Page:Life of John Boyle O'Reilly.djvu/41

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HIS LIFE, POEMS AND SPEECHES.

Owing in part to its proximity to Ireland, and in part to the fact that it has always kept the old Faith, Preston is an English stronghold of Catholicity, with a large Irish population, sustaining its original name of "Priest Town."

He took part in the trade procession of the Guilds in September, 1862. This jubilee is one of the institutions of Preston which dates back to the reign of Henry the Second, and is celebrated every twenty years. During its progress, which lasts some ten days, the whole town enjoys a holiday with daily processions and nightly illuminations, attracting thousands of visitors from all parts of the country.

About a year after his arrival he became a member, and later a non-commissioned officer, of Company 2, Eleventh Lancashire Rifle Volunteers. He was an enthusiastic soldier, and an especial favorite in his company.

The three and a half years of his life in Preston were among the happiest he was ever to know. Writing to a friend in 1881, he said:

It is pleasant to be remembered kindly through nearly twenty years of absence. To me every impression of Preston has kept its sharp outline. Yet I have been very busy and very unsettled during that time. .... But all the years and events fade when I think of dear old Preston—and I find myself on the Kibble in an outrigger, striking away under Walton heights, or pulling a race with Mr. P—— between the bridges. . . .

Do you remember the day we went to Ribchester, and then walked up along the river to Stonyhurst? Somehow that day stands out as one of the happiest and brightest in my life. I remember every incident as if it were yesterday. Though I lived only a few years in Preston, I love it and the friends I made there better than any I have since known. In worldly way I have prospered; and in literary repute I stand well in this country. I am busy from morning till night. But under all the changed appearances and surroundings the stream of my old friendships and pleasures flows steadily along.

During all the time of his residence at Preston he dwelt at the house of his aunt, at 81 Barton Terrace, Deepdale Road, leading a quiet,, studious life. During the winter months he got up amateur theatricals. At Christmas he