The Foxearth and District Local History Society

Committee Announcements
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Meetings, announcements and notices for the Foxearth and District Local History Society, and associated organisations.

John Grimshaw, the Lancashire Weaver. by Anne Grimshaw: 12th September 2017

The feelings and actions of a young weaver from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, who served at Waterloo were dramatically portrayed by local historian, Anne Grimshaw, to members of the District Society on Tuesday 12th September. In costume of the period - which was subtly altered to reflect different people - Anne appeared as mother Dolly, sister Sally and wife Phoebe to John Grimshaw (born 1789) ; no relation as far as Anne has been able to discover.

In 1806, very much against his parent's wishes, John left his job as a hand loom weaver and enlisted in the Coldstream Guards. His first letter home was from London which he described as "bigger than Blackburn"! Next he was in Spain "hotter than Lancashire" and then in Portugal which was said to have "flies everywhere" and "people sleeping in huts with their animals" In 1815, after Waterloo, he wrote again from London about the "big fight" and mentioned that he had been injured. More about this came to light when he came limping home at Christmas 1818 giving a graphic account of how a surgeon had removed a musket ball - which had been flattened when it hit his hip. He was also injured in the right arm. Whilst recuperating he was given a carbine to shoot the rats that were around the hospital. On his arrival home he enquired whether another local lad, Thomas Pollard, whom he had met in 1811 in Portugal had been in touch. Dolly replied that he had - and he had married John's sister Sally! John saw action in several other battles and after his army service he suffered from bad dreams and episodes of sleep screaming indicating that "battle fatigue " is not a modern condition. He was discharged from the army in 1818 as unfit having received a number of medals and awarded a pension of 9d a day.

As "Sally" Anne described some of John's experience of Belgium where there was said to be a lot of fever and ague. John returned to work as a hand loom weaver and in 1828 married Phoebe Tomlinson, also a weaver, and these two became involved in the active unrest that workers started to show as they saw the introduction of machinery into weaving and steam looms as threatening their livelihood. "Phoebe" recounted her arrest, her appearance at the Assizes for rioting and her sentence of 12 months hard labour. John died in 1851 of asthma aged 61. His army record showed him to be older indicating that he may have been untruthful about his age when enlisting!

This "one woman show" demonstrated the deep level of research Anne had undertaken to compile this intriguing account in which, she said, a few assumptions had been made on the basis of the evidence of the times. A carefully designed and interesting evening. Anne related how Thomas Pollard was quite a hero having received a campaign medal with 9 bars. The whereabouts of this decoration was unknown for some years but persistent enquiries by Anne had finally unearthed it and it now was held proudly in the regimental archives. Anne was warmly thanked on behalf on 17 members by Secretary Clare Mathieson.

Information was presented about the Society's annual dinner on 12th December at the George, Cavendish and members should book their place with Clare as soon as possible. The next meeting will be on 10th October at 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall when Judy Ivy will talk about the artistic connections between John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough in the context of the Suffolk/Essex landscape.

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