How do you tell the story of someone you have never known? Dick sat comfortably in his armchair, wondering about life in general and his grandfather in particular. Its a hundred years ago, he thought, still casting its spell. He had some facts; certificates of births, deaths and marriages, a little collection of joy and grief that accumulates, a bit like building society interest, steadily away. There were history books of course, and he had plenty of those. Old newspapers were a great read too. But mostly he had the family myths passed on to him by his mother. She was an incurable romantic, so in her eyes it was a love story.
She was born just after the First War. Now grandad died in 1939 and he was sixty four then, so he would have been born in 1875. He’d’ve been well into his thirties when mum came along . . .
‘What was grandad like, mum?’
‘He was kiÇnd and gentle. He would’ve loved you to pieces.’
They were in the back kitchen, number 10, Laurel Lane. Dick was on the floor, moving cardboard indians and canoes around. His mum was sat, watching, keeping warm by the fire.
‘You always say that.’
‘Because its true.’
‘But what did he do?’
‘He worked for the Co-op.’
‘What’s a Co-op?’
‘Its where we get food from, bread and butter, up Bradford Road, you know. Where that nice lady weighs out things on big scales.’
‘Oh, yer. Did grandad sell butter then?’
‘He was a coalman.’
‘Come on Doug give us a hand.’ Ted was coughing and struggling to catch his horse. Others, barely visible in the cold and murky autumn morning, were doing the same.
‘Er, Right you are, Ted. I’ll get behind her and push her over to you.’
Doug called to the grey cob, ‘There you go, Annie’. He jumped up and down, and ran and waved his arms about. Aúfter five minutes Annie knew the game was up and walked towards Ted, waiting with the halter and tackle.
‘Thanks Doug’. Ted had a rope on Annie and Doug, shivering and breathing hard after the exercise, opened the gate.
‘I thought you were fit’.
‘Don’t you worry about my fitness, I’m ready for anything. I’d like to see you down training on a Tuesday night’.
Scraping and sliding on the cobbles, they lead Annie down Whitacre Street to the coal sidings. As the light improved, they could just make out houses through the patchy morning mist. There was the rush and clatter of falling coal. Unseen, a railway wagon had made a delivery down at the sidingsò.
‘Not many get the chance of a lie-in round here’. Doug’s breath had returned. They could now hear other coalmen, chattering and grunting, and horses chuntering, backing into their carts.
‘Aye, here we are, lets get loaded up’. They turned into the walled coal yard to see several carts, some empty, the rest laden with full sacks of coal, horses in various states of readiness for a day’s work. Men were holding sacks, others filling them with large shovels or humping them onto carts. Another ton of coal roared down the chute from the railway.
Ted lodged Annie in the stables, and they started to fill their quota of sacks. Pale Ted watched Doug’su easy effortless rhythm.
‘Come on Ted, give us a lift.’
‘Oh, like you and the horse, you mean. I’ve got dust in my lungs’.
Joseph Armstrong, the depot manager, emerged from his dirty stone corner office. ’Ted, you’ve got Newhouse today.’
‘Right you are, Joe.’
‘How come you get all the easy work, Ted Eady?’
‘Aye, aye’, a chorus of coalmen agreed.
‘Just cause Doug’s your mate, doesn’t mean you can do what you like’.
‘Sod off, jealousy will get you nowhere’. Ted glanced at Joe, but he was looking up at the coal chute.
‘Calm down, you’ll all get a chance at Newhouse’, he said finally, looking at Ted. ‘By,Í Dougie’s in fine fettle today. Is he right for Saturday?’
’Course he is. Anyway its only Ewesley. Should be easy, they’re near the bottom. Any news on the league?’
‘Well there’s a meeting at “The Station Hotel” on Thursday night. I’m going. Since Dougie came I can’t see us staying as we are. He’s one of the best loose forwards I’ve ever seen. We can’t lose him’.
He turned to Doug, ‘How’s it going Dougie?’
Doug nodded, ‘Alright, Mr. Armstrong’.
‘See you at training, Dougie. You coming as well, Ted?’
‘Aye, I’ll wander down.’
Joe moved away to hand out jobs to other coalmen, and Ted went to fetch Annie. He backed her into the stocks, fixed the tackle and joined Doug, who’d finished loading, up on the driver’s seat.
‘Shall we do the usual, Dougie?’
‘Don’t you start. My name’s Doug’.
‘Just tell him. Joe won’t mind’.
‘I’m not telling the boss anything; he pays my wages. I’ve only been here five minutes. What’s he do it for anyway?’
‘I don’t know. Come on, let’s get some breakfast.’
9Ted persuaded Annie to walk back along Whitacre Street.
‘D’you think Joe Armstrong knows about us stopping?’
‘Come off it Doug, what’s got into you, today? Joe didn’t get you this job out of the goodness of his heart. Would you have come without it?’
‘Well no, I suppose not.’
‘How do you mean, suppose not? Definately not. Look, he wants you on the team, and that’s all that bothers him. He’s one of the top men at Dersford Rangers, and you’ve got him round your little finger. He’s not going to give you the sack just because we have a bite of breakfast.’W
When Annie was settled with some feed, Ted and Doug went round the side of number thirteen and climbed the outside stairs to the kitchen door. ‘Mum, we’re here’.
‘I’m not deaf, pour yourself a pot of tea apiece’. Ted’s mum appeared from the back cellar, clutching eggs and fatty bacon rashers.
‘That bread smells lovely, Mrs Eady’.
‘Just done, Doug. You get yourself a slice if you want. Bacon and eggs do you both? Don’t forget to wash your hands, you look like two colliers’.
Mrs. Eady busied herself about the range. The kitchen was the one downstairs room, spotless, lit by a single window with a view of the backyard and the stone wall they shared with “The Boilermaker’s Tavern”. The long black range took up most of one side of the room, the coal fire noisy, hot, smoky, blue and yellow. There always seemed to be a kettl«e on, steaming gently, and something drying, socks or longjohns. And the brasses, ever gleaming, even the poker handle. Then there was the sink in a cupboard. She also had an upright piano, which she played, and an amazing wooden sideboard. Floor-to-ceiling, mirrored and pillared, it looked like a fairground steam-organ. A large wicker armchair stood next to the table, in front of the window. This was Mr. Eady’s chair. A massive key and some newspaper hung on string and cotton bobbin behind the door. A candle and box of matches were just within reach, on tiptoe.
‘This is smashing, Mrs. Eady’.
‘Its nice to see you enjoying it, Doug’. Ted was pushing bacon around his plate. ‘Our Ted doResn’t eat enough to keep a sparrow alive’.
‘Give us your plates then, if you’ve finished’.
Ted collected the key. ‘Just nipping down the yard, mum, and then we’d better get moving. You coming Doug?’
‘I’ll just help your mum first’. Doug dried the pots, carefully moving around Mrs. Eady’s soft fragrance.
‘Thanks, Doug. You’re more help than him. I should’ve made him do more, with him never having had a dad. Don’t forget your dinners’. Mrs. Eady handed over two tin boxes.
Doug found Ted leaning against the toilet wall, smoking a cigarette. He shut the door behind him and sat down, pants round his knees.
‘I think your mum’s great.”
‘Aye, I’ve noticed, you creep. Fancy her then, do you?’
‘Er, well, yes, I mean no. She’s your mum. Its just that she’s kind. Nothing’s too much trouble’.
‘Buck up, I’ll check on Annie«’.
She hadn’t moved far, and the two lads sat up on the driver’s seat. The mist had gone, clearing the view of Whitacre, and they could see the looming black bulk of St. Marks behind the chimneys of Syke’s mill. One side of the street was a long, uneven, interrupted terrace of houses, stretching, like teeth on a broken woodsaw, from ‘The Fullers Arms’ to the mill. The other side was simply a large stone wall with a wilderness behind.
‘Do you kn=ow’, said Ted, ‘they might build a railway just down from the mill’.
‘Same as down the coal sidings?’
‘I don’t think so’.
