On Sunday week thousands of people assembled in Risley and Croft to witness a military funeral in the graveyard attached to the local Unitarian Chapel. The people had come from many miles around, scores on bicycles and motor cycles, others in motor car, carriages, cabs and wagonettes, to say nothing of hundreds of pedestrians from Glazebury and the surrounding districts. The fallen soldier - Rifleman Harold Houghton came of a well-known Risley family, Mr. and Mrs. Houghton, the parents, having for a number of years kept the Noggin Inn. Mr. Houghton, the father, like his father before him, was an ironworker, who used to walk daily some five miles to work at the Vulcan Works, Earlestown. Mr. Houghton had a family of eight boys and girls.
ENLISTED WITH A BROTHER.
After the war broke out, two of the boys, Harold, who was 24 years of age, and Fred, who is 15 years old, and who were both mechanics, determined to do what they could to help their country, so enlisted seven months ago, in the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, and in due course, after receiving training, were drafted away to France together, and ultimately fought together in the same trench, in the historic battle of Neuve Chapelle. All went well with them until a week ago last Thursday, March 18th, when Rifleman Harold was shot in the head and his skull fractured. His brother assisted in his removal from the trench.
SHOT IN THE HEAD IN A BAYONET CHARGE.
He received his hurt when taking part in a bayonet charge levelled at the German advance trenches. After being taken to hospital he was sent to England, arriving in Norwich Military Hospital on Friday night, March 19th. He never complained of pain, and had nothing but praise to utter concerning the hospital arrangements He said that nothing more could be done for him than was actually done. It was apparent, however, that he was dangerously hurt. Since their sons enlisted Mr. and Mrs. Houghton had removed to Rochdale. Mrs. Houghton, on hearing of her son's misfortune, went to the hospital at Norwich to visit him, and remained at his bedside until death took place on Wednesday, March 24th.
WELL-KNOWN LOCAL FOOTBALLER.
Rifleman Harold Houghton was an Oddfellow. The members of the lodge to which he belonged held their meetings at the Noggin Inn. He was also a footballer, and played in the Leigh and District Sunday Schools League, and more recently in the Warrington and District League. He was also a popular member of the Risley Institute.
The body was removed from Norwich on Thursday, and arrived at the house of his eldest brother. Herbert, at Risley, on Friday. Mr. James Henshaw, a local undertaker, carried out the funeral arrangements. The gallant Rifleman was buried with military honours.
AN IMPRESSIVE FUNERAL.
The military authorities sent a detachment of nine soldiers belonging to the 6th Manchester Regiment, now stationed at the Leigh Camp, acting a guard over the prisoners of war interned there, and also twelve men and two non-commissioned officers of another regiment to make up a firing party. A bugler and a drummer were also in attendance.
The funeral cortege, which formed up shortly after three o'clock, reached the burial ground about 4:30, and was headed by the Glazebury Brass Band, who played funeral music en route. Beside the family mourners, the members of the Oddfellows Lodge to which the deceased belonged, and many old friends followed the remains to the grave. The coffin was met at the chapel by the Rev. J. J. Wright, of Atherton. The service in the chapel began with the singing of the hymn " Oh, God, our help in ages past."
After reading the Unitarian funeral service - for the deceased and all the members of his family were members of this denomination – the Rev. Wright said that 'courage' and 'comfort' were the two passwords for them that day. Comrades and relatives, to whom the deceased was most dear, had gathered together to perform the last offices to one they know and loved.
As a boy, Harold Houghton was a prize taker in the Sunday school and a regular attendant at the chapel. When the call came for young men to serve their country he and his brother heard it, and obeyed, and they were fighting together in the same trench when the first notes of a still higher call reached the ears of him whose loss they, that day, deplored. He had passed from them, but they believed that all was well with him-he had gone to receive the Great Prize, the reward for duty faithfully done. Those who remained behind prized the honour of having known him; of having been acquainted with one who had made the greatest sacrifice that a man could make for his country. As he lay dying, he said to his mother "I am not afraid!" He had done his duty and he had no fear of the hereafter, and be now lived with God.
CLOSING SCENES AT THE GRAVESIDE.
As the coffin was being removed from the chapel to its last resting place, Mr. T. Whittle played the voluntary " For ever with the Lord." Three volleys were fired over the grave, and the buglers sounded "The Last Post" after which the band played "The Penticost." Some beautiful floral tributes were placed on the coffin, which was covered with the Union Jack for a pall. The breastplate bore the simple inscription: "Rifleman Harold Houghton. aged 24; 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade."
Floral tributes were sent by: The Father, Mother and family, the wreath bearing the inscription "He died a hero”, Sister Jane, Jim and Dick, his brother Tom, the Risley Institute Football Club, His fellow workers, A few friends at the Horseshoe, Mr. and Mrs. Collier and family, Herbert and Lizzie, the members of the Risley Institute and the Risley Ladies' Sewing Class and Vulcan Foundry.
Many thanks to Rita Pilling for the picture and information on Harold.
Cheyvonne Bower is a local historian with a passion for the past. A member of Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society and The Society for One-Place Studies.