Website of the Laceby History Group

George Herbert White

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES BY GEORGE HERBERT WHITE

This fascinating account of Laceby in the 1870s
appears to have come to light in New Zealand as a
result of research into emigration to the colony.
John Hobson White, Emigration Agent for North
Lincolnshire, who was mentioned in the last edition
of the Chronicles, (Hard Times: Life in Laceby
1800-1914), was the father of George Herbert White.

GEORGE HERBERT WHITE

Birth and Ancestry

It has been said that every man should record the chief events of his life, if not for the benefit of posterity, at least for the interest of his immediate descendants. It has been a matter of regret to me that my father failed to do this, for his life was particularly full and varied. Mine has been decidedly varied, but I could certainly never hope to deal with its events in chronological sequence, or even in accordance with the last three syllables of that adjective. But to have a chronological start, here goes!

I was born on the 6th August, 1867. Naturally I have no recollection of the event, but the statement is not mere hearsay, for in black and white in the Family Bible appears this entry:-

George Herbert, son of the above John Hobson and
Emma Jane White, born August 6th, 1867, at 9.15 p.m.
Tuesday.

A few ancestral details may perhaps appropriately appear here.

My grandfather, George Patchett White, died before my birth.

His wife was a Miss Hobson and they had a family of eight, of whom my father, John Hobson White, was the eldest. Mother's maiden name was Emma Jane Wales. They were married at Brunswick Wesleyan Chapel, Leeds. Father's father was a grocer and draper at Ludborough, while Hother's father had been a jeweller in Boars Lane, Leeds. Father's ancestry was definitely Anglo Saxon, and mother was of Norman descent, so I inherited a mixture of plebeian and aristocratic blood. Father received a secondary education ( a somewhat rare thing for ordinary people in those days) in Cresswell's Grammar School at Louth. He learnt some Latin and less Greek.

Later he was clerk in ironworks in Yorkshire, and then was in business at Laceby, where I was born.

Mother went to boarding school, where she learnt French and drawing and music, and then was governess in a private family in Yorkshire, where she met Father. She had learnt piano for five years and taught it five years.

Father was fair complexioned, short of stature, quick, active and optimistic, while Mother was very dark, of medium height, and of an artistic, nervous temperament.

My parents, therefore, were contrasts in many ways, but lovingly devoted to each other and to us children.

The Class Meeting

A very early memory was going with Mother to a Sunday afternoon class meeting - meeting in class was a test of membership of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in those days. The class leader was Mr. Charlie Horton, an old man with a cleft upper lip, who started the tunes, and was also the chapel keeper, living on the premises, who in the winter had to get up at three in the morning to light the furnace in the basement, from which hot air came up through the gratings in the aisles to warm the chapel. This building was of brick erected in 1853 at a cost of £1200, and would seat 478 persons in a village of 1000 population, in which there was also a Primitive Methodist Church Chapel, and of course the established English Church. Our chapel stood on the corner of New Chapel Lane, while my birthplace was at the bottom of the parallel Old Chapel Lane.

The Corner Shop

The counters in the little old shop at the bottom of Old Chapel Lane, where I was born, were of course of the usual height, but to me they seemed far too high ...

We sold both drapery and grocery.

Laceby Temperance Hall

One of the outstanding events of my pre-school days was the erection of the Temperance Hall, which was a pretentious undertaking for a village. Father felt the need for an unsectarian building, apart from the public houses, where people could meet for labourers' meetings, lodges, entertainments, lectures, and so forth. The practical sympathy of several kindred spirits in the neighbouring town, who could help financially, having been secured, a subscription list was opened and the scheme launched. I well remember the laying of the foundation stones, four in number, bearing the names of those who could place substantial amounts on them. I was one of the youngest of a considerable number who, watched by the assembled crowd, laid bricks, on which we placed our smaller contributions.

The building was on a good site, opposite the Post Office, and consisted of an assembly hall, seating perhaps 200, with a stage, and smaller rooms in two storeys, which could be occupied by a caretaker and family if desired, or let as apartments. At the opening bazaar, I had part charge of an electrical machine - a novelty in those days - and the small dynamo in a mysterious little box with two brass handles attached by fairly long connections produced some current and much amusement. The venturesome were permitted, on payment of a penny towards the funds, to feel the mysterious thrill of the electricity, and when a number joined hands and formed a semi-circle, the more susceptible to the current would give such squeals and, unable to release their hold, would perform such antics as were most interesting and amusing to the spectator.

