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Reminiscences and Reflections of an Octogenarian Highlander Chapter LV. - Strangers within the Gates


THE industrial revolution everywhere led to a vast disturbance and new assortment of population. Country people deprived of their domestic industries flocked to the manufacturing mills and to the mining and ironwork localities. In the Bradford district the revolution seemingly worked itself out up to about 1830 more gradually than in the majority of similar cases. In this district the old communities were, till the time mentioned, half rural. Bradford itself was surrounded with small farms, all of which are now covered with streets, roads, railways, and buildings, or as parks dedicated to urban amenity and recreation. Sanitation did not proceed pari passu with enlargement. The formerly clean waters of becks were polluted, and the necessity came for bringing pure water supply from afar. The canal connecting Bradford with Shipley was a stinking sink before it was remedied) and so was the beck in the valley before it was covered in, as earlier had been done with its tributary rivulets which passed through the town, and which old people said they saw running clear and bordered with banks beautified by wild flowers. As far up as Keighley the river Aire itself was so polluted that trout could not live in it. The whole district is hilly and naturally attractive, even to a Highlander, but it got sadly spoiled by smoke-laden atmosphere and polluted waters before energetic, costly, and, to a large degree, effective means were taken to remedy what had grown into intolerable evils, and to restore to the scenery a part of what God had originally bestowed upon it.

The earliest incomers were from the rural districts of the West Riding itself. They were the same in race dialect and habits as the native population. Next came others from both the north and south of England to try their luck in a place which offered many chances. So far the gathering muster was almost exclusively English. After 1830 the flowing-in stream changed its character a good deal. Scotchmen, Irish, and Germans poured in, first in driblets, and then in large numbers. In 1860, Mr Robert Milligan, the head of one of the largest merchant firms in the town, kept in his lobby at Acacia, with honest pride, the travelling merchant's pack with which he had began his strictly honourable and exceptionally successful career in England. Other Scotchmen of the past generation were then leading merchants, manufacturers, doctors, ministers, professors, teachers, and shopkeepers, or trusted officials in various kinds of employment. With their better education and, as a rule, prudent conduct, the Scotch incomers had good chances of prospering. They made themselves respected. So did the Germans whether they belonged to the Teutonic race or the ubiquitous race of Jacob. The Scotch mingled, as they were sure to do, with the native population, and kept their names and numbers, but after the defeat of France and the founding of the German Empire, many of the sons of the Fatherland, taking with them the commercial and mechanical knowledge they acquired in England, returned home to take part in the fierce trade rivalry which has since been going on between their country and ours.

It is a probable supposition that when the primitive race of cave dwellers who have left so many traces behind them, came into our land, there was a broad dry land connection between England and France at the Strait of Dover, and another between Scotland and Ireland at the promontory of Cantyre. On this supposition the United Kingdom in a far off era would have been an antler-like horn of the European continent. But as far back as we have any gleam of historic light to guide us, Great Britain and the Lesser Britain, or Ireland, were separate islands as they are now, and the diverse races which founded our composite nation came in at successive periods by sea. Ireland and Alba or Scotland north of the firths of Forth and Clyde escaped the Roman Empire rule to which the rest of Great Britain had to submit. It is likely that they were places of asylum to British fugitives who rebelled against Roman rule, or had committed crimes which put their lives in peril from Roman justice. The Romans meditated the conquest of Ireland, but the intention was never carried out. The subjection of that country to England in the reign of Henry II. was brought about, not by Saxons, but by Norman and Welsh adventurers, who, in a generation or two, became more Irish than the Irish themselves. The conquest and settlement of Ulster, and the "strike down the Amalekites" of Cromwell, might, with more truth, be called the "Saxon Conquest." It is a strange fact that the early conquest was nominally carried out with Papal warrant to bring Ireland under complete subjection to the Holy See, and that the latter conquest was nominally intended to make Ireland a Protestant country. Irish politics got curiously twisted with Irish religion. Had the audaciously priest-predicted son been given to Mary Tudor, and the anti-Protestant policy of her reign been continued with success under her successor, it is more than likely that Ireland would have become ultra-Protestant. As matters otherwise turned out, Ireland fought for Catholicism and the cause of expelled James II. and his successors. For all the bitter hatreds begotten by race and religious differences, plottings, rebellions, and suppressions thereof, the Irish did their share as soldiers, sailors, colonists, and daring adventurers in defending and extending the British Empire.

