REV. M. C. F. MORRIS, B.C.L., M.A.
SOMETIME RECTOR OF NUNBURNHOLME, YORKSHIRE
AUTHOR OF ' YORKSHIRE FOLK-TALK '
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
LONDON EDINBURGH GLASGOW COPENHAGEN
NEW YORK TORONTO MELBOURNE CAPE TOWN
BOMBAY CALCUTTA MADRAS SHANGHAI
PRINTED IN ENGLAND
AT THE OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
BY FREDERICK HALL
BEFORE issuing this volume I could wish to have
re-written several, if not all, of the sections. This, how-
ever, would have taken a considerable time, and at my
period of life one may not venture to presume upon the
future. I can only feel deeply thankful for the measure
of health and strength I have enjoyed which has enabled
me, however imperfectly, to carry out an idea which
I had long entertained.
If some pages of these Reminiscences appear to deal
with trivialities, we must remember that life is of
necessity largely made up of inconsiderable matters.
Moreover, the volume is not intended for serious reading.
If it proves a means for beguiling a few winter evenings
or summer holiday hours, it will have accomplished its
I should have included in these pages other remini-
scences connected with my father when he was Rector
of Nunburnholme ; but these have already appeared in
the Memoir of him entitled Francis Orpen Morris, which
I wrote not long after his death in 1893.
The arrangement of the sections of this volume is
unmethodical, except that Chapters I XII are, roughly
* speaking, in chronological order.
I must make my grateful acknowledgements to Lady
Sykes of Sledmere for giving information concerning the
activities of her late lamented husband, Sir Mark Sykes,
in connexion with the East Riding Waggoners' Reserve ;
and to Mr. H. Thelwell of the same place for supplying
me with a complete list of the churches built or restored
by the late Sir Tatton Sykes.
I am also under obligation to the Editor of the York-
shire Weekly Post for enabling me through the columns
of that publication to refresh my memory on certain
Cricketing Notes which appeared in them many years
ago, as well as to make use of a few paragraphs which
were new to me.
M. C. F. MORRIS.
I. EARLY YEARS ..... i
II. RAILWAYS 15
III. NAFFERTON 23
IV. SCHOOL DAYS 38
V. OXFORD 59
VI. TUTORSHIPS 74
VII. ST. MICHAEL'S, TENBURY ... 85
VIII. DIOCESAN INSPECTION .... 100
IX. NEWTON ON OUSE .... 121
X. PETER THE POACHER .... 143
XI. WILLIAM KINGSLEY .... 154
XII. NUNBURNHOLME 172
XIII. RELIGION ON THE WOLDS . . . 191
XIV. THE SYKES FAMILY .... 212
XV. THE TICHBORNE CASE .... 237
XVI. THREE YORKSHIRE PARSONS . . . 243
XVII. VISITS TO DENMARK .... 260
XVIII. OUR FOLK-SPEECH \ 279
XIX. COMPARISONS 300
XX. MISCELLANEOUS 318
XXI. LITERARY ODDMENTS .... 337
MY memory carries me back to the early Victorian
days ; to the days of turnpikes, flails, lucifer matches,
and ramrods, and people of my time of life have probably
seen greater changes in this and other countries than have
ever before been known. We are living in another world
from that of my boyhood. The previous generation
witnessed a revolution by the Reform Act of 1832, the
repeal of the Corn Laws, and the introduction of railways ;
but much more has happened since then to revolutionize
the country through the spread of education, the develop-
ment of electricity, wireless telegraphy, and the invention
of motor-cars, even down to the fateful year 1914 ; while
the social and economic upheavals that have resulted
from the World War have tended greatly to intensify
It has been the fashion of the younger generation to
vilify the Victorian era, and to regard it as a period of
intolerable slowness, stiffness, and dullness. There may
be elements of truth in that opinion ; but at all events,
we older stagers are able to retort that our juniors have
not had personal experience of the earlier days of Queen
Victoria, of glorious memory ; they can only go by what
they hear and read, which is often one-sided testimony.
Those who have lived through two generations are at
least in a better position to judge between the two than
those who have lived through only one. I am no blind
' laudator temporis acti ' ; I can see the defects and the
advantages of the past as well as of the present generation.
