When I commenced these articles on Old Maltonians I had it in my mind to write of several women citizens. But, facing the task, I found that, whilst their contribution to the life and work of the town had been at any rate as great as that of many of the men whom I was writing of, it was more subtle and therefore more difficult to define.
The day is coming, if it has not already come, when the unique gifts of woman, will be used by the town the city, and the state, and not despised, as they virtually are now; when as a matter of course she will be asked to give the fruit of her experience to the common good. The historian of the future will not have any such difficulty as we experience in compiling lists of public-spirited women, with exceptional gifts, for all doors will be opened to her, and the value of her work will be as great as that of man, even if it be a different work and the method not the same. Too often in the past women have been compelled to live obscure lives and have had little or no opportunity afforded to them of developing their gifts and assisting in responsible undertakings.
Even in the latter half of the nineteenth century it was difficult for new Hildas, Anne Cliffords, and Elizabeth Frys to arise, although Britain was under the rule of a woman who proved to be one of the greatest of her monarchs!
Perhaps this “block” has been especially noticeable in the history of the Anglican Church. Fortunately development is now seen even there, although it is more pronounced in some of the Nonconformist Churches. When I think of the patient, loving life lived in our town by the sister of one of our vicars, I realise two things: he sever limits of the task which Miss Elliot was allowed to tackle, and the sweet perseverance with which she did it, right up to the time, in 1893, when her brother, the Rev. R.W. Elliot, removed to Scarborough. She was so humble-minded too, so yielding to the authority of the past, that I almost feel as if I ought to apologise to her memory for writing of her in the same column as that in which I refer to the women’s movement of to-day.
That movement will never do its full work if the women in it do not possess some measure of that unselfishness, quiet earnestness, and positive love for her kind, whether man or woman, which distinguished the lady I am writing of.
Men who once were errand boys in our town have told me how kind Miss Elliot always was to them. Other men who were shop assistants find their voices quivering as they talk to me of her invariable courtesy, and her thoughtfulness for their comfort. Adults who were in the Church Sunday School during the time when Miss Elliot took such a great interest in its work speak with affection of her love for them and for their parents.
I do not mean that Miss Elliot was perfect in the special work which she did. Not so. For instance, the principle of prize giving was somewhat abused by her. In itself the principle invites criticism, but in addition to this it was obvious that Miss Elliot kept saying to herself, as she stood in the shop before the books she was purchasing “I cannot pass by little Johnnie: he is such a dear boy, and I think he will do better next year.” So a prize was got for him although his attendances were far below the minimum standard required! As an educationist I cannot approve the method of this action, but as a man I worship the spirit in which it was done.
I might say a good deal about Miss Elliot’s work in her parish, of the many ways in which she helped her sister-in-law and her niece as well as her brother; I might add a paragraph about her devoted love for her nephew; but according to my ability I have already said the biggest thing possible about this large-hearted woman. She was a faithful follower of the Man of Nazareth, who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.
SPECTATOR Bygone Maltonians, Yorkshire Gazette, 22nd March 1913
The Rev. R.W. Elliott was one of the most familiar figures in Malton up to the spring of 1893, when he removed to Scarborough, after thirty years’ service in our old town.
Mr. Elliott always seemed to be “On guard,” and this prevented many people from realising the warmth of the heart beating under his tightly-buttoned frock coat. It was if he had said, “I uphold the honour of the Church – the Church of England, don’t you know? I cannot speak to you as an ordinary man would do, and you, when you address me, must remember that I am the vivar of St. Leonard’s.” The predominating note in this was not personal, but zealously congregational; it was all meant to add glory to the Church of which he was a faithful servant.
Mr. Elliott was one of the few book-lovers whom Malton possessed. Local history was of keen interest to him, and he did not ignore certain aspects of sport. He himself wrote poetry, which possessed some of the faults, as well as many of the virtues of its author. I have been trying to lay my hand on the eight volumes of sonnets he published in 1854, and to find a later collection of pieces, but time has buried these among a mass of pamphlets, or lost hem, so that I cannot revive my impressions of the whole of his work.
Mr. Elliott began his work as a poet by writing “Flowers Enigmatically Expressed,” which was published in the “Family Herald,” then, by the by, a more high-class periodical than it is now. Later on, he contributed to the “Hull Advertiser” and the “Hull Packet,” and on antiquarian matters used frequently to write in “Notes and Queries.” In early numbers of this newspaper, he wrote a series of articles headed, “Antiquarian Notes and Footnotes,” many of the facts in which deserve to be re-printed.
The late Mr. William Andrews “Nort Country Poets” contained a biography of Mr. Elliott, with examples of his work. Of these three pieces, that on “The opening of the bells of Holy Trinity Church, Hull,” is interesting in a biographical sense, for his two tutors were the sons of a Vicar of Holy Trinity, the Rev. J. Bromby, M.A. “A dark day” is a tragic story of a wedding day which saw the bride dying in the arms of her husband of an hour. The third piece, the simplest and one of the best ever written by Mr. Elliott, is as follows:
The Royal Academy 1885
“When the Children are Asleep”
Thos. Faed, R.A.
Two lovely babes lie wrapt in sleep’s repose,
With golden hair across their foreheads thrown,
Their cheeks are sweet as roses newly blown.
And their small hands as white as Alpine snows.
No cares of life as yet have touched their hearts,
No tears of grief have dimmed their soft, blue eyes,
Their dreams are bright as cloudless summer skies,
And joy to them its purest bliss imparts.
Hushed silence reigns beside their little bed,
The kitten rests in sleep from playful mirth,
The faggots brightly burn upon the hearth
And light with gleams the rafters overhead.
The highland mother, knitting, watches near,
Oft glances, listening, towards the rude latched door,
For her babes’ father, coming o’er the moor
Through storm of blast and snow with anxious fear.
The parishoners of St. Leonard’s loved their Vicar, although he was neither a great scholar nor an eloquent preacher. I venture upon the latter assertion in spite of the fact that many people spoke of Mr. Elliott’s eloquence, especially when he was induced to lecture on such a favourite subject as Westminster Abbey. He had untold helps in his wife (the eldest daughter of the late Captain Roach, of Hull), his daughter, and his sister. I doubt whether any other parish in England was better visited than was his. He was strictly punctual in all his engagements. He was distinctly a man of the old school, well groomed in person, courteous in conduct, cautious when change either in Church doctrine or law was involved; faithful to friends
Mr. Elliott was born in Hull on 26 Feb 1829, and wished to enter the medical profession. However, after his marriage in 1853, he became curate of Etton, near Beverley, and then accepted the Assistant Secretaryship of the Church Missionary Society in Yorkshire. Finding these duties beyond his strength, he became curate-in-charge of the parish of Sowerby, and later on the curate of St. Leonard’s, Malton. When the Rev. G.P. Cordeaux, M.A., resigned the living in 1863 everyone hoped that Mr. Elliott would succeed him, and he was accordingly appointed to the living by Earl Fitzwilliam. He was one of the originators of the Malton Naturalists’ Society (June, 1880), and a vice-president of the same. Indeed practically every onward social, educational, and religious movement in Malton had Mr. Elliott’s advocacy.
SPECTATOR Maltonians of Bygone Days, Yorkshire Gazette, ???????
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