‘Wasn’t your dad killed on the railway?’
‘Aye. I don’t remember it, I was too small. A shunting accident so mum says. Morning Mrs. Walker.’ The lady next door was stood on her front step.
‘Are you delivering or idling your time away as usual?’
Ted smiled, ‘Whatever you like, Doug here’ll see to you’.
‘Yes, do us half, Doug please love’. Doug hopped over the seat, tucked a sack under his arm and tipped some coal out, next to the scales.
‘Do you want a measure, that’s about a half’.
‘No, Doug that’ll do. Twopence cover it?’
‘Aye’. Doug handed over three farthings change. He lifted the iron cover, and emptied the sack into the cellar.
The rest of the morning theåy wound round Newhouse’s back streets, ringing their bell, Ted nattering and Doug delivering. They came back onto Laurel Lane in time for dinner. Ted slowed and stopped Annie, across from the mill. A whistle blew, and a crowd of women and girls filled the yard. Two or three noticed the cart and wandered over.
‘How’s our Cumbrian muscleman?’ Doug grinned and went red.
‘Go on show us your muscles’. Doug’s couldn’t move.
‘Oh, shy are we? Here what do you think of ours?’ They began to lift their long skirts. Ted leered and Doug shuffled silently about the seat.
The skirts stopped at the knees. ‘One of these days, you’ll get more than you bargained for, Lettie Armstrong,’ Mary had appeared from the yard, ‘and you should know better, Nora Johnson’.
‘OO, hark at her, little miss perfect’. Lettie and the others left to find more sport back in the mill yard.
‘And what do you think Ûyou’re doing, Ted Eady?’ Mary stroked the horse.
‘It were a bit of fun Mary, that’s all. We came to see if we could see you’.
Ted jumped onto the road, ‘That’s the most you’ll’ve done all morning I suppose. How’s Doug?’
‘O, OK, thanks, Mary.’ Doug stammered.
‘So now you’ve seen me, and I have to get back to work. You can walk me home if you want’.
‘Sure Mary, half five then’.
Ted got back on the cart and they started back to the sidings for a further load.
‘He had to catch his horse, every morning?’
‘Weren’t there any lorries?’
‘No, well there were some, but not many.’
‘What sort of a horse was it?’
‘A white one, a bit like the one you ride on, up the lane.’
Dick conjured up a picture of the horse. He needed a big push to get up on its bony back and it had hair round its feet. His bottom hurt by the time they got to the railway bridge.
‘Where did grandad keep his horse?’
‘Down past Whitacre Street, where granny Eady lives.’
‘What did granny do?’
‘She stopped ™at home and looked after me and your aunties. Before she married your grandad she was a hand in the mill. There wasn’t much school.
Dick had only just started school, and some of it was alright, the drawing and the stories.
‘You don’t stop at home.’
‘Granny looks after you. Takes you to school and I pick you up. Sees to you in the holidays.’
‘Did you go to school?’
‘Yes. I was quite clever actually. Good enough for the high school, but your granny and grandad couldn’t afford to keep me there. I went to be a typist when I was fourteen.’
Who did grandad play for?
Dick tried to create in his mind the world his grandfather grew up in. He knew the family was originally from Skelmanthorpe way. Grandad’s own father, Edward, was a railwayman, which could mean anything really. They lived on Whiteacre Street, just across Bradford Road from Laurel Lane.
Did they go to school; could they read and write¬; did they know what was going on? Grandad was one year old when Custer had his last stand. He was three when the electric light bulb was invented, nine when men nearly all got the vote and ten when Gordon died at Khartoum. He was twenty when Marconi made his first broadcast and Freud published his first paper on psycho-analysis. Did all these events mean anything to Ted Eady and his pal, Doug? Not as much as the split within rugby, was Dick’s guess.
‘Just across the back, in the tavern.’
‘What’s he doing there?’
‘Rangers won the cup yesterday, and they’re all having a drink to celebrate.’
‘Who did grandad play for?’
‘Oh, your grandad had a bad chest. He didn’t play for anybody. He was best mates with Doug Yates though, and he played for Rangers. Your grandad never missed a game.’
‘Well played, Doug’.
‘You’ll catch Yorkshire if you carry on’.
‘Ewesley weren’t so good, but you nearly beat them on your own’.
‘Ere, ˝have a pint’.
Joe came across the smoke-filled bar to the group surrounding Doug, ‘A word, Dougie lad, I’ve someone I want you to meet. This is Lord Beaumont, one of our directors’.
‘That was well played today, Doug. I’m pleased. How are you settling?’
‘I’m fine, thankyou, Lord Beaumont. I’m in digs with Mrs. Eady on Whitacre Street, you know, with Ted’.
‘Ah yes, Ted Eady. Everything alright there?’
‘Aye, we get on really well. And Mrs. Eady is great’. Lord Beaumont opened his mouth, as if going to speak, ‘You’d best be getting back to your pals. Anyway, I’m really pleased’.
Ted had joined the group, ‘Now then, Doug’.
Doug pulled him to one side, ‘Who’s Lord Beaumont?’
‘Oh, you need to keep in with him. He’s a big cheese with the railway˝. And he’s a director here. He has the big house on the ridge in Kirkby’. Through the smoky crowd they glimpsed Joe and Lord Beaumont open the back room door.
A cry for more drinks took Doug’s attention.
‘Doug, can I ask tell something? Its a bit awkward really. I’ve signed for Stoneham Rovers. They’re in the local Dersford league, play on the rec’ behind St. Marks. What do you think?’
‘I didn’t know you played.’ Doug looked at his feet and shrugged his shoulders. Then he smiled, a sudden beam. ‘Great Ted, I’ll be down to watch.’
The players and hangers-on were drifting away in ones and twos. Ted suggested, ‘Shall we have one in the tavern before we go home?’
‘Aye, why not, get your hat and coat, your mum will be getting the tea on’.
˛The walk from the ground was less than a mile.
They’d barely got in through the front door before Mr. Walker from next door called them over. ‘How’ve you gone on?’ ‘Who got the tries?’ ‘Come and sit here, I’ll get them in’. Mr. Walker could only get to certain matches, depending on shifts and whether Dersford were at home. He worked at the foundry, along with the rest of the late shift that was packing out the “The Boilermaker’s Tavern”.
‘Doug was the star man again’, said Ted.
‘Aye, I knew he was good’un, first time I seen him. What they paying now, Doug?’
Doug coughed back some of his beer. ‘Er, nothing, Mr. Walker. Its not allowed’.
‘Come on, Doug, we all know what goes on. That so-and-so vicar at St. Marks thinks he does anyway’.
~Ted interrupted, ‘Joe Armstrong was saying there’s a meeting at “The Station Hotel” in town next week. There’s a chance Dersford and a few of the others, like Ewesley, could go on their own’.
‘Yes, I’ve heard. It won’t work’. Mr. Walker jerked his thumb in the direction of St. Marks, ‘You can’t win with the likes of yon fellow and the other toffs on the Yorkshire committee. And what you get at the gate won’t pay for Doug and the rest’.
‘Well they’re talking about doing it’.
‘Aye well we’ll see’.
‘Time we were off Ted, see you later, Mr. Walker’.
They went out the back and across the yard and started to climb the wall. Z
Ted didn’t see Doug slip over the other side, but he heard the result. ‘Oh, shit, I think my arm’s broke.’
The kitchen door opened as Ted giggled and helped Doug up the outside steps.
Mrs. Eady stood black against the light, ‘What ever’s going on? What have you done to your arm? Have you been coming over that wall again? I’ve told you before its not safe’.
‘You’ve a lot to learn about women, Doug. Are there any in Cumberland?’
“You do really, you don’t know how to get going, that’s all. They’re begging for it.”
Doug was confused. Mrs. Eady and his mum weren’t begging for it. Mary wasn’t begging for it. Yet deep in his gut, he knew he was missing something.
Doug sometimes wondered about these riches. His mum and dad couldn’t afford a piano or a sideboard. And there wasØ only Ted’s and his money coming in.