The pacific invasion of England by masses of Irish working people, who came to stay, commenced in last century, when the industrial revolution was pretty far advanced. Previously there used to come bands of harvesters, men and women, who returned home with the wages they had earned in England when the crops were gathered in. Railway construction, mining, manufacturing, caused by degrees many of them to take up permanent residence among the "Saxons." Next followed the dispersion which the potato famine time enforced, and ever after the Irish invasion of England assumed, in places, a conquering aspect. In the worsted district, however, the Irish incomers found themselves submerged amidst a native population that always could, and always calmly did, hold the first place. Divided between Church of England and Dissenting Churches, that population was very Protestant, and yet very tolerant. As far as I am aware, there was not, before the incoming of the Irish, a single Catholic place of worship in the whole parish of Bradford, which was of far wider extent than the area of the town. Church and Dissent, while fighting between themselves on other questions, were united in defence of the Revolution Settlement and the Protestant Faith. The Irish incomers had to put up with the Gunpowder Plot annual saturnalia of the 5th of November, when the youth of the town and district indulged in a sportive riot of crackers and bonfires which often led to police court cases, and sometimes produced serious injuries, or ended in tragedies. But, on the other hand, they could be a little riotous themselves on St. Patrick's Day, and noisy enough at municipal and Parliamentary elections. From Ulster and Dublin came Orangemen who, although comparatively few in number, exercised counteracting influence as men of a much higher standard of acquired knowledge and superior social status. As a body, the Catholic Irishmen sympathised with all the separatist and rebellious proceedings of their people at home, and, when they got them, gave their votes to the English candidates for seats in Parliament who promised the biggest surrender. But in every-day life and conduct they were a hard-working, orderly, warm-hearted, lovable people, who attended well to their family and religious duties, and sent a good deal of the money they earned to old parents and needy friends they left behind them in Ireland. Under the provocation of what they had just cause to consider a gross attack on the Catholic Church, they got up a tremendous riot, when the Frenchman called Baron de Carnin came to hold open-air meetings in Bradford, at which to denounce papal policy, Jesuit intrigues, and alleged immoralities of continental monks and nuns. But they learned moderation and respect for freedom of speech from their surroundings and the manner in which their most Radical friends and allies resented the mobbing of Baron de Gamin, whose worst allegations were mere echoes of the language used by the anti-clericals of France, Italy, and Spain. Having learned by sharp experience that to get they must give toleration, and that in respect to freedom of speech and action within the wide limits of law there was a broad difference between Bradford and Cork, they kept prudently quiet when Gavazzi thundered to a crowded audience against the Church from which he had openly revolted, belauded Cavour and Mazzini, crowned Garibaldi with the hero chaplet of Italian patriotism, and in floods of stirring eloquence advocated the complete unity and independence of the whole Italian peninsula, which in a short time afterwards came to be effected.

Those of the young people from Ireland who entered into domestic service quickly learned their various duties, and, remaining true to their Church, assimilated themselves with their new environment, and, in a manner reminding one of Highland clannishness, attached themselves to the families they served. When we married, my young wife brought with her as our servant, Kate Carty, from Nenagh, Tipperaray, who had been servant to her father and mother for three years. Kate and her young mistress were of the same age. They had been girls together, and had, under Mrs Aspinall's super- vision, gone through the same excellent English domestic training. Kate remained with us for seventeen years. She went with us to the Cape, came back with us to England, and when we came from England to Inverness, she accompanied us, and stopped with us until her mother, getting helpless by age and infirmity, called her home to her birth-place in a manner which a dutiful and affectionate only daughter felt at once bound to obey. She saved while in our service a good bit over a hundred pounds, which she took to Ireland with her, and yet she had been annually paying out of her not-exorbitant wages the rent of her mother's little house and holding. Her day of departure was a day of sorrow to my wife and myself, and, still more so, to our large group of young children, who looked upon her as a permanent and indispensable member of the family. She had been like a sort of second mother to them all, but the boys were her special favourites. She took one of them out to the Cape, and two of them home, and these first two were her special favourites until a younger boy worked himself forward into the front rank, by promising to adopt her as his daughter. In telling them the story of her early Irish life, and how the death of her father had left her an orphan, four years old, Willie cried out "Kate, I'll be your father." That infantile promise of paternal protection tickled Kate's fancy; but the little boy took a rather artful advantage of the position he had so easily gained. When she had to refuse any of his requests or to rebuke his restlessness, he got round her by the threat "Kate, I'll not be your father."


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