The Massacre of Peterloo, Manchester, 16th August 1819

The Peterloo Massacre - Manchester 16th August 1819

From 'Short Stories About Failsworth Folk' by Sim Schofield

The following stories are taken from the above mentioned book, published in 1905 and mention the veterans of Peterloo, from Failsworth and other Radicals and Reformers in the town.
The author, Sim Schofield, was born in the middle years of the 19th century and had strong memories of the hard times during the American Civil War, when the weaver's family of six were existing on 2/- a week. His father, Thomas, was a veteran of Peterloo, and had been at that meeting as a 16 year old. Sim was married to poet Samuel Laycock's daughter, the 'Bonnie Brid' of his well-known poem.

Sime Schofield
title page of 'Short Stories About Failsworth Folk' by Sim Schofield

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John Moores -  Radical reformer
John Moores


Old John Moores was a sturdy Radical reformer of the old school. In his time he played a useful part in the history of Failsworth Radicalism. During the many years I filled the office of hon. secretary of the Failsworth Liberal Association, "Old John," as we called him, rendered splendid service to the cause by his untiring efforts to. enfranchise his fellow-men. Mr. Moores, who was a man of independent means, was a freehold voter himself, but this did not make him indifferent to the rights of others. During the agitation for the extension of the franchise to the county householders, he delivered thousands of circulars to the reformers in the district, summoning them to meetings. He was always

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ready for work of this kind, and he was sensible enough to do anything of a useful nature. Frequently did he come to my house and say, "Neaw, Sim, if theaw wants onything doin', an' aw con do it, let me know, an' aw'll see ut it's done." He would have walked ten miles any day, delivering circulars and messages, if by so doing he could have saved the association a shilling in postage. At one time he kept the Bridge Inn, and I well remember him once going to London to attend a reformers' meeting. He had never been to the great city before, and Ben Brierley, knowing this, desired me to invite his friends to a Lancashire supper, to celebrate his safe return home. This I did, and got a goodly number together at the Bridge Inn. Brierley was present, and I shall never forget a remark he made at the supper. Old John had a tremendous "twist," and could eat almost the weight of himself of potato pie. He was a short, well-set man, and sat at the opposite end of the table to Brierley, behind a big pile of potato pie. Ben caused some amusement amongst the company by saying, "There's somebody behind that big plate of potato pie whose face I cannot make out fairly, but perhaps I shall do as his plate gets lighter." As John's pile got less, his face came in view, which elicited the remark from Brierley, "Hello, John, I see it's you."

At the great Reform demonstration at Failsworth, in 1884, Old John was the means of getting eleven persons together who were present at the Peterloo massacre in 1819. He procured a conveyance for these. veteran reformers, and got the tattered banner which Sam Bamford's contingent carried with them to Peterloo. Besides this banner, the aged reformers carried with them a motto bill: "Population of Failsworth, nearly 8,000; resident voters, 137. We mean to alter this." This striking feature in the demonstration,

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although now a matter of history, was mainly the work of John Moores. I got an excellent photograph taken of this group of reformers, and of a large size, a copy of which is in my possession. A reproduction of this photograph appears in this book. After the meeting on "Ridgefield Croft," Old John got a Failsworth gentleman to entertain these veterans at tea in his house, when the late Mr. Robert Leake, M.P. one of the members for South-East Lancashire, joined them. A most enjoyable evening was spent together by the old people, many of Whom sang the political songs of their early days, whilst others related the struggles they had taken part in for the emancipation of their fellow-men. Mr. Leake, M.P., sent me a very interesting letter of this memorable meeting of old reformers, and the letter was published at the. time.
When out canvassing and talking with Tories, Old John would often say to them, "Yo' talk abeaut bein' friends 0' th' workin' men; yo're nowt o' th' sort. Aw'll gi'e five peaunds to th' Failsworth Church if yo' con prove 'at yo'n ever held a single meetin', or passed a resolution i' favour o' givin' votes to th' workin' men i' Failsworth." Old ]ohn never had to pay his five pounds to the church. It is well to remind our young men of to-day of the battles that have been fought in order that they might have the rights which they now enjoy.
But Moores was not only a politician, he was a kind. of a "village philanthropist," carrying sunshine into many a poor man's home. True, he had no religious opinions, and he was often dubbed "Atheist" by men who had less real religion than he had. Although not a man of creeds, yet he was a man of deeds. Many a time have I met him carrying something wrapped up in a "check napkin," and