Doug had never met a gang of supporters like them, came to every game, home and away, and even watched them practice. But how they moaned. Nothing was ever good enough for them. Best not lose, Saturday.
‘Now Joe, this won’t do. Yes, Park’s good, and he’s a good worker, but we’re not a charity. He plays and works or he goes back to Cumberland.’
‘Right, Lord Beaumont, I’ll see to it. Another drink?’
‘No, this business has already made me late for the theatre.’
Joe winced as Lord Beaumont snapped the door shut, leaving him alone in the board room.
‘What did you think you were doing? It may be only a bruise, but you could be out for a couple of weeks. I bet you’d been over “The Boilermakers” with Ted.’ Joe Armstrong was nearly shouting.
‘Sorry, Mr. Armstrong.’
‘We’re paying good money for you, don’t you forget.’ Red in the face, Joe paced the changing roo⁄m. Turning and stuttering, he pointed his finger again in Doug’s face, ‘For sure you won’t be drawing a wage this week.’
‘I’ll strap it up, Mr. Armstrong, and Mrs. Eady’s looking after me.’
‘Aye, well. What do you make of it Albert, you’re the captain?’
‘Can you turn up on Saturday anyway? Even with a bruise, you are still our main threat. You need to rest it. Remind me who you work for?’
‘I work down the sidings, delivering coal.’
‘My father’s company, yes I remember now. Well it shouldn’t be too much of a problem, should it, Joe?’
‘How’ll I pacify the others? I’ve a cart with two passengers now.’
‘We broke the rules and upset people to bring Doug here, and my father is paying out considerable sums of moneyi. He pays you to fix it.’
‘He’s already reminded me, Albert. But there’s only so much I can do.’
Joe paused, looking to be weighing up his next words. But he didn’t speak, and walked out into the bar.
‘Who were those men on the touch-line tonight, watching training.’
‘We call them the grumbling committee. Local regular supporters, home and away. Now that we have admission fees, they think they have some say about what we do here. Your Ted Eady’s one of them.’
‘He said he was coming down.’
‘Well I’ll be something, I’ve seen everything now. Is that really you Ted, with a shovel in your hands?’ Joe had just emerged from his office.
A small knot of coalmen was taking in the same scene. Doug was holding a sack open with his left hand and Ted was filling it.
‘You’ll be here all day at this rate, Ted Eady.’
‘Discovered úsome muscles, have you, Ted?’
‘Put some colour in your cheeks.’
‘Aye, black, for a change.’
‘Here, Joe, have you got Ted on double time?’
Noone remarked on Doug’s thickened right sleeve.
‘Alright you lot, you’ve had your fun. You’ve work to do.’ Joe ambled over to Doug and Ted as the men dispersed.
Ted stopped shovelling, ‘I ache all over.’
‘Let me take a turn, I’ll do it with my left.’ Ted held the sack for Doug.
‘He’s doing more than you with both.’
‘You’re enjoying this, Joe Armstrong.’
‘You have it to do, Ted. Company rules, no work, no pay.’
‘Can we have Newhouse again, just for today?’
‘So they’re making an honest man of you, Ted?’ Mrs. Eady was occupied at the range, Ted slumped in a chair.
‘Only this week, ‘til Saturday.’
Doug was sat at the table, looking out over the yard, ‘Caused quite a stir down the sidings, didn’t it Ted? How did you cope before I came?’
Mrs. Eady’s back stiffened slightly as Ted replied after two or three minutes thought, ‘I worked in the office, with Joe mainly, and looked after the horses and did the odd job.’
‘Heavens, here’s Joe on the back steps.’
‘Let him in then.’
‘What’s going on? Is this the thanks I get? Annie’s half way up the street?’
‘I’ll go,’ and Ted was out the chair and through the open back door.
‘She’s outside Josie Appleyard’s.’
‘Is this what you call work, Park? After this week I’d’ve expected better.’
‘Sorry, Mr. Armstrong, we only pop in for a quick bite.’
‘Oh, its a regular thing then?’
‘When we do Newhouse.”
“Oh, well that makes it alright then, does it?’
‘Now then Joe, hold your horses. Doug’s a worker, and taking a break here never* hurt anyone. And Ted’s good with the horses, you know that. You’ve got it all out order.’
‘I’ve a business to run, Nora, and it doesn’t run on fresh air.’
‘Aye, and it won’t run on harsh words either.’
As Ted came back in Mrs. Eady turned to do some straightening up in the sink.
‘You two’d best get on. I’ll get back to the sidings.’
Ted and Doug escaped and carried on with the coal round.
‘What was Mr. Armstrong doing coming round to your house?’
‘I don’t know, maybe he was checking up on us. We’re both new to this job.’
‘Your mum is ‹really great.’
‘So you keep saying. What’s it about this time?’
‘While you were getting Annie just now, she put Mr. Armstrong in his place.’
‘Joe was right angry what with my injury and us having a break, but your mum really stuck up for us, and Joe called your mum, Nora. Do they know each other?’
‘Most people know each other round here. They probably went to school together. Isnt it like that in Cumbria?’
‘Well, aye it is, just like that. Whitehaven’s busy now, but our village is still small and quiet.’
‘There you are then.’
‘Aye, maybe. Last night, at training, I was called into the back room and taken down a peg by Joe, and Albert, you know, the skipper, shut him up.’
‘That public school toff.’
‘Joe had to back off. Seemed as though something was wrong with me coming here. I thought Whitehaven’d let me go. Joe said Albert didn’t know all that’d happened. They’d quite a row about it.’
‘Well well, aren’t you the popular one.’
‘We’ve been called up to the Yorkshire Committee, Park. You, myself, Albert and Joe Armstrong. Next Thursday night in Leeds. Make yourself available. Be here for four o’clock and I’ll take you and bring you back to Mrs. Eady’s.’
‘Right, Lord Beaumont. We’ll have to miss training then.’
Doug got off work early, cleaned up and changed at Mrs. Eady’s and walked to the rugby club. Lord Beaumont was there in his chauffeur-driven Bentley. Doug relaxed back into the ƒleather seats.
‘I’m glad we’ve time for this little chat, Douglas. How much do you know about what’s going on?’
‘Nothing really. Changing-room gossip, that’s all.’
‘What about your move from Whitehaven?’
‘That was arranged between Mr. Armstrong and my dad. Mr. Armstrong saw me when we came across to play Ewesley. I think my dad had had a word with him, I don’t know, but Mr. Armstrong was there. Came up to me afterwards and asked how much I was getting paid. Well I wasn’t getting anything for playing and me and my dad didn’t get much as farmhands. I hadn’t been to school for years, so all I knew was pigs, sheep and rugby. Mr. Armstrong asked if I wanted to get paid and have a job. My dad said yes. I was here within a week.’
‘How are you getting along?’
‘Great. Mrs. Eady is real. I’ve never lived in a nice house and slept in a comfortable bed. We were poor, Lord Beaumont, I see that now.’
‘Now then lad, Whitehaven have lodged a com›plaint with the Yorkshire Committee, claiming we’ve poached you. Do you think that’s true?’
‘It all happened so fast. I just thought it was all alright. But I’ve heard of poaching. Isn’t it paying players more to move clubs? I knew some players were getting a bit for being off work on a Saturday afternoon, but my dad always covered for me.’
‘So you moved to get a better job?’
‘Well . . . and the rugby.’
‘So you moved to get a better job, and nice digs and a comfy bed.’
‘Aye, that’s right Lord Beaumont.’
‘Nice to clear the air, Douglas.’ They were just getting to the outskirts of Leeds.
“So your there then?” Mary detached herself from the crush outside the mill.
“Hello, Mary, you look good.”
“How can I look good straight after work?”
“You do to me anyway.” They linked arms and Ted lead the way to St. Marks Road.
Ted wasn’t paying much attention as Mary outlined the day’s goings on at the mill, “That Lettie Armstrong will do herself no good.”