The Laceby Postmaster

Mentioning the post office, suggests one of the most versatile characters of the village - Horace Watson, the Postmaster. I think that I must have been a favourite of his, for when I went alone to have my first tooth extracted and told him Father would pay when he saw him, he took me behind the scenes, lifted me into the chair and did the deed with his forceps and I trotted off home.

Mr. Watson's reply to Father as to the charge was, "Oh, nothing - would pull twenty out for him with pleasure; he is such a goodboy." Naturally the pleasure would have been his.

The Servant

During my earliest years there had been relatives assisting with household duties, thus setting Mother to some extent free to help in the shop. Then we were to have a servant, and I was strictly told that I must not order her about, but Father or Mother would tell her what to do. The first morning I was first downstairs after Ann, and while putting on my boots, I noticed that she was placing the wrong cups and saucers on the table for breakfast. How I enjoyed seeing the table rearranged after Mother's arrival, which would not have been necessary had I not been such an obedient boy as to keep quiet.

Unpopularity

In the early years at Laceby, Father began to get into disfavour with some of the upper classes in the neighbourhood because of his radical sympathies and his interest in the labouring classes. I do not think that he ever went to the extreme of becoming the secretary of a labourers' union or anything of that kind.

You may have heard of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. It will help to explain things somewhat if I remind you that it was less than a decade before Father's birth that the six Tolpuddle martyrs, farm labourers in Dorset, had been sentenced to seven years' transportation to Botany Bay because they had formed a small union or friendly society, which was protesting against the reduction of their wages from 9/- a week to 6/-. They were respectable men of the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion, in which three of them were Local Preachers, as was Father.

It is only fair to say that, as a result of agitation in the Old Country, within a year or two, they were released and brought home again. It is difficult for us to realise what conditions were then, or to sense the unfairness of treatment in such comparatively recent times.

Emigration

Father took the chair for a lecturer - I fancy Duncombe was his name - when they were offeri ng free passage for farm labourers to New Zealand. Next day some of the audience were asking him if he thought what the speaker had been saying was true. He explained a little of what he knew of the Antipodes, told them of his uncles who had gone years before to Canada, and got further information from Headquarters. Later he filled up application forms for them, and as a matter of fact helped to send some of his good customers to New Zealand.

Afterwards, the Agent General for New Zealand wrote him, pointing out that this was just the class of emigrant they wanted, used to the land, accustomed to hard work, not like the unemployed town and city loafers who were bound to be unsuccessful.

An Agency

Father accepted an agency, and felt that he was doing philanthropic work, useful to both the Old Country and the New Countries, sending the mouths where the mutton was. The population of the United Kingdom was increasing a thousand a day, even with a thousand a day leaving for other lands, it was natural that the departure of some of the best workers made those who remained more independent.

He was never transported because of his work, but he was looked at askance by some good people, who quoted the scriptural injunction, "Be content with such things as ye have" and for a few years he received no appointment in any of the three largest chapels in the country circuit.

Mr. W. M. Burton

At a later period, Mr. 'W. M. Burton, from New Plymouth, worked with Father, sending out large parties to Taranaki, who, on arrival, were landed in surf boats, and housed in the Barracks, which were on the top of Marsland Hill. They had been built during the Maori Wars, and some 60 years ago were moved and were now the old mountain house on Egmont at an elevation of about 4000 feet.

Many of the descendants of these sturdy pioneers are today comfortably settled in Taranaki, a number of them known to me personally. During the years Father sent about 8000 to New Zealand, and about 11 ,000 to Queensland, working with Mr. George Randall, of Brisbane.

Mr. Burton and Father found so much in common in their views that they became fast friends and regular correspondents, their letters for years being signed respectively David and Jonathan.

A Publication

Between them they published In 1876 an 86 page book with this title page:-

EMIGRATION to NEW ZEALAND
With Illustrations.
Considered.

          Socially                                  Landowners
Politically               as            Capitalists
     Commercially             it             Tenant Farmers
Religiously            affects          Mechanics
                                                              Farm Labourers, &c.

AN INTERNATIONAL SUBJECT
by
An Englishman and a Colonist.
Price Sixpence

Printed by H. Watson & Co.. at their Steam
Printing Works, Laceby, near Grimsby.
London: Jarrold & Son,
3, Paternoster Buildings.

Opposition

It was no unusual thing for the opposition to the movement to be so strong that it was impossible to arrange a hall or a room even in an Inn, in which to hold a meeting, so it was frequently necessary to address a gathering in the open air.

A Girl Friend

I well remember on one of his early visits to England, seeing Mr. Burton coming down the Lane to our shop, accompanied by an adopted daughter, Rose Patterson, the youngest of three girls, whose father had been killed by the Maoris. They were brought to England and the Continent for education and Rose became my first intimate acquaintance other than relatives.

