WHIT-MONDAY AT SKEGNESS
The following notes, supplied by an ” Occasional Correspondent,” were crowded out of our last publication: –
If the working population our sea-girt little island were asked, ” Are Bank Holidays more of a boon than a curse one may safely venture to assert that the loud and exultant ayes of the great majority would completely drown the fewer deep and emphatic noes. But if each vote were weighed, if the maximum possible good derived by the former were contrasted with the actual privation and misery inflicted on the latter, would the ayes still have it or the noes? Who shall say? Personally, I am scarcely affected by Bank Holidays. It is my lot to live in such an out of the way, isolated part of the county that none but those perfectly familiar with the geography, or topography, of the immediate district would be able to find or describe it. And it also happens that as a rule I am busier on these days than on others. But finding at noon yesterday I could steal the remaining half day from business, I decided to Join the excursionists at Skegness; and, being within half an hour’s walk of Wainfleet station, I made a hasty meal and caught the 1.27 train. Some people have a great objection to travelling by rail when there’s more people than carriage room. Others like it. You can easily pick out the latter. They walk calmly up to the station a few minutes before time, take a third class ticket, at once come to satisfactory understanding with themselves that it is not the least use trying to find room in a third class carriage, and almost before the train has stopped are cosily blocking the window of a first-class carriage to give it the appearance of being full. Alas that stolen fruit should be so sweet! They would be honester men in their proper compartment. For myself, I am not particular where I ride if room is scarce and the journey short. I have ridden in first, second, and third-class carriages, break vans, bollock trucks, and coal waggons. It was in the break that I rode to Skegness. The train was just on the move when I got in, and, judging by appearances, I was an addition to a party who had come on from the junction, and who were than being entertained by a veteran platelayer. The reminiscent stood in the middle of the van, in regulation dress, with his pipe half raised to his lips, and as I took my seat on a packing case, thus continued : —” He always driv like the devil, he did. Never cared for signals nor anything. Else he would’nt ha’ been shifted down to this branch. I told him once when I was flagging a reach, you’ll be doing the job one of these times—off the rails or something worse. But he didn’t care for nothing.” Is he driving us now,” I asked, as his pipe slipped into its accustomed place. ” I should say not, gov’nor,” replied he, with a cunning smile. ” What line is he on?” I continued. He did not reply at once. First venting a volume of black smoke, he removed his pipe, drew his coat sleeve across his lips,—all in the most leisurely manner —and then, with a confidential air, said, ” Well yer see, the man I was talking about is dea-ed; bin dea-ed some time and, turning to the guard, he dropped his left eyelid with a look saying plainly as tongue could speak, ” that’s filled his slate I reckon.” I am not quite certain whether my friend the platelayer thought he had taken a rise out of me. A self-satisfied smile played about the corner of his mouth, but after he had filled his pipe out of my sealskin, I fancied I could detect a tone of respect in his almost too-familiar manner. On arriving at Skegness Station, I immediately made for the adjacent Cricket Ground to witness some athletic sports to commence there at 2.30. I paid the sixpence demanded at the turnstile, and entered the enclosure set apart for the sightseers. The next thing was to find the best vantage ground, and, bent on doing this, I gravitated nearer and nearer to the Pavilion, and landed myself in the arms of a policeman. Separating the enclosure from the Pavilion were two rows of wire fencing, and I had successfully accomplished half way over the first, when one of the guardians of the law assisted me to get back again, and at the same time advised to go through the gate. I implicitly followed his advice, and went through the gate, totally ignoring the man who stood there in what struck me at the time as a very expectant attitude; and failing to see a gate in the second row of fencing, once more essayed scaling feat. “Another sixpence please.” said voice at my elbow, and turning round I recognised the policeman who was present at my attempt at the first fence. I then tumbled to the whole thing—paid the extra sixpence, and gained the coveted spot. Afterwards I had the satisfaction of seeing several others make the same vain endeavour to miss the toll gate. I also heard a good deal of grumbling about the extra charge. There can be no doubt that the Pavilion refreshment, bar suffered by it, but for my own part I was perfectly satisfied with the arrangement, as it left me plenty of elbow room and unobstructed view of the bicycle races. I will not attempt to give report of the athletic sports; this I will leave to an abler pen than mine, and content myself by observing that the arrangements appeared to me to be well conceived, and were carried out in a remarkably satisfactory manner. Altogether there were very few on the Cricket Ground, and it was not till I got outside that I was aware what an immense number of visitors Skegness was entertaining. From the Station, down old Skegness, to the end of the pier the road was literally crowded, and a very good humoured crowd it was on the whole, bent on enjoyment, rather boisterously in some instances perhaps, but thoroughly untrammeled by conventionalities. All the time was there I only once saw anything approaching to a disturbance. A tall hobble-de-hoy, who was within a pint-measurable distance of drunkenness or, as the sailors say, three sheets in the wind, playfully caught up a large fish off a stall, and, after frantically brandishing it over the head of the vendor, bolted off with it. But he did not try to get away; he merely dodged the irate owner amongst the crowd for time, and when caught paid the price demanded, and triumphantly bore off his prize, wildly vociferating he wished he was a fish with great big tail. The sands appeared to hold all those whose excess of animal spirits prompted them to take their pleasure in boisterous manner, and of these, I was glad to notice, by far the greater portion preferred careering madly on galloping steeds, to indulging in coker nut cockshies, skittles, and other kindred and questionable amusements. The day, though fine throughout, was remarkably cold, but this did not appear to mar the enjoyment of many. With a forecast worthy of the meteorological office or old Moore’s almanack, the fair sex had refrained from donning the summer fashions, and not few of the sterner sex revelled in great coats and ulsters. From an artistic point of view, this, of course, left something to be desired, as the crowd, except where enlivened by red coats, presented rather a sombre appearance, but as it was all in favour of the physical comfort of the visitors, who could have wished it otherwise? Following the crowd on leaving the cricket ground I came to the magnificent pier now open to the public (a detailed description of which I shall be glad to give when it is thoroughly completed), and spent some time in admiring both the design and construction. And whilst standing on it watching the thousands of visitors surging backwards and forwards the thought that had the most prominent place in my mind was, “Who are the fortunate shareholders?’
Later on, when watching the crowd being gradually swallowed up by the long trains continually moving out of the railway station, and endeavouring to form some idea of the enormous amount the Railway Company must have netted in the morning, the same thought obtruded itself, ” Who are the fortunate shareholders ? I had returned to the station long before my train was advertised to start, I had several times during the day caught myself wondering how the excursionists were to be got to their respective destinations. But I might have spared myself anxiety on this head. Slowly but surely the crowds thronging the platforms kept waiting, as train after train was loaded and glided out the station, and when I jumped into my train at 8.40 I could plainly see the beginning of the end of the admirable traffic arrangements for the day, and which had been so safely, carefully and civilly carried out.