At the mention of Lettie his ears picked up. “Oh, what’s she done now?”
“You’ve not been listening, I’ve just told you. Her and one of the foremen were found down the cubby hole. Goodness knows what they were doing. Its all round the mill, I’m surprised the bosses haven’t heard.”
Sweet innocent Mary, Ted thought, everybody but her knew the cubby hole was the spot for a bit of a feel. So Lettie’s free with her favours is she?
“He’s not with me all the time, what do you want to know for?”
“No reason. You’ve a sharp tongue.”
Ted was cross with himself for letting his feelings show. It was awkward between them now and he blamed Doug. Its Doug this and Doug that with everybody.
“Aye, well its been a hard day.”
“What kind of a hard day’s that then?”
“I can do it, if I want.”
“You’ve a good steady job, if only you’d put your back into it. Lots would be grateful.”
“Whose the sharp tongue now?”
They’d reached the yards above town.
“Will your dad legt you out Saturday or Sunday? We could go for a walk in the park.”
“Our Joan would have to come as well. I’ll ask. ”
She disappeared up the yard where children were running about, looked over by women sat on boxes and men idling on street corners. Ted knew the yards for being a bit rum, and he’d never been further than the entrance archway. Some of these’ll play for St. Joseph’s, he thought, on nearby Tenterfields. Maybe if he got on for Whitestone he’d play against them; they were in the same league.
Mary reappeared. “Sunday after Mass.”
Nora Eady came from Skelmanthorpe, so couldn’t have gone to school with Joe Armstrong Doug works this out and wonders
Lord Beaumont’s chauffeur dropped them outside Holdworth and Sons, a large law firm on the Leeds High Street. Joe and Albert were sat in leather chairs as they walked through the plain impressive wooden doors into a wood panelled waiting room. A man in a suit and winged collar greeted them.
‘Lord Beaumont? And Mr. Park? Take a seat. The Reverend Thompson will see you directly.’
‘Joe. Albert. Anything happened as yet?’
‘No. We’ve only just nicely arrived.’
‘Would Lord Beaumont and Mr. Armstrong care to come this way?’ The usher had reappeared.
Doug and Albert were left.
‘Your arrival has certainly put the cat among the pigeons.’
‘What have I done?’
‘Oh its nothing personal, but things have been stirred up. Father and Reverend Thompson have been at loggerheads for a while. Father’s a self-made man you see. Sure, I’m ex-public school. Good one too. But he started with nothing and built up the coal company from scratch. Went into local politics, big donations to charity, became the town’s MP, the whole shooting match. Now the peerage. When I left school, I joined Dersford and he came with me so to speak. Been good for the club financially. But he’s a fixer, not one of us, if you know what I mean.’
‘Business can be a tad dirty. A punch on the blind side, just to get the edge, you know. We all do it.’
‘I’ve had it done to me a few times.’
‘Well it is accepted by most people in business. The way of the world, you know. But its not approved of on the sports field.’
‘Association football’s gone that way.’
‘Yes, business again. Not to be mentioned around here, old boy. Gosh you are an innocent, aren’t you?’
‘I’m beginning to think so.’
‘All’s fair in love, war and the office, but not on the rugby field. Not in the changing room or the board room either. Paying players is against the rules and the Reverend is white hot on it.’
‘Your dad wants me to say I came here for the job.’
‘Well you did.’
‘Only cause I was a good rugby player.’
‘So your dad is asking me to lie, isn’t he?’
‘You must have told a few fibs in your time, Douglas.’
‘Aye, but never to a vicar.’
‘The committee will see you now.’ The usher had reappeared and guided them back through the doors, down a corridor and into a larger wood panelled room almost entirely taken up by a table surrounded by twenty or so chairs. A man with a dog collar sat at one end and motioned them to sit near him. Lord Beaumont and Joe were close. Half the rest of the chairs were occupied by men in suits.
‘You’re Park I guess, and you are Lord Beaumonts’s son?’
‘Yes.’ Albert answered.
‘Do you know why we have asked you here tonight, Park?’
‘I think so, sir.’
‘Well I’ll remind you. Whitehaven rugby club have made a very serious allegation. They claim that you were enticed by offers of money to move to Dersford Rangers. If true it contravenes all the codes of conduct that govern the game of rugby football. We live in turbulent times, a product of building a great nation.’ He looked at Lord Beaumont. ‘Some of that history contains items of which we are not proud. We need stability or we will lose our sense of decency and our standards. The church offers guidance and we will not allow our sports to be sullied by trade.’
Lord Beaumont interrupted, ‘You might spare him the lecture, Arthur.’
The Reverend Thompson half turned, ‘I suspect Park is in need of some direction. I very much doubt he is getting it from certain members present. You would do well to note who is wielding the power in here, Henry Beaumont.’
Lord Beaumont chuckled, ‘Aye, you can have your ten minutes of glory if you want, Arthur.’
‘Now then Park. Tell the committee how you came to play for Dersford Rangers.’
‘Er, Mr. Armstrong offered me a job. We’re a poor family. My dad said it was a good idea.’
‘What. You mean some charitable instinct took him all the way to Cumbria to single you out from every other labourer in the county?’
Doug remained silent.
‘Mr. Armstrong offered me a job.’
‘Are you aware that bearing false witness is a sin?
‘What do you mean?’
‘I mean lying lad, lying. Don’t lie to us, we won’t have it.’
‘I’m not lying.’
‘I must object, Arthur. This is not a court of law. Park is not on trial here.’
The gentleman to the Reverend’s right leant over and whispered something in his ear.
‘Yes, let us make it clear. The allegations are against Dersford Rangers as a club, and not the individual players. Let us take another tack. Park, have you ever received payment for playing rugby?’
Doug studied the table top for a long time, and then looked up at Reverend Thompson, ‘No, sir.’
‘Very well. We will consider what action to take. Please wait outside.’
‘Good lad, Park,’ Lord Beaumont settled himself back in the waiting room, ‘They’ve got nothing on us.’
‘He’s a bit of crusty old beggar.’
‘Yes, Joe he is. But a powerful one too. They write the rule book on this
one; them and the Union up in London. They’re all toffs from monied families. Don’t like it when someone stands up to them.’
‘What’s likely to happen now, father.’
‘That I don’t know. We’ve had fines and deducted points for paying players, but this thing with Park hasn’t come up before. Oh, here we go. That didn’t take long.’
There were only three of the committee left. ‘Be seated, gentlemen. We have come to a decision. This is Samuel Holdsworth, who gives our legal advice.’
‘Can I say that our decision is entirely legal within the constitution of Yorkshire and English rugby, according the section dealing with professionalism. As you rightly said earlier, Lord Beaumont, this is not a court of law, and we are not responsible for proving something beyond reasonable doubt. Its really up to you to prove that you haven’t broken the rules, and on today’s showing we remain unconvinced. Park is here and playing rugby, and there has been a complaint. We are entitled to conclude that he has been attracted by an opportunity provided by Dersford Rangers, whether it be a job or illegal payment. It is within our powers to suspend the club from the union for a period of two weeks, as from today. Matches will be awarded to the opposition. There is a right of appeal. Confirmation of this decision will follow immediately by post.’
Lord Beaumont eventually broke the shocked silence, ‘This is a bit steep, even for you, Arthur. It can’t have escaped your notice that we have a cup game.’
‘I believe its called the thin end of the wedge, Henry. If you are allowed get away with this, others will follow. We are not going to go down the same route as Association Football.’
history between thompson and bueamont
‘Mrs. Eady. Are you in?’ Doug was on the back steps, trying not to shout too loud. Mrs. Walker had big ears next door.
The lock rattled and the door opened. ‘I didn’t expect you early today, Doug. Not with Joe Armstrong, you know.’ Mrs. Eady stood behind the door, in its shadow.
‘This sling isn’t fitting as well. We’re only round in Shearing Road, so I called in. I think it needs a pin or a spot of sewing, just to tighten it up a bit.’
