Bust of John Passmore Edwards

The Autobiography of John Passmore Edwards

Old Hales


During my early schoolboy days there lived in Blackwater, with his wife and children, in a miserable, tumble-down house, a man who was known as "Old Hales." Many years before he was sent to prison for larceny, and from that time he lost his character, and was treated as an enemy of society. He lived, if it could be called living, by cadging of one kind or another, and by doing odd jobs, when he could get them to do, for very little pay. If hen-roosts were invaded, or ducks and geese were missing, "Old Hales" would have the discredit of having removed them, whether he deserved it or not. He was, however, not so bad as he was painted. For instance, hearing that my father wanted some stones to build a garden hedge, "Old Hales" offered to get some, which would be got only at the expense of very hard work, great difficulty and danger.


At that time, when a shaft for mining was sunk, its mouth, or the part near the surface, for twelve or fifteen feet, was faced round with large stones closely arranged and well mortared together. "Old. Hales" offered, at the imminent risk of life and limb, to get from the shafts of a used-up mine near by several cartloads of stones so placed, for insignificant pay. By so doing, an insecure step or blow, or a momentary loss of balance, might end in a fall of hundreds of fathoms, and certain death. My father discouraged the undertaking; but "Old Hales," with heroic fortitude, commenced and completed the work, and did for a few shillings what ninety-nine working-men out of a hundred would not, or could not do, as he did it, for a hundred times the pay. By so doing he not only showed ability and willingness to work, but high qualities of head, heart, and hand.

Not long after he was again arrested for stealing, found guilty, and sentenced to be transported for life to Botany Bay, and was never heard of again. He deserved a better fate, and had fortune during his earlier years been more favourable he might, and probably would, have become a law-abiding and useful, if not a leading, member of our village society. Poor "Old Hales"!

April 18, 2005
Acknowledgement of contributions and  copyright
© Dean Evans 2003