Hebden Township Historical Data

"Oliver Banks or St. Thomas's Bounty" by Thomas Blackah


Photograph of Thomas Blackah
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In 1867, a pamphlet was published called "Oliver Banks, or St. Thomas Bounty" which was a fictional account, based on fact, of malfeasance by the trustees of the Thomas Becket's Charity in Hebden. It was written by Thomas Blackah (1828-1895), a working miner born in Hardcastle, a settlement about a mile north of Greenhow, now disappeared. He was renowned for his dialect songs and poems.

The background to the story is that Thomas Beckett, a Hebden yeoman who died in 1665, left £50 in his will to be invested in land, the proceeds of which were to be distributed on St. Thomas's Day (21st December) to the poor of Hebden by the Constable, the Church Wardens, and two substantial villagers. You can read more about the Beckett Charity here.

In the 1850s each parish was responsible for its own poor, that is to say, those who had been born in the parish. This rule was for some reason applied by the administrators of the Beckett's Charity, and they refused to give money to those who lived in Hebden but were born elsewhere. Following complaints, the Charity Commission held an enquiry, and ruled that Beckett had intended the endowments to be for the poor of the township regardless of their origin, and ordered the administrators to benefit the most deserving.

"Oliver Banks" is the story of a man living in Hebden but born in Nidderdale, who despite being in desperate need, was denied relief by the charity at that time. The Charity Commission made their ruling in 1859, and the pamphlet was published in 1867, so not long after the event. In the tale, Blackah also accuses the charity's administrators of using some of the money to their own advantage.

It's a beautifully constructed story, and all the more poignant for the truth within it.

The places he mentions are recognisable Hebden locations, and the surnames are those of some of the families who lived in the township at the time. Footnotes are used to identify these.

The pamphlet consists of four sheets of paper some 220 mm wide and 174 mm high, which have been stitched-bound to create a booklet of sixteen sides. The first side is the cover, the second is blank, and the remainder used for the tale. Images of all the pages may be found below, followed by a transcription. The booklet once belonged to Thomas Francis Hammond, but is now in the care of Ian Simpson who generously allowed George Coney to scan it.

Images of the 'Oliver Banks' Pamphlet

Click on any image to make it readable. You may also download a PDF copy of the pamphlet.

Transcription of 'Oliver Banks'

AH'VE had monny a up an' a doon i' me'y time, bud ah wer t'hardest put tult yah winter aboot twenty 'ear sin. We lived at Hebden Edge Well;[1] ah'd been oot a wark ivver sin three weeks afore t'last Aptrick Fair. T'last job ah had wer helpin Tom Pickles o't Hofe way hoose,[2] to drive sum gyste beease ta't Dry Gill. He gamma hofe-a-croon, me'y dinner, an' two pints o yal, an' he sent their gert lad t'next day wi' a pig-chaff, an' two or three boilins o' taties. We had a gud blo' oot fera few days, t'barns new nowt bud Hebden Feeast[3] had cum ageeane. Wen t' taties an' t'chaff wer dun, we'd nayther a bite o' nowt to hit i' t' hoose, ner a fardin to git owt wi'. T'barns leuk'd lang leuks, t'first at me an' then at t'mother, an' naebody bud them 'at's been it seeame hoale can tell hoo ah felt. "Ah think it's aboot up lass," ah manish'd to say it end, an' then me'y heart wer sa full ah cuddant hod, bud brast reet oot o' cryin. T'wife com tum'a an' gat hod om'a an' sed, "Noo Oliver doant cry, thoo maks me feel warse ner ah sud deea, ah'l a wand-ta thar'le be'y sum way orther'd for us, thar's a Being aboon 'at noes hoo wer pinch'd, bud he'll send sumbody to help us, nay Oliver! deea hod up, we've oft been hard up afooare noo, an' thar awlus did summat turn up, and thar will ageean. Ah cud due mesen, lass, bud it hurts ma to see t'barns. Ah cuddant help bud freeat when lile Bill dee'd, but I feel thankful noo - he's better off ner being he'ar, and if we nobbat mind wer pees and kews and land tul him, we'st hev neea howl hampers thar. T'oade parson sed o' Sunday, thar wud be neea ups and doons i' Heaven, an' we sud nayther kno what it war to be hungery ner dry. Ah hennot a morsel o' doot bud Bill's thar." Tears began o' running oot ov her peepers afooare she'd dun; and, t' oadest lass, leuk'd reet atween my een, an' sed, "Ah wish fadther we wer all thar." An' then we all began o' crying ov a lump o' t'harston.

