Robert Naylor.

From John O'Groats to Land's End online

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a footpath, while almost immediately below we could hear the sea
thundering on each side of us. As we cautiously walked across in single
file our thoughts were running on the many Cornish saints in whose
footsteps we might now be treading, and on King Arthur and the Giant
Tregeagle, when our friend, who was walking ahead, suddenly stopped and
told us we were now on the spot where Charles Wesley stood when he
composed a memorable verse which still appeared in one of his hymns:

Lo! on a narrow neck of land,
'Twixt two unbounded seas I stand
Secure, insensible;
A point of time, a moment's space,
Removes me to that heavenly place
Or shuts me up in hell.

As we were crossing the narrow path we had not thought of the Wesleys as
being amongst the Cornish saints; but where was there a greater saint
than John Wesley? and how much does Cornwall owe to him! He laboured
there abundantly, and laid low the shades of the giants and the saints
whom the Cornish people almost worshipped before he came amongst them,
and in the place of these shadows he planted the better faith of a
simple and true religion, undefiled and that fadeth not away!

We must own to a shade of disappointment when we reached the last stone
and could walk no farther - a feeling perhaps akin to that of Alexander
the Great, who, when he had conquered the known world, is said to have
sighed because there were no other worlds to conquer. But this feeling
soon vanished when with a rush came the thoughts of those dear friends
at home who were anxiously awaiting the return of their loved ones whom
they had lost awhile, and it was perhaps for their sakes as well as our
own that we did not climb upon the last stone or ledge or rock that
overhung the whirl of waters below: where the waters of the two Channels
were combining with those of the great Atlantic.


We placed our well-worn sticks, whose work like our own was done, on the
rock before us, with the intention of throwing them into the sea, but
this we did not carry out.

We stood silent and spell-bound, for beyond the Longships Lighthouse
was the setting sun, which we watched intently as it slowly disappeared
behind some black rocks in the far distance. It was a solemn moment, for
had we not started with the rising sun on a Monday morning and finished
with the setting sun on a Saturday night? It reminded us of the
beginning and ending of our own lives, and especially of the end, as the
shadows had already begun to fall on the great darkening waters before
us. Was it an ancient mariner, or a long-forgotten saint, or a
presentiment of danger that caused my brother to think he heard a
far-away whisper as if wafted over the sea?


Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will
fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they
comfort me.



We retraced our steps to the "First and Last House in England," where we
found our driver waiting for us with his conveyance, which we had now
time to examine, and found to be a light, rickety, two-wheeled cart of
ancient but durable construction, intended more for use than ornament,
and equivalent to the more northern shandrydan or shandry. The strong
board which formed the seat was placed across the conveyance from one
side to the other a few inches below the top-rail, and would slide to
any point required between the front and back of the trap, the weight of
the driver or other passengers holding it in its place. It would only
hold three persons, including the driver. The first difficulty that
presented itself, however, was the fact that we were not sufficiently
provided with warm clothing to face the twelve-mile drive to Penzance in
the cold night air; but, fortunately, our friend had an overcoat which
had been brought out by the driver; so after a short consultation we
arranged that I should sit between the driver and our friend, a
comparatively warm position, while my brother sat on the floor of the
conveyance, where there was a plentiful supply of clean dry straw, with
his face towards the horse and his back supported by the backboard of
the trap, where our presence on the seat above him would act as a screen
from the wind.

After arranging ourselves as comfortably as possible in our rather novel
positions, with which we were rather pleased than otherwise, we
proceeded on our way at a brisk speed, for our horse was quite fresh and
showed no disposition to loiter on the road, since like ourselves he was
on his way home.

Lighting regulations for vehicles were not in force in those days, and
conveyances such as ours carried no lights even on the darkest night;
but with a total absence of trees, and lighted by the first quarter of
the new moon, we expected to reach Penzance before the night became
really dark.

