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Death of Mr Charles Cross C.C.

Founder of “The Rushden Echo”
Amazing Work for the Public Welfare – A Many-Sided Career

With tragic suddenness, causing great shock to his family, many friends, and the public, Mr Charles Cross, C.C., founder and Editor of “The Rushden Echo,” passed away at his residence, Cliftonville, Rushden, early on Saturday morning.

Charles Cross
Charles Cross
Cliftonville in Essex Road - is now extended as a Residential Home

Mr Cross was at work as recently as eight o’clock on the previous evening. He was the victim of a seizure after he got home, and his doctor was immediately sent for. Despite all that medical and nursing skill could do, Mr Cross succumbed to heart trouble.

A great believer in the gospel of work, not only for its physical but for its moral and spiritual value, Mr Cross regularly accomplished more in one day than many men would get through in several days. But what was of greater significance, a big proportion of his time was given up to the service of other people. Particularly was this the case in his activities to the Northamptonshire County Council and in his beloved cause of Wesleyan Methodism, each of which would frequently take up whole days of his time.

Born in Derbyshire, Mr Cross early took up journalism. He had his training in the profession as a reporter at St Albans, and later went to the “Stamford Mercury,” being made responsible for a large district. Coming from there to this part of the country, Mr Cross in 1897 founded “The Rushden Echo.” He had the able assistance of Mr A L Scholes, a gifted journalist. A firm of printers, Messrs Easton and Knight, Wood-street, Higham Ferrers, in part of the boot factory then known as “Shelton’s Shop” were engaged by Mr Cross to print the paper. The only employee of the firm who started at the beginning and is still on the staff (Mr T Pearcey), printed the first copy of “The Rushden Echo” there. Mr F G Felce (now manager) joined in 1900. Of the tone and standard of the paper it is not for a member of the staff to speak, but the tribute paid in that respect by a minister of religion in Rushden on Sunday is itself testimony to Mr Cross’s high ideals. The various journalists who have worked under Mr Cross quickly realised that he would rather be out of pocket to forward principles which were dear to his heart than pander to a low taste to get an exceptional advantage on a particular week. It is acknowledged that “The Rushden Echo” has long been a public institution of the district. Not only in thousands of homes in Rushden, Higham Ferrers, and a wide area around (including North Bedfordshire) is “The Rushden Echo” part of the life-interest of the people, but in the Dominions and foreign countries a vast number of copies regularly reach old Rushdenites, to whom it is a very real tie with the home town. To them all, the passing of the founder will naturally come as a great blow.

Outside his business duties, one of the great objects of his life was to forward the cause of peace. Peace in industry, peace between nations, found in him a strong protagonist. Few, if any, business men had so thorough a grasp of the gigantic work accomplished by the League of Nations. So completely was he acquainted with it that he prepared a summary for a “popular” pamphlet giving interestingly, in clearly laid-out lines, what the League had done in stopping and preventing wars, what it had done industrially and socially to purify and sweeten life the world over. This summary was quickly recognised officially by the headquarters of the League of Nations Union in London as being one of the best produced that it was in demand in many parts of the country. In differences in trade and industry he ever loved the “round-table” conference and detested force. He enthusiastically backed up the boot operatives and the boot manufacturers when they settled their last big differences some 30 years ago, and consistently praised the spirit which by arbitration since then has kept peace in the boot industry.

Wesleyan Methodism was to Mr Cross one of the great causes that made life worth the living. From his early life he gave himself no leisure where he could serve its interests. He preached thousands of sermons, rarely having a free Sunday, and kept such engagements at great distances, which he loved to walk—his favourite physical exercise. But, it should be borne in mind, he preached as much for all other denominations in Nonconformity as for Wesleyan Methodism. Also, he was in his element when leading a jolly party at games at church social gatherings. Without the slightest hesitation he could speak interestingly on the lives of the pioneers of Wesleyan Methodism, and he knew of its present-day importance as few lay preachers would know. The Local preachers’ Mutual Aid Association was considered by him to be an organisation of the utmost value in very many ways. Of the Rushden and District Free Church Council he was an ardent member and at one time president. He was also a founder (and first president) of the Rushden Men’s Adult School, which he successfully piloted for a long time, drawing crowded audiences to meetings in the old Public Hall. He was one of the original trustees of the Young Men’s Temperance Institute and became a member of the Executive when it was transferred to the Y.M.C.A. Other of his activities were membership of the Rushden Nursing Association and of the Bedford and Northampton District of the Wesley Guild Council; He was a founder of the branch of the W.E.A. at Rushden, doing much to foster adult education generally.

