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THE EARLY LIFE OF GEORGE STEPHENSON.
1. George Stephenson, the inventor of the locomotive engine, and the founder of the railway system of travelling, was born in June, 1781, in the colliery village of Wylam, about eight miles west of Newcastle-on-Tyne. His parents were poor, honest, industrious people. His birthplace was a cottage with clay floor, bare rafters, and unplastered walls.
2. His father was a great favourite with children. He possessed two qualities which won for him the universal love of young people. He could tell tales about Sinbad the Sailor, and Robinson Crusoe, and even invent amusing stories of his own. He had also a strong passion for birds and animals, and was always surrounded by these dumb favourites. In his work by his engine-fire, and in his cottage home, the birds seemed to know him as their friend, and would hop about to pick up the crumbs he saved for them from his own meals. From him George derived that love of birds and animals which marked his whole life.
3. George was the second of six children, and his father's earnings seldom exceeded twelve shillings a week. Little, therefore, was left for clothing, and nothing at all for school. George's time as a child was passed in running errands, playing about the cottages, and listening to his father's amusing tales. Often he helped to nurse the children; but the special duty assigned to him was to see that his little brothers and sisters were kept out of the way of the coal-waggons that passed on the tram-road which ran in front of the cottage. These waggons were drawn on wooden rails by horses. But who can tell how far the constant sight of this rude railway may have given a direction to his thoughts which produced such great results in future years? It is interesting to know that the first experiment of a locomotive steam engine was tried in the northern district on this very tram-road.
4. When George was eight years old, the family removed to Dewley Burn, and here the boy found his first employment. He was appointed to look after the cows belonging to a widow, for which he received twopence a day. He had plenty of leisure time, which he spent chiefly in company with a favourite playmate, Bill Thulwall, in erecting small mills in the little streams around, and in making engines out of clay with hemlock stalks for steampipes.
5. He was soon promoted to hoe turnips, and to lead horses in ploughing, though he was scarcely big enough to stride across the furrows. For this work he received fourpence a day.
6. But his great desire was to be with his father and elder brother at the colliery. This wish was gratified, and his wages raised to sixpence a day, and afterwards to eightpence, when he was set to drive the gin-horse. In a very short time he was removed to Black Callerton Colliery, about two miles from the one where his father and brother were employed. In his daily walks to and fro he would catch young birds and bring them home, teaching them to fly about his cottage. One tame blackbird roosted on the head of his bed every night. And most strange of all, this bird would disappear in the spring and summer months, probably to look after its young, and then return to the cottage for the winter. This went on for several
years. 7. The growing and thoughtful lad, however, never forgot his clay-engines, and his great ambition was to have the management of a real engine. Great, therefore, was his delight when he was taken to be an assistant to his father in firing the engine at Dewley Burn Colliery, at the wages of one shilling a day. He was only afraid lest he should be found too young for the work, and in after years he used to confess, that when the owner of the colliery went round, he would hide himself lest he should be seen and thought too young.
8. As the workings of the pits were exhausted, George Stephenson moved to different collieries. At Throckley Bridge his wages were raised to twelve shillings a week. "On coming out of the foreman's office that Saturday evening on which he received the advance, he announced the fact to his fellowworkmen, adding triumphantly, 'I am now a made man for life.""
9. At seventeen years of age, his youthful ambition was gratified by his appointment as engineman at the same colliery where his father was employed as fireman. Here at last he had the opportunity he so ardently longed for of carefully studying every part of the machinery, and of becoming thoroughly master of the construction of the steam-engine. He tried to remedy its defects, and by constant attention to his duties, soon gained the reputation of being a clever and improving workman.
10. He was now eighteen years old, earning twelve shillings a week, and occupied with his engine twelve hours a day. But he had never learned to read. His parents could not afford to send him to school, but they had tried to train him to good habits at home, and best of all, they had set him a good example. He had been taught to use every minute wisely, and now he determined to learn to read and write. At the age of nineteen he was proud to be able to write his own name. He began to learn arithmetic, and would work out his problems upon a slate as he sat by his engine-fire.
11. When twenty years of age, Stephenson had so thoroughly gained the confidence of his employers that he was appointed to the responsible office of brakesman—the most important and best paid office connected with the engine. His duty was to superintend the working of the engine and machinery, by means of which the workmen ascended and descended the pit, and the coals were drawn out. locomotive, moving from triumphantly, as if he place to place.
had done some great assigned, given.
thing. leisure time, when he ardently, earnestly.
could do what he liked. reputation, name. promoted, raised. responsible, having a ambition, strong desire. great deal depending exhausted, worked out.
an-nounc-ed ex-per-i-ment pos-sess-ed sys-tem earn-ings ma-chin-e-ry scarce-ly trav-el-ling en-gine man-age-ment spe-ci-al un-plast-er-ed
Of what was George Stephenson the inventor? Where was he born? Describe his birthplace. What made his father a favourite with children? What was George's first employment? How did he, when a boy, employ his spare time? Give an instance of his love of birds. What was his great ambition ? What did he say when his wages reached twelve shillings a week? When did he learn to read and write ?
1. Being anxious to settle in life in a home of his own, George Stephenson became very expert in mending and afterwards in making shoes, and this increased his weekly earnings. He records with