A Comet Over Halifax

A couple of years worth of copies of a newspaper called “The Halifax Comet” have just been added to the collection of the ever-splendid British Newspaper Archives, and as I had never heard of this newspaper, I was anxious to dive in and see what it was like. I would like to report back and say that it was full of insightful reporting about conditions in the town at the close of the nineteenth century, but I am unable to do so – because I couldn’t really understand a word of it. The entire thing is written in a strange style that contains vaguely recognisable words that have been drained of all meaning by the way they have put together. To illustrate my point, I will quote just one paragraph in the leading article of the edition of the 29th December 1894. It comes from an article which appears to be about the appointment of abstaining vegetarians as Poor Law Guardians! 

All this, unexplained, is exceeding mysterious in the eyes of the uninitiated . It so happens, however, that at the dinner aforesaid, a gentleman connected with this journal was entrusted with the records of this peculiar Society, and also was desired to edit and publish the same – so far as they may be suitable for publication -for the benefit particularly of the members of the said Society who , may themselves be but partially instructed in its history, and generally of the Readers of THE HALIFAX COMET, which is equivalent to saying, of the Public itself. The records will occupy a little time in examination, and notes upon them will be published after the close of our articles on City Finance.

It may be that the entire publication is supposed to be satirical, and satire tends not to age well. I will continue to work my way through at least one of the thirty-six page issues in search of enlightenment and if I find it, I will report back. Equally, I will see what I can discover about the paper’s somewhat eccentric owner and editor, Joe Turner Spencer, one time Halifax Councillor, Alderman and Chairman of the Morecambe Pier Company!

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