[From Manx Quarterly #6, 1909]
Died January 5th, 1909.
In the death of Mr William Waid, of Summer Hill, Douglas, the Isle of Man has lost its oldest inhabitant. Certainly Mr Waid had entered upon his hundredth year, and the probability is that he was older. Like many people born so long ago, he was unable to fix the exact year of his birth, but calculations based upon his early recollections and experiences place it as a fact beyond all doubt that he was a centenarian. He hailed from the North-East of England, but his business career in youth and middle-age had its scene in Manchester, where he was a grocer. However, before he settled in Manchester he went to sea for one long voyage to Australia and back. This would be when he was about sixteen years old in the year 1825. The ship in which he sailed called at the Yarra River, upon the banks of which the noble city of Melbourne now stands. But in those days the site was occupied by but a few rude huts, and all about was "bush" in a primitive state. Certain members of the crew, young Waid among others, took up Government allotments of land along the riverside, more as a matter of fun than with a view to profit. These allotments had certain conditions as to occupation attached, and failure to comply with the conditions involved revestment of the land in the Government. As Mr Waid and his co-adventurers returned to England, they could not fulfill the conditions, and thus, they forfeited their allotments. About quarter of a century afterwards the great discovery of gold in Victoria took place, and one of its consequences was the building of Melbourne, which in the course of a very few years became the largest, finest, and most populous city of Australasia the city of palaces it is with justice called.
And the allotment which Mr Waid taken up and forfeited formed one of most valuable portions of the site Melbourne! On returning to England Mr Waid settled in Manchester and there engaged in business until well on in middle life. Then he was overtaken with rheumatism, and his condition became a serious that his life was despaired of. His medical adviser suggested that he should go to the Isle of Man for a change of air and in compliance with this suggestion he, almost sixty years ago, landed at Douglas, a cripple upon crutches. But our health-laden Manx air soon brought about a surprising change for the better in his condition, and within a very brief period of coming here he was completely restored to health. So satisfied was he of the salubrity of the Island that he decided to make it his domicile for the future, and accordingly he, in the year 1851, commenced business in Douglas as a grocer. His first shop was at the corner of Duke street and Fort-street, and now forms a portion of the premises occupied by Mr R. C. Cain, draper. Later on he removed to the shop in Duke-street now occupied by Messrs Barron, his grandsons. Here he prospered and remained until his retirement from business about a quarter of a century ago, when he was succeeded by the late Mr John Barron, his son-in-law. Simultaneously with the conduct of his grocery business, he engaged in farming operations on a small scale at a farm which he had purchased in Santon. His taste for agriculture also found vent after giving up his shop, for he purchased Glendhoo, in Onchan, and in conjunction with his son, the late Mr Charles Waid, farmed the place for a few years. Then he removed to Douglas, where he spent the remainder of his days in the pursuit of his hobbies and in study for to almost the very end he was an ardent student. Up to a few years ago, his bodily activity was wonderful, and as to his mental capacity it was unimpaired until his seizure of a few days before his death. When in the nineties, he engaged in practical gardening, and regularly took walking exercise, disdaining the aid of a stick. But his eyesight began to fail him, and other indications of senile decay of body compelled him to remain for the most part in his house. He was still, however, able to devote himself to his beloved books, although the sight of one eye had totally gone. But the day came when eyesight completely vanished, and this was the severest blow he sustained, for it meant the abandonment of study at first hand. At this time he was engaged in reading a book by Haeckel, of whom he was an ardent admirer, and his lamentation that he could not conclude his perusal of the work was pathetic. After this decay hastened, and on Wednesday of last week complete collapse compelled him to take to his bed. With this came the beginning of the end. He rallied somewhat on Tuesday, but there was a relapse the same day, and shortly after midnight he passed away in perfect peace. Mr Waid was a total abstainer from intoxicating liquors up to becoming a nonagenarian when, acting upon advice given, he