected that the co-operative press should
have a large share of his affectio.i. The Co-operative News
and Mitigate Monthly frequently accepted his poetry and
sketches; and he had the distinction of being one among two
or three local editors of the Wheatsheaf whose connection had
lasted from the inception of that magazine, in 1896, by the
Co-operative Wholesale Society, to his death.

Of his work in the dialect he was himself doubtful; yet
his Warty Rhymes (1894) was sold out in a very short time,
showing that his work had its admirers; and his " Owd
Weighvur " sketches, which took the form of a racy handling
of current topics in dialect, had a certain popularity and
occasionally drew sharp protests from anonymous letter

His personal relationships with Brierley and Laycock were
most cordial. With Trafford Clegg (" Owd Weighvur,"
Rochdale) he exchanged many letters; Waugh, I think, he
never met; but Laycock and he met occasionally, and had
the highest regard for each other. They were certainly very



similar in spirit and aim, however they might differ in ability
and popularity.

At the beginning of the present century, Dr. Joseph
Wright, of Oxford, brought out a Dialect Dictionary, and
the " dark and peculiar " words used by local weavers
furnished a rich mine, which was enthusiastically and
thoroughly worked by " Th' Owd Weighvur," whose assistance
was accepted and gratefully acknowledged by Dr. Wright
in his work.

Any attempt on my part to estimate his position in letters
would be out of place, and that task is left to others, though
with some confidence. One feature of his work merits a
remark, and that is his fondness for the sonnet. According to
Henry Morley, the true sonnet consists of two quatrains and
a sestet or two tercets. The Elizabethans, including Shake-
speare, did not observe this rigidly; and in the accompanying
pages interested readers may note that the fourteen-line
form is very varied in treatment, even where two or more
sonnets are utilised to make up one poem. Some of them have
been very much admired by competent critics.

One personal word may be allowed which is, that no
children could possibty desire a more ideal father. In all
his home relationships he was fortunate. His first marriage
was in August, 1875, to Esther Jane Haigh, of Uppermill,
who died after an all-too-brief married life; and in February,
1880, he married Mary Sykes, of Greenfield, who survives him.
For the last ten years his health had not been robust, following
on a breakdown early in 1908 ; but he had been able to maintain
his usual activities. The extra strain of the war, with its
many varied calls, and its depressing effect on his sensitive
nature, finally bore him down, and on October 2Oth, 1917,
he was taken with a seizure whilst at a committee meeting.
After a slight rally he gradually weakened, despite his ardent
desire to recover, until on April 2oth, 1918, he breathed his last
at his home, Spring Grove, Greenfield.

There now remains the very pleasant duty of thanking the
many friends whose sincere kindness has made this edition



possible; likewise the editors of the Oldham Chronicle,
Ashton Reporter, Ashton Herald, Co-operative News, and
Millgate Monthly for the privilege of reprinting pieces which
have appeared in their periodicals. If any rights have been
infringed, it has been done unwittingly, and I trust this
explanation will be accepted.

He had made a tentative collection of his pieces, with a
title and preface, which are here adopted; but his collection
has been extended and re-arranged, with the aim of making
it thoroughly representative. In treating the dialect the aim
has beer to make the spelling phonetic, without any unnecessary
departure from the accepted English spelling. Some critics
may smile at some of the pieces included, but neighbours
and friends will know the reason for their appearance, so the
critics may smile if they wish.

Like Milton's Samson (with one word altered), he may
now be left :

Nothing is here for tears ; nothing to wail
Or knock the breast; no weakness, no contempt,
Dispraise or blame ; nothing but well and fair,
And what may quiet us in a life so noble.

E. L.

NOTE. Those who find a difficulty in understanding the dialect would
be helped by consulting F. E. Taylor's Folk-speech of South Lancashire,
or, if near a good reference library, Dr. Joseph Wright's Dialect


I. Poems.



THE poet, who is he ? say whence he came ?

And who to him his wondrous art hath taught ?
Who lit his soul with bright celestial flame ?

And gave him words to speak his glowing thought ?

God gave the poet ; gave to him his theme,

Created him his purpose to fulfil ;
Unfolded things to him from Nature's scheme,

Bestowed upon his song its power to thrill.
And gave him ears to hear, and eyes to see,

What others hear, see, know not of at all ;
Then charged him thus, " My faithful servant be

Sing on until thou hear'st thy Master's call."

And so he sings the theme God gave to sing :
The beautiful and true in everything.

Webs from Fancy's Loom




ANOTHER chapter in life's book is sealed,
Another page has opened fresh and white,
And on its surface pure what we shall write
We cannot tell; the future's unrevealed,
And wisely from our anxious eyes concealed.
But we shall make it bad or good, at will,
Just as the moments given to us we fill ;
The seeds we sow decide our harvest yield :
Our words may die, our deeds immortal are,
And live to bless or curse us through the years,
To bring us joy, or fill our eyes with tears,
And all our hopes of coming brightness mar.
For what we do with good or ill is rife ;
Our present moulds the future of our life.

How all-important, then, that we should live,

So that our future must be filled with good,
A healthful influence round about us give,

A holy effluence from our souls enflood
The minds of those with whom we daily meet ;

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Online LibraryDavid LawtonWebs from fancy's loom; poems and sketches → online text (page 1 of 17)