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The 120th Anniversary Supper at the Robinson Library, 7th September, 2012

The supper included the Timble Grace and an after dinner address based on the description of the opening ceremony of the Robinson Library in John Dickenson's Diary, 'Timble Man', the Wharfedale and Airedale Reporter and Grange's book 'The History of the Timbles and Snowdon' (1895). These were given by Martin Gott, a long-time resident of Timble and one-time Trustee of the Library.

THE TIMBLE GRACE (Martin Gott)

Heavenly Father, here we stand
In the Robinson Library, and isn’t it grand
To think that here we can eat and drink our fill
And toast our founder Robinson Gill

What an admirable man was he
Had great vision which helped him see
That many of the Timble folk
(Who he said had hearts of oak)
Had aspirations to improve
Their eager and receptive minds.

He believed with books they’d fall in love
And that new knowledge they would find
To lift them from the daily grind
And take them on to pastures new
Where opportunities would accrue.

His emigration to New York did not prevent
His original intent.
In 1892 his promise was fulfilled
He paid John Dickinson to build
The Library and Free School
Which is why with great delight
We’re sitting here tonight
And some would say ‘now ain’t that cool!’

So as we eat our fish and chips
And drink our cask-conditioned beer
Let us from our grateful lips
Each say a silent prayer
Of thanks to dear old Robinson Gill
His wish of literacy for all
Has left the legacy of this hall

And finally
God bless us all, an’ mak us able
Ta eyt all t’ stuff ‘at’s on this table…

After Dinner address:

Timble Anniversary Supper - 8th September 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen

The purpose for the supper this evening is to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the opening of the library and because an occasion such as this doesn’t come round very often Paul suggested that we have a brief backwards look at what happened on the day the Library was officially opened on Tuesday 2nd August 1892 at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

The entry in John Dickinson’s diary for that day reads:

‘Opening of the Robinson Library and Free School. Very busy forenoon. The Rev Robert Collyer the eminent Unitarian Minister, came about noon and dined at our house. Carriages rolled in and by the time for commencing, 2 o’clock, a very lively scene presented itself. The large room was crowded. Mr Collyer’s address was a noble and eloquent discourse worthy of any occasion however exalted. Mr Gill spoke well and it all passed off brilliantly. In the evening a variety of entertainment was given. The place was again crowded to excess. This has been a great day for Timble and it is hoped it will lead on to good in many ways’.

So wrote John Dickinson in his diary.

It was indeed a great day for the village and the Washburn Valley, so great in fact that in William Grainge’s book ‘History of the Timbles and Snowden’ the description of the occasion and transcripts of the speeches occupy 45 pages out of a total of 236. Most of those 45 pages are taken from the report which appeared in the Wharfedale and Airedale Observer which in the words of Grainge ‘cannot be mended and… any alteration made therein would be for the worse’.

Indeed it would, and any attempt by me to précis what was said on that memorable day could not do justice to the report’s biography of Robinson Gill or the powerful oratory of Dr Collyer whose speech takes up 21 pages of the 45 . What I can do is to pick out a few extracts from the report in the Wharfedale which I hope will be of interest:

The total cost of the building was £861.8s.0d
The cost of books was upwards of £100.00
The total outlay including building, drainage, grading, fence wall, books and furnishing amounted to £1100.
Mrs Ellen Elizabeth Barnes was appointed first school mistress and librarian at a salary of £40 per annum.

The Wharfedale report proper starts with something on which we can all agree 120 years later. It opens almost poetically with:

‘Timble that pretty little village which nestles so snugly amongst sheltering trees after you have braved the bleak winds in crossing Snowden Moor, is in the happy position of possessing a Library and Free School which has been built, furnished and endowed at the sole expense of Mr Robinson Gill of New York, formerly a resident in the locality.

It goes on to say, less poetically perhaps:

‘Those of our readers who know Timble, will know that in front of the village inn was formerly a stagnant and very offensive pond, frequently used as the last resting place for cats and dogs. This has been drained and neatly laid out and now forms the site of the Library and School.

There follows a description of the building and the names of the contractors are given – including the masons J & W Dickinson and the joiner Mr H Procter. Both have descendents living in the village at the present time. There’s Neil here tonight and my wife Anne is related to both John Dickinson and Henry Procter.. Her maternal grandmother was John Dickinson’s great niece and she has Procters on both sides of the family - both of her grandmothers were Washburn Valley Procters. There was clearly a need to introduce some hybrid vigour which is where I came in in 1965!

Just an aside, the Henry Procter who was the joiner, emigrated to Canada in about 1900. He fathered 8 children two of whom, whilst visiting the UK 30 or so years ago, visited Anne and I here in Timble. At the time I happened to be a Trustee of the Library and had access to the old records including the cash-book. These old ladies were touched and moved when I was able to show them in the cash book the record, written in beautiful copper-plate handwriting, of the payments made to their father all those years ago.

Back to the Wharfedale report:

After the description of the building it goes on to ‘present our readers with a few facts concerning Mr Robinson Gill’. To describe them as a ‘few facts’ is a huge understatement – there are 10 pages of them!

This chapter of facts is followed by the Opening Ceremony which ‘commenced shortly after 2 o’clock by which time the village had quite an animated appearance’.

The report goes on to describe the scene and lists the names of many of those attending which reads like a roll call of Washburn Valley family names; there are Dickinsons of course, Listers, Holmeses, Spences, Dibbs and Procters. There are also a Mr W Weegman, who no doubt provided the pork pies, and two ladies from the USA who had travelled ‘these long distances in order to hear Dr Collyer’.

Robinson Gill was in the chair and before introducing Dr Collyer he explained his reasons and motivation for establishing the Library and Free School which in summary were ‘that it might stand as a memorial a of a very dear and kind old mother and her family (whose name was Robinson), as well as a perpetual mark of my respect and esteem of the people of the village and the surrounding country’.

He was on his feet for perhaps 10 minutes, often being interrupted by cheers when he would say something which pleased his audience – for example when referring to ‘that very excellent letter writer, the registrar and mason of your village John Dickinson’ and when he said : ‘Timble may stand up the equal, or the superior of any village in the West Riding of Yorkshire in point of cultivation and intelligence’. I think we can all agree with that!

Dr Collyer was then on his feet, speaking eloquently, poetically and humorously about his friendship with Robinson Gill, the history of the Washburn Valley and his love and affection for it, and especially his love of books and learning and how he wished there had been a Library in Timble when he was a boy.

It is a remarkable address by Dr Collier; inspiring in its passionate encouragement to villagers to use the library and enrich and improve their lives by reading. Its tone reminds me a bit of Henry V’s rousing speech to the troops before Agincourt.

There followed votes of thanks from John Bramley – no doubt of Bramley Farm and this was followed by a gracious response from Robinson Gill.

After various other expressions of delight and pleasure the band struck up the National Anthem and the proceedings closed.

What else is there to say? Robinson Gill’s generosity was in the best traditions of Victorian philanthropy; perhaps not on the same scale as Titus Salt or Jonathan Peate but in terms of his desire to help others, he was their equal.

Today, 120 years later we continue to benefit from that generosity. I think it unlikely that Timble would be the village it is today if we didn’t have the Library (not to mention a very energetic team of Trustees for which we should all be grateful). I am sure we all know each other better and are more neighbourly because we have the Library as a focal point for village activities.

So Mr Robinson Gill, across the years we salute you. We owe you a debt of gratitude for your legacy to the village and the Washburn Valley and I would like to propose a toast in recognition and acknowledgement of your vision and generosity. The toast is ‘to Robinson Gill and the Robinson Library’.

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