Ah sat ivver sa lang wi' me hands o' me broo an' me elbows o' me knees, studyin what to due.

At last ah bethowt mesel it wor t' day for sarvin oot St. Thomas's Bounty, seea ah sed I wod gan an' try fer summat. They met at oade Susy Joys[4] that 'ear to divide it; an' oade Dicky Runner, o't' Bank Top, wer t'main fella. Ah wesh'd mesen, put on a clean shirt, lash'd me heead, an put t' white hat, an' t' black swallow-lapt cooat on, at Mr. Eddy[5] ga' me to gan to t' club-feeast in three years sin, when I wer workin o'Gerston Moor. T' wife tuek t' thick o't' muck off me clogs, an' off ah set tuv oade Susy's. When ah landed tuv ageean t'hoose end, thar wer Oade Broon,[6] Billy Wiggin,[7] an' a heeale heeap mar on t' seeame bisness 'at ah wer. When it com i' my turn, ah went in an' doft off me hat. My eye! bud warrant thar a bonny swat o' brass laid o' t' top o' t' teeable - soverins an' hofe-soverins - croons an' hofe-croons - shillins, sixpences, pennies an' hopennies, all laid hamsam yan amang another.

Oade Dicky wer set i' t' gert chair wi' his specticles on, an' all t' tother roond him. When he saw me he sed, "What's thow want he'ar, Oliver?" "Why," ah said, "ah'l tell ye, Richard, what's browt me hither. It'l be Cesmas Day o' Monday, an' we hennot a smite o' nayther cheese, spice-cake, ner nayah sort ov ceeake, i' oor hoose, an' ah've nivver had a bat o' wark fer eleven weeks cum t' next Friday. T'wife an' t' barns are all hungerin in' t' hoose, an' we've nayther nowt to hit ner nowt to git owt we, an' ah'l be varra thankful fer a lile matter o' St. Thomas's Bounty." Ah just think ah see oade Dicky tak off his specticles, an' then turn up his een like some fiend, he said, "Thow'l git nowt he'ar. Thow duzzant belang Hebden." "Why then, Dicky," ah sed, "can ye tell me whar ah due belang?" "Thow belangs t' Bank Edge," he said. "Then ah've a reet to me shar o' that brass." "Thow'll nivver git a farden-piece as lang as ah've owt to doo wi' it, aw t' fine teeales 'at ivver ta can tell willot awter me; seea thow mon pike thesel off, or ah'l send for Johny Toonson, he's constable, an he'l tak the tut lockup at Skipton, an' thowl git sent to Wakefield Treading Mill." "Why," ah sed, "ah sal git a suety dumplin, two or three times i' t' week, an' beef and broth t' rest, an' ayther ye or sumbody else 'al hev to keep t' wife an' family. Bud ah've dun nowt at's wrang yet, oade fella, an' nayther Johny Toonson[8] ner ye dar lig a finger o' me; and if this be all t' feelin ye hev fer yer fella creeaters, at's nowt to hit, ner nowt to git nowt wi', let ma tell ye at thar's Him aboon 'al pay ye part back in this world, bud mar i' t' world to come; an' ah sal be sadly deceeaved if all yer beas, sheep, an' hosses binnot teean away, an' yer brass al all tak wings an' flee away, an' ah sal live to see ya brekkin steeanes, or cuttin dykes o' t' rooadside."