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on asking him where he was going, he would answer in his own quaint and simple way, "Well, theaw sees, owd Mrs. ___ 'as bin badly laft. Hoo's a large family, an' they've hard wark to mak' ends meet. Aw'm takin' 'th' childer some clogs, a loaf, an' a tay cake or two." At other times I have seen him collecting the poor children to take them for a day's out in the country, and treating them when he got them there to a good tea. Such were the quiet ways of this quaint old reformer. He was not a man of much education, nor had he mixed much in society. When the great conference was held at Leeds, on the county franchise question, Moores expressed a wish to go. I got him appointed as one of the Failsworth delegates. Never shall I forget an incident which happened while he was attending this conference. Before going, he said to me, "Neaw, theaw mun just coach me a bit, an' tell me heaw to act. Aw dunno' want to mak' a foo' o' misel'." He was prepared to do anything I told him, for he had such an unbounded confidence in my friendship for him. I told him he must try and be as polite as he could to everyone, and to use the word "Sir " in addressing people. A reception was given one night to the delegates. On entering the room, he was asked his name by the attendant at the door of the reception room. Old Moores, remembering the advice I had given him, and desiring to be polite, said to the functionary, "Sir, ]ohn Moores." As the attendant announced the name of Sir John Moores, there was quite a titter of laughter, and some ot the guests seemed to wonder if there had been a general resurrection, but old John passed on, shaking hands with all the officials he came across, quite innocent of the amusement he was causing. He was the character at the reception, as he walked about in his old-fashioned dress, trying to be

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polite to those around him. During the evening, coloured ices were being served out. Old John, noticing this. whispered to me, "Aw should like some o' that; it looks rare an' nice." On getting him some on a glass plate and handing it to him, he commenced to eat it, remarking, "Well, aw never tasted owt like that i' my life; it's as cowd as ice." On asking him if he would have a little more, he replied, "Nay, aws't ha' no more o' that mak' o' stuff. Ax 'em for some potato pie; aw'd raythur ha' that."
It was quite a treat to hear him, in after years, relate his experiences at "the grand reception at Leeds." Equally amusing were his adventures in London. He -had never been to London before, but a Failsworth man he once knew was living there, who, when he resided in Failsworth, was known by the name of "Charley Dick." On arriving at King's Cross, Old John met a man in the street, and inquired of him if he knew where "Charley Dick" lived. The man said he thought he did. "Well," said Old Moores, "if theaw'll find him for me, aw'll stond a pint for thee." Old John tells how the man "prowlart abeawt Lunnon" in search of "Charley Dick," and how often the explorer got thirsty in his wanderings. But .no "Charley Dick" could they find. When Old ]ohn left the Cockney, he said to him, "Well, theaw's done thi best; here's twopence for thi; come again i' th' mornin' to wheer aw'm lodgin', an' we'll try again." But the Cockney did not turn up on the following morning. Yet, strange to say, Old John did find "Charley Dick" before he returned. He got in some Radical Club, and, on inquiring from the company if anyone knew "Charley Dick, fro' Failsworth," it so happened that one person knew him, and he soon brought the two Failsworthites together, and a rare time they had in the Great City. He took ]ohn about to

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see the sights of London. When Old John came home, he said, "Aw'st never goo to Lunnon again till it's cut i' two. It's too big for ony one mon to see." Such are a few of the incidents in the life of good Old John Moores, the Failsworth Radical.
I retained the veteran reformer's friendship as long as he lived, and at the old man's death I found he had made me his executor. He left a little sum of money to "Th' Owd Schoo'," a place he had been associated with most of his lifetime. Peace be to his memory -
"For a kinder heart never throbbed human breast
Than the one the worthy reformer possessed."


