THE GOOD NEIGHBOURS
By Margaret Blundell Editor of ' Blundell's Diary & Letter Book, 1702-1728' I /N Blundell's Diary. 1702-1728 is to be discerned a reflection of the general attitude in the Ages of the Faith to the question : Who is my neighbour? He belonged to a family and lived in a society that had always kept the Faith; he led a very ordinary life and was by no means outstandingly pious, but Crosby, the corner of South-west Lancashire where his home was situated, was not easily accessible to the outside world in his day, and he and his circle kept to the old standards, unaffected by the new code which had arisen since the Reformation and was founded on differing degrees of wealth.
Those who lived round about, those met in the ordinary intercourse of life. setvents as well as peers of the realm. were all alike neighbours in the truest sense of the word. This is especially illustrated by the manner in which all associated themselves in each other's joys as well as in their
There was no penny post. no telegraph or telephone, no transport other than by horses. Yet what a Ecoming and going took place when a
• bride was brought home by her
bridegroom, when a child was born.
▪ when a new building was raised, :2 even when someone came safely
• home from a journey!
Were a man travelling only into E the next county, his friends visited ▪ him a day or two beforehand to • wish him a safe journey. and as F..punctiliously welcomed him on his Fareturn.
• HOME-COMING "MAY 6th 1710. I. went to ince to wish Mr. Blundell " (his cousin) " a good journey because I heard he was going out of this coontry for his health. " August 6th 1710. My wife, Mr. Aldred, Dr. Cawood and I went in the coach to Ince to welcome home Mr. Blundell and his lady out of Yorkshire."
Fr. Robert Aldred. S.J. was then chaplain at Crosby; Dr. Cawood was an Irish oculist staying at Crosby to treat Blundell for an affection of the eyes. The Mr. Blundell thus formally alluded to was cousin and nearest neighbour of the diarist.
Even in a private journal this punctiliousness was observed in describing people correctly. If the traveller was only a schoolboy, his arrival was not allowed to pass unnoticed.
"I went to Ormskirk to wait on my Lord Mountgarters son Coz. Richard Butler who was come home from school."
When the diarist and his wife had been away together. he gives a list of ladies who came " to welcome my wife home." and a week after the birth of their first child, "many Crosby wives came to see my wife.'
Indeed the mothers of new-horn babies were visited by their friends taith an assiduity which would probably meet with the disapproval of the medical faculty in modern times. In those days no mitigation of the pains of childbirth were known but matrons stood by the mother in her hour of trial.
The diarist frequently announces that Mrs. Blundell, even when very young herself. thus did what she could for a neighbour; if a skilled midwife had to be called in from a distance and there was no room for her in her patient's house in the village, Mrs. Blundell brought her to the Hall, where she dined and slept.
THE SICK VISITING the sick was undertaken in general and as a matter of course.
When a carter fell from his cart ten miles from home and broke his thigh, he was taken into an apothecary's house near the scene of the accident. There he was visited by his Little Crosby neighbours, who were undeterred by the distance they had to travel. busy working folk
though they were; Blundell's two little girls were also sent to see the injured roan and he himself went on a different day.
Medical science was stilt almost non-existent and home-made remedies were in great demand. The diarist was always ready to concoct these and supply them to those whom he designates " my poor neighbours."
On one occasion, he mentions, he left a newly-arrived guest in order to attend one of his patients; on another that he brought home a little girl who had fallen on the ice, and dressed a cut on her eyebrow, lie tried to keep up-to-date by reading what he calls " schnlastical and physical hooks," and by collecting receipts for making a variety ol strange decoctions and copying them into his recipe book.
THE DEAD IT need hardly he said that the dying and the dead were consistently befriended in a community which still breathed the atmosphere
of the Ages of the Faith. When an old retired servant living in the village is dying. Blundell writes; "I went after twelve of the clock of the night to see Richard Harrison. I found my wife there."
While the dead awaited burial. a hrong of friends and relations gathered in the house of mourning
to offer united prayers for the repose of the departed soul. They assembled again for the same purpose at the end of a month, and on the anniversary day a year later.
No distinction of classes interfered with this charitable plan. Blundell constantly states that he went to cottage or farmhouse to join in the devotions. Masses were offered in the house by the priests who officiated as private chaplains in the neighbourhood, for no Catholic churches were allowed.
" It being the Anniversary day of Jane Bryanson. my wife and II went thither to prayers," writes Blundell. "We heard three and a piece." He alludes to Masses, hut does not commit that word to paper, for the day of the informer against Papists was not yet over.
When his cousin at the neighbouring Hall of Ince dies, he states inithe diary that he went to his workmen in the field "and gave them leave that had a mind to go to Ince to prayers, being Mr. Blundell was newly dead.
I also went thither to prayers." .
He lent his "coach-carriage" to rich and poor alike. to carry their dead with dignity to the grave, or, if the distance was too short to necessitate the use of a horse-drawn vehicle, he took his turn with other bearers in carrying the coffin.
A FULL LIFE IT may seem that the general
neighbourliness described would he impossible to practise nowadays. We have railways. cars and buses. it is true. but who could spare the time to travel twenty miles to cheer up an injured person who was not even a member of one's family; or to sit up all night with an expectant mother or a dying old man who was not a near relation?
People are paid to do these things now. Yet those forefathers of ours were busy enough. Country folk had to grow the raw material out of which their clothes were made, convert it into cloth and make it up themselves; they paid their rent partly in labour and grew their own food as well. lime must have been more precious to them than it is to us, since they had no mechanical means of saving it. And who shall fay how the time saved by our generation profits us?
It sticks in the mind that our ancestors put first things first without pausing to reckon the cost. confident that they would receive a just wage hereafter.
'Liverpool Universny Press. 2%.