traypsed off, muttering something that was lost in the torrent of his
wife's eloquence, she continued: "Aye, them men, it's a good job for em
they'n gotten us to look after em. But an yu heard what Betty Piers,
th' wise woman at Castle Mill, has brought on young Allcock; aye, but
it's woful work. Anner yu heard ; ay, well, well. Yu known, young
Jerry Allcock wanted Dolly Whitelegg, an her feyther wouldner let her
have him ; an Betty's a bit akin to the Whiteleggs, an it was thought
they'd paid her to frighten them off being wed, for Betty tould young
Allcock, says she: ' If thou wed her, thou'lt not bed her.' And he said
to Dolly, ' Necr heed her, her's nobbut an ould witch,' and he got
Dolly off to Stoppurt, and they got wed, and they went to ould John
32 THE WAKES.
Lingard's, o' the Ragged Mop an Rollin Pin, an when they was ridin
whome, just at Brinksway Bongs, wur th' watter crosses the road, his
horse stumblt an pitcht him on his ed, an he knockt his neck out an
wur jed afore they could stop him. So he'd wedded her, but he hadner
bedded her, just as ould Bet had said. Isner it awfu'?"
"Well, who'd a thot it, but they du some wonderfu things, that's
certain, though if haife one hears about em's true, as to turnin into cats,
an hares, an such like, the less honest folk has to do wi' em the better."
"Aye, but they do good sometimes. There's ould Bailey, of
Gatley, had a son who was laumt wi a bad hip, an he took him to ould
Betty, an she passed him through a young ash tree that she'd split up,
an she said aw manner o' wonderfu things o'er him, an then er bund up
th' ash plant, an as it grew up he grew up, an he got well agen."
"Well, when my Uncle Elijah had his daughters Rachel and
Rebecca badly, he took em to John o' th' Hill at Hale Barns, him as
makes coffins for far an near, for he's got second sight an can raise th'
devil if he likes ; an he said they wud ner dee, an they didn't, for
they'n living yet ; but when old Margery Pownall deed, he told her
mester when he was measuring her for her coffin that he'd measure him
for hissen at the same time, so as to save him coming again, an th' old chap
wur that feart that he took to his bed and deed straight off, an they wur
buryt thegither. They do say he makes coffins for folks unbeknownst
to them, so as they'll be handy like if they dee in a hurry."
"Then such like folk ought to be burnt alive or ducked in th'
watter till they are drownded," said an unbeliever, who had been
listening to the women's gossip.
THE WAKES. 33
" Oh, husht, man, or by the mass yo dunna know what may happen
to you," and most of the women broke into a sweat of clammy terror at
the thought of what might happen if the wizards or the wise women
heard such profanity and were to revenge themselves by bewitching
" I've another bit o' news as has happened since last Wakes time
to tell you ; dun you know they'n laid th' Gatley shouter at last, they
an for sure. Th' Gatley shouter, you know, was a spectre or boggut
that shouted at folk from among the tombs in Northen churchyard, and
along th' Carr Lane to Gatley. Mony folk and childer specially were
plaguey feart on him, so much so that they daresner go that way after
dark, and this new parson at Northen has played the hangment with
the ghoses ; he's laid em all over th' countryside, but he couldner lay th'
Gatley shouter. However, it's gotten done at last, and I'll tell thee how.
There was once a man of the name of Barrow at Cross Acre, an he were
very fond o' money, a regular ould skinflint ; he'd have fleyed two fleas
for one hide, an he griped an screwed ony road to get hold of ony
money, an he stuck to all as he could get. Well, at last he deed, an ould
Nick soon got him, an he warmt him, he did rarely, for he mit be heard
moaning, ' Milk short o' measure, butter short o' weight, oh, dear, oh,
dear;' then he'd cry out as old Scrat fettled him up a bit. Well, he
couldner rest in his grave in Northen churchyard, but mit be heard
moaning and crying all th' way to Gatley and back, and folk were
plaguey feart ; so th' parson got everyone as could read with their
bibles, and them as couldn't read but knew their prayers were to keep
on praying as hard as ever they could pray, an one neet at full moon
34 THE WAKES.
they spread emselves aw over th' countryside from Northen to Gatley,
and they kept drawing nigher in a circle, so as th' shouter couldn't pass
them, an at last they'd gotten him in a corner of th' churchyard by the
lane side and th' rectory garden, where there's a yew tree, an there they
pinned him in ; an th' parson whips out a bit of chalk and draws a holy
circle round th' place, and all th' folk join hands and read their bibles
out loud as hard as they can read, an t'others gabble desperately at their
prayers, an th' parson sings an shouts an hops about an bangs th' book,
an th' poor devil moans and groans, an jabbers an chunners, but they
fair bet him, an smothert him wi prayer, an th' devil was druv out o'
him, an now he let's him abide, an th' Gatley shouter's fairly laid."