For some years before the war Mr Cross had been urged by Rushden people of different political parties to contest a seat on the County Council for Rushden. Not wishing to take on what others might desire to have, he personally asked a number of people to stand instead, but failed to persuade them. Eventually he was prevailed on (in 1913), and he fought a great fight for Progressive administration as a candidate for the North Ward under the Rushden Liberal Association. His opponent was Mr (later Alderman) G Miller. Mr Cross was elected by a small majority, and afterwards there was no opposition to his candidature, the seat being a gain from the Conservatives for the Liberals. On the County Council he did great work on the Public Health Committee. Through his suggestion and initiative, the County Sanatorium was established at Rushden. At his death he was the only original member of the Sanatorium Sub-Committee, having this year been elected chairman. He also served on the local Pensions Committee and the Committee for the Welfare of the Blind (all under the County Council). He was appointed a governor of the Boot and Shoe Technical Institute at Rushden and a member of the Rushden Education Sub-Committee. During the war he served on the Rushden Military Tribunal.

He fought strongly as a Liberal, but gave his political opponents just as much use of the columns of this paper as he claimed for Liberalism, being extremely fair to people of other views. Many letters he received from other political parties bear this out. Mr Cross married at St Annes-on-sea, Miss Mildred Butterworth, who has been a great supporter of her husband’s many-sided activities in all their branches.

Mr C H Stanley Jones, a nephew of Mr Cross, was trained as a youth in journalism by Mr Cross on “The Rushden Echo.” Later he went to Singapore. After some years he came back to The Rushden Echo” as sub-editor, returning to Singapore only a few months ago to the editorship of the “Malay Tribune.” Another nephew, Mr Wesley Cross, is editor of a Belper newspaper. He also was trained by his uncle on “The Rushden Echo.”

Amongst the letters of condolence are the following sentences from a St Albans writer: “I always admired the conscientious manner in which he (Mr Cross) did his work as a reporter. He would go to infinite pains to ensure that accuracy which made his reports so dependable.”

Public Testimony

From as early as Saturday afternoon references were made at public gatherings to the loss to the town and district by the death of Mr Cross. Significantly, The Rushden Labour Party showed their regard by a fine tribute and a standing silent vote. We give an account of them below.

The Adult School

At the opening of the Adult School Bazaar on Saturday Mr T Swindall, J.P., chairman of the Rushden Urban Council, made the first public reference to the death of Mr Cross. “As chairman of the Rushden Urban Council,” said Mr Swindall, “I came this afternoon to express regret at the loss of Mr Charles Cross. He took great interest in the Adult School, and was its first president, an office he held for ten years. He was an ambassador of peace, a County Councillor, a preacher, an editor, a worker for his Church, and both a friend and an advisor. As a public man he had the welfare of the town at heart, and I feel that as a town we have lost a sincere and honest worker.” Mr Swindall concluded by expressing sympathy with Mrs Cross and other members of the family.

At the Rushden Men’s Adult School on Sunday morning a vote of sympathy was passed with the relatives of the late Mr Cross, the first president of the School.

Rushden Labour Party

At a meeting at the Co-operative Hall, on Saturday, addressed by Lady Cynthia Mosley, Mr John Spencer, J.P., chairman of the Rushden Labour Party, in his opening remarks paid tribute to the late Mr C Cross, and said, “There was a time when many of us assisted in any way we could when he tried to start a newspaper in the locality, and I believe this has been a great help to the Labour Party.” The audience stood in silent sympathy.