commenced to take alcoholic stimulants. He was a lifelong non-smoker. In religion he was a deist, and when the Unitarians had a church in Circular-road he was prominently identified with its conduct and was its principal financial supporter in the end his connection with this particular movement cost him a large sum of money. His ardour for freedom in religion led him some 25 years ago to refuse service as a churchwarden of Onchan, and he expressed his determination to go to gaol rather than take office in a church whose tenets were foreign to his conscience. There were some legal proceedings initiated with a view to compelling him to be sworn in, but his firmness resulted in their abandonment. While his political views were advanced in character, he took no active part in Manx politics, though his sympathies were ever on the side of reform. One of his clearest recollections was of the infamous " Peterloo" massacre, and as to this act of revolting cruelty he was wont to relate graphic details. Probably there is now no person living who had personal experience of the deed which made England shudder ninety years ago. On the 16th August, 1819, nearly 100,000 people men, women, and children gathered in St. Peter's Fields, Manchester, to demand reform. Over the great meeting ` Orator" Hunt presided, and he had just commenced to speak, when a body of cavalry, including a Cheshire Yeomanry regiment, charged the unarmed and peaceful assemblage. Other military detachments had barred the means of exit, and so the people were driven in on each other, many being ridden over by horses or cut down by means of sabres. Eleven men, women, and children were killed, and six hundred were wounded.
Mr Waid was one of the founders of the Manx Bank, Limited, in 1882, and be was a director of the concern from its foundation until its purchase by the Mercantile Bank, a few years ago. He was also a heavy shareholder in the Manx Northern Railway Company, Limited, now merged in the Isle of Man Railway Company. Of kindly disposition, Mr Waid was a liberal supporter of the general charities of the town, and was also judiciously benevolent in private. The deceased gentleman was twice married upon the second occasion about fifteen years ago. He leaves surviving four children Mr W. A. Waid, of Corona; Mrs Barron, Miss Waid, and Wilfrid Waid. His eldest son, Mr Charles Waid, pre-deceased him.
The funeral of the late Mr William Waid, of Summer Hill, Douglas, took place on Saturday, Jan. 9th. Although the day was an inconvenient one, quite a large number of townsfolk attended to pay the last tribute of respect to one whose fearless, unostentatious, and upright career was reflected in the simplicity of the ceremonies which attended the committal of his remains to mother earth, there to await resolution into their original elements. The principal mourners were Messrs W. A. Waid (son), G. W. Barren, B. Barron, H. Barron, A. Barron (grandsons), W. Price, E. Price, H. Price, and A. Price (brothers-in-law). In accordance with the deceased gentleman's expressed wishes, everything connected with the obsequies was of the plainest possible character. The coffin was of unpolished oak, and the usual brass furniture was conspicuous by its absence. Of wreaths there were only two simple arrangements of white blooms and ferns. The interment was at the Borough Cemetery, and the route taken was by Summer Hill and Governor's-road. Arrived at the cemetery, the coffin was taken from the hearse, and was at once conveyed by the four brothers-in-law to the graveside, where, without previous ceremony, the committal to earth was accomplished. Then was impressively read by Mr J. H. Kelly, of Douglas, a personal friend of the late Mr Waid, the following funeral oration, which, at the desire of Mr Waid, given utterance to some time before death, had been especially composed for the solemn occasion by a Manchester gentleman, who had for long years been on terms of intimate friendship with the deceased gentleman.
Mr Kelly prefaced the reading of the oration by the following words: My dear friends, I am requested by the widow of our dear departed brother to perform this, the last ceremony over Ins mortal remains. I feel sure I can convey to his family the loss we have sustained by his final departure. May we emulate his example in living an unselfish life. The verse on his funeral announcement is very expressive of our sentiments towards him
And is he dead
Whose glorious mind
Lifts thine on high?
To live in souls we leave behind
Is not to die !
" There is hope of a tree if it is cut down, that it will grow again, and that the tender branches thereof will shoot forth; but man dieth and wasted away yea, man giveth up his breath, and where is he?"
"What is our life? It is even as a vapour, which appeareth for a little while and then vanisheth away."