The conversation as we passed into the open country was carried on by
the three of us in front, as my brother could not join in it owing to
his position; and we had just turned towards him with the jocular
remark, "How are you getting on down there?" and had received his reply,
"All right!" when, with scarcely a moment's warning, we met with an
accident which might have killed him and seriously injured ourselves. We
suddenly crashed into a heavy waggon drawn by two horses, the first
wheel of the waggon striking dead against ours. The force of the
collision caused our seat to slide backwards against my brother,
pinning him against the backboard of the cart, but, fortunately for him,
our driver, who had retained his hold on his reins, jumped up at the
same moment and relieved the pressure, so that he had only the weight of
two men against him instead of three.

Meantime all was confusion, and it was a case of every one for himself;
but the only man who was equal to the occasion was our driver, who with
one hand pulled his horse backwards almost as quickly as the other
horses came forward, and with his whip in the other hand slashed
furiously at the face of the waggoner, who was seated on the wide board
in front of his waggon fast asleep and, as it afterwards appeared, in a
state of intoxication.

Our conveyance was on its proper side of the road and quite near the
fence, so that our friend jumped out of it on the land above, quickly
followed by myself, and, rapidly regaining the road, we ran towards the
horses attached to the waggon and stopped them.

A tremendous row now followed between the waggoner, who was a powerfully
built man, and our driver, and the war of words seemed likely to lead to
blows; but my brother, whom in the excitement of the moment we had quite
forgotten, now appeared upon the scene in rather a dazed condition, and,
hearing the altercation going on, advanced within striking distance of
the waggoner. I could see by the way he held his cudgel that he meant
mischief if the course of events had rendered it necessary, but the
blood on the waggoner's face showed he had been severely punished

Seeing that he was hopelessly outnumbered, the waggoner, who was almost
too drunk to understand what had happened, became a little quieter and
gave us his name, and we copied the name of the miller who employed him
from the name-plate on the waggon, giving similar information to the
driver concerning ourselves; but as we heard nothing further about the
matter, we concluded the case was settled out of court.

We all congratulated my brother on his almost providential escape from
what might have been a tragic ending to his long walk. He had told me he
had a foreboding earlier in the evening that something was about to
happen to him. From the position in which he was seated in the bottom of
the trap he could not see anything before him except the backs of the
three men sitting above, and he did not know what was happening until he
thought he saw us tumbling upon him and myself jumping in the air over a

He described it in the well-known words of Sir Walter Scott:

The heart had hardly time to think.
The eyelid scarce had time to wink.

The squeeze, as he called it, had left its marks upon him, as his chest
was bruised in several places, and he was quite certain that if we had
slid backwards another half-inch on our seat in the trap we should have
finished him off altogether - for the back of the trap had already been
forced outwards as far as it would go. He felt the effects of the
accident for a long time afterwards.

We complimented our driver on his wonderful presence of mind and on the
way he had handled his horse under the dangerous conditions which had
prevailed. But we must needs find the smithy, for we dared not attempt
to ride in our conveyance until it had been examined. The wheel had been
rather seriously damaged, and other parts as well, but after some slight
repairs it was so patched up as to enable us to resume our journey, with
a caution from the blacksmith to drive slowly and with great care.

We arrived at Penzance safely, but much later than we had expected, and
after paying our driver's fee together with a handsome donation, we
adjourned with our friend to the hotel for a substantial dinner and to
talk about our adventure until bedtime. When bidding us "good night,"
our friend informed us that, as he had an engagement in the country some
miles away, we should not see him on the next day, but he promised to
visit us after his return to Liverpool. This he did, and we saw him on
several occasions in after years when, owing to unforeseen
circumstances, we found ourselves, like him, in the timber trade.

_Sunday, November 19th._

Sir Matthew Hale was a member of Cromwell's Parliament and Lord Chief
Justice of England in 1671. His "Golden Maxim" is famous:

A Sabbath well spent brings a week of content,
And health for the toils of to-morrow;
But a Sabbath profaned, whate'er may be gained,
Is a certain forerunner of sorrow!

Anxious as we were to reach our home as soon as possible, our knowledge
of Sir Matthew's maxim and of the Commandment "_Remember_ that thou keep
holy the Sabbath Day," prevented us from travelling on Sunday.