There are pros and cons in everything. Whether our
country on the whole has progressed, and is a better place
2 EARLY YEARS
to live in than it was in the days of my boyhood depends
upon what we mean by progress. That it is better in
many respects is obvious enough ; but the present outlook
is not altogether reassuring. It is a delusion with many
to suppose that as time goes on the country is continually
progressing or growing better. Unfortunately, it is the
same with countries as with individuals in this, that it
does not necessarily follow that because a man grows older
he must be growing better. Common experience and past
history show us plainly the fallacy of these suppositions.
There are those who make use of the word ' Progressive '
as a party designation. It is, no doubt, a captivating
term ; and it is also a delusive one. But I have no desire
here to discuss the merits or otherwise of party badges
Though not born there, my earliest recollections are con-
nected with Nafferton, a large village near Driffield in the
East Riding, of which parish my father was Vicar for about
seven years. The name is a curious one, and may possibly
be derived from the numerous springs which gush out of
the chalk in several places in and near the village, and
especially at one end of the large pond in the middle of it,
which adds greatly to the picturesqueness of the place, and
it was a delight to me, as a small boy, to watch the water,
as clear as crystal, bubbling up out of the ground. The
village in those days was, and still is, a bright and cheerful
one, and my recollections of it are of the happiest kind,
although it had at one time its stocks near the foot of the
steps from the Town Street to the church-yard gate, and
its black-hole a short way beyond a terror to the unruly.
The old church steps are now gone, and an easier road
made for the aged and infirm a gain as far as convenience
goes, but a loss in appearance. The stocks too have been
done away with, and I think had fallen into disuse, if not
decay, before I can remember.
We were a large family, eight in all, and my mother's
time was very fully occupied ; for, besides her family and
EARLY YEARS 3
household occupations, she had many duties to perform
devolving upon the wife of a parish priest ; but we had
a most excellent nurse, and to her charge I was very
largely entrusted. She was a middle-aged woman, and had
a delightfully soft and mellifluous voice, which for me,
even at that early age, had a great attraction. She was
a thorough Yorkshirewoman, as her speech betokened,
being a native of Habton in the Vale of Pickering, where
our dialect is spoken with great purity. She did not speak
the language with any degree of broadness, but her vowel-
sounds and cadences had the true ring, and sounded like
music in my ears. As she walked through the streets
and lanes about the village, she often had a word with
a passer-by in their vernacular, so that from my earliest
years I was accustomed to the tones and expressions of
our Doric ; and I am convinced that at the age of seven
or eight it would have come as naturally to me to speak
it as ordinary English. This affection for the traditional
speech, no doubt from old associations, has clung to me
all through my life. I shall have occasion to revert to
it at a later page.
Servants like our old nurse, Isabella Walkington, are
not to be met with in these days. She was as one of the
family, and absolutely trustworthy. She was a bit super-
stitious, and I believe always carried about her person
certain small pieces of bone or other articles which were
supposed to act as prophylactics against ailments of
various kinds. Had I then been competent to do so
I have no doubt one could have extracted from her many
curious old 4 saws ' and bits of folk-lore, which would
have been interesting.
Perambulators at that time of day were quite unknown
to me : young children had to walk, or be carried by
nursemaids. This was good for the development of the
limbs, and early accustomed them to man's natural exer-
cise. The only advantage of perambulators is that they
save those in charge of children a considerable amount of
4 EARLY YEARS
labour. Soon after their introduction Punch drew atten-
tion to their unpopularity with pedestrians in London,
and especially with those of the ' masher ' tribe ; this,
I remember, formed the subject of one of Leech's inimi-
table sketches, entitled ' Grand charge of the perambu-
lators and defeat of the swells ', where one or two of
those gentry are depicted with expressions of disgust and
contempt on their countenances on having to make way
for these new-fangled monstrosities ; and even to this
day they are a great nuisance as in their daily perambula-
tions they encumber the footways of every town in the
My early training in walking was to me of the greatest
value, and has stood me in good stead all my life through ;
for not only was I made accustomed to it when in charge
of my old nurse, but also later, when accompanying my
father in his many walks about his parish, and on entomo-
logical excursions beyond it. His powers as a pedestrian
were certainly remarkable. Lithe in build, or ' lingy ',
as we term it in Yorkshire, he seemed made for quick
walking, and nothing ever tired him ; moreover, these
powers were kept up till far advanced in life. I have
known him walk fourteen miles before breakfast, and when
he reached home he said he was neither hungry, thirsty,
nor tired. It may be imagined, therefore, what I, as
a small boy of eight years or so, had to endure. He was
quite merciless, for he never slackened his pace, unless it
were for a few minutes at your entreaty. But these walks
with my father were a good training for me in more ways
than one ; for he was a great observer of Nature, and
especially of bird life ; so that I learnt thus early not
only that the feet were made for walking, but also the
eyes for seeing.
