Don’t Always Believe What You Hear

Sixteen years before Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and twelve years after the residents of Stacksteads were described as being in fear for their lives from the “low Irish” St Patrick’s Day of 1881 was awaited with fear and apprehension by the residents of Stacksteads. For some days previous to the 17th March rumours had been circulating that St Patrick’s Day would be made the occasion for a general rising of Irish patriots. The sacking and burning of Stacksteads being a not an unimportant part of the day’s programme. According to the rumour, some decent hard hard-working Irish families of Stacksteads had apparently along with their fellow countrymen in Shawforth been entertaining dark designs on the persons and property of their protestant neighbours. Prompted by importations from America they were, it was said planning to blow up Stacksteads church, seize the Volunteer armoury and then leaving Stacksteads burning in flames they would march onto Bacup and redress their national grievances.


The panic reached boiling point on the eve of St Patrick’s Day. By this time a report had reached Bacup that a keg of gunpowder had been found secreted in an outbuilding near Stacksteads railway station. This statement was further supplemented by the reported arrival of a company of infantry from Preston. In addition to this, the local volunteers had been ordered on duty at their armoury and a company of hussars were held in reserve at Rawtenstall.


St Patrick’s Day finally dawned and rather than the outraged processions of violence predicted the patriotic Irish men and women of Stacksteads and surrounding areas spent the day as much as they usually did on a Thursday except for a grand concert to end the day with.


It would seem that a few Sundays prior to the incident one of the Sunday Schools in the area had for their lesson been hearing a portion of the book of Job. The teacher in improving the subject spoke about the fifth of November and Guy Fawkes’s attempt to blow up Parliament. From the gunpowder plot to the unrest in Ireland at the time, a transition was made when the teacher remarked on the enormity of such a crime for example, of blowing up Stacksteads church and its worshippers.


The scholars misunderstanding their teacher’s dissertation, and confounding the historical with the improbable, carried home the announcement that Stacksteads Church was to be blown up on St Patrick’s Day. Having come from such a source

the information was deemed reliable. Ill news travels fast and in less than a day the rumour had spread like wildfire. Two soldiers who had been on furlough and had been seen together near the Volunteer armoury had developed somehow into a fully equipped company with a rapidity that would have astounded the recruiting sergeant. While the weekly drill was the explanation for the marching and counter marching heard at the Volunteer headquarters…….