Michael Parker: Grave Digger

Nobody living to-day will remember Michael Parker, the Malton grave digger. He was born in 1758, according to an old print ("Smithson's Lives"), in which his career is described at considerable length. Michael was apparently what without disrespect may be and is therein described as a rather rough character; nevertheless there was a kind and tender spot in his make-up. He was first engaged carrying coals and corn at the wharf by the Derwent side. Struggling up into manhood, he combined grave digging with the hawking of coals, often seen in Malton streets roughly clothed, shoes tied with string, and widespread sack over his shoulder.
Nothing, it is stated, afforded him more satisfaction than the forming of a grave, and the work awakened in him a disposition of inquiry. The curious conformation of a bone, the cranium which had been the seat of intellect, engaged him in frequent speculation. A chamber in his cottage which contained a strange assortment of bones exposed him to the suspicion and displeasure of his neighbours, yet nothing served to abate his love for the relics of the dead. A gentleman once remarked to him that he seemed to like the exercise of making graves and asked if he would like to bury him, whereupon Michael said he (the gentleman) would have to be buried, and he assured him he (Michael) would make him as good a grave as anybody, and with his spade there and then marked on the ground the shape of a coffin, and complained of the "badness of trade," there not being then any graves to dig!
Michael, it is stated, was twice married, and his second wife eloped. What to him was a more severe blow, was the death of his boy, and rough though he was, he "wanted something to be kind to." His cat was a great pet; next he got a dog, then a leveret, and then a turtle dove, and his collection of animals became so obtrusive in the home of other people that neighbours complained and the parochial authorities paid Michael a visit and dislodged his feline friends. Some years afterwards he was told his second wife was dead. Thereupon he hurried home, took off his working clothes, and reappeared in "proper mourning." The then Rector, told Michael that the "news" was not true, and Michael took off his "mourning clothes" as quickly as he had put them on, and reappeared in the clothes he wore when at work.
The coal hawker - grave digger is said to have had a taste for the fine arts, and was a collector of prints, etc., that did not exceed sixpence. To an enquirer he once said he had been "making a landscape," a cat upon a wall! He was also a great admirer of sign boards, particularly those belonging to inns.

Malton Messenger, 8 October, 1927

Henry Pickering

Henry Pickering was a unique figure in the life of Malton twenty years ago. Although rich, his usual clothing suggested that he was poor, for it was shabby and defective. His goodness and kindliness were known to everybody. When a chairman was wanted for a public gathering in one of the chapels or halls his was the first name which came into people's minds. When money was wanted for any philanthropic object, he had only to be persuaded of the reality of the need for a substantial cheque to find its way into the secretary's hands.
His conscience was his guide. It always seemed to me that he cared not a jot for public opinion, and mere "appeals" never swayed his mind. If he was wrongly accused of error, he stood all the straighter and would not budge an inch from the path he had begun to walk on. If, on the other hand, he felt he had made a mistake, he did all he could to atone for it. The story is still told in Malton how, at a temperance meeting largely attended by working men, Mr. Pickering, who was in the chair, put a damper on the whole proceedings by declaring at the close of the gathering that whilst he had been impressed by the eloquence of the speaker, he himself felt that the working man should have his beer on Sundays so long as the rich man was able to enjoy his wine cellar! That was not the end of the incident. The next morning Mr. Pickering was discovered at seven o'clock sitting on the doorstep of the secretary of the Temperance Society, not merely anxious, but pleading that he might once more sign the pledge and show his sincerity in the cause! Those who were intimate with the subject of this sketch know that earlier in his life Mr. Pickering had for a long time hesitated to give up offering wine to his guests - but conviction at last prevailed.
Stories without number could be given to illustrate Mr. Pickering's eccentricity - and kindness. One must, however, suffice. Mr. Pickering was a Quaker, and at one Thursday morning Meeting some friends from America were present, whom, by the bye, he had never seen before. The meeting was a very solemn one, both of the gentlemen visitors having had what the Quakers call "acceptable service." Before everyone had got well out of the "passage" on to the great flag, and before any remark about ordinary things had been made by anyone, Henry Pickering was heard in loud tones asking the visitors whether they would go down with him to have a bath! This particular bath was situated behind the business premises he had occupied, then in the hands of Mr. Pullon.
Mr. Pickering's grandfather, old Robert Pickering, kept a draper's shop in Yorkersgate, and when not behind the counter was usually found in a little parlour near by. Here children were fond of visiting him, for they quickly got to know that the best acid drops in Malton were kept in a wall cupboard. Old Robert Pickering's son Robert, the father of Henry Pickering, was killed suddenly by being thrown out of a gig. Following immediately upon this calamity, Mr. Henry Pickering took charge of the business. Success had already crowned his father's and grandfather's efforts, so that he started in life a comparatively rich man. He was twice married, his first wife (nee Burlingham) dying in 1890. For many years he served on the Malton Local Board, and he was also a Guardian. Although closely attached to Malton, he usually took a long journey in the summer, and when he returned from these expeditions was glad to tell friends and neighbours what he had seen. He built West Lodge, but after his first wife's death removed to the Mount and died very suddenly one Sunday morning in 1894 when delivering tracts.
Whilst no great gifts distinguished this Old Maltonian, he exercised an extraordinary influence in the town and district, no doubt because of the simple directness of his character, his willingness to help those in need, and his continuous work, especially for the poor of the town.
SPECTATOR Maltonians of Bygone Days, XX, Yorkshire Gazette, March 18th, 1911