We brought nothing into this world, and it certain we can carry nothing out; having food and raiment, let us therewith be content."
" The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree, and grow like the cedar in Lebanon."
" The name of the wicked shall rot, but the righteous shall be held in everlasting remembrance."
" Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace." Friends,
To-day we pay our last tribute of respect to one who for years has pursued a free and independent course of action, irrespective of what anyone might think or say respecting him.
In doing this, he has possessed a free and enlightened conscience, which fully approved of his course of action, and made him indifferent to a certain extent as to what hostile critics or mistaken friends might think or say about him.
And this, I venture to think, is just how a true man is called upon to act, if he would rise to the dignity of his manhood and make his influence for good felt in the world.
Men must work out their own salvation. "Work out your own salvation" f Yes; this is what all the saviours of humanity have had to do.
They have worked for liberty of thought, liberty of speech, and liberty of action. And it is a consolation to know that he whose loss we deeply mourn to-day has laboured faithfully and well in this noble work, and that his labours have not been in vain.
It is also a consolation to know that length of days and long life were appointed to him, and that throughout the whole of his lengthy career he laboured continuously and unselfishly, and gave ungrudgingly that he might promote the true welfare of humanity; so that his long life, full of kind thoughts, gentle words, and noble deeds, may be said to have been a perpetual benediction.
And the quiet, unostentatious way in which all this was done greatly enhances its value. Nothing was done for show or effect. Nothing was studied. But out of a generous heart, " full of the milk of human kindness," flowed forth genuine sympathy and kindly help, just at the time they were most needed.
Some of his own townfolk have substantial reasons for remembering with joy and gratitude these noble traits in his character, for he most willingly and generously helped to start them on a prosperous career.
And others, coming from a distance, know and acknowledge thankfully that they owe their present easy and comfortable position in life largely, if not entirely to the fatherly interest which our deceased friend manifested in their behalf.
And we cannot for a moment think or speak lightly of that thoughtful and considerate spirit which led him to take such a pleasure in getting so many into comfortable positions in life that in time has made them practically independent.
Neither can we think or speak lightly of that generous spirit of his which for years pr ompted him to keep open house, so that rich and poor alike might partake of his hospitality, and greatly refreshed in mind and body might go on their way rejoicing.
How true it is that life is full of strange and perplexing experiences, but none so trying and painful as those associated with death! To-day we stand on the edge of the grave, and our hearts and thoughts put once more the old question " If a man die shall he live again?" Ah ! in the presence of all that is left to us on the mortal side of life, of what we 'loved, that was once instinct with life and responsive to thought and affection, but now lies cold and lifeless before us, we may well ask ` Where are the dead?" Every cradle and every coffin symbolises the mystery of birth and death: of whence and whither
We spend our days as a tale that is told We see through a glass darkly. Our tears fall, blinding our eyes; and the mystery is still unsolved. Life and death are but tremulous ripples upon the placid ocean of existence, and each in turn are contributing to the evolution of the race.
We here and now reverently and affectionately consign to the earth this body of our departed friend. Far him life's fitful dream is o'er, with its toil and sufferings and disappointments. He derived his being from mother earth the bountiful mother of all now returns to her capacious bosom to again mingle with the elements. .
He fought the good fight of free inquiry and triumphed over prejudice and the result of misdirected education. He worked out for himself the problem of life: and no man was the keeper of his conscience. He recognised no authority but that of nature; adopted no methods but those of science and philosophy; and respected in practice no rule but that of conscience illustrated by the common sense of mankind.
His belief sustained him in health, and during his illness, with the certainty of death before him at no distant period, is afforded him consolation and encouragement; and in the last solemn moment& of his life, it procured the most perfect tranquility of mind.
Peace and respect be with his memory " Farewell: a long farewell!"
The oration concluded, Mr Kelly and other friends cast handfuls of earth on the coffin, and the grave was filled in. This is the first occasion, so far as the Isle of Man is concerned, upon which a funeral has been carried out on secular lines.