24 December 1904

CHRISTMAS
Once again Christmas time has come round, with its holiday amusements, its social engagement, its parties, and pantomimes, its festivities among the well-to-do and its charitable treats among the ill-to-do, its Christmas boxes and New Year's gifts, its tradesmen's bills and imperial taxes;

its short, dull days and long, chilly nights; its frost and fog, or sleet and snow; its red hazy sun low down by day, and its clear moon high up by night; it religious observances and customs savouring little of religion; its waits and wassails , it early communions and late watch-night services;

its bazaars and sales of work, and Christmas trees; its artistic cards, received and sent by post, wishing the compliments of the season; its plum puddings and mince pies; its fat geese and plump turkeys; its mighty roast beef, and delicious roast pork; its bright red and white berries enlivening the dark green foliage of the holly and the mistletoe; its festoons and mottoes suitable to the season;

its bright shop windows dressed up to attract and please the eye, with brilliant colours which help to dispel the gloom; with dainties never more indulged in that at this period; with toys of all sorts and sizes for the delight of guileless children who value them most of all because dear old Father Christmas takes such a singular course in conveying them to his juvenile friends;

its Christmas carols, and hymns, and tales, and poems; its draws and raffles for a duck or Christmas hamper; its long and short journeys to the old homestead by road, rail, or sea, sometimes with the accompaniment of disaster, from which we hope all may escape this year.

Many other happenings make Christmas replete with interest and enjoyment besides those here enumerated at random; and, as usual, we heartily wish all our readers a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

THE MISERABLE FOG
It seems as if fog is going to be the chief characteristic of the present winter. Before this we have had frost and fog, snow and fog, rain and fog; then, after some storms, a time of mild and agreeable weather. Now we have apparently come again to the beginning of a similar cycle with frost and fog, after which we may again have snow and fog, then rain and fog, then a few blusterous days, and then some fairly good weather.

These fogs are neither agreeable in prospect nor in actual experience. They are in some respects a bigger nuisance than a heavy fall of snow in our large towns. All traffic is disorganised. The electric cars, which cannot be seen a few yards away, go slowly past, ding-donging, hardly making more progress than the led horse which for a moment emerge from obscurity and as promptly disappear from view again.

We have not often been plagued with a fog so persistent and all pervading, and of such particular density. The whole country is evidently being served alike in the matter. The description of London experiences reads much the same as the experience in Manchester. Vehicular traffic, all except the slowest, is absolutely suspended; railway trains are running hours late, or cancelled, and only keeping in motion at the momentary risk of some unforeseen disaster.

Among the most common and melancholy accompaniments of these fogs are fatalities happening through unwary wanderers on the banks of our numerous canals taking one false step and falling into the water. It is extraordinary that so few are able to recover themselves when they have dropped over. A little presence of mind in such an emergency might suffice for most of the victims to rescue themselves.

Another thing for which these detestable fogs are abhorred is the suffering they inflict upon the helpless people whose lungs are affected. The foul atmosphere, a compound of sooty and aqueous particles, is wholly unfit to be the breath of life, and becomes the death of multitudes.

However, the sun will shine again by and bye and revive those who have been drooping under the gloomy infliction at this the most dark and dismal period of the annual round. Scientific men have a good deal to say about the cause and cure of these meteorological phenomena, but instead of things getting better they really appear to be growing worse and worse.

ASHTON AND DISTRICT
The question of the hour in all parts of the country, and discussed by leading local men and statesmen, is that of the distress occasioned by slack employment. The fact that poverty, with all its attendant miseries, is amongst us in a greater degree than usual is admitted beyond argument. The fog and frost have added greatly to the need of help to tide over a bad season, and give a little cheer and comfort to many homes in which it is so pitifully lacking.

We all know there are great numbers of families who in time of employment are living just above the margin of want. There is, and there can be, no reserve for bad times, which when they come, as they have done, mean misery, hunger, and wretchedness.

In his appeal to the public the Mayor says: I have ascertained, as the result of very careful inquiry, that there is an amount of poverty and suffering to justify me in making a public appeal for further funds. On Page 5 we publish particulars of a Penny Fund which we have introduced to our readers. The small contributor, who like Shakespeare's Rosalind would say I would give more, but that my purse lacks means, can thus in an easy manner show his practical sympathy.

The Penny Fund has the good wishes of the Mayor and his Relief Committee. Since this committee includes gentlemen who, like Mayor BRADLEY, are thoroughly acquainted with the conditions it is desired to relieve, the money will be administered in the wisest possible manner.

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Christmas Day, happening on Sunday, will mean that Boxing Day Monday will be observed locally as a general holiday. All the cotton mills will close on that day, by virtue of the agreement made between the Masters' and Operatives' Associations, as will all those engaged in other trades.

The various tailoring establishments have put out notices that they will close Monday and Tuesday, whilst the Ashton Grocers' Association notify the public that they will close only on the Monday. They recognise that closing all day on Tuesday would mean the public being precluded from obtaining provisions for three days. The question of victuals is an important one at this season of good cheer, and the grocers are, of course, the principal caterers.

Poulterers and butchers will necessarily remain open all the time, with the exception of Christmas Day, as it is their harvest, no table being complete at Yuletide without the good old English roast-beef, prime fat turkey or goose, nicely served, although we fear a great many will be denied the latter luxuries this Christmas through not having recovered from the recent trade depression.

Perhaps the best opportunities of enjoying Yuletide are afforded to those in connection with the day schools, which closed on Thursday evening last until January 9th, a period of over a fortnight. Whatever other grievances they might have, the teachers certainly have the best of the bargain in the matter of holidays.

