The Bag of Gold Story

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"Auntie, who is this lady?" queried my eight-year-old great-nephew holding up a very old photograph, but before I could answer a little voice piped. "Doggie, doggie, woof, woof." and it was the three-year-old little sister of the speaker expressing her interest, not in the lady, but certainly in the lady's pet as her eager fingers attempted to grasp the fading carte-de-visite revealed.

Whilst in a fit of nostalgia, I had surrounded myself with family reminders of an earlier age. "Tell me a story about this doggie," pleaded the little girl, completely taking over the situation, whilst her brother had to await the reply he was seeking.

"Well, my dear, the little dog was called Fido. He lived in this house years ago and he was a good companion to the lady in the picture. The lady became my mother, who was also the mother of your grandfather and that makes her your great-grandmother. Too young to be interested in the genealogical aspect, comments rolled out which developed into a quick question and answer session. "He's sitting up, is he not playing with the lady?" "Oh, no he is being obedient; see the lady has raised her finger to him. I think she must have said, 'Now, Fido, you be a good boy.' " "Why, what had he done?" "I don't really know, but he could have been chasing boys and girls for their pocket-money." This was news indeed, for up to now, in spite of her marked interest in domestic animals, in her short life never had she found a dog which liked money.

Anticipating further questions I volunteered the theory he must have noticed dropped coins rolling and, being speedier than the owners, he won, as a visit to his kennel often testified. Stunning information of this nature put a temporary halt to the rapid interrogation and the thoughtful look on her face was an indication that a poser was being dealt with by her active brain which, no doubt, would demand a further crop of answers in due course. However, the boy, quick to spy the advantage this lull had given him, commented, "I like the bag of gold story best." I expected to be asked to tell this once again but was spared the repetition, for Rachel, having obtained her second wind, was this time attracted by passing traffic so decided to monopolise her brother's skills and ingenuity by suggesting he should convert the settee into a dormobile. A lightning change of interest therefore took place.


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Michael liked the Bag of Gold Story. So did I. It was one beloved of my childhood, told to me by my grandmother, repeated by my mother and, also, in my presence, told to the many visitors to our family home.
My maternal grandmother's father, Robert Schofield, must have been a real home maker. He obtained a plot of land in a cornfield on which he built, in l840, two four-roomed cottages which subsequent descendants have altered to suit their requirements. In one of these I now live and, from being on the New Road has, in the fullness of time, found itself on the A62 so, there I am, behind my double yellow lines, with an assortment of traffic continually rushing by; a situation which my forebear would never had envisaged.

One day when great-grandfather was busy with his building project he noticed that a passing horseman had dropped something from his saddle but, apparently, the rider was unaware of this for there was no interruption of his steady trot as he proceeded towards Manchester. Crossing to investigate, great-grandfather was surprised to find, on the rough pathway, a bag containing golden coins which must have fallen from the saddle. Determined to restore the money to its owner he followed the rider but he had a long distance to cover and it was not until he recognised the horse, tethered outside the Royal Oak near Miles Platting, that he was able to identify the rider amongst the travellers congregating in that hostelry.

On the restoration of this cash, the owner was anxious to reward great-grandfather but the idea was stubbornly rejected. In the pleasant conversation which ensued it was revealed that the horseman was himself a builder who was on his way to pay his workmen their wages. He was interested to hear about the cottages and said he had noted them in course of erection as he had passed through Failsworth. Pleasantries concluded great-grandfather trudged back - that was that - just an incident and a six-mile walk. There was, however, a surprise in store for him. Imagine his amazement when a wooden beam was delivered to the site, addressed to 'the honest man building the cottages', with the compliments of the owner of the bag of gold, and with a request that the beam be incorporated into the new structure. How my grandmother gloried in telling this story about her own father. "Honesty is the best policy," she would say in ringing tones as she pointed upwards to the sturdy beam.



The Early Family at 'Failsworth View'

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George and Bridget Clough born 1775 had nine children. My grandmother's mother, Ruth, was one of them. Ruth married Robert Schofield and on their deaths the property, 'Failsworth View', remained in the same family and subsequent marriages and deaths became responsible for the removals which took place from one cottage to the other. Grandmother, one of the three daughters of Ruth and Robert Schofield, married Amos Rydings. It is a matter of great pride to me that my grandmother was a keeper of family records. My aunt and my mother shared her enthusiasm which was linked with a strong sense of history. That phase of our family history, dominated by Mary Ann and Amos Rydings, stalwarts of Failsworth Wesleyan Chapel, was that which, in due course, brought me into close contact, during my formative years, with living members of their extended family. Although my grandfather, Amos, had died two years before I was born I grew up with a feeling that I had known him personally. His influence was never allowed to fade.