It is remarkable how this early training of the eye can
be developed, and become like a second nature. Even
to this day a bird or a butterfly cannot come across my
field of vision without my noticing it. Children miss
EARLY YEARS 5
a great deal if they are not taught to be observant of
Nature ; and educationalists now realize this.
One of my greatest delights was accompanying my
father on fishing expeditions, a sport of which he was
specially fond, and in which, it may be added, he excelled.
Within easy reach of Nafferton are two noted trout
streams ; one about three miles distant near Driffield,
the fishing rights of which are vested in a club of limited
membership : the other is known as the Lowthorpe stream,
lying two miles away in the opposite direction. The
fishing there was in private hands, and belonged to Mr. St.
Quintin, as it now does to his son. Than this latter there
are few, if any, better trout streams in England.
Fishing was not nearly so much sought after in the early
fifties as it is now, and my father was fortunate enough
to have permission given him to fish in the Lowthorpe
stream whenever he liked. But though, as I said, he
was so devoted to the gentle art, he was far too busy
a man to be able to avail himself very often of this privi-
lege, especially in his later years at Nafferton ; but when-
ever these occasions for a day off did present themselves
they were always times of intense enjoyment.
Being deft with his fingers my father made his own
flies, and occasionally a fishing rod, and when he went to
Lowthorpe to fish he generally did so by train. The line
from Hull to Scarborough had only been made a short
time when he went to Nafferton ; we had a station there,
and there was one also at Lowthorpe. Contrary to usual
practice, he always fixed up his rod with line and flies all
ready for a cast in the stream before he left home. Thus
equipped, we walked down to our station, a few minutes
distant, and took our tickets for our two miles journey.
It will be wondered how we managed to stow away the
rod ; we certainly could not take it in the carriage with us,
nor could it be got into the van, and so my father always
made friends with the engine driver, who for a small
consideration took it on his engine, with special instructions
6 EARLY YEARS
to be very careful with it. We thought nothing of that
kind of thing in those delightfully easy-going days. Now
we are under greater restrictions in everything, which is
one of the many marked contrasts between this and the
early Victorian days.
The trout stream at Lowthorpe is close to the station,
and so we were soon at work, and the results were nearly
always highly satisfactory.
I still possess my father's old fly book, and it lies before
me as I write ; I doubt if there is another like it in existence.
It is larger than an ordinary fly book, with a cover of a kind
of brilliant green parchment. It is tied round two or three
times with a string, and the end secured with a loop and
button. On the top of the cover are the words written
' Festina lente ', underneath which is the owner's name
and address in full. Immediately below this is a repre-
sentation of a trout rising to a fly. Then follow seven
lines quoted from some author which, owing to the writing
having got nearly rubbed out by wear and tear, I am
unable to identify, only the first word or two of each line
being at all legible. At the foot of the cover stand the
words ' I, and Time ', and a word or two underneath which
are quite undecipherable. At the back of the cover are
the following words of advice for anglers, as far as I can
read them : ' Keep " yer stints " in yard lengths ; you
want one, two, or three, Let those ... be double knotted.
Single knot them together for the loops. If fish rise never
go to a " better " place. Keep to the pools if they rise
short. Go in a fishing cap. Always take some strong
twine with you and a knife, for fear of accidents.'
On the fly-leaves of this book are recorded the results
of the fishing days. It seems that the earliest days were in
the year 1848. This was before my recollection. In that
year my father fished in the Foston stream about three
miles below Lowthorpe. He had some remarkably good
sport there, his two best days being July 20, 29 brace, put
in i| brace ; and September 9, 17^ brace, put in 5 brace ;
EARLY YEARS 7
the rest weighed 22 Ib. In the year 1855 there was only
one recorded visit to Lowthorpe, on August 20. On this
occasion I was with my father, and while he was having
his luncheon I got hold of his rod, and was fortunate
enough to secure a brace of fine trout, the largest weighing
just one pound. This was a proud moment for me, for
these were the first trout I had ever caught.
