26 February 2013

Ben Brierley in Failsworth and Harpurhey

466 Oldham Road, Failsworth.
 
'BEN BRIERLEY
1825–1896
 
Lancashire Author & Poet
Was born in this house
26th June 1825'
 
Ben Brierley was the son of a hand-loom weaver who became a weaver too.
 
This remarkable monument to Brierley is at the side of the public library just a few hundred yards from his birthplace.
 
Erected in 2006, it is in bronze and by Denise Dutton after an earlier stone sculpture by John Cassidy (see below).
 
 
 
Brierley is represented giving a public reading, holding the notes to be read in his left hand and resting his right hand on the finished notes.
 
Written on the left of the steps:
 
'IN MY EARLY DAYS THERE WERE FEW SCHOOLS TO HELP US IN THE PURSUIT OF LEARNING. IF WE WANTED TO CLIMB WE HAD FIRST TO MAKE OUR OWN LADDERS.'
 
Written on the right of the steps:
 
'IN PROSE AND VERSE, AND IN THE DIALECT SPOKEN BY THEMSELVES HE SET FORTH WITH GREAT FAITHFULNESS AND POWER THE LIFE OF THE WORKING-FOLK OF LANCASHIRE'.
 
'Come carder an' spinners
an' wavvers as weel,
Stop yo'r frames an' yo'r jenies,
strip roller an' creel,
Let yo'r lathes cease to swing,
an' you'r shuttles to fly,
For there's gone through
owd England a battle-cry,
 
I'm neaw payin ninepence
a week for my cote,
Moore than what I paid last year:
an' yet I've no vote:
an' he says if I grumble
this extra to pay,
He'll clap on th' whul shillin - that's
tuppence a day,
 
'They'n turned eaut at Ratchda',
an' Owdham an' Shay,
An' th' Staybridge lads
are at Ash'n to-day:
"fair wage for a fair days work"
is the motto they'n chose,
An' what'll be th' upshot
no mortal mon knows,
 
'So neaw to conclude,
let us shake a loce leg,
An' this system break deawn,
if we're driven to beg,
What's a mon if he can not
stand up in his shoon,
An' say, "I'm as free as
owt else under th' moon?'
 
Ben Brierley's grave is in Manchester General Cemetery, aka Harpurhey Cemetery, Rochdale Road.
 
'In
Loving Memory
of
BEN BRIERLEY
WHO DIED JAN 1ST 1896
IN HIS 71ST YEAR.
ALSO ESTHER
BELOVED WIFE OF THE ABOVE
BEN BRIERLEY
WHO DIED ON HER 80TH
BIRTHDAY MAY 25TH 1914.'
 
'IT CAME UP LATE IN THE
SPRING, AND BLOOMED
AT HARVEST TIME. THE
REAPER WEPT AS HE
GATHERED THE SHORN
FLOWER AND BOUND IT,
WITH THE RIPENED GRAIN,
IN THE SHEAF OF THE
ETERNAL.  B.B.'
 
Ben and Esther's only child, Annie, died at the age of eighteen.
 

'BEN BRIERLEY'

At the side of the cemetery, still on Rochdale Road, is Queen's Park, where John Cassidy's statue of Brierley was erected in 1898, facing the former museum and art gallery. It was knocked down and broken in the 1980s and the remains were destroyed by accident following a fire in a boathouse where they had been stored.
 
From this pedestal, we can see that the words on two faces of the original monument were borrowed for the inscriptions on the steps of the more recent monument in Failsworth:
 
'IN MY EARLY DAYS THERE WERE
FEW SCHOOLS TO HELP US IN THE
PURSUIT OF LEARNING. IF WE
WANTED TO CLIMB WE HAD FIRST
TO MAKE OUR OWN LADDERS.'
 
'IN PROSE AND VERSE, AND IN
THE DIALECT SPOKEN BY THEMSELVES
HE SET FORTH WITH GREAT
FAITHFULNESS AND POWER
THE LIFE OF THE WORKING-FOLK
OF LANCASHIRE'.
 
'ERECTED
BY
PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTION
APRIL 1898'
 
Below are links to my other posts on Lancashire dialect writers:
 
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
John Collier / Tim Bobbin in Rochdale
The Lancashire Dialect Writers' Memorial, Rochdale
David Huk: Ben Brierley 1825–1896 (1995)

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