Sanatorium Patients’ Service

The Rev E E Bromage, who conducted a service for the patients of the Rushden House Sanatorium on Sunday, made reference in his prayer to the calling to higher service of the one who had given up so much time for the work at the Sanatorium.

Divisional Liberals

At an emergency meeting of the committee of the Wellingborough Divisional Liberal Association, held at Lindens, Wellingborough, Alderman C W Horrell, presiding, reference was made to the loss Liberalism in the Division had sustained by the death of Mr Charles Cross, C.C., and a vote of sympathy with the widow was passed.

Wellingborough-road Mission

“The Peacemaker” being the subject of his sermon on Sunday morning at the Wellingborough-road Wesleyan reform Mission, the Rev E E Bromage said that the town had lost one who would be known as a peacemaker. The late Mr Cross, he said, had loved peace, lived and striven for it, and worked for peace amongst the nations.

It was later on agreed by the ladies of the Church to send a letter of sympathy to the widow.

The Young People’s Circle of Service at the Mission, who always regarded Mr Cross as a great favourite and welcomed his frequent visits and addresses, also decided to send an expression of their sympathy.

Park-road Baptist Church

The Rev J A Sutherland, at the morning service on Sunday, said that in the sudden and unexpected death of Mr Cross they all realised the grave loss to the community. A local paper could be a great service to the public and as a proprietor and editor Mr Cross occupied a position of trust the responsibility of which he was fully conscious, as was reflected in the high tone he maintained. The influence he wielded always tended to keep local affairs sweet, clean, and friendly. In his public offices on the County Council, the Sanatorium, and the local Free Church Council he had done much valuable work. Mr Sutherland concluded by expressing sympathy with Mrs Cross and with the neighbouring Wesleyan Church.

Park-road Wesleyan Church

The Rev V E Jay, of Irthlingborough, made fitting reference at the Sunday morning service to the work of Mr Cross and his loyal support of the Church. In the evening the Rev R H Anderson Routledge, of Newcastle, a former minister of the Park-road Wesleyan Church, referred in moving terms to his long and firm friendship with Mr Cross and paid him a high tribute.

Finedon Independent Wesleyan

The Rev C J Keeler, of Rushden, preaching at Finedon Independent Wesleyan Church on Sunday, said that that Church would feel the loss of Mr Cross severely. Mr Cross had served Finedon Independent Wesleyan Church continuously for years. Their prayers would be with Mrs Cross and the family in their great sorrow.

Rushden School Managers

Mr F Corby (chairman of the Managers) at a meeting on Tuesday expressed regret at the loss to the Education Sub-Committee and to the town. “Some might think that the meeting with which Mr Cross was directly connected is more suitable for such an expression, but I do think you will feel our great loss.”

Mr B Vorley (chairman of the Education Sub-Committee) supported Mr Corby’s remarks and paid a high tribute to the educational work of Mr Cross for the town. “The suddenness of his death staggered us all,” said Mr Vorley.

The Clerk (Mr John Ferris) was instructed to express the Board’s condolence with Mrs Cross.

The N.B.W.T.A.U.

Yesterday, at the annual meeting of the County Union of the N.B.W.T.A.U. in the Park-road Wesleyan Church, Rushden, regret was expressed at the death of Mr Cross and keen appreciation of him as a strong helper of the B.W.T.A.

The Funeral

Practically all the official life of Rushden and the Northampton County Council was represented at a crowded funeral service in the Park-road Wesleyan Church on Tuesday afternoon. After the main seating accommodation was filled with official representatives members of the public were placed in seats at the sides.

The Rev Bernard J Harris (minister of the church) officiated, and he was assisted by the Revs H Graham Payn, of Kettering (Chairman of the Bedford and Northampton District), G C Gould, and (at the committal) R H A Routledge, of Newcastle (formerly minister of the Park-road Wesleyan Church, Rushden).