Here is another bit of old-fashioned clack :
"Well, Meary, and how's Tummus?"
"Jed, thank ye."
" Lor a mercy, when did he dee?"
" Well, if he'd lived till to-morrow he'd a bin jed a fortnit."
" You dunna say ! Well, well, life's uncertain ; we are here to-day
and gone yesterday. What did he dee of?"
" He deed of a Toosday. You known he'd supped sorrow wi' a
spoon, and at last it pleased the Lord to take him, and now he's gone to
a better country. It's very sad, but we mun aw go sometime, for there
isn't a man in England will live for ever ; an they say as we'll be
happier there, though I'd as lief stop here for mysen."
" But yu anner said what carriet him off."
Oh, he'd bin ailing some time ; he wur moonstruck or he'd bin
witched ; he wur that lousy he wur welly smothert wi fleck, like them
THE WAKES. 35
Irishmen that comes at harvest tide. He'd bin to Stoppurt for a load o'
muck some years sin, an he wur market fresh and laid on top o' th' muck
i' th' cart fast asleep, an th' horse an cart an him wur out i' th' lone aw
neet, an th' moon shone on him and he wur moonstruck. They mostly
go lousy when they are like yon, an he wur covert wi em, big uns wi
stripes on their backs like rodey bacon, rodey backed uns I caws em ;
they fair swarmt. An then he wur bothert wi lawyers an constables,
an they are wur than fleck. He'd a neighbour, but I'll not mention no
names, who'd bin takin a bit of his dole an trespassin on him, an it wur
very aggeravatin ; so he seed 'torney Broome, an 'torney Broome aksed
for a guinea fore he'd do annythin; so he says to Broome, says he,
" I anner money to spare, but I'll have the law o' yon ould skinflint as
far as a guinea '11 go, but no farther, so yu mun get what yu can off him
for th' guinea," and he tells him his tale. Then 'torney Broome tells
him that "mony a man had gotten hanged on th' gibbet for less than yon
had done, but he'd fettle him ;" so he pocketed th' guinea and sent him
law, but he neer heard no more about it, an couldna do. Th' lawyers
will have holt, an th' parsons are ner much better ; they tell us now th'
law makes us bury i' woollen shrouds, an guineas an fees are ner so
easily gotten nowadays by poor folk, or gentlemen poor folk either for
the matter o' that. My old fayther used to say if you sue a beggar
you'd catch a louse, an he wur reet. Guineas take a deal o' scrattin for,
an it's no use being hurrysome, we'n aw to wait till th' watter comes,
we have for sure. It's very hard on lone folk, an things is moythersome.
Now, a drop o' mulled ale wi a bit o' nutmeg grated on it would be
comfortin like, would ner it?"
36 THE WAKES.
"Well, I don't mind if I do, bein as it's wakes time. I'm rayther partial
to toast an swig, an happen we may get a bit o' toasted cheese too."
The above interesting conversations, and sundry others of similar
type, are supposed to have taken place on the ale bench of the inn or on
the village green of Didisburye, where the wakes were in full swing. The
lanes, the roadsides, and the adjoining fields were covered with booths,
tents, shows, carts tilted up, travelling vans, gipsy encampments, &c.
The horse races were held on the Sandlands, the foot races on the High
Street, and the prison bars and other similar games down Stenner Lane,
in the Withy Ley. The booths and vans contained various curiosities,
such as living skeleton's, two-headed girls, fat women, hairy dwarfs, &c.
A giant, described as being like Goliath of Gath, ten feet high, with a
weaver's beam for the shaft of his spear, was in one caravan. If some
local Thomas a Didymus, being hard of belief, asked how the giant
could stand up when the van was not ten feet high, he would be told to
pay his money and walk up, and he would find the giant lying down
inside; how could they have the vans made so high they would not go
under the trees. Country lads trying which could eat the most treacle
dumpling had a rare treat. Ducking in a tub of water for apples with
their hands tied behind them was rather washy amusement, with not
much substance in it. There was more solidity in having a good drink
of buttermilk, and then swallowing a small new potato, and listening
for the splash of the potato in the buttermilk. Bull-baiting and bear-
baiting were called merry disports, and were very fashionable.
