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( First Series )

By W.H. Thornton - 1897.

Sample text :-

' John Russell was already an old friend, and I knew many others who resembled him. I was keen in my parish work, also. But what did I know about it? Countesbury was handed over to me absolutely, week-day and Sunday alike, with its school and two hundred and fifty inhabitants. As to Lynton, with its two thousand, I might do what I pleased, much or little ; but Countesbury was my own domain, and I was twenty-three, i.e., absolutely ignorant. Is there any other profession in which such a state of things would be tolerated ? I know not, but at that time I took it all as a matter of course. Kindersley and Wilkinson, under Dr. Pinder, were learning something of their business at Wells, but I, well ! My assurance now seems to me to have been quite amazing. Bishop Phillpotts had said to me, with the satire natural to him upon his lips :-

" Young man, I suppose you will be wanting to preach. I wish for one year I could silence you altogether, but I cannot, as there are two churches to be served. You would like, also, I daresay, to preach your own sermons, and this, no doubt, would be excellent practice for you ; but think, sir, of the inconceivable sufferings you would inflict upon your unfortunate hearers. No, for the first year I command you never to preach if you can help so doing, and when you cannot, select one of Bishop Andrewes' sermons, it would take an hour to deliver, translate it into modern English, cut it down to twenty minutes, and however much you may bungle over it, you cannot do much harm by your clumsiness."

But, as I wrote before, I was in high wrath with him about his apparent inconsistency in the matter of dancing. So I gave him no heed. And what did I know about elementary education; or what did I. know of the wants of the dying ? Everybody, too, patted me on the back ; everyone had a kind word for my youthful assurance. So, like the green fool that I was, I plunged boldly in where angels would fear to tread. And I did not do so badly after all. I had some money, some influence, popularity, energy, and aptitude for children. At once I laid my hands upon the school. It was two miles away, on the summit of Countesbury Cliff. It was kept by Mrs. Elworthy, the widow of a butcher of Lynmouth, and she knew positively nothing. It was never inspected, no one cared for it, and few children attended it.

Well! I bought some books, and I asked a Miss Hollier, of Lynmouth, to help me. She was at the time engaged to be married, and, therefore, was safe. She was of a resolute turn of mind, and she wanted occupation.

Mrs. Elworthy was not averse to having her school quadrupled. So to work we went. Miss Hollier started on foot up the mountain side in all weathers and every day by half-past nine a.m. By ten I followed, sometimes on " Cochin China," more often on foot. Soon we had some forty children, and we taught them by might and main. We knew nothing of the tricks of the trade, but every child was of burning, living interest to us both, and we grudged the school no hours. On most days I taught until nearly one o'clock, I engaged competent amateur examiners, and before an examination we would often teach in the afternoon as well as in the morning. We lent books, we made friends of the children, and I can truly say that never, in after years, and with the aid of trained, certificated, paid teachers, have I turned out a better lot of children than were those old Countesbury youngsters of 1854-5. This is not my own opinion only, for I sometimes had them examined by University scholars, and always with eminent success. Where are they now, those children of more than forty years ago ? I do not know; but I hope that somewhere or other there are.... '

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