[A long list of mourners and attendees follows]

In the course of his address the Rev H Graham Payn said:

We are met to do honour to a good man, whose memory will ever remain fragrant and whose work will abide. Charles Cross came to this town 32 years ago, a stranger, unknown, but he has gradually and surely won his way to a position of growing influence in it and has endeared himself to a wide circle. His life and work made for righteousness. He was active in everything that lent itself to the good of the people and was never happier than when he could serve them. He began his career as a journalist at St Albans. At Stamford he served for some years on the staff of the “Stamford Mercury” and entered into the life of the town. He conducted most successful classes for young people and inspired them with his own ideals. Several young men are in the ministry today, and others serving their day and generation in other ways, as a result of that work. On coming to this town he started “The Rushden Echo,” and his sincere desire and purpose were that it should not be merely a commercial speculation producing only monetary results but that it should be a vehicle of righteousness. To this end he excluded from its pages everything that in his judgement was of a pernicious nature. No cruel or bitter word ever escaped his lips or fell from his pen. No man could desire a finer tribute to the great qualities of his character than the happy relationship that was established in the office of that paper between his employees and himself. To a man they bear witness to the truly Christian character of him they loved to serve, and nowhere is there more sincere sorrow today than in that office.

He was deeply attached to this Church, which he joined immediately after coming to the town. Was there anyone more deeply attached to it? Who loved it more ardently or worked for it more earnestly? He gave of his best to its service. When at home his seat in it was never empty. He was a most appreciative hearer and a great encourager of all who served. He was a local preacher for 45 years, and his ministry was highly spiritual, fresh and edifying—enriched by extensive travel and wide reading. Then, how he loved to serve every good cause that made for the well-being and happiness of the community and the world! He never gave one the impression of being a very robust man physically, and therefore one is amazed at the lavish way in which he spent himself in a multitude of interests—County Council, Chamber of Trade, League of Nations Union, Liberal Association, Rushden Technical Institute, Sanatorium, Adult School, Nursing Association, Y.M.C.A., Free Church Council. In all these public bodies he filled an honourable place and in various capacities contributed to their successful working. When men of this type are removed public life is impoverished. We can ill spare such men, but the Master of us all makes no mistake. The influence of our friend’s life and work will abide and find expression in other lives that will be inspired by the memory of his example. The call was sudden, but Charles Cross was ready. Some finish their work early, some labour on until the evening; but m,ay we not say that he has gone at noonday? For he was not old, feeble; he was in the midst of his daily activities, entering into all his life with rest and enjoyment, and anticipating many years of further service. “He liveth long who lived well.” His home life was of the happiest. We cannot intrude into the privacy of that stricken circle, but our hearts go out in sympathy to those who loved him, who shared to the full the manifold activites of his life—shared, too, the joy that he found in them. We do not claim for our friend—as we do not claim for any man—perfection, but his life was lived on high levels. He cherished high ideals, lived for them—they found expression in his life and conduct. And now we think of him as translated to the higher service; out of our sight, but not out of our fellowship. “One family we dwell in Him, one Church above, beneath.”

Miss Rose Peck accompanied the singing of the hymns “Sun of my soul” and “Blest are the pure in heart.” As the cortege left the church she played “O rest in the Lord.”

The four members of the staff above mentioned took up their positions again alongside the hearse. The remainder of the staff and the public representatives walked behind the coaches to the cemetery. Many people en route stopped and showed their respect.

The committal service was conducted by the Rev H Graham Payn, the Rev R H A Routledge, and the Rev G C Gould.

The grave had been lined with green and flowers on a white background. The coffin was of oak.

Mr Arthur Sanders was the funeral furnisher.

Mrs Cross and Miss M Butterworth (sister-in-law) each dropped a small bunch of snowdrops on the coffin as they passed.