The bull was tethered to a very strongly fastened ring in the green,
near where the present lamp is now (it is probable some of the strong
THE WAKES. 37
timbers are still in the ground), then dogs were set on it. If a dog
could pin the bull by the nose and hold on, he was a good one, but
even then he might get tossed in the air, whereupon the spectators would
try to catch the dog and save its fall.* The whole sport was rather
unfair to the bull, but if he got loose he could soon mend matters.
The bear-baiting is best described in the following account of the
manner in which certain English princesses were diverted after hearing
mass: "The princesses were highly diverted with the baiting of bears,
tempered with other merry disports. The bears were fastened behind,
and worried with great English mastiffs, but not without risque to the
dogs. It was a sport very pleasant to see the bear with his pink eyes
learing after his enemies, ... by what shift with biting, with
clawing, with roaring, with tossing, with stumbling, he would work and
wind himself from them, and, when he was loose, to shake his ears
twice or thrice, with the blood and the slaver hanging about his
physiognomy." Very nice amusement for young ladies after hearing
mass. But we loathe such brutality; let ours be
The joy that soldiers feel,
When meeting foemen worthy of their steel.
Neither King nor Parliament can make two cocks fight unless
the cocks wish to fight; they like it just as Christians and Christian
nations are sometimes fond of a bit of fighting, and for hundreds of
years cock-fighting was one of the commonest and most popular sports
* It is only a few years since a man died at Northen who had a good dog tossed in this
manner and caught, but it died, whereupon he broke out into weeping, and declared he would
sooner have lost his wife.
38 THE WAKES.
in England. At Didisburye, as an old man expressed it, "there was
nowt else; all as some folk cairt for wur cocking." (He had probably
forgotten for the moment the drinking.) "The Cock" was one of the
most popular signs for a village inn, and its brazen effigy was generally
exalted above the highest pinnacles of the churches.
At the village wakes men might be seen coming from all parts with
bags in their hands, each bag holding a cock. Other men were carefully
weighing the cocks, and noting down their weights in ounces. The old
cockers were most particular as to the artificial spurs and the straps for
fastening them securely to the legs of the cocks, the " heeling " being a
very important matter, for if the spurs got loose or bent in the fight
they could not then be altered, and the cock was at a great disadvan-
tage. Others were in corners, letting the cocks have a preliminary
sparring match on loose straw. These cocks had boxing gloves over
their spurs and feet, and were dumped down on the straw opposite to
one another, and snatched up again before any injury could be ,done.
This improved their science, and developed their wind and agility.
Others were feeding their cocks with mysterious compounds, such as
horehound and ginger; some had secret mixtures that were supposed
to be of inestimable value, almost good enough to make a dead cock
crow. As a rule, the cocks lived far better than their owners, and were
surfeited with good food; for in those days to live like a fighting cock
was synonymous with everything that was extravagant in good living.
To be "as drunk as a lord" was the height of some people's ambition,
while others would prefer to " live like a fighting cock."
A main of cocks between two counties or parishes caused intense
THE WAKES. 39
enthusiasm, and here was Lancashire against Cheshire, or, as the
natives expressed it, Didisburye agen Stoppurt an Cheddle. This was
the culminating point of the fun of the fair of the spree of the whole
year. Here was all the country side with his wife a shouting, roaring
crowd. Here were Sir John Bland of the Hough, Tattons of Wythen-
shawe, Blomeleys by the dozen from all over the parish, Chorletons
from the old hall, Chorletons from Grundy Hill, ffletchers from the
Wood House, ffletchers from the Yeld House, ffletchers from the old
fold, Rudds from the Broad Oak, Rudds from the Lum, Langfords
from Withington, Garnetts from the Moor-side, Worsleys from the
Moss-side, Smiths from the Boat, Hudsons from top o' th bank,
Gooldens from the Pars fold, Byrches from the Tythe barn, Byrches
from Rushulme, Syddalls from Slate, Barlowes, Booths, Bayleys,
Brookes, Bancrofts, Boardmans, and Brundretts. Here were repre-
sented the old local families of Hoult, Hough, Henshaw, Heggen-
botham, Hesketh, Hampson, Cash, Chetham, Dean, Gresty, Gaskill,
Goodyear, Linney, Mosseley, Thorniley, Rogers, Rydings, Worthington,
Wrenshawe, Wood, &c. The clerk Woods, as hereditary clerks of the
parish, naturally acted as clerks at the cockpit. They kept the accounts
and managed the business of the meeting, while the parson took the
dignified position of referee.*
The yard of the Cock Inn, especially about the cockpit, was
* There are men living now who have been with parsons to cockfights, and within the
last thirty years an old man named Charley Jones, who used to teach boxing, told me that in
his youth he had fought a prize fight on Lindow Common, and the parson at Mobberley had
been the referee.