‘Let’s have a look then.’
Mrs. Eady shut the back door, and crossed to the sideboard. In the full light of the kitchen window, she wasn’t her usual prim and tidy self: her neat braided hair was loose and no longer pinned up, her clothes were somehow uncoordinated, and there was a flush about her cheeks.
‘There, is that better?’
‘Great, I’ll be getting back.’
A faint creak stopped Doug, as if someone was turning over in bed. Mrs. Eady, preoccupied at the range, appeared not to hear it.
‘See you later.’
‘Aye, Doug. Take care.’
Doug found Ted more or less where he’d left him in Shearing Road.
‘Get fixed up alright then?’
‘Aye. It didn’t feel too bad out of the sling. Must be getting better.’
‘Best look after it for a bit more, Doug. I’m managing at the moment.’
‘You’ve got me out a real hole, Ted. I didn’t know how important my coming over here was. Upset the apple-cart a bit.’
‘All you have to do is play well and do your time at the sidings. My fault really for taking you to the pub and over the back wall. Mum’s always telling me off. As soon as you’re right, let me know, I’m not built to be a coalman.’
‘Its training you need, and stopping smoking.’
‘Sounds just like my mum.’
‘Yes . . . er . . . sorry. . . by the way, your mum looked a bit flustered while I was there, as if she was getting changed or something.’
‘What day is it? Wednesday. She goes over to see my auntie Joan in Barnsley every month. Its probably that. She’ll be back before we finish.’
‘Ah. Is that your dad’s sister?’
‘Dad’s brother’s wife. Its a bit confusing.’
‘Well yes it is.’
‘How did I get on then?’
‘I’ve seen worse. How do you feel? First game’s never easy.’
‘I’m a bit sore, but out on the wing its not so bad.’
‘Missed your man a couple of times.’
‘He didn’t score though, did he?’
‘It wasn’t a day for scoring, all that rain and mud. Throwing in the line-outs was difficult today.’
‘I’ve not done a lot of it. Could do with more practice.’
‘Now then, Douglas, good to see you. Supporting our latest recruit?’
‘This is Jim Fuller. He runs Rovers.’
‘Yes, Jim. I’m lodging with him and his mum.’
‘Aye, so I heard. Settling in?’
‘Not bad. I’ve been here a month. I work down at the sidings.’
‘Rovers started as the coal company team. Its opened up now. I’ve been and watched you. Making a difference at Dersford. We’ve had a couple of our lads sign on, but they’ve not made the first team regularly yet. They’re only working lads, can’t get off Saturdays. Makes a hole in your wage. Same for us, particularly as we play late mornings a lot. Need as many players as we can get, however good they are. We’ve turned out with only twelve and thirteen some weeks. Ted will soon get the hang of it. Not the fittest of blokes though. Had to put him on wing. Fair turn of speed over twenty yards.’
‘I’d better be off. We’re putting in extra training while we’re suspended. Are you coming up later, Ted?’
‘Whatever is Ted Eady playing rugby for, Douglas Park? Have you been on at him? He’s stiff ªall over, can barely walk.’ Doug had bumped into Mary Connor taking a short cut through Manor Gardens.
‘Hello Mary, walking out with your mum?.
Mary bit her lip, ‘No my dad, he’s over there. Where’re you off to?’
‘Up the club.’
‘I’ll walk you to the gates. Ok dad?’
‘Yes, I’ll be over at the bandstand.’
‘Your dad sounds Irish. We had a few round Whitehaven, building on the railway.’
‘So is my mum. I’m not. I don’t know when theˇy came over here, but it was something to do with a famine, back in Ireland. Lots left at the same time. There’s a whole crowd of us up in the yards.’
‘Does he approve of Ted then?’
‘Not Catholic. He’s got a job, nice house, future, but he’s not Catholic. Mum and dad are very strong on it.’
‘Aye, St. Patrick’s has a good rugby team, so Ted says.’
‘And what’s that got to do with anything.’
‘Well I was just saying. There’s plenty of other men.’
‘Not with secure jobs there isn’t. There is plenty who’s idle up in the yards. And there’s the fever. Nobody’s sure who’ll get it next. I’m not staying there all my life, just to be Catholic. Mind, Ted needs to be well to work. Playing rugby won’t do him any good.’
‘Its nothing to do with me, Mary. HŸe only told me last week, and its not just the rugby. Its since I started that he’s out on the wagons. They couldn’t afford to set anyone else on. He’ll get fitter.’ Doug turned left to climb the hill to the club.
‘Maybe. Are you a Catholic, Douglas?’
Doug and Ted returned from their afternoon round. They were surprised to find Nora Eady and Joe Armstrong sat together in front of the range. Both were in black: dress, hat and veil, suit and tie. Joe stood as they walked in, ‘Hello boys. Er . . . this must seem a bit of a surprise.’ He coughed. ‘We’ve, Nora – your mum and me, we’ve some news for you.’
‘Shall I go out?’
‘No, Doug, we’d like you to stay. Ted, your mum and me would like to get married. Well, its time to put things straight.’
Mrs. Eady walked across the kitchen and put her arms around Ted. He stood unresponsive, hands by his side. ‘We couldn’t think of an easy way to tell you. Not telling you’d become a way of life.’
‘Aye, not telling you was worse than being open about it. Covering up, telling lies. We couldn’t go on much longer. And you Doug. The other night, things were said. They weren’t right, but it made Mrs. Eady and me think.’
‘So you’ve been going out, without us knowing.’ Ted shook his head.
‘After your dad’s, you know, accident, Joe was given the job of looking after us, a bit of compensation from the railway company. That’s how we got together and it went from there.’
‘A bit of compensation? For losing dad?’
‘It was only money to start with, Ted. Without it we’d’ve been in the workhouse. Joe made sure we had what we needed, furniture, clothes and enough to eat. Got us settled here. You were only three at the time.’
‘Once you were set up, I stopped coming, just paid the rent and so on. It doesn’t do for a widow to be seeing a man, you know round these parts. When you started down at the sidings, well your mum and I got reacquainted.’
‘I loved your dad, Ted, but now I love Joe.’
‘I don’t understand any of this.’ Ted now had his head in his hands. ‘I’m going outside, clear my head.’
‘So I’ve brought all this on?’
‘No, not really, Doug. You can’t keep things quiet, not round here,’ Joe nodded towards the wall shared with next door. ‘You and Ted, you’re only lads, seventeen and eighteen. You’re new around here, and bold sometimes, like your rugby. We didn’t know what to do for best, but we couldn’t go on as we were doing.’
‘I’ll put some tea on. See how Ted’s getting on, will you Doug?’
Ted was down the yard, cigarette well away, leaning against the lavatory wall. ‘Bit of a turnup, ey Ted.’
‘He’s not coming to live here, I’m moving out if he does. Don’t care where I go. Fancy, last three or four years, and not a word. I’d no idea. Who the hell does he think he is.? What does mum think she’s doing? Its changed things all round.’
‘Mr. Armstrong’s just called me bold.’
‘Aye, well you can be. You’re not afraid out on that rugby field, for sure. I’d’ve kittens, some of them forwards aren’t pretty. I wish I were a bit more like you, Doug. You know, straight and hard. You and your dad’ve had to work for all you’ve got.’
‘I don’t know where it comes from, Ted. It seems I just do things. And I get butterflies, will I do well? but I’m fast. I love leaving them behind. I get the ball in my hand and I’m a different person. Albert’s great too, he’s showing me new moves all the time.’
‘Everything’s great for you, isn’t it?’ There was bitterness in Ted’s voice.
‘Has Joe gone?’
‘Yes, he thought it best, ‘til you get used to the idea.’
‘Is he moving in then, when you’re wed?’
‘We’ve no plans, Ted. Its been hard enough telling you. We want to be together, that’s all. And we want what’s best for you.’
‘Hello, Mr. Walker, how’s things?’
‘Fine, Douglas, how’s yourself?’
‘So what’s been going on at the club, then? I hear yon vicar has made a right job of things.’
