Adventures of the Mind
After a sumptuous banquet had been partaken of in the large room of the Bull Hotel, under the excellent purveyorship of Mr. Jas. Sutcliffe., the evening meeting was held. The company which numbered about sixty guests included many of the members of the Corporation, Drs. Coultate, Annington, Briggs, Lawson and others. The Mayor occupied the chair, and Dr. Brumwell was in the vice chair, at opposite end of the room. In suitable language the Mayor proposed the toast to the Queen, the Prince of Wales and also the clergy and ministers of all denominations, which last toast was coupled with the name of the Rev. H. H. Robinson, M.A., vicar of St. Andrew’s, who in responding, after expressing his thanks for the manner in which their health had been drunk, remarked that the occasion was one on which he thought all denominations, whether political or religious, could meet in unanimous spirit. (Hear, hear). He thought all the different places in the town were fairly represented by the sixty guests who were present. He had great pleasure in being present that evening, partly from personal reasons. He had been in Burnley a little over eighteen years, and one of the first houses in which he was kindly and hospitably received as a guest was
The Banquet in Honour of William M. Coultate
that of their honoured guest that evening. (Hear, hear). During that period he had had the pleasure of knowing Dr. Coultate, and as his acquaintance with him progressed, his respect for him had also increased. Besides that personal reason he had a professional reason for being present that evening. He thought there was a great affinity between the calling of a Christian minister and the profession to which Dr. Coultate belonged. He felt sure that if the Great Master were called upon to give the preference between those who served him with mere devotional piety, and those who without any outward signs of devotion serve Him better and more faithfully in benevolent actions of their lives, he felt sure that the preference would be given to the latter. He did not think there was any body of men who more faithfully follow the example of gratuitous benevolence, in a very large majority of cases, than the doctors. A vast deal of their work was done without fee or reward, and a vast deal of it was done for very little reward; and he rather believed that in proportion to the work they were called upon to do the doctors were a deal worse paid than the ministers. (Applause.)
The MAYOR, in making presentation of plate, &c., said: We are met together this evening as representatives of a large body of subscribers – 114. I have a list before me of such subscribers, and I may say that it is fairly representative of all parties, denominations, professions and classes interested in the Borough of Burnley. The manifestation which we thus make is to express our sensibility of the great importance to be attached to the efficient and faithful working of our local self-government and to the material and social advancement of the borough. We also manifest that we are observant of the manner in which the public representatives discharge their important and self-denying duties. We have combined to do honour to a gentleman whose public life has been distinguished by faithful and continued service in the interest of the inhabitants of this town. The profession itself, of which our friend is a member, is one of the most benevolent and self-denying character, and its members are engaged from day to day in toilsome and anxious, and often ill recompensed duties. I am not prepared to state the time at which Dr. Coultate commenced his public engagements, but it is sufficient to state that for the past 40 years he has been, in one capacity or another, devoting his interest and energy for the public good. Today we recognise him as a County and Borough Magistrate, Senior Alderman of the Town Council, Chairman of the Gas and Vice-Chairman of the Improvement Department, Chairman of the Trustees of the Mechanics Institution, Governor of the Grammar School, and President of the Literary and Scientific Club. In these and other offices, Alderman Coultate has brought to bear his quiet discernment and unflinching application of the best means which his good common sense has led him to apply to the exigencies of the circumstances which have had to be met; and, at the same time, his vivacity and good humour have conciliated his opponents and encouraged his friends. It is not, therefore, a matter of surprise that services of such a character, continued without intermission for so long a period, should be thought deserving of public recognition. The portraits which have been unveiled, to be henceforth suspended in the Council Chamber and the Mechanics’ Institute, will perpetuate their memory in the future to their respective members, and it now remains for me to present Alderman Coultate that portion of the testimonial which shall be to himself and his family a substantial token of the respect and esteem in which he is held by the subscribers and the larger public which they represent. (Loud cheers.)
Alderman COULTATE, after some cheering and a word or two on his awkward position, said that the first and uppermost duty which seemed to weigh upon him, was to express to them all the great obligations under which he was placed. He did not at any time pretend to be so philosophical, or at the same time so churlish as to “pooh pooh” any indication of public esteem. He thought if a man did well to aim at obtaining it, and if he succeeded in his attempt, he had a right to be proud that he had obtained it. (Hear,hear.) He could tell them that in getting up of the testimonial there had been a great deal of underwork, and everybody seemed to know about it but himself, and he was kept purposely in the dark, so that when it was intended that he should be painted he accidentally stumbled on the painter one dark evening in a railway carriage coming from Rochdale. It might appear that the painter had had a photograph of himself sent to him, and at last he said in a rather abrupt manner "I think you must be the gentleman I am coming to paint", - (cheers.) He (Alderman Coultate) replied, "How is that?" He immediately moved and addressed him as Alderman Coultate, and in reply to a further question from himself as to how he knew him he said he had seen his photograph. That was the way he was accosted with reference to the painting, and he might say that a pleasanter man he never met with in all his life than Mr. Sydney Hodges, and if any gentleman present were contemplating having their portraits taken they would find Mr. Hodges a most congenial freiend before whom he had most meritoriously sat for a week – though not day and night. (Laughter.) He felt particularly gratified by the manner in which the testimonial had been got up, because he was assured there had been no touting for subscribers. What had been subscribed had been voluntarily done; if it had been otherwise it would have grated his feelings.
