Christmas – 28 December 1901

At the Workhouse

Yuletide was celebrated in the usual hearty fashion at the Ashton Union Workhouse. Good, kind St Nicholas showered his blessings with an indulgent hand, and the inmates of the house, numbering 905 all told, were enabled to enjoy to the full the luxuries of the season of "peace and goodwill."

Catering for such a large family is no small task, and the newly appointed master and matron of the house, Mr and Mrs SHORE, had to exercise all their tact and resource in order to avoid a hitch. In this they were highly successful, their long experience in another capacity in the house standing them in good stead. Their efforts were backed up by a capable and energetic staff of assistants.

There were in the house 30 less than last Christmas, which is a very good augury. The number of vagrants was 39, and although their diet is less profuse than the remainder of the house, still they received good cheer in the way of bread and butter and coffee.

The decorations at the workhouse were superb. The large assembly hall where the inmates dined was decorated with evergreens and all kinds of fantastically shaped coloured papers. Suitably worded mottoes were hung about in great profusion, and one, "Health and prosperity to our worthy Guardians," was conspicuous.

Perhaps nowhere in the house does the sentiment of "peace and goodwill" appeal to one more than in the hospital wards. These were prettily decorated by the nurses with all kinds of seasonable mottoes and devices, real and artificial plants and flowers, and scrupulous cleanliness was everywhere predominant. The cots were mostly occupied by old people, who in their environment must have felt comfort and solace from such attention bestowed upon them. The nurses made many sacrifices, and displayed a kindly regard for their charges, ministering to their comfort in a manner deserving of the highest eulogies.

In No 2 Surgical Ward Nurses JUDSON, KERSHAW, ETCHELLS and WHITEHEAD were in charge, whilst in another department were Nurses PLATT, WHITE, HEGINBOTTOM, and DYSON.

In the Children's Ward was a well-laden Christmas tree, in addition to suitable mottoes such as "Welcome Father Christmas," &c. Other departments of the Workhouse, such as the Imbecile Ward, &c, wore a bright and attractive appearance, and not the least important was the cook kitchen adjoining the large hall, under the supervision of Mrs ELLISON and Miss BENSON. The matron's private corridor presented a pretty sight, the windows being draped with art muslin, whilst mistletoe, fancy-coloured papers, artificial flowers and plants were hung about in profusion.

Preparations were made on an extensive scale for the eventful day. The Christmas puddings were cooked several days previously. Since last Christmas the Guardians have wisely improved the cooking arrangements by the installation of two new ovens, which obviated the necessity of working overnight. The cook (Mr J W HAYES) and his assistant (an inmate named John MILLS) rose early and commenced cooking the savoury joints by four o'clock in the morning, and by eleven o'clock they had finished their laborious task.

It was like feeding a small army, and altogether the task was a stupendous one. There was 1,100 lbs of meat, 1,050 lbs pudding, 1,200 lbs potatoes, besides pickled cabbage. In addition 1,000 packets of sweets were sent by Messrs BOWDEN brothers of the Cavendish Works, Ashton, a box of oranges and a bag of apples from Councillor John WILSON (tailor), hamper of apples and oranges from Mr Alfred ADAMS (Guardian), box of oranges from St James' Sunday School Young Women's Class per Mrs E DUCKWORTH, a doll, a Christmas gift for Pansy OATES, an inmate,, and a Christmas card for Mary BERRY, an infirm old lady, a large hamper of fruit and sweets from the Mayor and Mayoress (Mr and Mrs J B POWNALL); also 120 sixpences from Mr A BUCKLEY, JP, and 10 from Mr Henry GARTSIDE (Stalybridge) for distribution; two dozen pocket knives from Messrs GRIERSON Brothers (Ashton), and two dozen pocket knives from Mr Robert SYKES (Stalybridge).

Breakfast was served at 8.30 am, consisting of coffee and bread and butter. All joined heartily in singing the Christmas hymn. Dinner was served at 12.30, there being present the Mayor and Mayoress. Those inmates who preferred it were entitled to one pint of beer, or inn lieu two packets of tea and two packets of sugar, or two packets of tobacco or packet of snuff. Tea was served at 5.30, small currant loaves being given to the participants. An entertainment afterwards took place. Songs, &c, were freely contributed by the inmates, accompanied on the pianoforte by Miss Nellie SHORE, and quite a convivial time was spent.

At the Barracks
For a right merry Christmas and knowing how to enjoy it commend us to "Tommy Atkins." In the midst of its solitude the Barracks presented a bright and attractive appearance. Everything was neat, clean, and orderly, and to use "Tommy's" vernacular there was no attempt to "chuck a front." Neatness and cleanliness are the essentials of a soldier's life, but there was more than this at the barracks, for throughout the officers' and men's quarters the decorations were really charming.