Ah put on me hat, an' set off as hard as ivver ah cud leg it, reet heeame, bud it wer a hard job to keep t' cart o' t' wheels all t' way, an' when ah hoppen'd t' deur, t' wife saw be' me varry leuk ah'd gitten nowt. She wer set wi' t'youngest barn ov her knee, an' t' tother two wer hard an' fast asleep atop o' t' langsettle. Ah tried to tell her all t' concarn, bud when ah'd warridged hofe way throo me teeale, me heart filled, an' ah cuddant tell her a scrap mar. Hoo lang we beeath sat withoont changin another word, sobbin, an' leukin t' first at ya' barn an' then another, ah cannot tell, bud just as ah wer gannin to wakken 'em up to gan to hed, in cum Bobby Walker's[9] sarvant lass, wi' a hofe-gallon pitcher full o' broth, two hard havver ceeakes, an' nearly hofe a gert suet dumplin 'at they'd had spar'd at t' dinner t' day afooare, an' she said we had to mind an' send yan o' t' barns doon to their hoose t' next mornin fer some blue milk, an if they wad tak ayther a pooak or a pillow-slip, we mud hev a bit o' watmeal, fer they'd new gitten a leead fra t' Hoff Mill that neet fer t' pig. Tawk aboot barns being pleeased, when oor two wakken'd up an' saw t' dumplin o' t' top o' t' teeable, they wer fit to jump reet oot o' ther skins. They danced roond t' teeable just like two jinny-spinners. Ah teuk a knife, an cut 'em all a square o' t' dumplin, aboot t' size ov hofe a pund of seeap, to be gaeing on wi' whal t' broth warm'd. "Hear's releef cum'd at t' levent hoor.," ah sed. "An noo Peggy," that wer t' oadest lass's neeame, "say t' grace," bud she'd teean a bit off her dumplin, an her mouth wer sa ful she cuddant speeak a word, an' seea her mother sed it for her. Thar wor t' leeast noise ower that meeal ov any ter'd been iv oor hoose fer some time. T' biggest part of t' dumplin seun disappeared, an' t' broth, an' t' haver-ceeake leuk'd wi' lile at yance, when t' barns an' us had all gitten satisfied.

Cesmas Day gat past; an ah gat a job o'wark at Haykit Coalpits,[10] an' seea we did middlin weel that spring, an' on to' t' next back-end. Bud when it com towards time fer sarvin oot St. Thomas's Bounty, ah wer i vary lo' circumstances, seea ah thowt ah wad try Oade Dicky ageean. T' wife sed she wad gan wi' me this time, an' if ayther him or onny yan o' t' lot said a wrang word tumma, she wad tell 'em ah wor worth all t' bag-o-tricks on em fer ah'd olus behaved weel tuy her ivver sin we wer wed; an' ah'd monny a time wrought by me strength, wi' nowt to tak tul bud watter an' breead, o' purpos to keep ov parish — an' if they waddant give us a shar o' t' brass, amang t' rest, t' barns an' her wad all gan to t' warkhoose, and ah cud gan a singing, fer ah'd lecarn'd, "Happy Day, "Mercy's Free," an' a heeale lot mar, 'at they sang at Hebden Heigh Chapel.

When we gat to Jinny Birch's[11] (they met thar that day) Oade Dicky warrant amang'em. Billy Bell,[12] o' t' Moor Side, wor t' Chairman, an' as seun as he clapt his een o' me an' t' wife, he sed, "Ah thowt thow warrant gannin to cum, Oliver, seea ah lapt the five hofe-crawns up in a bit o' paper — thaw'l finnd 'em i' t' far-corner o' t' boddem shelf, i' t' glass-ceease theear. Mun we've had a cummissioner fra Lunnon, an' he's squared things up a bit. T'teea hofe o' t' bras at sud ha' geean to t' poor, went iv meeat an' drink fer them 'at divided it; bud that's aw dun away wi' naw, an' it'l hev to gan t' rooad 'at St. Thomas intended it, fer t' futer.” ' Aye,” oh sed, 'ah saw them puddins boiling, an' fit to jump oot ov oade Susy's posnit t' last 'ear; an' if ah diddant see t' beef, ah smell'd it; an' it's neean sa varry plessant smellin rooast beef wi' a empty stomak, an' kno'ing they munnot teeast it. Ah tell'd t' wife when a gat heeame, 'at brass 'at sud gan to t' poor, wer a deeal on't spent i' meat an' drink fer t' committee. Bud yer a good fella, Billy! Yer a good fellow! An' let me tell ye, if it hadant been fer Bobby Walker sending t'broth an' t' havverceeake, an' t' lump o' dumplin, ayther t'wife, barns, or me, or all on us, mud a varra eeasaly a cock'd wor clogs t' last Thomas's Day, fer we'd nayther scrap ner scrawl aboot oor oction."