Throughout the leaves of the fishing book we find the
details of appropriate flies for each month from March to
Occasionally, though rarely, my father would have a
friend to accompany him on his fishing days. Once,
I remember, he had a friend from London with him at
Lowthorpe. It was a bitterly cold day, and a small boy
from the village who happened to be looking on complained
that he was ' starved ' ; whereupon the Londoner produced
his sandwiches and offered the boy one, which he declined ;
and so I had to act as interpreter, and explain that the lad
1 It may be of interest to some if I give here a few of the flies which
were used in those days for the Lowthorpe stream. Under April, for
instance, we have the following :
Partridge Hackle Hook, no. 4 ; Hackle, partridge neck ; Body,
Red-legged woodcock Hook, no. 4 ; Wing, woodcock wing ; Legs,
ginger hackle ; Body, orange silk ; Hackle, woodcock wing.
Iron Dun Hook, no. 2 ; Hackle, starling ; Body, yellow silk.
Whirling Dun- Hook, no. 4 ; Wing, mallard breast ; Body, rabbit
fur ; Legs, red hackle ; Hackle, mallard breast, or grey partridge.
Blue Dun Hook, no. 2-3 ; Wing, torn-tit's tail ; Legs, light blue
hackle ; Body, water-rat's fur (blue) ; Hackle, blue torn-tit.
Golden Dun Midge Hook, no. i ; Wing, starling wing (light) ;
Legs, dun hackle ; Body, olive floss silk, ribbed with gold twist ;
Hackle, starling wing.
Gravel Bed Hook, no. i ; Wing, underside of woodcock wing ; Legs,
black hackle ; Body, lead-coloured silk ; Hackle, woodcock.
Granom Hook, no. i ; Wing, partridge wing ; Legs, ginger hackle ;
Body, hare's face, tail green ; Hackle, partridge.
Sparrow Wing Hook, no. i ; Wing, cock sparrow; Legs, red or
black hackle ; Body, water-rat and yellow worsted or dark fur of
hare's ear ; Hackle, sparrow.
Other flies mentioned for this month are Oak Fly, Woodcock Wing,
Large Dun, Starling Wing, Yellow Dun, Hare's Ear.
8 EARLY YEARS
was not hungry, but cold. In our dialect ' starved ' means
cold. If the lad had wished to say he was hungry, his
expression would have been ' Ah 's hungered '.
If the time of the trains did not suit for the return
journey we walked home, and generally with a pretty
heavy basket of lovely trout ; but even with this handicap
my father's pace was not appreciably diminished, and I had
to keep up with him, though sometimes, as we say in
Yorkshire, ' at a fadge '.
In those days people did not, as I said, value fishing
as they do now, and private owners of trout streams did
not, except, perhaps, very rarely, make merchandise of
them. They either fished the streams themselves, or gave
their friends the privilege to do so. There were, of course,
numerous angling clubs all over the country, as there are
now. And the same rule applied to shooting to a great
extent. Certainly the squirearchy did not have battues,
and sell their game in the way they do now ; but we have
become more mercantile in everything.
Other excursions in company with my father from those
early days which have left an indelible impression on my
memory are those in connexion with entomology, a pursuit
in which he took an absorbing interest. This study he
kept up till quite late in life. When we walked any distance
in summer he carried a walking stick, but always one with
a knob at the end instead of the ordinary handle. This
served a double purpose, for he had a hollow place let into
the top of the stick into which a round butterfly net could
be fixed, the frame of which was made so that it could be
folded and put into the pocket ; and often to economize
time when visiting his parishioners in some distant part
of the parish, he would take his apparatus with him, if it
was a likely day for ' sport ', and when he got beyond the
confines of the village he would whip out his net so as to
have all in readiness, in case he saw some specimen that
he wanted for his collection.
This collection, by the way, was a remarkably good one,
EARLY YEARS 9
and every specimen beautifully set. In the case of some
of the Tineae it would seem almost an impossibility to put
a pin through their bodies without damaging the insect,
so small and delicate were they. For these, special pins
of great fineness were manufactured by a well-known
Birmingham firm. Times and oft when I was a boy have
I watched my father intently while he was manipulating
these tiny creatures, which he did with wonderful delicacy
and dexterity, so that when they were finally fixed in the
drawers they appeared so straight and perfect as though
some mechanical instrument had been used for the purpose,
though he had only his eye to guide him. How he found
time to do all this with a multiplicity of other works going
on at the same time is a mystery which I have never been
able to solve.
Many years later, after his death, I was reluctantly
compelled to dispose of his collections ; for had they been
kept much longer, they would literally have gone to pieces.