There were four companies of Manchesters in occupation, and amongst these there was a little rivalry in the matter of decorations. One large motto bore the words "Long life and prosperity to Colonel SPURGIN and Major BALDWIN," another, "Success to our comrades in South Africa," and another, "Success to our colonel and officers." There was a portrait of Lord Roberts, and one large motto was studded with battle honours.

Turkeys, geese, roast pork, plum pudding, and fruit were prominent items in the day's dietary, and the single sergeants were invited to dinner by the various non-commissioned officers of the depot. Leave of absence was given to 75 per cent of the men, and a large number of them availed themselves of the opportunity to spend Christmas in their own homes.

The commanding officer, Major BALDWIN, visited the men at dinner, and wished them all a merry Christmas. In the evening concerts were held in the various mess rooms. It is noteworthy that there was not a single misdemeanour in the depot, and they were all very well behaved. This year has beaten all records for recruiting. Recruits have come in so fast that they have had to be sent away from the depot to the regiment with a fortnight's service only. There are already 100 recruits of the 6th Battalion Manchester Regiment, which mobilises for active service in South Africa on January 6th.

At the Infirmary
Nowhere, perhaps, are the joys and sorrows of Yuletide more forcibly depicted than in the hospitals. To the convalescent the occasion is truly one of gladness and joy, but in those less fortunate the festive spirit is not manifested to the same extent. To show that the patients were not forgotten in their afflictions hundreds of Christmas cards were sent to them by relatives, friends and others interested in the Institution, and these were arranged on the lockers beside the beds so that they could be seen. The wards were all prettily decorated by the nurses with evergreens, Chinese lanterns, and suitable mottoes, and in the children's section there was a large Christmas tree filled with all kinds of toys. Everything was made as bright and cheerful as possible, and there was the usual Christmas fare of turkey, plum pudding, &c.

We regret to announce the death of Private James COX, one of the Stalybridge Volunteers, who went out to the war in South Africa last February along with a contingent of our local Volunteers. The sad news of COX's death reached Stalybridge last week, and amongst his many friends the utmost sympathy is felt.

Private COX was the son of Mr Paul COX, of No 5 Primrose Terrace, Knowl-street, Stalybridge, and he celebrated his 21st birthday whilst out in South Africa. When in work here he was a grinder at the Albion Mills, and was a regular attender at Holy Trinity (Castle Hall) Sunday School and Church, though he was educated at St Thomas' School, Hill End, Delph, in which village both his parents and deceased was well known.

He wrote home regularly during his absence at the war, and his letters have always brought the pleasing intelligence that he was in capital health. The last letter received was dated on the Sunday preceding the official message of his fatal illness, and singularly to say, he then wrote of his being well and hearty, and enclosed a Christmas card of greeting for his parents. Deceased was an Oddfellow, and was a member of the Castle Hall Young Men's Society.

We notice with regret the demise of Mr Henry ANDREW, the respected and genial proprietor of the Railway Hotel, Rose Hill, Marple. Deceased, who was a man of unassuming ways, was born at Stalybridge. Whilst very young, he came with his parents to reside at Godley, and afterwards at Newton, where he became the proprietor of the Commercial Hotel. This house being sold, he removed to the King's Arms, and after presiding over this hostelry for a great number of years, took the Railway Hotel.

Subsequently he was compelled to leave this place in consequence of the premises being sold, and he then bought for himself the well-known Norfolk Arms Hotel in Hyde. For some time he lived a life of retirement, but not being content out of harness, he acquired the tenancy of the Railway Hotel, Rose Hill, Marple, and there ended a prosperous career, leaving a widow, two sons, and three daughters to mourn his loss. His remains were interred on Tuesday in the Hyde Cemetery. He was in his 62nd year.

An inquest was held on Monday forenoon at the Beaver Inn, Oldham-road, Ashton, on the body of Elizabeth HARRISON, aged 37, wife of William HARRISON, who died on the previous Friday afternoon at her home, Peel-street, Ashton.

Dr BOWMAN, Wellington-road, deposed to making a post mortem examination of the deceased on Sunday. Externally there were no marks of injury beyond a small blackened swelling. The brain and membrane were normal. The heart was fatty, and contained very little blood. The right lung showed early stage of acute pluero-pneumonia, extending from the base to the lower part of the upper lobe. Left lung also showed early stage of acute pneumonia from base to apex. That was not sufficient to cause death.

Death was due to heart failure, the result of extensive haemorrhage. The early pneumonia would predispose to death, but was not sufficient to cause death of itself in its present stage. There had been 93 similar cases reported during the last 25 years, 23 of which had proved fatal. In his opinion the cause of death was natural. Had the witness been sent for half an hour earlier probably the woman's life would have been saved, because he could have stopped the bleeding, whereas the individual present could not have done so. It was an unusual case, and probably no medical man in the town had had a similar case.