‘Aye, well we’d to go to Leeds. Lord Beaumont gave me a lift in his motor car. Fancy lawyer’s office and we were suspended for two games.’
‘All that’s common knowledge. What went on, really?’
‘I was only in for a short time. Lord Beaumont and Joe Armstrong were in front of the committee for nearly an hour. I’m not sure what they said.’
‘You’re not allowed to say, you mean.’
‘I was only in for ten minutes if that.’
‘So what did Thompson say?’
‘It was the lawyer that did most of the talking while I was in. I don’t think Lord Beaumont and Reverend Thompson get on though.’
‘Aye, well Beaumont’s trade. Joe Armstrong was there you say. What’s it to do with him?’
‘He helped me to come over here. Saw my dad and everything. Got me the job at the sidings.’
‘Fixed it all up you mean? You don’t know this, Douglas, but I used to play for Dersford. Until I started at the foundry. Couldn’t get time off then. You lose your money that way. Well they’d just brought in a bit of pay so you could take Saturdays off, but I wasn’t good enough, and they let me go. Armstrong fixed it. Came to see me at home. I wasn’t the only one he called on either. He and Mrs. Eady’re very friendly I’d say.’
‘What do you mean? Does Ted know about this?’
‘Its none of my business, I’ve said enough.’
‘Jim Fuller, isn’t it?
‘You remembered, Douglas. How’s things?’
‘Great. How’s Rovers?’
‘So-so. Struggling a bit. Ted’s in again this week.’
‘Aye, I know. He won’t let you down.’
‘He’s a trier, I’ll say that. I’m glad I’ve seen you Douglas. I’m not sure about this, but I’ve been carrying this cutting around with me for a week now. Its from the ‘Evening Chronicle’, over in Barnsley. My sister kept it for me. The Eady’s are Barnsley people. Well here you are.’
‘I’m in a bit of a hurry, Jim. I’ll have to read it later.’
‘Its about Ted, it might be important.’
‘Ok. I’ll keep it safe.’
I got that job fair and square.
I’ve had things too easy.
‘Mary, can I have a word?’
‘Sure, Doug what its about? Lettie said you were here. I thought you would’ve been wanting to see her.’
‘How do you mean?’
‘Not much is secret in a mill, Douglas.’
‘Oh . . . er . . . no. Its about this newspaper cutting.’ Doug went quiet.
‘Come on then, out with it. The great rugby player suddenly lost his tongue, has he?’
Doug was looking everywhere except at Mary, ‘I can’t read.’
‘Oh, you poor dear. Come let me see. What makes you think I can read, anyway?’
‘I thought you’d’ve done it at school. Don’t Catholics have their own schools?’
‘Aye they do. Now then. Gosh what’s this? “George Eady, beloved son of Elizabeth and Elias, died 25th November, aged 39.” Where did you get this?’
‘The bloke that runs Whitestone Rovers. His family come from Barnsley, and they cut it out the evening paper. He said it was about Ted. Why give it to me?’
‘I don’t know. How old is Ted?’
‘Seventeen. George could be an uncle or something. Couldn’t be his father, could it? No he died when Ted was a baby?’
‘He didn’t think it was right to give it Ted, so there’s a connection somewhere.’
‘We should just give it to Ted. Although he’s strange at the moment, what with his mum knocking about with Joe Armstrong.’
‘Or go and see Mrs. Eady. No, perhaps not. Things are a bit 4upset just at the minute.’
‘You keep it safe for the moment. I could ask Ted and Mrs. Eady a bit about the family to see if this fits with anything. Can I come and see you again?’
‘People will talk.’
‘You can’t just turn up at dinner times and not get talked about. Everyone knows everyone else’s business at the mill. Go on then, what have you found out?’
‘Ted’s father was called George.’
‘Oh, whatever do we do now?’
‘The library in town might keep some old newspapers.’
‘Who’d we ask?’
‘St. Patrick’s; there’s usually somebody, Father Riley or one of the sisters.’
‘Nuns, silly. Off you go. Call again at the end of the week.’
‘We’ve got Whitehaven in the cup when the suspension is over.’
‘Aye, my dad’s coming over with them.’
‘Even though there’s all the bother over poaching?’
‘He’s coming with the supporters, not the team.’
‘You’ve never said much about him. What’s he like?’
‘Well, he’s the same size as me, with a moustache that droops a bit at the sides. I tried it once, but I couldn’t get it right. He’s been a farmhand all his life. We live in a village just under the hills. On a clear day you can see their tops, all snowed over in winter. Names like High Seat and Great Knott. And then the other way is the sea, and the winding gear. We’d have a day out and go look at the ships in the harbour, loading up with coal. Dad said if you looked hard enough you could see Scotland across the water. Its a magic place, but we aren’t well to do, not like you and your mum.’
‘Do you think so. We’re better off than most around here, I suppose. Mum puts it down to the pension she gets from Dad’s accident.’
‘You’ve some posh furniture, the rent’s paid. Your mum always looks great.’
‘Aye, well, you’ve missedı out there. Joe Armstrong’s the man of the house now.’
‘Oh, I don’t know so much. They’re not going to push you out, are they?’
‘I don’t what’s going to happen, I’m sure. What happened to your mum, then?’
‘Dad said she died having me. It was touch and go whether I lived so they say. Sickly as a kid as well. Seem to be alright since. We’ve never had much though. House’s tied to the landlord. If dad lost his job, we’d be on the streets. I’ve always worked. Never been to school like you.’
‘How come your scared of horses then?’
‘Don’t know, just am. Its mostly sheep with us, on the hillsides, and the dogs. We’ve two great collies on the farm. Dad works them a treat. Patch and Snuff. I miss them. Well I miss home and my dad.’
‘What made you come then? Is it the money?’
‘Well it is really. I’m good at rugby and dad said it was a chance to get off and make a new life. Without schooling I’d be stuck on the land for ever otherwise. There’s plenty now trying for new starts, what w¯ith the pits and building ships. There’s more money in the towns than where we are. He said I’d to give it a go.’
‘Close to your dad then?’
‘There’s only been us. I’ve two older sisters. I was a late thought. They’ve always been in service as long as I’ve known, over Manchester way. He gets very down though. Its all work, just to get food on the table. Clothes are always somebody else’s first.’
‘So we are close, but there are times when I don’t know him at all. Staring into the fire, roaming the house at night, making cups of tea, knitting gloves, never still. I’ve seen him cry a time or two. Like the day I left. No, I’m not sure I really know him.’
‘Sounds like he’s all on. Knitting?’
‘You can get a penny a pair for gloves or socks. Lots of country folk do all sorts to make a wage. Keep a cow and make cheese. Pigs. Brew beer. There was a time, my dad said, when they’d spin and weave their own wool. That’s in the towns now.’
‘Mm, a hard life.’
‘What about you˚r dad?’
‘Well like I said, he died in an accident. He was a railwayman, in the shunting yards. On a tank engine, and had to couple and uncouple the coal wagons. Have you ever been up onto the sidings? Well the shunting yards are on a slope. So the engine justs gives them a push and as long as the points are right, you know, the crossings between the lines, the wagons finish up in the right spot. They go a fair lick too and make a right racket when they hit the buffers, the bits that stick out the back of the wagons. If there’s a long line of them, they all bash into each other, hit the end buffer, and then come back and bash into each other again. So my dad’d to run behind them and put the brakes on, to cut the speed. Very dangerous. Noone’s ever said what happened, but it did.’
‘That’s sad, I’m sorry.’
‘I’ve not known anything else, Doug.’
‘You’ve been well looked after. You can read and write, I can’t.’
‘I was at school ‘til I was fourteen. Then I started in the office at the sidings. Compared to many its good steady wages, and not likely to dry up. You coming along’s stirred things up. Having to do deliveries. They’ve made the job up, you know. There wasn’t one before. Soon as someone goes they won’t replace, and then I can get back to the office.’
‘How come you like horses?’