They were sold in London. Fortunately, the most valuable
specimens were in a good state of preservation. At one
time he had a whole row, about a dozen, I should say, of
the great copper butterfly (Lycaena dispar), which, since the
drainage of the Fens, has become extinct. Several of these
my father one by one gave away, till ultimately there were
only six left. One of these, a rare variety, sold to my
surprise for over 14, which seemed a good deal for so small
and fragile a thing, though probably it was worth double
the sum. But, I suppose, as time goes on they will become,
like ' Strad ' fiddles, more and more valuable.
There must have been a great number of interesting
characters at Nafferton in the days of my early boyhood ;
but I was then too young to appreciate them. I do,
however, remember hearing of a man called Carrington,
whose wife had for some reason disappeared, and could not
be found ; and so he employed the village crier to go
through the streets and make the following proclamation :
' This is ti gi'e nooatice 'at Thomas Carrington has lost
io EARLY YEARS
his wife, an' he 's varry dowly bedoot her.' Whether she
turned up again or not I never heard.
The conditions of life with the working-classes then were,
of course, very different from what they are in these days.
Many years ago there was an old couple living in Nafferton
whom I remember when I was a boy ; and some time back
I was wishful to learn from them a few details as to the way
of living in their earlier days. Accordingly, I got a friend
who knew them well to interview them, and ascertain some
particulars of their early reminiscences of country life.
My friend took down what they said verbatim, as far as
possible, and I here reproduce their observations, which
were made in a disconnected way by Reuben and Sarah
Stabler alternately, and quite naturally in their own
R. Ah hardlins knaw hoo ti reckon it up.
S. Ah knaw we'd a deal o' hardships. We used ti itt
broon bread an' treeacle, an' it was ^d. a pund, an' com-
monest seeap, 6d. We didn't baake seea off'ns then, yance
a month or seea. Salt was five shillin* a steean ; common
tea, is. 2d. a quarter of a pund.
R. Ah niwer went ti skeeal ; niwer had a daay's
skeealin' i mi leyfe. Ah was a weaver fo'st i mill [i. e. a
carpet factory at Wansford]. Six o'clock we had to be
there ; is. 6d. a week. [This, no doubt, when a boy.]
S. He was a varry lahtle un when Wansford factory
was bo'nt doon, an' he gat oot o' bed ti leeak oot o' windher
you may be seear he was a lahtle un, or he'd a'e been
oot on t' rooad.
We went doon ti see train ; an* there was sikan a lot on
us ; an' when it corned we all lifted up wer airms an'
screeam'd. Why ! t' world 's to'nd upsahd doon sen then.
There isn't a theeak'd hoos left i Nafferton ; an' there was
a lot when we com tiv it. You may depend on 't there was
different deed then fra what there is noo. There was a deal
o' men then 'at had a shilling or sixpence a day ti live on.
Ah was off'ns bet wi 't. Sarvants used ti live on broon
bread an' a bit o' bacon ; an 1 yit you could gan ti 'Ull an'
git beef-steaks for 6d. a pund.
R. There was a deal o' years when ah was wi Mr. Thomp-
son [R. was Mr. T.'s wagoner] when ah was sa mich
uppo'd'rooads when ah'd nae mair 'an fowerteen shillin'
a week. Ah sudn't a'e left mill when ah did wi' G. ; bud his
weyfe was sikan a creeatur awlus kickin' up sum bobbery.
S. When ah came ti Kilham ah nobbut had 10 a year.
R. They off'ns wanted ma ti be a soldier. Ah was
drawn for militia, an* if you were drawn an' they didn't
want ti gan, they had ti subscrahb an' hire a man. They
say there 's nowt healthier 'an to'ning up yeth. Tom
M he used ti lig i Mr. Dickson tithe [barn], an' iwry
penny he could git he used ti drink it.
5. Mah muther kept ma whahl ah was fowerteen or
fifteen. Ah was meeast o' sixteen when ah fo'st went ti
placin', bud ah used ti gan aboot lukin [weeding] an'
howing. Women used ti deea that then. Ah used ti git
up at fahve o'clock, an' at fower, an' at one o'clock ti
wesh. Men used ti git ther breeacus at six, an' then we had
ti hev what was left. We weren't pampered up then as
they are noo ; an' they're a deal wo's [worse] for it. Ah
used ti hev ti gan an' ho'd blood bowl when they killed
a beeas' (ah was livin' wi a butcher at Lowthrup). Ah