Penzance is said to have a temperature cooler in summer and warmer in
winter than any other town in Britain, and plants such as dracænas,
aloes, escollonia, fuchsias, and hydrangeas, grown under glass in winter
elsewhere, flourished here in the open air, while palms or tree ferns
grow to a wonderful height, quite impossible under similar conditions in
our more northern latitude, where they would certainly be cut down by
frost. We also noted that the forest trees were still fairly covered
with autumnal leaves, but when we arrived home two days later similar
trees were quite bare.

After a short walk we returned to the hotel for breakfast, over which we
discussed the disappearance of our friend of yesterday, wondering what
the business could be that had occupied his time for a whole week in the
neighbourhood of Penzance, and why he should have an engagement on the
Sunday "some miles in the country," when we could have done so well with
his company ourselves. But as there seemed to be some mystery about his
movements, we came to the conclusion that there must be a lady in the
case, and so, as far as we were concerned, the matter ended.

We attended morning service in accordance with our usual custom, and
listened to a sermon from a clergyman who took for his text the whole of
the last chapter in the Book of Ecclesiastes, with special emphasis on
the first word:


Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil
days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have
no pleasure in them.

He began by informing us that we had nearly arrived at the end of the
religious year, and that the season of Advent, when the Church's new
year would begin, was close at hand. He then passed on to his text and
began to describe the days of our youth. We listened intently as he took
us by degrees from our youth up to old age and to the years when we
might have to say we had no pleasure in them. He was a powerful
preacher, and we almost felt ourselves growing older as we followed his
references to each verse in the short chapter he had taken for his text.

Then he described the failure of the different organs of the human mind
and body: the keepers of the house trembling; the strong men bowing
their heads towards the earth to which they were hastening; the
grinders, or teeth, ceasing because they were few; the eyes as if they
were looking out of darkened windows; the ears stopped, as if they were
listening to sounds outside doors that were shut; followed by the fears
of that which was high "because man goeth to his long home"; and finally
when the silver cord was loosed or the golden bowl broken, the dust
returning to the earth as it was, and the spirit unto God Who made it!

We waited for the peroration of his fine sermon, which came with
startling suddenness, like our accident yesterday, for he concluded
abruptly with the following words:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His
commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring
every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be
good, or whether it be evil.

My brother took shorthand notes of portions of the sermon for future
reference, for we were both greatly impressed by what we had heard, and
conversed about some of the points raised as we returned to the hotel.

Later in the day we attended the Wesleyan chapel, where we formed two
units in a large congregation, as we had done in the far-off Wesleyan
chapel of the Shetland Islands. Here again we appreciated the good
service, including the fine congregational singing.

Early on Monday morning we started by train for home; but travelling by
rail was much slower in those days, and although we journeyed the whole
of the day and late into the night which followed, we did not reach our
home at Thelwall until Tuesday, November 21st, at two o'clock in the
morning, where we awoke the sleepers by singing "Home, Sweet Home"
beneath a bedroom window on the east side of Cuerden Hall, where we knew
our father and mother would be waiting for us - as they are now, but in
no earthly home.


The news of our arrival soon spread through the surrounding country,
where we were well known, and for a time we were lionised and visited by
a host of friends, and our well-worn sticks, which at one time we
thought of leaving in the sea at Land's End, were begged from us by
intimate friends and treasured for many years by their new owners in the
parish of Grappenhall.

Considerable interest had naturally been taken locally in our long walk,
for we had been absent from our customary haunts for seventy-five days,
having travelled by land and sea - apart from the actual walk from John
o' Groat's to Land's End - a distance nearly a thousand miles. Everybody
wanted to be told all about it, so I was compelled to give the
information in the form of lectures, which were repeated in the course
of many years in different parts of the country where aid for
philanthropic purposes was required. The title of the lecture I gave in
the Cobden Hall at Hull on January 25th, 1883, was "My journey from John
o' Groat's to Land's End, or 1,372 miles on foot," and the syllabus on
that occasion was a curiosity, as it was worded as follows:

John O' Groat's House and how we got there - Flying visit to Orkney
and Shetland - Crossing Pentland Firth in a sloop - Who was John o'
Groat? - What kind of a house did he live in? - A long sermon - The
great castles - Up a lighthouse - The Maiden's Paps - Lost on the
moors - Pictish towers - Eating Highland porridge - The Scotch lassie
and the English - A Sunday at Inverness - Loch Ness - The tale of the
heads - Taken for shepherds - Fort William - Up Ben Nevis - The Devil's
Staircase - Glencoe - A night in Glen-Orchy - Sunday at
Dalmally - Military road - The Cobbler and his Wife - Inverary and the
Duke of Argyle - Loch Lomond - Stirling Castle - Wallace's Monument - A
bodyless church - Battle of Bannockburn-Linlithgow Palace - A Sunday in
Edinburgh, and what I saw there - Roslyn Castle - Muckle-mouthed
Meg - Abbotsford, the residence of Sir Walter Scott - Melrose Abbey - A
would-not-be fellow-traveller - All night under the
stairs - Lilliesleaf - Hawick - A stocking-maker's
revenge - Langholm - Taken for beggars - In a distillery - A midnight
adventure in the Border Land - A night at a coal-pit - Crossing the
boundary - A cheer for old England - Longtown and its parish
clerk - Hearing the bishop - Will you be married? - Our visit to
Gretna-Green - Ramble through the Lake District - Sunday at
Keswick - Furness Abbey - A week in the Big County - Stump Cross
Cavern - Brimham rocks - Malham Cove - Fountains Abbey - The Devil's
Arrows - Taken for highwaymen - Tessellated pavements - York
Minster - Robin Hood and Little John - A Sunday at Castleton - Peveril
of the Peak - The cave illuminated - My sore foot and the present of
stones - March through Derbyshire - Lichfield Cathedral - John
Wiclif - High Cross - A peep at Peeping Tom at
Coventry - Leamington - Warwick Castle - Beauchamp chapel - In
Shakespeare's House at Stratford-on-Avon - Inhospitable Kineton - All
night in the cold - Banbury Cross - A Sunday at Oxford - March across
Salisbury Plain - Stonehenge - Salisbury Cathedral - Where they make
carpets - Exeter Cathedral - Bridport - Honiton - Dawlish - A Sunday at
Torquay - Devonshire lanes - Totnes - Dartmouth - Plymouth and the Big
Bridge - Our adventure with the 42nd Highlanders - Tramp across
Dartmoor - Lost in the dark - Liskeard - Truro - Tramp through the land
of the saints - St. Blazey - St. Michael's Mount - A Sunday at
Penzance - Catching pilchards - The Logan Rock - Druidical remains - The
last church - Wesley's Rock - Land's End - narrow escape - Home, sweet
home - God save the Queen.

To this lengthy programme the secretary added the following footnote:

Mr. Naylor is probably one of the few men living, if not the only
one, who has accomplished the feat of walking from one end of the
kingdom to the other, without calling in the aid of any conveyance,
or without crossing a single ferry, as his object was simply
pleasure. His tour was not confined to the task of accomplishing the
journey in the shortest possible time or distance, but as it
embraced, to use his own words, "going where there was anything to be
seen," his ramble led him to view some of the most picturesque spots
in the kingdom.

After this lecture I wired my brother, "I only got as far as York." As
he knew I had gone to Hull by train, he read the telegram to mean I had
only been able to reach York that day, and he imagined how disappointed
my friends in Hull would be when I did not arrive there in time to give
the lecture. But he was relieved when he afterwards discovered that my
wire referred to the lecture itself. He thought I had done well to get
as far as York, for "John o' Groat's to Land's End" was much too large a
subject to be dealt with in the course of a single lecture.

[Illustration: LAND'S END.]

[Illustration: [signature of] John Naylor]


Time plays many pranks with one's memory. The greatness of the journey
is no longer with me, and my companion has been called away. But this
much stands out clearly in my recollections: my brother was the leading
spirit of the adventure - his was the genius which conceived it and it
was his courage and perseverance which compelled us to keep on in spite
of many difficulties.

I have now set out our peregrinations at length from the diaries we kept
during the journey. The record, such as it is, I give to those who knew
us as a tribute to his memory.

[Illustration: BEESTON TOWERS.]



Online LibraryRobert NaylorFrom John O'Groats to Land's End → online text (page 66 of 66)