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John Keble's Parishes: A History of Hursley and Otterbourne By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 21513

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

Before entirely quitting the parish, a few of the older words and forms of expression may be recorded, chiefly as remembered from the older generation, for "the schoolmaster" and the influx of new inhabitants have changed much that was characteristic of the genuine West Saxon. Nor, indeed, was there any very pronounced dialect, like a separate language. The speech is slow, and with a tendency to make o like aa, as Titus Oates does in Peveril of the Peak. An Otterbourne man going into Devonshire was told, "My son, you speak French." No one ever showed the true Hampshire south-country speech and turn of expression so well as Lady Verney in her Lettice Lisle, and she has truly Hampshire characters too, such as could once easily be matched in these villages.

The words and phrases here set down are only what can be vouched for by those who have grown up to them:-


Caddle, untidy condition.

"In he comes when I'm all of a caddle."

To stabble, to walk about aimlessly, or in the wet.

"Now, Miss, don't you come stabbling in and out when I am scouring."


"I can't come stabbling down that there dirty lane, or I should be all of a muck."

Want, mole.

Chiselbob, woodlouse; also called a cud-worm, and, rolled in a pill, put down the throat of a cow to promote the restoration of her cud, which she was supposed to have lost.

Gowk, cuckoo.

Fuzz-Buzz, traveller's joy.

Palmer, caterpillar.

Dish-washer, water-wagtail.

Chink, chaffinch.

Long-tailed caper, long-tailed tit.

Yaffil, green woodpecker.

"The yaffil laughed loud."-See Peacock at Home.

Smellfox, anemone.

Dead men's fingers, orchis.

Granny's night-cap, water avens.

Jacob's ladder, Solomon's seal.

Lady's slipper, Prunella vulgaris.

Poppy, foxglove.

To routle, to rummage (like a pig in straw).

To terrify, to worry or disturb.

"Poor old man, the children did terrify him so, he is gone into the Union."

Wind-list, white streak of faint cloud across a blue sky, showing the direction of the wind.

Shuffler, man employed about a farmyard.

Randy go, uproar.

"I could not sleep for that there randy go they was making."

Pook, a haycock.

All of a pummy, all of a moulter, because it was so very brow, describing the condition of a tree, which shattered as it fell because it was brow, i.e. brittle.

Leer, empty, generally said of hunger.-See German.

Hulls, chaff. The chaff of oats; used to be in favour for stuffing mattresses.

Heft, Weight.

To huck, to push or pull out. Scotch (howk).

Stook, the foundation of a bee hive.

Pe-art, bright, lively, the original word bearht for both bright and pert.

Loo (or lee), sheltered.

Steady, slow.

"She is so steady I can't do nothing with her."

Kickety, said of a one-sided wheel-barrow that kicked up (but this may have been invented for the nonce).

Pecty, covered with little spots of decay.

Fecty, defective throughout-both used in describing apples or potatoes.

Hedge-picks, shoes.

Hags or aggarts, haws.

Rauch, smoke (comp. German and Scotch).

Pond-keeper, dragon-fly.

Stupid, ill-conditioned.

To plim, to swell, as bacon boiled.

To side up, to put tidy.

Logie, poorly, out-of-sorts.

Village Specifics.

Cure for Epilepsy

To wear round the neck a bag with a hair from the cross on a he-donkey.


To wear a ring made of sixpences begged from six young women who married without change of name.

Cure for Whooping Cough

An infusion of mouse ear hawkweed (Hieracium Pilosella), flavoured with thyme and honey. This is really effective, like other "yarbs" that used to be in vogue.

Cure for Shingles

Grease off church bells.

For Sore Throat

Rasher of fat bacon fastened round the neck.

For Ague

To be taken to the top of a steep place, then violently pushed down.


To have gunpowder in bags round the wrists set on fire.

Powdered chaney (china), a general specific.


Singing psalms to a dead horse, exhorting a stolid subject.

Surplice, smock-frock.

"Ah! sir, the white surplice covers a great deal of dirt"-said by a tidy woman of her old father.

"And what be I to pay you?"

"What the Irishman shot at," i.e. nothing-conversation overheard between an old labourer and his old friend, the thatcher, who had been mending his roof.

"Well, dame, how d'ye fight it out?"-salutation overheard.

Curate. Have you heard the nightingale yet?

Boy. Please, sir, I don't know how he hollers.

Everything hollers, from a church bell to a mouse in a trap.