Ah wer puttin on me'y hat to gan 'oot, thowt ah nowt na mar to due, as t' wife had brass teed up iv her apron corner, bud Billy sed, "Hod, stop tha a minit, thow mun write the neeame i' this book," an' he thrast a gert beuk on t' teeable, ivver sa big. "Abbud, ah cannot write," ah sed, "ah's neea scolard; ah nivver nobbut went three days to Howgat Scheul, at Pateley, an' all 'at ivver ah leearn'd wer A an' Q — seea ye mun excuse ma, Billy." "Nay," he sed, "ah'l write it for the, an' thow can mak a cross efter 't." "Abbud," ah said, "afooare ah'l mak owt o' t' sooart, ye'st hev t' brass back; fer ah've been a Ranter[13] all me'y life, an' me'y fadther wer yan afooare me, an' if ah begin we crosses an' sike like, fooaks 'll say ah've turn'd a Catholic. Heear, Hannah," ah said to t'wife, "give 'em it back ageean, fer afooare ah'l due owt ageean me'y 'Principal,' ah'l dee like a dog." "Ah've gitten t' brass, an' ah'l stick tult," she sed, an' oot o' t' hooale she shot. Ah thowt they wad ivvery yan on 'em ha' splitten ther sides wi' laffin, Jamie Kolbridge fairly gaep'd ageean. Wid a deal o' talkin an' sike, they gat me to mak a cross. Bud ah neean felt reet efter ah'd dun't. When ah gat heeame, t'wife ast me hoo ah'd cum'd on, an' ah sed tul her ah'd had a bit o' bother aboot makin a cross i' t' beuk, hooivver, ah'd been fooarst ta deea't.

Wen we'y went ta bed, an' ah wer sayin me'y prayers, thar summat kept whisperin, "Mak a cross, mon! Mak a cross!' An' it bother'd me seea, whal ah dunnot think 'at ah ivver gat fairly throo 'em; an' ah cuddant sleep reet that neet fer thinkin aboot makin t' cross i' that gert beuk.

We've gitten wer barns aboot up noo: yan on 'em'a gitten wed, an' another's thrang cooarting. T' youngest's gannin iv eighteen 'ear oade, an' taks a pair o' shoon as big as me, an' can nobbut just screw hissen intuv me'y cleeas,

T'oade wife an' me's livin i' t'oade hoose yet, o' t' Bank Edge, an' wi git a shar o' t' Bounty Brass ivvery 'ear. Poor Oade Billy's geean into t' tother world, an t' neebors all sed he meeade a gud end.

T' last time ah saw oade Dicky Runner, he wer cumin doon t' Lo' Green. When he saw me, he held out his hand to shak hands wi me; tears wer rannin doon his cheeks, as he sed, "Oliver, thy words is cum'd true." I enquired mar abbot him, an' meeade it oot 'at he wer brekin steeans o' t' Heigh Rooad, sum whar up t' heigh end 0' t' Deeale.

Transcription Notes

[1] Hebden Edge Well: There were at least three families living along Edge Top in 1861, and possibly some small cottages have disappeared. 'Well' probably refers to Brown Haw Well that was tapped to augment the village water supply in 1910.

[2] Tom Pickles o't Hofe way hoose: There was a Tom Pickles living at High Cross House in 1861. He was a 42 year-old widower, and farmer of 500 acres.

[3] Hebden Feeast: This is the first source reference to Hebden Feast I have come acoss.

[4] Susy Joys: There were 24 Joys in the township in 1861.

[5] Mr. Eddy: This may refer to Stephen Eddy, who was the Duke of Devonshire's Mining Agent for Grassington Moor, or to his son who was was also involved in the management of the mines at the time.

[6] Oade Broon: There were 15 Browns in the township in 1861.

[7] Billy Wiggin: There were 31 Wiggans in the township in 1861, in five households.

[8] Johny Toonson: There was a household of Townsons living at mill cottages in 1861.

[9] Bobby Walker: There were two household of Walkers in 1861, including Richard Walker's at Edge House.

[10] Haykit Coalpits: This may refer to the small coal mines on Bolton Haw Side.

[11] Jinny Birch's: There were ten people with the surname Birch in 1861, in three households.

[12] Billy Bell, o' t' Moor Side: There was a family of Bells living at Bank Top in 1861.

[13] Ranter: Originally, the Ranters were a seventeenth century Christian sectarian group, but in the nineteenth century Primitive Methodists were known as ranters owing to their crude and often noisy preaching.