‘There’s a tale there. The school I went to was at St. Mark’s, up the road. At the back is Topfields. We’d play out on fine days. The vicarage had stables and the horses had these fields. I don’t know how it happened, but next thing was stroking a horse, talking to the groom, a lad like us, being cheeky and asking if I could see inside the stables. The vicar didn’t seem to mind, arranged for me go Saturdays, as long as I went to Sunday School.’
‘You mean you know The Reverend Thompson. You never said.’
‘A lots been said about him being awkward and so on. He never did me any harm. Took an interest if anything. Horses are my best friends. I was from the wrong street for the school and I never fitted. It was a battlefield. But there was always home and horses. Here we are. There’s Joe waiting to lock up.’
‘Come on lads, been clacking again I’ll bet. You never stop. Get sorted out and Annie up the fields.’
‘What was your dad’s name, Ted?’
‘George, what of it?’
‘Its hard to get started, but its to do with your dad, Ted.’
‘Dad. He’s been dead since I was a baby. What’s going on, mum?’
‘In a way he has been dead these years, but he actually died yesterday. You see, the accident on the railway left him paralysed, in bed all the time, what they call a coma. We’ve just been to his funeral.’
‘Lettie Armstrong says she fancies you.’
‘How do you know that?’
‘Mary told me.’
‘How does she know?’
‘They’re always talking, down at the mill. Lettie’s a bit of a goer.’
How do you know?’
‘All these questions, Doug. Let’s just say for once that I know. Do you want to go out with her?’
‘Has she asked you to ask me?’
‘Yes or no Doug?’
‘Well go on then.’
‘Whereabouts do you live then Lettie?’
‘Up the backs, not very posh.’
‘Do you have a full house then?’
‘Aye, mum and dad, and five brothers and sisters. We’re all at the mill or about to be. What about you?’
‘I live on a farm with my dad. Brenda and Joyce, my two sisters are a lot older, in service. I don’t really know them. Mum died when I was born.’
‘So you’re a country bumpkin as well as the Cumbrian muscleman.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I’m only teasing. You’re different to many of the lads round here. You look great, all that farming and all. There a bit pale and sickly around here.’
‘I can hold two sheep, one under each arm.’
‘I bet you can. Is there much to do in Cumbria?’
’No, not really. There’s no money for it. Walking out, some pals from the next farm. A trip down the docks at Whitehaven. My dad has a sister. We’d go there for tea. What about you?’
‘The same really. There’s plenty to pal out with up the backs, and I’ve a bit to do looking after the younger ones. Church socials, Manor Gardens. Mum’s expecting again so there’s extra to do at home now. You must’ve been a mistake.’
‘Have you never heard of it? Mum and dad not having kids for a while, thinking they’d stopped and then another one coming along when they’re older. Means they’re still doing it.’
‘You know, making babies.’
‘Can’t say as I’ve thought about it much.’
‘Boys think about it all the time, Doug, don’t give me that.’
‘Dad never said I was a mistake.’
‘Well they don’t do they. Depends what sort of family you’re in really. We all get stuck in together, try and help out. There’s others forever drunk and falling out. We hear and see the lot round our way. Hard not to, houses back to back, you can hear things through the walls and across the yards.’
‘But if I was a mistake, he’d’ve tried to do something.’
‘My mum says if there’s love in a family, it doesn’t matter how many there are. Don’t you go on about it, its only a saying, people talking, it doesn’t mean anything. Come on lets get round here and you can give me a kiss.’
‘Have we got anywhere then?’
‘One of the sisters will go with me to the library, and its Ok with my dad. Its part of my religious instruction.’
‘Learning about God and suchlike.’
‘So I can’t go?’
‘Whatever do you need religious instruction for?’
‘Well its true, Douglas. While I was supposed to be looking up something for this weeks lesson at church I asked about the newspapers. They don’t keep any from Barnsley, but the librarian got out the local ones. He was very helpful. Asked me what I wanted and said he’d find it for me. Sister Judith didn’t seem to notice. There wasn’t much, a couple of lines, saying there’d been an accident. George Eady was mentioned as badly injured, but that’s it. It was eighteen years ago.’
‘What’s going on? Ted’s dad was injured over Barnsley way when Ted was a boy, supposed to have died, but he’s actually died this week. And the dates aren’t right. By my reckoning, his dad had his injury before Ted was born. If he was supposed to be dead, how could he’ve had Ted?’
‘Well I never. Are you drunk or something? What makes you think you can bring this up? What business is it of yours anyway?’
‘Yes, well I’ve had two or three. Its just, well, is it right to be seeing Mrs. Eady?’
‘What’s brought all this on?’
‘Its something next door’s said in the pub last week.’
‘Who, Alf Walker?’
‘Yes. You know who the neighbours are then?’
‘Aye, well we were at school together. He was at Rangers same time as me, but gave up when he started at the foundry. A fair enough forward, rugged you know. I went in with Lord Beaumont. Course he wasn’t Lord Beaumont then. I never made it in the first team. Thats all by the by. What did Alf say exactly?’
‘Said you and Mrs. Eady were friendly.’
‘So we are. We’re all friendly to a point round here. His wife’s a bit of gas bag. You haven’t to starÒt talking when there’s nothing to talk about. I wonder who else’s been drawn into this?’
‘Nobody that I know of. It was a passing remark. He seemed not to want to say any more. I remembered that time you caught me and Ted having breakfast. We were surprised. Mrs. Eady wasn’t, and she stood up to you, as if she knew you right well.’
‘Look here, Douglas, you’ve to be careful. You’ve added two and two and come up with five. Yes, I’ve known Nora for a while now, but its got nothing to do with anything. You’d best forget about it. What are you taking an interest for anyway?’
‘No reason. Were you at school with Mrs. Eady then?’
‘No lad, she’s from Skelmanthorpe.’
‘Read all about it. Rangers to go it alone. Get your paper here.’
‘Here give us one of those. Come on Doug, lets see what it says.’ They were on the corner between “The Boilermaker’s” and Laurel Lane. ‘”A meeting was held last night at ‘The Station Hotel’, attended by representatives of 22 rugby clubs, including Dersford. They issued a statement when the meeting closed which said that they would be leaving ‘The Rugby Union’ and setting up their own structure. This stems from the discontent of certain northern clubs, who rely on working class men . . . ”. They’ve only gone and done it, Doug.’
‘Left the union. Old Reverend so and so and his pals.’
‘I thought he was your pal.’
‘That’s different. This is with Lord Beaumont and the others that want to get some of the best working lads playing for them.’
‘Its nothing to do with me coming here is it?’
‘Blaming yourself? Sure, you’re here, but this’s been trouble for longer than that.’
‘Good win today, Jim.’
‘Aye, not bad. Your Ted did better this week. You’ll know about “Northern Union” then? Town’s buzzing with it. Our lads think its great. One in the eye for the toffs. Your lads’ll be pleased.’
‘Yes. There’s one or two that’ve found it hard. Ones with kids, couldn’t afford really.’
‘How’s it going to be organised, do you know?’
‘Someone’s already thought of that one. Those that would’ve played each other will carry on, and the rest will fit round. There’s going to be a brand new cup.’
‘Been planning it for a while?’
‘So Ted says. I haven’t been here long enough. He’s been a follower for ages. Watches us train.’
‘Aye, so I’ve heard. He’s a bit daft. Comes with not having a dad. He wants to play but he’s a bit like a fish out of water. Not big enough, and awkward. Not jealous of you, is he? There’s another thing. You know about the newspaper cutting? About George Eady. My sister Grace says they have a strange shake, the Eady’s all have it. And they go a bit funny in the head. Some of them ended up in the loony bin, or the workhouse.’
‘You mean Ted’ll be the same?’
‘I don’t know. I don’t know whether its right to be telling you all this. Who else do I pass it on to? Ted?’
The study was a huge cavernous place, a large wooden desk in the bay window looking out onto Topfields, library shelves, floor to ceiling on two walls and paintings on the other surrounding a marble fireplace. Reverend Thompson stood still, waiting for Douglas as the housekeeper showed him in.
