Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Billington, William

BILLINGTON, WILLIAM (1827–1884), dialect writer, was born at the Yew Trees, Samlesbury, near Blackburn and was one of the three sons of a contractor for roadmaking. The father died when the boy was between seven and eight years of age, and in consequence he had little or no schooling, but as soon as possible entered upon factory life as a 'doffer.' In 1839 the family removed to Blackburn, and Billington passed through various stages of employment in the cotton mills, from 'doffer' to weaver and 'taper.' He was also for some time a publican. His intimate knowledge of the was of thought and speech of Lancashire wording people was turned to account in the period of the Lancashire cotton famine, when his homely rhymes were circidated in thousands of broadsides. Of the ballad of 'Th' Shurat Weyvur' 14,000 copies were sold in that time of distress. Another popular rhyme, 'Th' Tay and Rum Ditty,' usually attributed to him, was written by 'Adam Chester,' the pseudonym of Charles Rothwell. The most important of his sketches, in prose and verse, have been collected in two works, 'Sheen and Shade,' which appeared in 1861, and 'Lancashire Poems with other Sketches,' published in 1883, some copies of which have a photographic portrait. High literary merit cannot be claimed for Billington, but he is a faithful painter of the life of the district, and a certain philological value attaches to his representation of the East Lancashire dialect. He was twice married, and died on 1 Jan. 1884.

[Sutton's List of Lancashire Authors; Bibliographical List published by the English Dialect Society; private information.]

W. E. A. A.