Ossett Pictures - General Booth August 6th 1909

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General Booth in Ossett 1908

In July and August 1909 , General William Booth (1829-1912), the founder of the Salvation Army, embarked on a "motor campaign" around the UK, extending over a period of five weeks and covering a route of seven or eight hundred miles. This involved calling at 78 towns and making about 90 speeches en route. No mean feat for a man of 80 years of age.

The General visited fifteen Yorkshire towns and came to Ossett on Friday August 6th 1909 after first visiting Cleckheaton. He arrived in Ossett at about 3pm via Dewsbury, Chickenley Heath, Dewsbury Road and Church Street in his distinctive white car. Many people assembled at the side of the road and waved their hands or fluttered handkerchiefs as a mark of esteem for the veteran religious figure.

In Ossett Market Place, the General was met by a large crowd of several hundred people and a delegation led by the Mayor, Councillor T.W. Phillips and his wife, the lady Mayoress. The General was accompanied by several of his chief officers, including Colonel Whatmore, who was in charge of the motor campaign and Colonel Laurie, who had travelled all over the world with General Booth for the previous 20 years.

The General, attired in his usual blue Salvation Army officer's uniform gave a speech lasting 45 minutes, named "The Lessons of My Life" to six or seven hundred people in Ossett Town Hall. The 'Ossett Observer' for the 7th August 1909 had this description of General Booth:

"Tall and straight of commanding appearance, with a flowing grey beard and somewhat stern piercing eyes, General Booth, notwithstanding the increasing infirmity in old age, bears still the stamp of a natural leader of men. Since his last visit to the district, time has left its footprints. His voice is less strong and there was some difficulty, even to those not very far away in hearing all he said."

Despite his age, the strain of a recent cataract operation was clearly taking its toll and General Booth surprised the audience by breaking off from his speech to shout at the 'Ossett Observer' reporter to move further away from the stage with this outburst:

"My eye catches you and it irritates me. Move away or shut up your shop or come up here and I will go down there and do the reporting!"

Apparently this was said with an asperity and sharpness that the reporter describes as "unreasonable as it was unnecessary." However, the General did send one of his aides to see the reporter later to apologise for his manner and with an explanation of his irritability.

The picture above shows General Booth in Church Street, Ossett shortly before 3pm on the 6th August 1909.