Chapter 8: My first journey to Liverpool

And this was the reason for Liverpool. Before I left the Workhouse, I came across a group of persons in the Yard who were listening to Billy Fraser, who was partly Deaf and not very Clear-witted, who would make, now and then, a Raid into the Country. This time, he had been to Liverpool, and gave an account of the Shipping there, how the Shipping was in the midst of the Town, and what a fine place it was - Plenty of Ships - that attracted my Attention. "Plenty of Ships in Liverpool", says I, "there, then, I will go!" I enquired what road I should take. I was told I should go through Barnet and on to St Albans.

So, I got to Barnet, and while there a Gentleman on Horseback came up to a Gate, and could not get in without dismounting. So I steps up and opens the Gate for him. Then he gave me two pence. "That is good" says I to myself, "A good lift on to St Albans". When I got to St Albans I had raised two or three more coppers, which enabled me to take a Bed in a Padding Ken (as the Tramps called them) at 3d for the Night.

I may say I was now fairly Initiated as a tramp, and attained to the Knowledge of where Relief might be had in Towns where I might pass through, and also certain Private Houses where such and such was given, of which I availed myself as best I could with sundry Snacks I might pick up.

This brought me along till I got to Stoney Stratford. A little while before I entered that Town, two or three young fellows caught me up, and, while walking along, one asked me to join them and rob the Clothes that were lying about in the Harvest Fields. This shocked me very much, as I had read the Scripture from a Child. Proverbs spoke to me and said: "When Sinners entice thee, consent thou not!" I darted off immediately like a Shot, and left them soon far behind and entered the Town. There I found that there was a place where Relief might be had, entrusted to an Old Shoe Maker. He received me Roughly and said there was none for me! So I walked away, and took a few turns in the Town. I had my Boots or Shoes dangling on my arm, which I had taken off (the Day being hot). I looked at them and said; "What is the use of carrying these about? Sell them, if you can. They will get you a Night Lodging." So I offered them for sale and got three pence for them, which Paid for my Bed, and so rested for the night, grateful withal that I had escaped from a set of thieves.

I set forward the next day, I think it was, to Lichfield, where there was a Cathedral which I looked at. For, although I was a tramp, and apparently took no interest in anything that passed unless I could get something, that was not so! For I took a great interest in all that passed before me. I soon got to Birmingham, where I observed that they were selling Water out of a Water Cart (I think at a penny for a Bucket) for they had no waterworks there in those days. I think my next stage was to Coventry, where I got into conversation with a Ribbon Weaver. Before I parted with him he gave me three pence, which I thought was a great lift, for at one stroke it paid for my Lodging. This has been, ever since, gratefully in my Memory.

I worked along the Great North Road, availing myself of every opportunity where Relief could be had for Tramps and Vagabonds, and so got to Warrington, where I had to Break Stones for my Breakfast, but I did not mind that. I liked it rather, as it meant that I gave some Return for what I got. But our Taskmaster made it very disagreeable to me, in the Tyrannical Manner in which he behaved to us. He seemed to be an Old Soldier who much enjoyed his Brief Authority over us. As I left Warrington, going over the Bridge, I saw, for the first time, a Railway Train. I looked with amazement at a Coach going without Horses (for it was a great Wonder to our then Generation).

Well, now I was eighteen miles from Liverpool, and looked with great Expectation for what would turn up, having Billy Steward's description in my Mind. At any rate, there would be no want of Ships, assuredly gathering I should have a fine chance of getting a Ship out of so many. I enquired along the road from Tramps that I met, whether there was a Place in Liverpool where I might Lodge free of Cost. For I thought I might be some days before I got a Ship. I was directed to Freemason's Road, Vauxhall Road, where there was a Night Asylum giving free Lodging but nothing to Eat. I knocked at the Gate and got Admittance and was directed to go in and get any Berth that was Vacant. It had been a Large Gentleman's House of three Storeys, as I remember. In each room there were Guard Beds made of boards about 7 feet wide, slantwise the whole length of the Room, in three Tiers, one above the other, but no wrappings of any kind. But you were sheltered from the Weather. This would have done well enough if I could have had something to eat. But, such as it was, I was glad of it.

But I saw plainly enough that, if I would stop in Liverpool a few days, as I considered I ought if I wanted to get a Ship, I must beg! This I was very loth to do. I did not mind begging along the Road in the Country; but Town Begging I was loth to try. However, I went down to Princes Dock in the Morning, and accosted several Men, whom I took to be Captains of Ships, asking them "Did they want a Boy?" Answer, always: "No". First day gone, I went to my Wooden Bed for another Night. Next Morning, again to the Dock - unsuccessful as ever. Coming back, I began to beg, Hunger pressing hard, when a Constable laid hold of me and took me to the Lock-up, searched me, and took what trifle I had in my Pocket. One thing, the only useful article I had about me, was a Knife, for which I had given twopence to someone on the Road.

Now I was had up before the Magistrate, who asked me why I was Begging. I suppose my answer was that I was Hungry. "Well", says he, "You may go for this time: but if you come before me again I shall send you to Prison".

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