Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/40

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

sixpence a week every year, the Argus in this respect not differing from other printing-offices in the country. A certain stint of work had to be done in return, and extra pay was allowed for all in excess thereof. Young O'Reilly was so apt a pupil that he very soon was in receipt of twice his nominal wages. His parents, of course, provided for whatever deficit might exist between his income and outlay. The work was not hard, but the hours were long,—six to nine o'clock before breakfast, ten to two before dinner, and three to seven or eight before supper. The boy was a prime favorite in the work-room, his handsome face, courteous manners, and kindly disposition making him the pet rather than the butt which the printer's "devil" often is. He was full of good-humor and fun that was sometimes mischievous, but never malicious. Probably his first poetic effort (if it may be so called) was the New Year's Day song written for the paper-carriers, and addressed to their patrons, with a view to obtaining gratuities. Here, as elsewhere, he was an omnivorous reader and an incessant dabbler in rhymes.

The death of the proprietor of the Argus discharged the indentures of young O'Reilly when he had served nearly four years of his time.

While enjoying a period of enforced idleness at home, the ship Caledonian, owned and commanded by his uncle, Capt. James Watkinson, of Preston, England, came to Drogheda, and loaded with a cargo of barley for Preston. Capt. Watkinson was an Englishman, who had married a sister of Mrs. O'Reilly. John accepted his invitation to make a voyage and visit to his aunt, Mrs. Watkinson, and accordingly set sail for Preston in August or September, 1859.

At the suggestion of his relatives, he secured a situation as apprentice in the office of the Guardian, then published in Cannon Street, Preston, ultimately graduating from the printer's case to the reporter's desk. He learned shorthand, and otherwise equipped himself for the business of a journalist.