‘Thankyou, Mrs. Broadbent. Could we have tea? Would you like tea, Park?’
‘Yes, sir, thankyou sir.’
‘Take a seat.’ They sat in stiff winged high chairs. ‘I suppose you’re wondering why I’ve asked you to come today?’
‘Something about “Northern Union”?’
‘Yes, distressing business. We have to go our separate ways. Sport is not a business and never will be, not as long as I’m involved. No, its not that Park. Its about Edward Eady. What I’m about to say is highly confidential. I mean that you should be very cautious about what you do about the information, if anything. Certainly you need to think on it for a good while.’
Tea arrived. Reverend Thompson stood and walked over to the bay window and Mrs. Broadbent fussed over the milk and sugar. He waited for Mrs. Broadbent to leave. ‘What do you know of Edward Eady, Park?’
‘Well he’s Ok. He can read and write, has a good job, a bit daft sometimes. What has he done, is he in some sort of trouble?’
‘Not with the police, if that’s what you mean, no. You’ve been making inquiries I understand, into Edward’s background?’
‘Oh, I see, my fault again.’
‘You’re fault. I’m not sure what you mean. Anyway, as you were getting close to the truth, Mrs. Eady thought I’d better have a word with you.’
‘Mrs. Eady? Why couldn’t she tell me herself. Got me all worked up coming here. Expecting a right telling off, I was.’
‘Wait and see what I have to say.’ Reverend Thompson returned to his seat in front of the fire, and picked up a cup and saucer. ‘Not drinking your tea?’
‘I’ll let it cool.’ Doug watched and learned as the Reverend negotiated the bone china saucer without spillage.
‘It goes back about twenty years now, to the time I started here in St. Mark’s. Mrs. Eady arrived as a young widow, or so we thought. Her husband had been killed in a railway accident.’
‘Where does Ted fit in there then. I thought . . .’
‘You must hear me out, Park. No, Edward was not on the scene at that time. For certain reasons, he arrived a year or so later, a babe in arms, with no family. Mrs. Eady was the good Christian woman who took him and raised him as her own.’
‘Where was he from? Did he come from Barnsley like his dad?’
‘Barnsley? No, why Barnsley? Why are you grinning like a cheshire cat.’
‘Oh, nothing.’ Doug barely composed himself.
‘Edward came with an endowment, quite a lot of money actually, kept in trust and I am the sole trustee.’
‘So you know his dad, then?’
‘I knew him, yes. He also is dead now and I don’t think it would help to divulge his identity. All that’s in the past now, but we, that is Mrs. Eady and I, wanted to pursuade you to stop asking further questions. There are things that are best left.’
‘He was a wealthy man then?’
‘You’re persistent, I’ll say that. Yes, he was a wealthy man.’
‘That’ll explain the furniture and the school and the nice house.’
‘Edward and Mrs. Eady have been well looked after if that’s what you mean?’
‘You took a lot of interest in him as well.’
Reverend Thompson sighed, ‘Yes, I helped all I could. Now its time for you to leave.’ He pulled a tasselled cord next to the fire and a bell jangled somewhere. Mrs. Broadbent appeared a minute later, ‘This way Mr. Park.’
Doug turned and saw the Reverend had resumed his inspection of Topfields. ‘Oh, Reverend Thompson, sir? What’s a cheshire cat?’
‘You’ll have to do better than that, Doug.’ Doug had him in a head lock, or thought he had. Joe Armstrong pushed him against the wall and prised Doug’s arms apart. Doug turned and they faced each other, breathless and hot. They circled, looking for openings.
‘You’re not bad, for a young’un, I’ll say that, Doug.’
Ah, the old ploy of trying to distract my attention, thought Doug, and said nothing.
‘Cat got your tongue then? . . . Is it my neice you’re thinking of?’
‘Leave Lettie out of this. Its nowt to do with anything.’
‘You’ve been seeing a lot of her, eh?’
Doug lunged forward, clumsily, angrily. Joe was on his toes and swerved away. Doug felt possessed. He wanted to hurt.
‘Or are you just tired? Maybe you know you can’t win this and you’re trying to find a way out.’
Ignore the goading, Doug, do the holds. The things you’ve been taught. But youth took over. He jumped and missed. Joe kicked his legs out from under him and he fell face down. Joe jumped on his back, and pinned Doug’s right arm high up between his shoulder blades.
That’s the injured one, you idiot. But Doug still said nothing, stunned.
The changing room door opened and in walked Albert Beaumont. He quickly saw what was going on. Bare brick walls, lined with simple wooden benches and dimly illuminated by a single gas lamp. Steam rising off two heavily breathing men, or rather a man and a boy, who were fighting on the floor.
Joe let Doug go, stood and straightened his clothes. Doug sat up, leaned against a wall and put his clogs back on. They’d been lost in the scuffle.
‘Twice in a week, Douglas Park. I’m beginning to think you are a very risky investment.’
‘Hang on, Albert. Its my fault. We were doing a bit of wrestling, that’s all.’
‘Looks like you were trying to break his arm to me. Isn’t that your injured one, Douglas?’
Doug nodded, ‘Its true Albert, it were nothing.’ Doug had cooled off. He’d lost his temper and now, recovered, he was feeling foolish.
‘Its fortunate for you both, that it was me that came through the door just now, and not my father or one of the other directors. You would have been on your way back to Whitehaven, Douglas. We’ll say no more about it. There are more appropriate times and places for horseplay. Clean yourselves up, I can hear some of the others arriving.’
Albert left. ‘I’m sorry lad, I were out of order. An old head always has one chance, and I took it.’ Doug got on his feet and faced Joe. They were similar heights. Doug was lighter, thinner, red haired and a bit threadbare in his working clothes. Joe was forty one, his rugby days and fitness behind him.
‘You lied to me Joe Armstrong.’
‘I did, and I’d good reason.’
Doug started squaring up again.
‘You’ve a passion in you Douglas. I’d not seen it ‘til now. Its there though.’
Doug was taken aback. He was more used to being slapped down for his tantrums. Here was a man who saw them differently.
‘What’s it like, working in an office?’
‘Easy. Indoors, sat at a desk. Adding figures up, sorting bills and payments, that sort of thing.’
‘I wouldn’t know where to start. You could get a real job if you tried.’
‘It is a real job. What do you mean?’
‘Well you know, like Joe Armstrong, or Lord Beaumont. You know be a boss.’
‘A boss. Joe’s the foreman, not the boss. He does as he’s told. Lord Beaumont, well he’s certainly a boss. Steady, Annie.’
Ted turned Annie into the backs. Row upon row of stone terraces and small front garden walls. Dark passages that cut through to stone flagged yards with their outside privies and washouses.
‘What’s Joe do?’
‘Well, he organises the coal rounds. He pays us. Or he goes to the bank every Friday and collects the money, and then puts it in the brown envelopes. He’s out a fair bit. Leaves me to do the routine stuff. He’s pretty good really. He not forever checking up on me.’
‘That’s ‘cause he knows he can leave you. I told you, you could get a real job.’
‘I’m not sure what you mean. I’ve never thought about ?Joe like that before. Made a few mistakes when I started. Yes, he must think I can do it. Ha, maybe I’ll ask for a raise. Here you take the reins, I’m having a fag.’
Doug took the shiny worn leather straps into his hands. He knew Annie would sense his unsure touch. Ted whispered and shushed quietly and she settled. ‘You’ve to be a bit firmer, just keep her under a little. She won’t bite.’
‘Where does Joe go then?’
‘More questions. I’m not sure really. He goes to see Lord Beaumont once a week, I do know that. Gets his orders. Up at the big house in Kirkby, or down at the his office in town.’
‘Does he have a regular day, or morning?’
‘Apart from Lord Beaumont? Come to think of it, he’s always missing on Wednesdays. Says he’s collecting orders if anyone wants him. What you asking for?’