A Tale of Hough Hill, Stalybridge

Jack and Bill S ––––––– were brothers, both working in one of the cotton mills at Stalybridge. Jack (who was married) resided with his wife and children in one of the lonely cottages on the side of Hough Hill, and Bill lodged at Newton so that after work their homeward way lay in the same direction, and they generally went home together.

It was Friday night, and the two brothers had left their employment and were making all speed towards their destination when Bill suddenly pulled up saying, “How about that parrot we seed last neet, Jack. Art goint’ buy him?”

“I dunnot know,” answered Jack, “but we’ll go and hav’ a look at him. He’s a rum customer accordin’ to what some o’t chaps i't mill say.

Accordingly they retraced their steps and soon stood before the establishment where the celebrated parrot resided. Entering the premises they were met by the proprietor, who was very civil and obliging, probably on account of the fact of it being pay night.

“The parrot, sir,” he said, smiling and rubbing his hands, “Yes, he’s here. As genuine a bird as ever grew feather.”

And drawing a cloth from the cage in the corner he revealed a large and scraggy parrot standing on one leg and looking as if it had slept for a week.

“Have a look at him, sirs,” said the dealer. “He can recite Shakespeare, say his commandments, and sing till he’s hoarse.”

“I dunna want him fur’t say Shakespeare,” said Jack. “Is he owt i'’t Lankysheer line?”

“Well,” answered the dealer. “I can’t say as he knows much; he’s been brought up in a gentleman’s house, but no doubt he’ll soon pick it up.”

So a bargain was struck, and Jack and Bill sallied forth, the cage having been duly covered to keep the light from the parrot.

Having got on Line Edge-road, Bill suddenly said “What will thi’ wife say, Jack? Thee goin’ a-spendin’ thi hard earned brass on parrots.”

“I dunno know,” answered Jack. “I ne’er thowt o’ that before.”

“We winna tek it whom to-neet, then,” answered Bill. “Stick the cage up i’ that haystack; he’ll be as weel theere as anywheere else.”

Jack made a bole in the hay and placed the cage in it. Then he pulled the cover off. The bird was still standing on one leg and apparently fast asleep. However, they woke him up, and he began to quote Shakespeare until Bill “cleanted him out’ yed,” and then he shut up.

Then our two friends went off, and Bill, instead of going to his lodgings, volunteered to stay with his brother an hour or so. Time went on, and our two friends had sat before the fire and smoked until they were tired. Jack’s wife was just putting the children to bed when the door opened and old Sam Swishale entered, evidently a little the worse for liquor.

Old Sam was a noted drinker, and it was well known that most of his wage was spent in liquor, and that his wife did not receive much of it.

“I’ve bin to Mottram,” he said. “I thowt I’d gie thi’ a call comin’ back.”

They assured Swishale he was welcome, and on being offered a seat near the fire he sat down, and producing his clay pipe, enjoyed a smoke. After a little while he got up and departed in the direction of Stalybridge.

“Owd Sam’s drunk agen,” remarked Bill. “I hope he comes to no harm.” As he spoke there was the sound of scurrying feet, the door opened with a bang, and in rushed Sam Swishale, as white as chalk and with his hair standing on end.

“What’s up?” queried Jack and Bill in a breath. “Lock your door,” cried Swishale, trembling. “I’ve seen th’ divvil. This is what comes o’ drinkin’ mi money away; but I’ll ne’er tek another sup as long as I live.”

“Has summat feeart thee?” asked Jack.

“Feeart me?” said Swishale. “Why, I’m weel nigh skeert out o’ mi wits. Tha’ con lock yon door, Jack, for I’m no stirrin’ out o’ this house to-neet. This is the last time tha’ll catch me on Hough Hill, for I’m noan that fond o’ boggarts.”

“Hast seen a boggart there?” said Jack.

“Yes, that I han,” said Swishale. “But I’ll tell thi how I were just opposite Hunter’s Lodge, when I seed a big haystack a-looming up afore me i’t moonleet. Then summat started a-saying a lot o’ murderin’ names – jawbreakers they were, I con tell thi.”

Jack winked at Bill, for they both knew that the redoubtable parrot had been at work reciting his Shakespeare. Bill volunteered to go down and see if he could see anything, but Swishale would on no account accompany him.

In a short while Bill returned, and said he could see nothing; but as he passed Jack he whispered, “I’ve browt th’ owd parrot up, an’ I’ve stuck him i’t kitchen.”

“Tha’ll hav’ furt mek me a bed up somewheere, Jack,” said old Swishale, trembling, “fur I daurna pass theere agen.”

“But what will thi wife think when tha doesna come whom,” asked Jack.

“I dunna care what she thinks,” answered the old fool.

At this moment there was a hoarse shriek from the kitchen and a terrible voice was heard propounding a passage from “King Lear.” Sam jumped up and fled precipitously, leaving his pipe broken on the floor.

The brothers went to the door, and there was Sam scouring across the fields towards Newton as fast as ever he could run.

Next morning Jack met Sam Swishale at his work, and asked him if he got home all right the night before.

“Ay, lad,” said Sam. “I went round by Newton, and it was a goodish way, but I couldna go thother road. I’st neer come a visitin’ thi agen, altho’ th’ freet I got hasna injured me, fur I signed t’pledge this morning.”

And old Sam Swishale always boasts that “if he hasna seen a ghost, he’s yeered one,”

And Jack and Bill take great care not to undeceive him.


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