A feature of my grandmother's conversations was her frequent, reference to her relatives in a tone of respect. My mother inherited her ability to see the best in people and to say so. Within this home life, Elizabeth Jane, my mother, developed a love affair with people, especially with children, which almost competed with her duties as a wife and mother. If people did fall from grace their misdeeds were spoken of in hushed tones; as it were - 'Not in front of the children'. How I managed to follow clues and weave imaginary incidents around these dear souls would have surprised my elders, but I have always had a soft spot for those straying from the straight and narrow. When they visited our home I watched them with a kind of fascination. In my youthful judgment they were handsome and lively folk and I cannot remember developing a dislike for any of them; on the contrary I anticipated their visits with great pleasure and a good measure of curiosity. In my old age, taking the standards of the 1980s, I have a feeling that any misdemeanours with which they were credited were only slight deviations or merely waywardness and, as I have from early days made a point of following problems of conduct through, as far as my limitations would permit, very few of these relatives came to the sticky end predicted.

Amos Rydings interpreted seriously his duties as a Wesleyan Methodist Class Leader and he was fully supported in this by his wife. A very outreaching Christianity was at work during the whole of their married life. It was not uncommon, therefore, for members of grandfather's weekly society class to find hospitality at 'The View'. It was the time of large families. Free education was making its presence felt. People were better able to gratify their ambitions. Industry was expanding rapidly and superseding the cottage industries. Dr. Ferranti was establishing his organisation at that time in our district. During this period the area saw an influx of many new workers with the techniques demanded by this new medium, 'Electricity'. It was also a time when professional people and the factory 'mesthurs' could offer opportunities for good class domestic service in their pretentious households.

Many robust lasses from remote Welsh farming areas and the Scottish highlands were recruited to fill these vacancies and, coming in many cases from Christian Homes, they iooked around for a place of worship in their new surroundings. The class leaders of the chapel rose to meet this challenge and they had the power to kindle and foster friendships. It was not a case of just a nod and a handshake resulting in the casual acquaintance. Their homes were made open to these new members with whom joys and sorrows were shared. When Dr. Ferranti chose to build his factory in our vicinity he had already selected some men of known ability who accompanied him. This gave a fillip to local youths who took advantage of the nightschool training then available and who eventually found employmemt in this new realm. Good positions resulted for many, especially those with powers of leadership. Several strengthened their capabilities by accepting lay administrative posts in connection with the chapel and these fused admirably with their day-to-day labours.


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In the local community about this time there was a general upsurge in the mental atmosphere. I have a memory of one of these new Ferranti engineers telling me, years after the conversation had taken place, that having confided in my grandfather about some of his lodging difficulties he stayed for a period at the View. In the intimacy of the home he heard Christian names used and he said "Mr. Rydings, your name is Amos?" - "Yes, lad, it is." "and your wife's is Mary Ann?" "It is indeed." Then I am truly at home for those are the names of my own parents. That friendship was only concluded by death in the order or Amos (1900) Mary Ann (1927) and Will (1947). The link was never severed though marriage and new appointments, in localities far away, could have easily created a break. This did not happen and visits would be renewed and letters would be exchanged. Will's were usually accompanied by sketches of his beloved woodlands and rhymes inspired by renewing old friendships. The one following is typical of the communications he sent us, the receipt of which we thoroughly enjoyed.

After a visit to my foster mother, Mrs. Amos Rydings:

Oh! Mother mine, with pleasant thoughts
I homeward rode
The lengthy journey seemed so short
And bright the road
For on the way with gladness rare
I saw you in your old armchair.
And Flossie came and sat with you
That maid so sweet
With gentle ways - where e'er they grew
For Heaven meet
With soft caress - I thought so fair
And shared with you your old armchair.
Then once again - with pleasure deep
I looked at you
And upward gazed - but did not speak.
On Amos too
I wondered if his eyes somewhere
Beheld you in your old armchair.
I'll see you soon again kind soul
If all is well
And this sweet thought my mind consoles
"All will be well"
A welcome smile you then will wear
And greet me from your old armchair.

T W.B.Jeeves.


Failsworth View 1840

'Robert a'th' View' - Chapter list