High Peak News

5 May 1888

The sad death of a woman

To the Editor


A. Vicar in his last letter metaphorically rubs his hands and says he has succeeded in “drawing the Badger” (that is myself.) Now, what I little know of badger-drawing is that cruel men set on dogs to worry an inoffensive animal. I can’t say who the cruel men are that set on the dog, but that A. Vicar is the dog is witnessed by his own remark, and he must be satisfied if he gets a dog’s treatment, and if I “badger” him he can’t complain.

A Vicar says: “He (A.H. Colles) has carefully avoided any reference to the case under discussion.” But to prove that A. Vicar has not one particle of respect for the truth, but makes assertions trusting people will believe him. I quote the following from my letter referred to: “The case rested more on a plain statement of it than upon any strong language; and from all that comes to my ears the great majority of the Whaley Bridge people are satisfied that nothing more is required to be said in further vindication of the subject of that letter.

A. Vicar goes further, and says philanthropy and charity are synonymous, and that they are “twice cursed.” No doubt he will try to prove it when he lectures on “Social Democracy.” From A. Vicar’s modest announcement of the lecture, I gather he is going to make some remarks anent the question that is so agitating his virtuous mind.

I think I have said in a former letter that if a meeting be called I should try to attend, but, of course, that supposes that the meeting is to be held in a respectable public room; say the Mechanics’ Institute or the Band of Hope Hall – and that there be a responsible chairman, and that we have not to sit whilst A. Vicar preaches on “Social Democracy,” or any other subject but the one by which he introduced himself to Whaley Bridge.

For fear A. Vicar should plead want of funds as an excuse for not getting a good room, I now consent to pay for the use of the room for the evening, on the conditions referred to above, and I shall consider Mr. Butterworth a most suitable chairman.

When I say that A. Vicar is not truthful I do not refer to his excuse about robbing Pitt of his words and ideas, because I can’t prove that his excuse is false, but I do convict him of untruthfulness in references to my letter.

No friends of mine that I know of have consulted a solicitor in this case, and I should have laughed at them if they had told me they were doing so. I thought it was all the other side that were talking about law.

If I – “the badger” – let off A. Vicar – “the dog” – from any more “badgering,” it is not because he had not written more foolish things than I have referred to, but simply because I believe with my friends (the suckling sycophants, as A. Vicar so pleasingly calls them) that to reason with an individual who, without any justification – and I defy anyone to prove there was justification – calls a correspondent a villain, a calumniator, &c., &c., (borrowed words, I admit, though equally as malicious as if he had put the sentences together himself,) is a waste of good ink and your valuable paper.

May I ask, why will gentlemen try to draw badgers – mind, I don’t say A. Vicar is a gentlemen – and I make this disclaimer, for if I did not he might think it necessary to say he objects to being called a gentleman, as he did to being called a philanthropist.

Why should Mr. Butterworth, I regret that it is to him I am now bound to refer, wish to “draw” me? However, he has succeeded, for after his rude and inconsiderate attack upon me, twice repeated, and without any provocation from me, I do not see how I can forbear from replying, for if I do strangers might think I was afraid to answer him, or had not a good reply.

Mr. Butterworth says he was not surprised to find I carefully avoided statements which I had previously made. I maintain that my first letter, written quite temperately and without malice, was a good and sufficient answer to the case that had been made so much of, and I do not see why Mr. Butterworth should expect me to repeat statements that have not been disproved. Mr. Butterworth, contradicting me with a simple assertion of his own, is not disproving what I have asserted. I say again no word I wrote has been disproved, and, therefore, as I have stated in a previous part of this letter, I did not avoid anything, but confirmed all I had previously written.

If I have written flippantly, as Mr. Butterworth says, of A. Vicar, it has been because of A. Vicar’s foolishness, as instanced by his use of bad language, threats, &c.

Mr. Butterworth says in his first letter I tried to make Jodrell’s evidence into a tissue of lies. What I did say was: “I should deeply grieve to say one word that should add another pang to what Jodrell must have felt at the loss of his wife, and therefore I will merely trust that what he said before the deputy-coroner he thought was true;” and surely Mr. Butterworth must see the great difference between suggesting that what a man said he had done under great excitement he might be mistaken about and alleging that what he did say was a tissue of falsehoods. If I could possibly think that Mr. Butterworth saw no difference, I should not proceed further with this letter, but I have a better opinion of that gentleman than to think it for a moment.