The various railway companies will close their goods stations on Monday except for deliverable perishables. The Ashton Law Association has recommended the solicitors of the town to close their offices on Monday and Tuesday.

MR REVILL'S CHRISTMAS PANTOMIME

Mr REVILL's annual is to be presented next Monday afternoon (Boxing Day) at his theatre, Oldham-road, Ashton. Its title is Little Bo-Peep, the Milton Rays Company being responsible for the production. It has been in active rehearsal during the whole of this week, and we expect its sponsors will see that it is completely ready for critical judgment on the first performance. Milton Rays have a reputation for good comic pantomime, and we are assured this one will add to their lustre.

The artistes have been carefully chosen, and we may safely leave the dressing and mounting to the professionals hands to whom they have been entrusted. We are told first and foremost very funny; that its music and lyrics, comic and otherwise will be catchy and taking; and that for spectacular display, scenic beauty, and grandeur it will out-rival any panto of past years.

Of the merits of individual members of the company as fun-makers there is no doubt. The capabilities of mummery and grotesque absurdity which comedians of the type and talent of Messrs Harry ELLISTON, Jack HALTON, W.G. WESLEY, H.V. MORGAN, T. HILL, W.A. REID, A.P. HOLLAND, A. HEMINGWAY, and the Bros. ELTON, can bring to bear is sufficient guarantee of the quality of the pantomime.

A CHILD'S SINGULAR DEATH AT ASHTON
The Ashton police have been apprised of the death under singular circumstances of Dorothy Irene MELLOR, aged 13 months, daughter of Mr George Edward MELLOR, grocer, 57, Audley-street, Cockbrook, which took place about 2.15 on Tuesday afternoon. The child was well and hearty up to a few months ago when she began to suffer from teething and diarrhœa. There was a temporary improvement, but about six weeks ago she again commenced to suffer from the teeth.

Dr McCARTHY, of Stalybridge, was called in and prescribed for the child who appeared to improve. Early on Tuesday morning the child appeared to get restless, and on Tuesday afternoon the father went to Stalybridge for Dr McCARTHY. While he was away the child became convulsed and died on her mother's knee before the doctor's arrival.

DEATH FROM BURNS AT THE ASHTON INFIRMARY
Dukinfield Woman's Sad End

The police were apprised yesterday (Friday) morning of the death which took place at the Ashton District Infirmary at one a.m., of Norah Maria WOOD, aged 42 years, wife of George WOOD, sawyer, 397, Higher King-street, Dukinfield. Deceased fell downstairs two years ago, since when she had suffered from dizziness. She again fell downstairs six weeks ago, breaking her arm.

She was in the house alone on the 19th inst., when a neighbour named Mary HOWARD heard screams, and on going into the house saw the deceased leaning against a set of drawers, her jacket bodice in flames. She wrapped a rug around her and put out the flames, and several men gave assistance and applied linseed oil and limewater to the burns. She was examined by Drs BOOTH and MILLER, and ordered to the infirmary, where she died as stated.

REMARKABLE ASSAULT ON AN ASHTON P.S.A. OFFICIAL
The Result of a Kindness

Details of a remarkable assault were unfolded to the Borough Magistrates at Ashton Town Hall on Saturday morning when a seafaring man named Samuel CROPPER was charged with assaulting Mr James BOND well known as an adherent of the Ashton P.S.A. Society and editor of the P.S.A. Leader.

From the evidence given it appeared that on Friday night about 7 o'clock Mr BOND was walking down Wellington-road when CROPPER approached him and enquired the way to Katherine-street. Mr BOND pointed the way. CROPPER retorted that he didn't believe him, but Mr BOND behoving him to be a stranger assured him that it was the right way. The man, however, grew abusive and struck the complainant in the face.

At this juncture Constable DIXON appeared and took the man in custody. I consider I was very badly repaid for my kindness remarked Mr BOND. – Prisoner pleaded guilty and said: I am very sorry; I apologise." – The Chairman commented on the brutal manner of the assault and pointed out that it was entirely unprovoked. The magistrates were unanimous in committing CROPPER to hard labour for a month.

SOLUTION OF RELIGIOUS DIFFICULTIES IN ASHTON SCHOOLS
The religious difficulty in connection with the Ashton Secondary School has been satisfactorily overcome by the drafting of a scheme of religious instruction of an undenominational character acceptable to the various denominations represented on the Borough Education Committee.

Oil has also been thrown upon the troubled waters in regard to another religious question. For 40 years or more the Rev. T.B. DIXON, vicar of St James' Church, has regularly attended at the day school on the Church festival days, numbering about ten in the year, and accompanied the scholars to the special churches at the church.

The Board of Education recently sent a circular letter to the inspectors of schools not to sign a time-table unless the local education authority gave their approval – withdrawing children from school to receive religious instruction in churches during school hours. Consequently the Ashton inspector would not approve such a time-table.

The matter was discussed at the meeting of the General Purposes Committee of the Education Committee on Wednesday night when expressions of the great respect entertained for the Rev. T.B. DIXON were voiced, and were no doubt important factors in the decision arrived at, which was that the festival days should be set out on the time-table of the school; that the parents should thoroughly understand what days were set apart during the year; that religious instruction in the church must be given between 9 and 10 a.m., and that on these days the school open only at 10 a.m., so that the children of Nonconformist parents would not be under the necessity of attending school before that hour.

According to the Government regulations the attendance for secular instruction must not be less than two hours so that by this arrangement the case has been amicably met. The practice is not in operation at other Church of England schools in the borough.

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