A tenth child, if all the former ones are living, is baptized with a sprig of myrtle in his cap, and the clergyman was supposed to charge himself with his education.

If possible, a baby was short-coated on Good Friday, to ensure not catching cold.

The old custom (now gone out) was that farmers should send their men to church on Good Friday. They used all to appear in their rough dirty smock frocks and go back to work again. Some (of whom it would never have been expected) would fast all day.

The 29th of May is still called Shick-shack day-why has never been discovered. There must have been some observance earlier than the Restoration, though oak-apples are still worn on that day, and with their oak sprays are called Shick-shack.

On St. Clement's Day, the 23rd of November, explosions of gunpowder are made on country blacksmiths' anvils. It is viewed as the blacksmiths' holiday. The accepted legend is that St. Clement was drowned with an anchor hung to his neck, and that his body was found in a submarine temple, from which the sea receded every seven years for the benefit of pilgrims. Thus he became the patron of anchor forgers, and thence of smiths in general. Charles Dickens, in Great Expectations describes an Essex blacksmith as working to a chant, the refrain of which was "Old Clem." I have heard the explosions at Hursley before 1860, but more modern blacksmiths despise the custom. At Twyford, however, the festival is kept, and at the dinner a story is read that after the Temple was finished, Solomon feasted all the artificers except the blacksmiths, but they appeared, and pointed out all that they had done in the way of necessary work, on which they were included with high honour.

St. Thomas's Day, 21st December, is still at Otterbourne held as the day for "gooding," when each poor house-mother can demand sixpence from the well-to-do towards her Christmas dinner.

Christmas mummers still perambulate the villages, somewhat uncertainly, as their performance depends on the lads willing to undertake it, and the willingness of some woman to undertake the bedizening of them with strips of ribbon or coloured paper; and, moreover, political allusions are sometimes introduced which spoil the simplicity. The helmets are generally made of wallpaper, in a shape like auto-da-fé caps, with long strips hanging over so as to conceal the face, and over the shirts are sewn streamers.

Thus tramp seven or eight lads, and stand drawn up in a row, when the foremost advances with, at the top of his hoarse voice:

Room, room, brave gallants, room,

I'm just come to show you some merry sport and game,

To help pass away

This cold winter day.

Old activity, new activity, such activity

As never was seen before,

And perhaps never will be seen no more.

(Alas! too probably. Thanks to the schoolmaster abroad.)

Then either he or some other, equipped with a little imitation snow, paces about announcing himself:

Here comes I, Old Father Christmas, Christmas, Christmas,

Welcome or welcome not,

I hope old Father Christmas

Will never be forgot.

All in this room, there shall be shown

The dreadfullest battle that ever was known.

So walk in, St. George, with thy free heart

And see whether thou canst claim peace for thine own part.

So far from "claiming peace," St. George waves (or ought to wave) his wooden sword, as he clumps forth, exclaiming:

In comes I, St. George, St. George, that man of courage bold,

With my broad sword and spear I won the crown of gold,

I fought that fiery dragon,

And drove him to the slaughter,

And by that means I won

The King of Egypt's daughter.

Therefore, if any man dare enter this door

I'll hack him small as dust,

And after send him to the cook's shop

To be made into mince-pie crust!

On this defiance another figure appears:

Here comes I, the Turkish knight

Just come from Turkey land to fight;

I'll fight thee, St. George, St. George, thou man of courage bold,

If thy blood be too hot, I'll quickly make it cold.

To which St. George responds, in the tone in which he would address a cart-horse:

Wo ho! My little fellow, thou talk'st very bold,

Just like the little Turks, as I have been told,

Therefore, thou Turkish knight,

Pull out thy sword and fight,

Pull out thy purse and pay,

I'll have satisfaction, or thou guest away.

Turkish Knight.

Satisfaction, no satisfaction at all,

My head is made of iron, my body lined with steel,

I'll battle thee, to see which on the ground shall fall.

The two wooden swords clatter together till the Turkish knight falls, all doubled up, even his sword, with due regard to his finery; and St. George is so much shocked that he marches round, lamenting:

O only behold what I have been and done,

Cut and slain my brother, just the evening sun.

Then, bethinking himself, he exclaims:

I have a little bottle, called elecampane,

If the man is alive, let him rise and fight again.

The application of the elecampane so far restores the Turkish knight that he partly rises, entreating:

O pardon me, St. George, O pardon me, I crave,

O pardon me this once, and I will be thy slave.