Mr. Butterworth says : “Nor was I unprepared for the flippant and frivolous tone of his letters, because, as I have said, I did not believe that he took any interest in poor Jodrell’s case except so far as to advertise his “friend.”

Now I could have almost believed that A. Vicar had written that sentence, because it is grossly unjustifiable. On what grounds did Mr. Butterworth believe that I took no interest in Jodrell’s case, except for the reason he specifies? With all diffidence I would say I took considerable trouble to enquire into the case, and, unless I had done so, I, living away from Whaley, could not have written the letter I did.

I am trying to treat Mr. Butterworth temperately, but would it not be a most natural weakness if when I read the following I had replied in the same spirit : “I was, however a little surprised to find that after he had once made . . . . . important statements and contradictions he should make an attempt to shelve, ‘&c., &c.,’ by requesting (privately) what I take to be nothing more or less than a testimonial?” &c., &c. ; and “I think Mr Vicar must have been surprised when he received those pleading communications?” Those that have read the “communications” will, I feel sure, wonder where the “pleading” comes in. But if I could have saved A. Vicar from exposing himself and Mr. Butterworth from taking up a position which I regret he did, I would have pleaded much harder.

Mr. Butterworth wishes for a meeting at Whaley Bridge, and that a resolution should be passed “with a view to an amendment of the law.” Without treating Mr. Butterworth’s words too lightly, might I ask him what law? If he means that he wants a law added to the statute book, how would the following resolution do?

“That this meeting desires a law may be passed compelling all doctors to attend every case to which they may be called, independent of time, hour, or distance, and irrespective of any fact that the person calling them gave them notice or not, although it might be customary for well-regulated persons to do so; and, further, that doctors shall not consider whether they can do any good or not, or take into consideration that they know all the good they can do will be to sign a certificate, and the fact, whether taught by previous experience or not, that they will or will not be paid must not influence them in the slightest degree.” I don’t think the above is at all an unfair statement of what might be expected to be put, that is judging from the letters that have appeared. Of course a resolution that cloth agents should send shirtings to clothe the poor, the needy, and distressed of our back slums, and that lint, physic, &c., should be supplied to whomever ask for them, irrespective of the chance of the supplier being paid, would be left over to a later meeting.

Under such laws of course doctors and cloth agents would be compensated by being made to a certain extent monopolists like publicans. The idea does not recommend itself to me.

There is one other remark of Mr. Butterworth’s I feel I should be doing an injustice to the place where I lived so long, if I did not refer to.

A. Vicar merely attacked me and two or three others. But Mr. Butterworth, not satisfied with such a “small bag” as that, fires away at the whole village, for cannot the great majority of the people of Whaley be included in the words, “working classes”? He says, “I know from experience that the working classes of Whaley Bridge are the most apathetic people under the sun, and would not lift a finger in defence of their neighbour.” May I ask were they apathetic when they built their Temperance Hall, or their Wesleyan Chapel, or when they built their Mechanics’ Institute? Does the Volunteer Corps of a hundred strong indicate apathy? Is the raising of money to restore Taxal Church a sign of apathy? And if the above do not indicate apathy, where do you look for it? Amongst their youths, who in their football field have, during the past season, won 14 games and lost 3.

I have only referred to public apathy, for I dare hardly mention the libel that they as individuals “would not lift a finger in defence of their neighbour” for fear after I had vented my feelings and called attention to the charge I might be told that in transcribing from the MS. a mistake had been made. I have it on good authority, the authority of those who have lived long in the village that it would be hard to find a place where more ready and hearty sympathy with one another in sickness or distress of mind or body can be found than in Whaley Bridge.

Though Mr. Butterworth in his last letter draws the mantle of retirement around him, he must excuse my having accepted what I consider to be his challenge, and having replied, Mr. Butterworth can, if he think fit, throw off his mantle, and if he consider it worth his while to reply I would ask him to read my first letter once again, and if I made therein one assertion that a gentleman might not make in such a case I shall be most willing to apologise in your paper.

In conclusion, allow me to express my regret that the correspondence took so unpleasant a turn. A. Vicar’s letters, in which he used such bad language, imputed such bad motive, and quoted other words than his own, are responsible for it.

Thanking you for allowing me so much of your space.

Yours &c.,

A.H. Colles

Higher Broughton, May 2nd 1888

[This correspondence must now cease. Ed. H.P.N.]