There were other worthy reformers in the district of Failsworth whose acquaintance I had, and prized. I remember one who lived in Woodhouses, known as "Old Bellfield." The little village of Woodhouses is practically a part of
Failsworth, although of recent years it has been a township itself, and the residents vote in the Prestwich division. At one time the villagers were mostly hand-loom weavers, and they were Radicals almost to a man. Many of the weavers owned their own houses and gardens in the old days, and were, therefore, ownership voters before the extension of the franchise to the county householders. At election times, they used to poll at Waterloo, near Ashton-under-Lyne, and I well remember the time when all the Tories could have been taken to poll in one cab. As many as ten cabs were required to convey the Radicals to the poll; But a change has come over the village with the gradual disappearance

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of the hand-loom. Now, many of the inhabitants work at the surrounding rnills, and some walk night and morning to Platts' works at Oldham. With the change of occupation has come a change in the politics of the residents. The parties are now nearly balanced, but the old people still retain their Radicalism. At the parliamentary election in 1885, a public meeting was held in Woodhouses, in support of the candidature of Mr. Abel Buckley. When we got to the meeting, I inquired who was to move the "fit and proper" resolution. There was some difficulty in obtaining a mover, as none of the residents felt equal to talking, they said. I sought out Old Bellfield, and his reply was, "Eh, lad, aw con talk noan." Knowing the character I had to deal with, I said, "But you can tell them a good tale, Mr. Bellfield. "Aye, aye," he answered, "aw con tell them a tale." On being called upon, Bellfield said, "When aw're axt to move this resolution, aw said aw con talk noan, but Mr. Schofield would not be put off with this excuse, so he said aw could tell yo' a good tale. Well, neaw," said the old man, "aw'll tell yo' a tale. Aw'm neaw gettin' an owdchap, an' aw've seen summut i' my time. Aw con recollect th' time when white flour wur four shillings a dozen, when tay wur sixpence an ounce, sugar tenpence, currants a shilling, and candles ninepence a pound, an' when everythin' yo' touched wur taxt. lf yo' went to wash, yo'r sooap wur taxt. Th' glass wur taxt, an' so God's own sunleet wur taxt. If th' little lads wanted to build a rabbit-cote, they wur taxt wi' th' bricks they used. Thoose wur th' good owd times,' an' th' days o' Protection. If yo' dunno' want to goo back to 'em, yo' mun work an' vote for Mesther Buckley, like aw shall." The old man's speech was short, simple, and straight, and was most telling with the audience.

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He said a great deal in a few words. Old Bellfield was noted as a good tale-teller. I have heard a good story told about him. In his later life he was a carrier, and had a horse and cart of his own. A number of his neighbours, aware of his weakness for tale-telling, arranged to see how long they could keep him in the street story-telling. It was accordingly arranged that one should meet him on a Sunday morning on his way to feed the horse. The first was to stop on duty for half an hour, the second was to come up as the first was leaving, and so on till about six had talked with the old man. When it got far on in the forenoon, Bellfield bethought him of the time, remarking, "\/Vhy, it's Welly dinner-time, an' aw ha' nor fed my horse yet." There was quite a laugh among those who were watching close by, and then the old man found out how he had been sold.

PROTECTION DAYS [ when Corn Laws in force]

While out for a walk one Sunday morning I met a Lancashire worthy, an old friend of mine, named Wright May. Knowing that my friend was a sound politician, I asked for his opinion upon the fiscal question. He delivered himself as follows in his own native dialect: -
"Aw'm surprised 'at ony mon wi' a mind of his own, an' a memory, an' havin' ony claim to common sense should be carried away wi' this craze o' Protection. Aw've yerd mi feyther tell 'at he wur fifteen years of age afore he tasted white bread, an' then he had to feight for it." I asked him what he meant by having to "feight for it." He replied, "Well, theaw sees, it wur this way. Livin' near to us wur a factory mesthur's son, abeawt th'