Daniel SCHOFIELD, labourer at New Moss Colliery, residing at 19 Peel-street, said deceased had lived with him two years as his wife. He knew she was about to be confined, and when she complained he went and knocked a neighbour up named Mrs MORRISON, and subsequently went for Mrs SORBY, midwife, who returned with him, and remained with deceased until five o'clock in the morning, and then went home. Witness went to his work shortly afterwards, and did not see her alive again.

Elizabeth CASSIDY, wife of John CASSIDY, Margaret-street, deposed to looking after deceased during confinement. Deceased did not complain of palus. Deceased at first objected to a doctor, saying she would manage without. Margaret SORBY, Frazer-street, midwife, deposed to attending deceased. Witness examined the deceased, and on seeing the swelling she sent for the doctor. She did not deal with the case because it was so unusual.

The Coroner said there was no reason to suspect malpractice. A juryman said they seemed to have done all they possibly could to save the deceased. The jury returned a verdict of death from heart failure, the result of extensive haemorrhage, accelerated by pneumonia.

This issue of the Reporter appears in the interval between Christmas Day and the first day of the New Year. The period is devoted to festivity. It can scarcely be devoted to anything else or better. Many things determine the choice of this particular season for special rejoicing and merry making. The reasons are not all or mainly religious ones. Indeed, the ways in which most people make merry at Christmas are anything but of a specially religious character. Gluttony and winebibbing are granted a plenary indulgence by all but the most ascetic at this festal time. The motto that is regarded as the most seasonable is this:
"Let those now gorge who never gorged before,
And those who always gorged now gorge more."

There is expected to be a general realisation of the most complete animal blessedness to be attained by the amplest catering to the natural appetites. And this is expected to be carried to the extent of satiety, until the "full soul loatheth the honeycomb," and even it may be the grossness of excess warns that no enjoyment is to be expected from that particular source. That sort of thing is not countenanced by any form of the Christian religion even during its nominal festivities.

There is one aspect of Christmas, however, to which no possible exception can be taken, although the appetite may be allowed to have full scope and satisfaction. That is when the poor, ragged, cold, and hungry children of a town or city are gathered together and warmed, and fed, and entertained, and for a few hours made as happy as their capacity for enjoyment will admit. There is a great deal of that kind of thing done by benevolent committee whose own Christmas is rendered specially blessed to them in the satisfaction they feel at having been the means of feasting some hundreds of little fellow-creatures who would otherwise have been experiencing the unmitigated pangs of hunger, at a time when all the more fortunate sons of men had the fullest felicity to be derived from abundance of food and from good clothing, and comfortable housing.

Few things are more interesting than the vagaries of the weather at the present season of the year. Nearly all one's comfort or discomfort depends upon temperature and other meteorological conditions. Sometimes it has been almost impossible to go out of doors, there has been such a deal of snow and frost and hail, and rain, and sleet and wind.

At one time the snow has been beaten hard and converted into ice on all the roads and footpaths; and the officials of the Corporation, with benevolent solicitude for the welfare of the working people, have impartially scattered sand on sloping roads and footpaths. If we mistake not, they used to let the footpaths severely alone, and took particular care of the roads, lest horses might fall. It is pleasing to see as much care taken of the legs of the ratepayers as of their horses.

On Monday, after the most promising appearance of abundant skating everywhere for Christmas, a sudden thaw set in, with a biting cold wind. Singular that a thawing wind should so often chill one to the bone. The rain came down, and the wind blew great gusts, and in a few hours all the caked accumulations of snow and solid accretions of ice had melted away. A great deal that had been white was changed to black, and what was solid became liquid, and what was slippery became rough.

People had to stop congratulating one upon the weather being what they call "seasonable." Father Christmas is always supposed to come with an overcoat powdered with snow, and icicles hanging from his beard, and here was Christmas Eve quite out of character, with rain and a warm, moist temperature.

Yet we had surely had enough of winter. The snow had almost made a record, and the fall of telegraph and telephone posts had surely never been beaten. It would have been out of all reasonable conformity with the character of the present winter if Christmas Day had been as mild and black as Christmas Eve was. It turned out to be quite as "seasonable" as the most rigorous could have wished for.

Big flaked snow kept falling hour after hour, but it kept melting almost as rapidly, so that people had to wade through a depth of two inches of snow and water — snowbroth — for the remainder of the day, and there was no comfort underfoot until a great deal of it had disappeared or been swept away on the day following.

Those who went to the Christmas parties on Wednesday evening had their work before them. The cabs that were out required a couple of horses, and heavy work it appeared to be for the two. Seldom has Christmas night been more inconvenient for the pedestrian, and those who had the experience will pray to be delivered henceforth from such "seasonable" weather.

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