40 THE WAKES.
crowded with a pushing struggling mob of cockers from all parts. "Men
fra Rachdale, fra Yarkshire," even from Cumberland and the Lake
country. Staffordshire and Shropshire sent their representatives. All
were intent and eager upon the merits of their respective fancies, and all
shouted and yelled in the dialect of the district from whence they came.
Here were men with faces like foxes, like rats, like owls, like hawks, or
like ravens. The very dogs with their masters looked in some cases to
be the superior animal of the two. They also went in and out, up and
down, making new friends, and talking of auld lang syne in their doggy
way. On all sides resounded the war cry, the shrill clarion, of the
crowing cocks ; for most of them their last hour was at hand, for the
main to-day has to be fought out to the bitter end.
In the usual mode of cock fighting each cock fought once, and the
event was decided by the majority of wins ; but in a Welsh main, or
one to be fought outright, the survivors of each side were pitted against
one another again and again, until all the cocks of one side were dead
or disabled. This latter mode was obviously more bloody and extreme,
but it suited the fiercer and more determined spirits among the men.
Some cocks would be found that after winning their first battle in good
style would lose their pluck, go stiff on their joints, and refuse to fight
again. Others would keep game to the death, and fight on as required
and as long as there was life in them. All sorts and all colours were
allowed, but the weights were restricted to between three pounds six
ounces and four pounds eight ounces. The cocks were matched against
others of similar weights on the opposite side. If any were of extreme
weights they had to be kept in reserve. After many and various
THE WAKES. 41
smaller fights and fencings the great main of the day came on for
decision. Sixteen cocks a side, to be " foughten out betwixt Stopput
an Cheddle agen Didisburye." At last they get to work, amid breath-
less excitement. The first cock for Didisburye is a yellow pile called
Bonnie Prince Charlie. The piles are the showiest and perhaps the
handsomest of game fowls, the cocks having cream-coloured bodies
with dark red saddles on the back and golden yellow legs. Bonnie
Prince Charlie looked every inch a king, but he was more for show
than work, for, after several quick springs at one another, with feints
or blows, the rapier-like spur of his adversary pierced his brain, and
Bonnie Prince Charlie lay dead. Another and another of the gorgeous
piles shared the same fate, and the Didisburye men waxed wroth as they
thought the battle was going against them, and they said hard words of
their Tory neighbours, who fancied light-coloured cocks, as they sported
the white cockade of the Stewarts. Then comes a Stopput cock who
won't fight ; he objects upon principle, and runs round the pit.
"Aye, mester, yon cock wunner feght; screw his neck."
" Mak him into soup, with a honyon or two, an a bit o' parsley."
Amid a chorus of howls and taunts the cock's neck was screwed
and another produced. Gingers, mealys, duns, brassy-blacks, and
duckwings oppose one another, but the battle goes sore against Didis-
burye, and after the first round has been fought out it is found that ten
battles have been lost, and there are only six winners left for the next
round to oppose the ten on the Cheshire side.
" We mun keep us peckers up," says an old cocker, whose eyes are
like the eyes of hawks, and whose jaws shut together like the jaws of
42 THE WAKES.
a rat trap. " Oursen are aw black reds that are left ; happen we'll win
yet. There's time for a quart apiece. We mun keep th' cocks' feet
warm, they canner feght wi cold feet ; and dunner let em get stiff,
there'll be some skreiking next round, see if there isner."
After a short interval for refreshments, the next round is begun, six
cocks on one side (one of them having had an easy win), ten cocks on
the other side, four of them having to be kept in reserve. This time the
fighting is different ; many of the cocks have not the same agility they
had before ; they have gone stiff, some have been wounded, some have
lost blood, and some have lost pluck, which is worse. The black red
cocks of South Lancashire are always noted for their staying powers;
they are also rather heavier than the birchin, greys, duckwings, or lighter
coloured cocks, and weight tells more as the fighting is at closer
quarters, and the lighter ones are knocked out. Round the second:
first cock for Cheddle funks and squorks, which, being translated from
the language of the vernacular, means he is afraid, and shouts out with
a peculiar hoarse frightened cry. His opponent makes a dash at him,
as he turns to fly, and just strikes him with the spur where his tail joins
on to his back. Well-bred cocks, like well-bred men, do not present a
certain part of the body to either friend or foe. With two more
Cheshire cocks it is all up but shouting, and their opponents, who win
so easily, are warmed and flushed with victory, and, therefore, in rare
fettle to tackle the reserves.
