Re: Ian's great great great grandfather
FROM MIKE WILLIAMS
THE LATE JAMES RIDINGS, VOCALIST: In the Courier, a week or two ago, we recorded the death of this hardy old veteran of the Muse, who died on the 12th ult., having attained his 81st year. We always experience pleasure in giving to the world the leading incidents in the lives of those of of our fellow townsmen who have been distinguished for musical or other acquirements; and a brief memoir of the subject of our notice, notwithstanding that he moved in a comparatively humble sphere of life, we believe will be found fully as interesting as many of the more fortunate class. Mr. Ridings was born in the year 1769, and resided the whole of his lifetime within four miles of our Exchange. His parents were of the honest and industrious class; consequently the son, when in tender years was compelled to apply himself to the loom. It was during this early period he first began to woo the " heavenly maid," and for some time his whole energies were devoted to gaining a perfect acquaintance with the intricate system of "Fa sol Ia," which is yet considered by Lancashire men the best groundwork for vocal efforts, as, when completely mastered, it enables them to read music at first sight with facility. He soon after joined himself to the associations styled at that time "Musical Clubs," which were then to be found flourishing, sometimes in the most secluded and inaccessible parts of Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire. These societies, transferred to towns, are known at the present under the more classic and euphonious appellation of Choral and Philharmonic Societies, but they seem in the majority of instances to lack that strong vigour and enthusiastic love of music which distinguished the musical clubs, and still animate the remaining few amid the seclusions in which they still exist, and where they form an enduring link of brotherhood of the most kindly character The meetings of the club in which Ridings joined were held periodically at the "Bull's Head Inn" and "Black Horse Inn," in the neighbourhood of Failsworth, where the village musicians for many miles round, both vocal and instrumental, were wont to assemble. Their chief practice was, we believe, Handel's oratorios, or the sterling anthems of sonic of our old C lurch writers, Purcell, Croft, Green, and others, and in this school our young vocalist may be said to have earned that reputation which he held through life, as the best reader of Handel's music in the locality. His memory was unusually strong; and it is related of him, that he could at one time, when in active practice, have sung by heart the whole of the tenor part to the "Messiah," and other oratorios. For fifteen years Mr. Ridings was engaged as one of the choir at our Collegiate Church, and his singing of the opening recitative and air to the before-mentioned oratorio is yet spoken of by many with delight, nay, enthusiasm. Nature having gifted him with a good and powerful tenor voice, he was never in want of a situation for Sunday duty, being always engaged as precentor at some of our churches. At a subsequent part of his career he appeared upon the boards of the then new Theatre Royal, in Fountain street, when under the management of Mr. Charles Young, where, as leading vocalist, he sang the principal music to Macbeth, &c. He appears to have been on good terms with the accomplished tragedian, Mr. Young, who frequently called him into his dressing-room to talk over musical affairs generally. During this engagement Mr. Ridings did not forsake his daily routine of business, but continued labouring on in all earnestness to the close of the day, walking to and from the theatre in the evening a distance of some eight miles, frequently arriving at home about one o'clock in the morning. After which, be would sit down to his constant, yet humble, fare of "meal-porridge and milk" and all this he acaccomplished daily throughout a whole season. At all the musical festivals, for seventy miles round, he was present as leader of our famed Lancashire chorus singers, and the frequent opportunities he had of meeting there. placed him on friendly terms with the evergreen Braham, and other celebrities of the day. We have by us a mass of information defining the incidents of these various musical tours, but find it would extend this notice much beyond our limits. We therefore. in summing up, can say of the late Mr, Ridings with confidence, that his natural benevolence and mildness of character, his modest and reasonable estimation of his own abilities, endeared him to the whole of the musical profession. He was of those who are ever ready to assist, but still content to listen - and never backward in acknowledging the merits of others. Marty times he was found encouraging and raising his junior brethren in the profession. In short, his whole life was an example of those who "do good by stealth, and blush to find it fame." His musical knowledge and requirements did not induce a carelessness as to other departments of knowledge; and, because he did not neglect to store his mind with those more lasting treasures which are always a ready passport to the more refined circles, his society was at all times courted, not merely for the convivial reputation of "singing a good song," but for the fund of information he could afford on topics in general. In Mr. Ridings the passion for music was ardent to the last, and at his obsequies several of our resident professionals attended to pay a fitting tribute to his talents. When the " Nightingale" paid us a visit, a short time ago, the old veteran expressed a strong desire to hear this extraordinary warbler, although he had then completed man's term here below fourscore years. In his old age he ofttimes found a solace by humming some favourite strain, which would serve to lighten the heavy wings of Time. With his indefatigable industry Mr. Ridings combined frugality and temperate habits, and was thereby able to secure comfort and ease in his latter days. He fulfilled the duties of life in a most exemplary manner, training up a large family in respectability, several members of which are yet living, and are conspicuous for their literary and musical attainments.
In our obituary last week, would be found recorded the death of this distinguished veteran of the muse, who departed this life on the 12th instant, aged 81 years. Mr Ridings has been known in this neighbourhood for upwards of half a century, as one of our leading vocalists; he travelled on foot thousands of miles, in attending all the musical festivals for fifty miles round during that period. His mortal remains were interred on Monday last, at Newton Heath Church, when a large circle of friends from this town attended on the occasion, to show their last mark of respect to one who was so universally loved and respected. We noticed among the number several of our oldest members of the musical profession, Mr John Waddington, Mr Sheldrick, Mr Cartledge, of the Cathedral, Mr Stephen Cooper, and several members of the famed Cauldwell family. The funeral service was impressively read by the Rev.___ Howarth, the minister of the Church. Kent's anthem, "When the Son of Man," was sung with much feeling and appropriateness by Messrs. Heelis, Sheldrick, Boardman, and John Holt, Mr. William Waddington presiding at the organ. All present seemed deeply affected during the solemn ceremony, and the half-broken ejaculated responses of the venerable clerk, Mr Alexander Graves, who has reached his four score years, moved many to audible tears - as we may hereafter be disposed to favour our readers with a short sketch of the life of the late Mr. Ridings, we need not now enlarge further than to observe, that as one occupying a public vocation, few men ever enjoyed greater popularity; the patience of his temper, and his readiness at all times to meet the wishes of his superiors, gained for him unvaried approbation; his manners were courteous to all, cringing to none, his friendship warm and unchanging; in short, he fulfilled, in a most exemplary manner, all the relations of life, training up those who now occupy prominant positions among us in the world of letters and music.
Many thanks to Mike for this great contribution!