Dales Diary: Memories of the invalid poet Edward Gargate of Middleton; Protestors strike the 1881 Wolsingham Hunt; Teenager who successfully took over Lynesack colliery in 1816 and Staindrop's tree-mendous tribute to Queen Victoria (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Dales Diary: Memories of the invalid poet Edward Gargate of Middleton; Protestors strike the 1881 Wolsingham Hunt; Teenager who successfully took over Lynesack colliery in 1816 and Staindrop's tree-mendous tribute to Queen Victoria
In olden days the most shameful fate that could befall any young unmarried woman in the dales, in the opinion of many folk, was to get pregnant.
In some families it was the worst calamity they could imagine, and it led to expectant mothers being banished - in some cases never to darken the doorstep again.
What misery and hardhip they must have gone through when the men involved deserted them, or were ordered to pay only a few shillings a week in maintenance.
It would be bad enough for women in towns and cities, but seems to have been even tougher on those in rural areas. Some families did accept the babies, of course, and brought them up with their other children.
But Edward Gargate, the invalid poet who lived at Gateside near Middleton, tackled the subject of the rejected ones in a long ode in the 1860s.
He may have based it on a family he knew, or perhaps it summed up his feelings on these cases generally.
But it probably led to a significant amount of soul searching. It starts with a sorrowful single mum looking at the house in which she used to live and bemoaning the fact she is not allowed back in:
So near my home, once loved and fair/By stern voice of conscience chid/I am forbid to enter there/When from the world I might be hid. She tells of being sent away to be hidden with her shame and sin. It must have been a struggle for her. She says of her baby's father: He bore me hence, he would not wait/He lured me to a shameful fate/My heart is cold and desolate/Save that it burns in deadly hate.
Other verses relate how it is five hard years since she became an outcast. She has returned on a freezing winter night to look at the house in which she spent her childhood, but dare not knock at the door.
But her elderly parents regret what happened and now long to have her back.
They say: How sad our hearts have been the while/Without her words and cheerful smile/We warned her but she knew no guile/Nor thought that his intent was vile.
Edward Gargate was no stranger to hardship himself. He worked at a lead mine before losing the use of his legs at the age of 12 due to a disease.
He then spent his days in a special bed which was placed outside his parents' house in fine weather. He became a familiar sight, usually smiling despite his handicap.
The Duchess of Cleveland regularly stopped her carriage when she was passing, and sat beside his bed for a chat. She loaned him books and encouraged him to paint and write.
He obviously put a lot of thought into this long poem, called The Return. It ends with the girl's parents hearing a noise at the window and looking out to see her crouching there.
Her delighted father states: Great God, 'tis she, the lost is found/The star to clear the gloom around/The balm to heal the open wound.
Edward was taken by train to Edinburgh Infirmary in 1872 for treatment that, it was hoped, would enable him to walk again.
But instead he had a leg amputated and his tragic life came to an end two weeks later at the age of 23.
BLOOD sport protestors have been in action in many places in modern times, but some showed their opposition well over a century ago.
They caused widespread shock in the sporting world by disrupting the Wolsingham Beagle Hunt's final outing of the season in April 1881.
The hounds killed a hare after a long chase over the moors, and before long they got on the track of another, much to the delight of followers.
This one ran down Spring Hill and over a stream, with the pack following and "making music" before a man who owned land in the area appeared.
He was opposite Bayle Hill wood. With him was a gamekeeper, described by hunt supporters as a great hulking fellow with a huge stick, and other men.
They had gathered a supply of stones as ammunition and started hurling them at the hounds.
A local newspaper reported that if it had not been for the huntsman, who was closely following the pack, some dogs could have been seriously wounded.
It added that it was to be hoped they were not Weardale men as it was a cowardly act to stone "the gallant little hounds which were doing their work right well."
The hare got away, just as a blinding snowstom blew up and the chase was called off. The stoning was described as a spectacle which would make all dale sportsmen sorry.
WHEN John Hardy became manager of a busy coal mine at the age of 17 there must have been doubts about whether he could do the job.
He was appointed in 1816 to take the place of his father, who died after running the Crake Scar colliery near Butterknowle for some years.
It is hard to imagine anyone so young being put in charge of a company of the same size and importance today.
The teenager soon put an end to any questions about his ability, however. Employees and customers were talking before long about his admirable skills rather than his youth as he proved an outstanding success.
He not only kept the company going, but increased its labour force, its output of coal and profits. He went on to become a pillar of the community.
He served on the Board of Guardians,.taking a keen interest in assisting poor folk. He played a leading role in setting up Lynesack parish and the building in 1847 of St John's Parish Church.
He donated money towards the cost of it and its vicarage. This was followed by the building of Lynesack National School and a house for the master.
As well as chipping in towards the cost he supervised the construction work.
The Auckland Times and Herald said of him: "Nobody ever went to him for advice or aid without freely receiving the best he had to give. In exerting his talents for others with as much activity and interest as if it had been for himself, he sought no reward beyond the approval of his own conscience."
This description of a man who went through life doing nothing but good is confirmed by his gravestone in the grounds of the parish church. It describes him as: "A faithful friend, a kind neighbour, a wise counsellor and an unwearied public benefactor."
There were glowing tributes to him after he died in 1869 at the age of 70. His wife Jane lived until 1888 but their son Edward died before them both at the age of 20.
WHEN Queen Victoria celebrated her golden jubilee in 1887 there were tea parties and fetes all over the country. Some places put up statues of the monarch to mark her 50 years on the throne, but residents of Staindrop chose to plant trees on the village green.
A large number were put in, and they are now an outstanding feature which are greatly admired 126 years later.
They were fortunate because the trees were donated by the Duke of Cleveland, lord of Raby Castle at the time.
His chief woodman, Mr Havelock, selected species which would do well, and supervised the planting. This was not done until the following year, when enough money had been collected to put a mesh guard around each one to protect it.
A large crowd turned out to watch, and there was a mighty cheer as each tree was put in by local VIPs.
It would be more accurate to say they used a spade to push in some soil after each hole had been dug and a tree carefully placed into position by Mr Havelock and his team.
The planters included W.T. Scarth and his wife, Gertrude Trotter (of Langton Grange), James Hartley, Joseph Lax (the schoolmaster) and the Reverends Henry Lipscombe, J.L. Williams and R.E. Beaumont.
But as well as the hearty cheers there was muttering. Some older local men shook their heads and pointed out that the new roots would eventually interfere with drains that had been laid at a hefty cost some years earlier. This meant the drains would be cracked and have to be repaired, or the trees would fail and have to be replaced.
The planters didn't pay much attention to the grumblers, pointing out that some folk would always complain about any new feature. It is not known if problems did emerge in the early years, but the trees certainly look healthy now.
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