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Castillo, John (DNB00)


CASTILLO, JOHN (1792–1845), dialect poet, was born in 1792 at Rathfarnham, near Dublin, but his parents, who were Roman catholics, emigrated to England, and on the voyage were shipwrecked off the Isle of Man. Castillo was then only two or three years old. They settled at the quiet hamlet of Lealholm Bridge, nine miles from Whitby. Castillo identified himself completely with the county of York. His father having died when Castillo was eleven, he was taken from school to become a servant-boy in Lincolnshire, but two years later he returned and lived chiefly at Fryup in Cleveland, where he was a stonemason. He was admitted as a member of a Wesleyan ‘class’ at Danby End Chapel on 5 April 1818. He now became a local preacher and an energetic revivalist, having considerable success in the Dales. In 1838, when his name was not on any plan as preacher, he says that he ‘occasionally got severe lashes on that account, but endeavoured as much as possible to keep out of the pulpits by holding prayer meetings and giving exhortations out of the singing pews or from the forms.’ He wrote verses, some of them illustrative of Wesleyan religious sentiments and others suggested by incidents which occurred in the neighbourhood. The most important is ‘Awd Isaac,’ which is a valuable memorial of the Cleveland dialect (though the author allowed his ministerial friends to make some unhappy ‘corrections’), and has had a wide popularity among the peasantry. Old Isaac Hobb of Glaisdale is supposed to be the original of the piece. It is a description of Sunday in Cleveland. Another, ‘T' Leealholm Chap's Lucky Dream,’ is a Yorkshire variant of the legend of the chapman of Swaffham, a folk-tale of which the earliest form is that given in the Persian poem called the ‘Masnaví,’ written by Jalàuddin. This legend is discussed in the ‘Antiquary,’ 1884–5, x. 202, xi. 167. Castillo died at Pickering on 16 April 1845, and is buried in the graveyard of the Wesleyan chapel there. Of ‘Awd Isaac’ there have been many editions, chiefly without the author's name. Of his collected writings there are two editions, one published at Kirby Moorside in 1850, and the other at Stokesley in 1858. The ‘Dialect Poems’ were reissued at Stokesley in 1878. He was an habitual dialect speaker, and even employed it in his discourses as a local preacher. One of his sermons, ‘Jacob's Ladder,’ was printed in pamphlet form at Filey in 1858. He was locally known as the ‘Bard of the Dales,’ and his name is sometimes spelled Castello.

[Skeat's Bibliographical List (English Dialect Society), pp. 118, 119; Newsam's Poets of Yorkshire, p. 217; Grainge's Poets and Poetry of Yorkshire, p. 366; Poems in the North Yorkshire Dialect, by the late John Castillo, edited with Memoir by George Markham Tweddell, Stokesley, 1878.]

W. E. A. A.