My Image

Henry Pickering

(Obituary) Died on Sunday, 13 May 1894. Of the Mount, Malton, a well known and prominent member of the Society of Friends, died suddenly at Malton. He was on his way to the Friend’s Meeting House, distributing tracts, as was his usual Sunday custom, and when proceeding through Finkle-street he was seen to fall from the footpath. He was carried into a neighbouring house, and a doctor sent for, but he died in about ten minutes; the cause of death being a fit of some kind. Deceased was in his 75th year, was of a very generous and philanthropic nature, and for years past had been the leader of the town in all charitable and Christian objects. Originally he was in business in Malton as a linen draper and mercer, but he retired 30 years ago, after making a competency. He was a member of the Malton Board of Health from its foundation up to within three or four years ago, when he retired. He was one of the Guardians of the Poor for Malton up to his death. In the management of the dispensary, the Adult School (of which he was one of the founders), the town Mission, the Total Abstinence Society, and kindred institutions, Mr. Pickering had long taken a prominent part. He was generous and charitable to a fault, and the poor of the town and district have lost in him a kind and liberal friend. He had been twice married, and leaves a widow but no family. The body of deceased was removed to his home on The Mount during the day. His friends have been somewhat anxious about his health lately, and the sad but very sudden termination of his life was not altogether unexpected.
Report – York Herald, 14 May 1894


Charles Pullon

c1839 - c1905 The 1861 Census shows Charles Pullon, a 'certificated schoolmaster' living in Settrington in the same household as William Marshall, a woollen draper’s assistant, who would become his business partner. The 1871 Census lists Charles as a general draper in Yorkersgate. The business was expanding and well known in the area. Late in 1878 the business is advertising 'Sale of First-class Drapery Goods at Scarborough – The stock of re Day and Son, Bankrupts, bought by Marshall and Pullon (Malton) at an enormous discount will be sold in conjunction with another large and special purchase ... at astonishingly low prices ...’ [1] By the time of the 1881 census Charles is living in Castle Howard Road with wife Mary Jane, and children May Evelyn, Charles Edward, Violet Ethel, Hugh Cecil and Mildred Josephine. Early in 1882 there are indications of the business expanding well beyond Malton when the following report appears: 'Employees of William Davies and Co., general drapers, Berry street, Liverpool were entertained at dinner. Toast given including Mr. Charles Pullon, of Malton, the chairman’s successor, who will very shortly take over the business'. [2]
Thinks had taken a turn for the worse when a petition for bankruptcy was filed on 6 March 1888 in Scarborough County Court on behalf of Charles Pullon, draper and silk mercer.' [3] There is a report of the meeting of his creditors at the Station Hotel, York, giving a statement of affairs [4]. Charles attributed his failure to a 'large falling off in the returns of his business, owing to the prevailing depression in the Malton district, which is entirely agricultural; to his inability to reduce working expenses in a corresponding ratio, and to his having had to pay interest off borrowed capital largely locked up in book debts .... and the expense of maintaining and educating a family of six children, in which there had been considerable illness. He was adjudged a bankrupt, and the public examination was scheduled for 17th April. There seemed to be a degree of sympathy for Charles: ‘one or two creditors present thought the case was not one of fraud or anything approaching it, but that the bankrupt had been rendered helpless by sheer force of circumstances, and regret was expressed in seeing him in his present position.' [5]
Charles had become aware he was insolvent in the middle of February, and at once filed his petition [6] In July, Charles' discharge was granted, his deficiency being £2,432 3s 5d. The Official Receiver’s report spoke very highly of his conduct [7]
Following his business issues, by the time of the 1891 Census, Charles had become a commercial traveller and had moved away from Malton to West Ham, living at Victoria villas, Hainault road, and then to Grove Crescent, Walthamstow (1901 Census). The eldest son, Charles Edward, became a solicitor, living at Grange Avenue, Woodford Green, Walthamstow.
[1] York Herald, 5 December 1878
[2] Liverpool Mercury, 28 February 1882
[3] York Herald, 10 March 1888
[4] Yorkshire Gazette, 24 March 1888
[5] York Herald, 24 March 1888
[6] York Herald, 18 April 1888
[7] York Herald, 11 July 1888


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