The end of round the second shows every cock has fought twice, a
few of them three times, and there are five left on each side out of the
original sixteen on each side.
THE WAKES. 43
Now the odds are even again and the excitement increases ; the
crowd gets denser round the cockpit ; there is always most thrutching
where there's least room. Men swear at one another, call one another
condemned beggars, or something similar, use cursory and sanguinary
language, and from words very soon get to blows. Fighting is
contagious ; it rouses the fierce passions of the men, and makes them
A DESCENDANT OF THE GLADIATORS.
Sketched by the Author from life ; the breed having been in his family for at least a hundred years.
wish to fight as well as their cocks, and fight they do on the smallest
provocation. There is just time for another quart a piece, and then the
climax to the great struggle, the fighting it out to the death. There are
five cocks left in on each side, but how many will stand up for the third,
fourth, or fifth time in one day, with bloody spur and beak, face to face
with death if they do, they are game indeed. They are all good cocks
now, that have won at least twice, and they will be reserved for breeding
44 THE WAKES.
if they survive ; they can run if they like, there's no compulsion, but none
do so. Spur wounds and bruises, with stiffening joints and loss of blood,
have not cooled their pluck. They are game indeed, but the fighting is
slower and more dogged ; there is not the lightning-like thrust of the
rapier spur at the adversary's head ; there is not the same quick springing
in the air, aiding the spur with all the power of the wing. The clever
dodging and quick rallies are slower ; there is more standing and
hammering at one another's heads with the beak ; sometimes a bird is
clearly thrown on the ground with its adversary on its back. The spur
may be plunged in the adversary's body and entangled there. Eyesight
is going and heads are swelling, the cocks are getting blind and peck at
anything or nothing, but still they fight on, until in some cases they
cannot stand or see ; they can only peck at random. The end may not
be yet, for the other cocks may be like them, but the scene becomes
revolting, and we may take it for granted that they die game and that
Didisburye must win, as the lighter Cheshire cocks are being gradually
knocked out of time.
Now arises another commotion in the innyard, drawing the atten-
tion of the spectators even from the all-absorbing cockpit. Who or what
in the name of fortune is this ? Here is a big burly man on horseback,
with the corpse of another man thrown across the saddle in front of
" Here's old Isaac Wood I've found drownded in the ford ; will
some of you take him ?" said the rider.
" Tak him yo sen," said one.
" What'st fot im ere for?" said another.
THE WAKES. 45
" Tak im where you fun him, we dunner wanten him here."
"What'st tu stopping th' cock feght for, mon? We wanten no
dead uns here, there's dead uns enoo."
" Take him, or I'll swot him down," roars out the rider.
" We shanner ; ta im off wi thee."
" Then here goes, I'll swot him, and if th' crowner wants me he
knows where to find me," said the rider, as he "swot" the corpse down,
and with a heavy thud it fell on the ground.*
The crowd gathered round the fallen body, making various remarks
and conjectures about it, until at last it became evident it must be put
somewhere; but there was the difficulty, the inn was full. The law has
* About the time of which I write, my great grandfather, Thomas Moss, of Meece, when
riding through a ford, found the body of an old friend of his named Isaac Peter Wood. He got
the body over the pommel of his saddle and rode off with it, but no one would take the body
from him, and no one, not even Wood's relations, would have anything to do with it. Men
were quickly hanged in those days, and often on bare suspicion, so the affair might have become
serious. There was also the difficulty of carrying the body of a big man in wet clothes, and he
carried it for over three miles. The horse would certainly not like the strange burden. In
that predicament he rode into an inn yard, where they also refused to take the corpse ; but an
inn yard is the proper place for dead bodies found in country districts, and there he said, " If
you don't take him, I'll swot him down," and as no one would take him he swot him and left
him. The expression of " swot him down " helped the incident to be long remembered in the
families of the two men ; and as my grandfather, the son of one of them, reared twelve children,
nearly all of whom lived to old age, none of them, men or women, being under five feet six in