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Illingworth House: 10 - The Adopton

...In 1912 the Greenwoods surprised everybody by fostering a baby daughter right out of the blue. Everyone assumed he was doing it for his boss. He'd been well paid, very well paid to take on the child. Paid to brush the scandal of a bastard under the carpet.

It happened often in Keighworth. Sometimes they knew who'd fathered the child but no one ever found out which upper-crustian had fathered the child the Greewoods adopted, or who the mother was. Folks who took on bastard upper-crustians were paid well to keep their mouths shut....

John Waddington-Feather continues his story of the lives and times of Yorkshire mill folk.

To read earlier chapters please click on Illingworth House in the menu on this page.

Sam Greenwood was always well in with his boss, who owned Keighworth Ironworks and was a great friend of the Illingworths. Sam was as well in with his boss as much he was loathed by his fellow workers. He'd never had any time for the union and had always made that quite clear. In any dispute he sided with the bosses, kow-towed to them.

Joe Gibson was just the opposite. He was a unionist through and through. As a result he and Sam Greenwood never hit it off, not even when he married Greenwood's daughter.

In 1912 the Greenwoods surprised everybody by fostering a baby daughter right out of the blue. Everyone assumed he was doing it for his boss. He'd been well paid, very well paid to take on the child. Paid to brush the scandal of a bastard under the carpet.

It happened often in Keighworth. Sometimes they knew who'd fathered the child but no one ever found out which upper-crustian had fathered the child the Greewoods adopted, or who the mother was. Folks who took on bastard upper-crustians were paid well to keep their mouths shut. In the Greenwoods' case, it was all done through the Leach brothers' firm and they were more tight-lipped than the Greenwoods themselves.

The adoption of the baby girl, Helen, helped patch up the rift between Mary and her parents. Her mother needed help with the baby and paid Mary well. She was able to take days off work and went every evening after work to feed the baby and put it to bed; and the longer Mary didn't have her own child the more she bonded to the adopted child.

Joe, too, bonded to her, playing with her when his wife brought her home or walking her out in the park in her pram, and taking her to his hen-pen when the weather was fine.

But he and Sam Greenwood remained at loggerheads, more so after the great strike which broke out in 1914. When his works came out, Sam Greenwood was one of only a handful of men who blacklegged. All the others joined the strike, as did the moulders led by Joe. Every foundry and engineering works in the town came out.

And the longer the strike went on, the more ugly the tension grew in Keighworth. Blackleggers were shouted at in the street and the strikers were threatened with the sack. During the strike Joe and Mary were married, but so sour had relations become between Joe and his in-laws, they didn't even attend their daughter's wedding and Mary was given away by Joe's best pal, Henry Johnson, the butler at Illingworth House.

When he heard what Johnson had done, Abe Illingworth didn't like it all and confronted Johnson shortly before the wedding. "You know what my opinion is of Gibson," he said angrily. "He causes trouble wherever he goes."

"Yes, sir," the butler replied calmly.

"I'd rather you didn't associate at all with Gibson, but that's your affair. I certainly wouldn't want you to be dragged into this wretched strike business. It's getting out of hand, y'know, and Gibson is one of the ringleaders. You can tell him that if he or any of his mates appear before the bench they'll get short shrift. You understand," said Abe Illingworth.

"Yes, sir," said the butler. He never contradicted his boss, but he remained loyal to Joe all his life and when things got worse and the strike dragged on, unknown to Abe Illingworth, he helped the Gibsons with food and hand-outs.

The strike came to a head when the strikers began attacking the homes of the mill and iron-masters. Windows were smashed and, when Abe Illingworth sent down some of their leaders for breaking the peace, the strikers were infuriated. A mob marched up Black Lane to attack Illingworth House, but were stopped by the fifty or so policemen who guarded the house and more were drafted in from Bradford.

The strikers marched up the lane, urging each other on, smashing street lamps and hurling abuse. When they arrived at Illingworth House, the great gates remained tightly locked and a line of mounted police confronted them. The mob halted undecided, then the police moved in with their batons, and step by step the crowd of bawling men was driven back, hurling stones and more abuse till they dispersed.

Inside the house, Abe Illingworth stood watching white-faced and shaken from an upstairs window. He was furious and set his face against any reconcilement, and from that time on he hated Joe Gibson more than ever.

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