The Cemetery

For a long time no-one was buried on the right, the unconsecrated side. When at length someone was rash enough to request to be buried there, the undertaker, the local joiner, just before the funeral, went for the tressles on which the coffin was supported at intervals to give the bearers a rest during the procession to the cemetery, their use was forbidden for a nonconformist, and some hurried substitutes had to be provided.

It may be appropriate to mention here that our baby brother James Edgar, who died with teething convulsions on January 13th, 1880, was about the second to be buried in the unconsecrated ground, though there were many graves on the left, and years later, when there were many more on both sides, Aunt Wales expressed a wish to be laid to rest there, and we journeyed from Grimsby to place her near to Edgar.

Interment Society

A related subject, though by no means controversial, was the Laceby Interment Society. I cannot say when it was established, but Father was one of the early members - probably a foundation member. It was a very crude and primitive form of friendly society. Each member contributed 1/- to assist in paying the funeral expenses when a fellow member died.

But what most interested me in connection with it was its crockery. It was let out on hire, and at many of our Methodist tea-meetings, there would be cups, saucers and plates marked in bold characters LACEBY INTERMENT SOCIETY. It never appeared that anyone's appetite was affected by the striking announcement probably many who saw it did not know what it meant, but it strikes one now as being somewhat peculiar.

Notice To Quit

The time came when we got notice to quit. The house and shop were the property of a firm of wholesale grocers in Grimsby, and they were going to put a married man as manager. It seemed rather strange, but they turned out to be Wesleyans too.

New Premises

There were no premises available in the village, so Father decided to build. Mr. Worth, the village joiner and builder, had a piece of land which went through from New Chapel Lane to Old Chapel Lane, only about two sections higher up than the old corner shop. He had previously had a sawpit in part of it, where I had sometimes interestedly watched one man on top and another in the pit, hard at work cutting a log with a long crosscut saw.

As I cannot draw a plan, let me try to give a verbal description of the premises. Looking at the frontage in New Chapel Lane, you would see two storeys. On the ground floor on the left was the front door to the residence; then two show windows of the shop with a central door, which rang a bell when a customer entered. On the right were large folding doors that gave entrance to a drive leading straight through to the other street.

The Census

In at least one census, perhaps more, Father was the enumerator for the village. Naturally it was a difficult matter for many to fill up the forms ... a good many men and women could not write so assistance was in many cases sought from the better educated. Mr. Smith, a shoemaker, had helped quite a number, and apart from his handwriting you could tell which forms he had filled in, because under the heading "Sex" was the answer "none".

I.O.G.T.

The Independent Order of Good Templars had a strong lodge at Laceby. The Burtons and the Whites were among its members. Scoffers said the initials stood for, "I Often Got Tight". We youngsters sometimes saw the regalia, and knew about the meetings with musical programmes and such like.

White Bros.

I have no clear recollection of the order of formation or the organization of the firm of White Bros., in the new shop, but it included Father, Uncle Stephen and Uncle Joe.

There was also an Assistant, Mr. Enderby, who did the rounds, and an apprentice, Jack Garnet, to whom I looked up as a very clever young man. Uncle Joe seemed to spend a good deal of his time in the general work and correspondence of the Emigration Agency.

As time went on I was occasionally employed at the rate of a penny an hour in such duties as sweeping, dusting, tidying, etc. A task I liked decidedly better was mixing the ingredients for "White's Baking Powder", especially packing and sealing it in the tidy little packets in which it was sold.

Emigration

The migration microbe was attacking a later generation of the Whites than those who earlier in the century had crossed "the big dyke" to Canada. Father and Mother' always felt it was their duty to remain in the Old Country as long as Aunt Wales lived, but Uncle and Aunt Stephen heard the call of the Pacific, and set out with their two boys, Percy and George.

There was at that time no direct steam to New Zealand, so they travelled by the Orient Line to Sydney, and then by intercolonial steamer to New Zealand and settled at New Plymouth.

It would appear from the Register of Parliamentary Voters, that in about 1883, John Hobson White, his brother Joseph, and their families moved to Dudley Street, Grimsby, probably to concentrate on the Emigration agency.

Joseph White emigrated to Queensland a few years later and then moved on to New Zealand where many relatives were already settled.

In about 1890, John Hobson White moved to Osborne Street, Grimsby and eventually emigrated to New Zealand himself in 1893, having waited until after the death of Aunt Wales in 1890. He joined the Wesleyan Ministry some time afterwards.

Jenny Chambers