He would not that night be political, though everybody knew that he had politics. He was particularly gratified to see a Conservative at that table, and be told that there was a considerable number of jolly Conservatives present. To him it was a far more pleasing affair than it otherwise would have been if it had been an exclusively partisan demonstration. Far more so because the purposes and objects for which he had devoted any time were certainly more of a social and general than of a political character. Though he had not yet seen the portraits, he had been told they were good and meritorious as works of art, and that they did not need that the name should be put underneath. Such being the case, he could only wish that they might hang on the walls of the Mechanics Institution and the Council Chamber long after the original had gone, as a lasting memorial, not of the events of the individual before them, but of the generous liberality of the towns people of Burnley.
Speaking of the Mechanics Institution, he observed that it was the first public institution to which he was attached, commencing his career with it when the meetings were held over the Swan tap. They afterwards migrated into more capacious premises in Chancery Street, and then into St. James’s Street – Pilling’s shop, after which it was determined to erect a suitable building. This was done without fully calculating the cost as they ought to have done; but he hoped that when the time arrived when what manufacturers called a “margin” was obtained in trade, some portion of that margin would be devoted to the purpose of getting the institution out of debt; and when once that was achieved, he felt no hesitation whatsoever in saying that it would certainly be one of the most flourishing institutions in Lancashire. He reminded them of a great number of persons now occupying respectable positions in the town and elsewherand elsewhere, who owed there beginning in life to that institution.
Refering to the original government of the town he remarked that he was induced by an enthusiastic madcap – Mr. Henry Holroyd – to become a police commissioner. In 1819 the town got a bill for lighting, etc. In 1822 the gas company was established, and in 1823 the town was lighted to the wonder of the inhabitants. After that the meetings of the governing body in the town were denominated those of the Police Commissioners, and these consisted of gentlemen who paid rates amounting to £50 a year. (Alderman Scott here said it was £50 property.) Whatever the amount was, any person in that position was at liberty to go and sign a book, and make certain declarations, and he was then a member. They were then as now, “the great unpaid,” although they were then better paid than at present, because they were entitled to six pennyworth at all the meetings which were held at the Bull Hotel. (Laughter.)
In 1845-6 an agitation was got up to have commissioners elected, and in 1847, sixty members were elected by the rate payers. The year in which that Act of 1847 was obtained was memorable because of the waterworks being handed over to the commissioners. Then came the Act of 1854 by which they obtained the gasworks. Since then they had gone to Parliament for further extensions, and he dared say that another pretext could be found again if it were thought desirable. The Corporation, however, were in favour of doing without this little expense, although the trips were very enjoyable to those who went as the “deputation” – (laughter) – and now they proposed to expend £2000 on their gas projects. So far as they had gone they had no reason to regret having made the outlay they had upon their gasworks; nor had they any reason to think they were likely to prove a source of loss or injury to the town. (Hear, hear.) But he would not say much about gas, or they would be saying that it was “gas” that he was talking. (More laughs)
With regards to the baths. When it was suggested that new baths were to be made he always asked the question, “How were they to be paid for?” No doubt some liberal and generous individual would come forward and give either land or buildings, such a gift would be a material help. He, however, did not anticipate that such would be the case. But if the thing were of value and necessary to the health of the town, and it was not practical to do it any other way than out of the rates, he did not see that any one would grumble at a small contribution from that source for such a purpose. He was willing to take the odium of such a thing rather than that town should be without baths. (Hear, hear.)
During the whole of the period he had referred to he had devoted all the time he could spare to the service of the public with the intention of doing good – (applause); and if his endeavours had been of any value – he would not presume to say that they had been so valuable as some of his friends had put upon them - he was very happy to think they had met with their approval. If life were spared for some time longer – it might not be the case – so long as he met with the approval of his fellow townsmen in the Council and in other ways, he would continue to serve them to the best of his ability. (Applause.) He briefly acknowledged the receipt of the silver plate and then resumed his seat.
So almost prophetically, just twelve months later, Dr. William M. Coultate died of heart failure and so was released from all the cares and responsibilities of this world.