A Small Tribute from Bedford

Though he has passed from our sight, Charles Cross will still live in the memory of all who were privileged to know him, and especially those who worked with him. It was 44 years ago, in the old world offices of the “Stamford Mercury”, that, as a beginner in newspaper work, I first became associated with him, and the esteem and affection I at once entertained for him was ever deepened by the passing of the years. Consequently, when, in 1896, he invited me to join him in starting a newspaper of his own at Rushden, it was a matter of course that the invitation was accepted. The success attending the publishing of “The Rushden Echo” is a monument to his energy and courage and the files of the paper contain abundant evidence, not onky of the integrity of his character, but of the fearlessness with which he stated his convictions. Over and over again have I known him refuse to entertain business proposed which conflicted with his sense of what was right. “No,” he used to say to me on such occasions, “they can’t buy my soul for sixpence a line.” And the real man in him spoke then—a man who cared not whether he succeeded in a business sense so long as he held fast to his principles.

He sleeps now, but those who are bereaved may well be comforted with the knowledge that he fought a man’s fight and did not fight in vain. Every good and progressive movement had in him a staunch supporter, and Rushden people knew full well that the town has lost one of the best of its adopted sons. A.L.S.

Mr Charles Cross
An Appreciation by W E Capon

Mr Cross passed on to “higher service”—if there is anything in the phrase, and for certainty there is, it is a fitting climax to a life such as the deceased lived. My friend Mr Cross gone—one of the best friends I ever had—a man who did more to mould and fashion my own life than perhaps I shall ever know.

What a capacity he had for work! “Trojan” would be an apt word to use respecting him, a man with a master mind, a massive brain, a clarity of vision and clearness oif thought, ready of speech, apt with his pen; a man who took life very seriously, yet brimful of humour, quick at repartee; a man whose might was his gentleness and his sympathy his greatness; a man absolutely devoted to service. And if ever a man’s life was characterised by purity of motive and was entitled to be called a Christian gentleman, it was Mr Charles Cross. His work was his religion. His religious life, as I knew it, savoured not of asceticism, but was an integral part of his life, and many a time he has remarked to me amidst his multifarious duties, “Wilf, after all, there is only one thing that matters, all else is subservient, and that is God and His will.”

What memories crowd into my mind as I reflect—country walks, and talks. Let the realm of politics be under discussion, let it be education, public health, League of Nations, literary matters, or the deeper things of life, and Mr Cross was equally at home. What a gift he had for getting the best out of one, his conversation broad in sympathy and ready to appreciate the slightest service rendered either by thought or action.

I recall a holiday in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly spent with him many years ago; how we tramped and climbed, sat and chatted, viewed the landscape, watched the setting sun across the Atlantic. An old boatman rowed us around the isles, a typical Cornishman, a man with a deep religious experience (he had rowed Mark Guy Pearse many a time). J Mones was the boatman’s name. More than once we anchored our boat and discoursed on spiritual matters. Oh, those moments! I recall not the words, but the influence is still with me. The boatman knew nothing of theology or creeds, but he knew of the love of God and knew what it was to draw deeply from the wells of salvation.

I wrote just now that Mr Cross was a “Trojan” for work, but there is no word in the English language to describe the service he rendered. I think not merely of the many committees and associations on which he served, but of the assistance he was always willing to render. How many young men (and older ones, too) he has helped will never be known. Young men on the verge of manhood—how carefully and gently he sought to turn their powers and gifts to the higher interests of life. I know of no man who had such a gift as Mr Cross had in this direction. I could write in detail of the manifold interests of his life, but this I leave for others.

But I recall also those terrible days of 1914 to 1918. Mr Cross fought all those battles in his own mind; he lived the life of the soldier, of the commander, of the Prime Minister himself. Many a time has he said to me, “Those war years made me 20 years older.” And then when President Wilson came out with his manifesto resulting in the formation of the league of Nations, how he worked, he wrote, he planned, he spoke, spent his energy! And it is not too much to say he died in the pursuance of peace.

I must not write longer. My friend is gone. Who will follow in his train? Nothing would have delighted him better than to know his passing would act as a clarion call to others to follow in his steps.

I sign my name by that which he always called me.


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