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same age as mi feyther wur then. This lad wur walkin' i' th' street one day wi' a piece o' white cake. My feyther axt him to gie him a bit o' this cake. Th' lad refused. My feyther then said, 'Theaw'll oather ha' to gie me a bit o' that cake, or else feight for it.' Th' lad still refused, an' put th' cake beheend him wi' one hont. My feyther set to, an' they had a regular good feight, an' i' th' lung run he beat him, an' then took a lump o' this cake fro' him. That wur th' first time he had ever tasted o' white bread."
"Eh, mon," continued the old worthy, "th' yung folk at th' present day have no idea heaw poor folk suffered i' thoose dark days of Protection. Aw can recollect mysel' my mother bakin' black bread, an' th' dough were so thin 'at when it wur put i' th' oon we had to bang th' oon dur to, an' be rare an' sharp, or else th' dough would ha' bin eawt an' on th' hearthstone. Thoose were th' days o' Protection, an' aw conno' believe 'at poor folk 'ull be so foolish as to support ony policy 'at 'ull tend to bring back thoose days, by puttin' a tax on corn an' other foodstuffs."
At the present day there resides in Woodhouses an old handloom weaver Radical named Fred Potter. Only the other day Potter was telling me that his mother could remember flour being six shillings a dozen, and that once when she went to buy some the shopkeeper asked her if she wanted the flour for "sow" or bread. It seems he thought it was too dear for poor folk to eat, but it was not too dear to make "sow" or flour paste with. I only wish those working men who are in favour of Protection. could have an hour's chat with my old friend Potter on this subject. If they had, I feel sure they would alter their views. Speaking of Chamberlain, Potter said to me, "Aw
keep lookin' i' th' pappur to see if they've a plague o' frogs i' Egypt sin' he londed theer, or if he's getten stuck i' th' Red Sea."

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Thomas Parkinson

Another veteran friend of mine, Mr. Thomas Parkinson, some time since, delivered a most, impressive speech on Protection, so much so that I afterwards wrote the following verses on it, calling the piece--



[Thomas Parkinson]

Our vet'ran, with the fire of youth Pleaded for justice, right, and truth,
By Tory rule laid low.
We listened to the words he spoke,
Of how they bore the heavy yoke,
Some sixty years ago.
"The Hungry Forties" was his theme,
When Free Food seemed a mocking dream,

For bread was scarce and dear.
The poor were starved and underfed,
And on their tables, good white bread
Would rarely then appear.
They suffered in those dismal days
In various other trying ways,
For many were ill-clad.

They laboured long on loom and soil,
And went about their daily toil
Witli faces wan and sad.
On ev'ry hand was discontent,
And starving men then often lent
Themselves to petty crime.
They entered shops, and took out bread,
That crying children might be fed
In that diastrous time.

Such was the sad state of affairs,
That many offered lit'ral prayers
For bread that they might live.
Ill-clothed, they went about the street,
Like hungry wolves prowling for meat
Their rulers would not give.

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By taxing food they were denied
What other lands would have supplied
To feed their bodies well.
Their trials lasted long enough,
And mild men grew both wild and rough,
And then Protection fell.

Our fathers suffered keen and long
Before they crushed this cruel wrong
With which they were oppressed,
In Freedom's grand and glorious cause,
They freed us from those wretched laws,
And gave us peace and rest.

Shall we, their sons, unworthy prove,
And let men make another move
To tax our bread again?
Be ours to play the better part,
And ev'ry brave and loyal heart
Resist so dark a stain.

Then let us all be up in arms,
Dispelling such illusive charms
That men are holding out;
Our vet'ran bids you "think it o'er,"
With wisdom fraught with years four score
To "mind what you're about."

Ye younger men, take heed, beware,
And let no greed nor selfish snare
Becloud your sense of right;
An old man counsels you to stand
To save your own loved fatherland
With truth and morning light.

There are other old Failsworth people still living, who could relate some of the struggles of the poor in the days of Protection, but I must not linger on this question.

Transcribed by Sheila Goodyear 2019

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