Very inconsistently with his late remorse, St. George replies-

I never will pardon a Turkish knight,

Therefore arise, and try thy might.

The combat is renewed, and the Turkish knight falls prostrate, on which the Foreign King comes forward, shouting:

St. George, St. George, what hast thou done,

For thou hast slain mine only son!

But, after marching round the fallen hero, he cries:

Is there a doctor to be found,

That can cure this man lies bleeding on the ground?

In response, the doctor appears:

O yes, there is a doctor to be found,

That can cure this man lies bleeding on the ground.

The anxious father asks:

Doctor, doctor, what is thy fee?

The doctor replies:

Ten guineas is my fee,

But ten pounds I'll take of thee.

The king answers:

"Take it, doctor, but what canst thou cure?"

The doctor's pretensions are high, for he says:

I can cure

the ague, palsy, and the gout,

And that's a roving pain that goes within and out;

A broken leg or arm, I soon can cure the pain,

And if thou break'st thy neck, I'll stoutly set it again.

Bring me an old woman of fourscore years and ten,

Without a tooth in her head, I'll bring her young again.

The king observes:

"Thou be'st a noble doctor if that's all true thou be'st talking about."

And the doctor, taking to prose, replies:

"I'm not like those little mountebank doctors that go about the streets, and say this, that, and the other, and tell you as many lies in one half-hour as you would find in seven years; but what I does, I does clean before your eyes, and ladies and gentlemen, if you won't believe your own eyes, 'tis a very hard case."

The king agreeing that it is, the doctor goes to the patient, saying:

"I have a little bottle that I call golden foster drops. One drop on the root of this man's tongue and another on his crown, will strike the heat through his body, and raise him off the ground."

Accordingly the Turkish knight slowly rises and decamps, St. George exclaiming:

"Arise, arise, thou cowardly dog, and see how uprightly thou can'st stand. Go home into your own country and tell them what old England has done for you, and how they'll fight a thousand better men than you."

This last speech may have been added after the Crimean War, as the drama was copied out in 1857; but the staple of it was known long before, though with variations, in different villages, and it always concludes with little Johnny Jack, the smallest of the troup, with a bundle of dolls on his back, going round with a jingling money-box, saying:

Here comes I, little Johnny Jack,

Wife and family at my back,

My family's large though I am small,

And so a little helps us all.

Roast beef, plum pudding, strong beer and mince-pies,

Who loves that better than Father Christmas or I?

One mug of Christmas ale soon will make us merry and sing;

Some money in our pockets will be a very fine thing.

So, ladies and gentlemen, all at your ease,

Give the Christmas boys just what you please.

Before Christmas carols had to be reformed and regulated lest they should be a mere occasion of profanity and rudeness, that curious one of Dives and Lazarus was occasionally heard, of which two lines could never be forgotten-

He had no strength to drive them 'way,

And so they licked his sores.

And when Lazarus afterwards sees "Divers" "sitting on a serpent's knee."

May Day too survived in a feeble state, with the little voices singing:

April's gone! May's come!

Come and see our garland.

Mr. Keble improved the song into:

April's gone, the king of showers,

May is come, the queen of flowers,

Give me something, gentles dear,

For a blessing on the year.

For my garland give, I pray,

Words and smiles of cheerful May;

Birds of spring, to you we come,

Let us pick a little crumb.

In the dew of the morning we gathered our flowers

From the woodlands and meadows and garden bowers,

And now we have twisted our garland so gay,

We are come here to wish you a happy May Day.

We cannot but here add an outline of a village character from Old Times at Otterbourne:-

Mr. William Stainer was a baker. His bread was excellent, and he was also noted for what were called Otterbourne buns, the art of making which seems to have gone with him. They were small fair-complexioned buns, which stuck together in parties of three, and when soaked, expanded to twice or three times their former size. He used to send them once or twice a week to Winchester. But though baking was his profession, he did much besides. He was a real old-fashioned herbalist, and had a curious book on the virtues of plants, and he made decoctions of many kinds, which he administered to those in want of medicine. Before the Poor Law provided Union doctors, medical advice, except at the hospital, was almost out of reach of the poor. Mr. and Mrs. Yonge, like almost all other beneficent gentlefolks in villages, kept a medicine chest and book, and doctored such cases as they could venture on, and Mr. Stainer was in great favour as a practitioner, as many of our elder people can remember. He was exceedingly charitable and kind, and ready to give his help so far as he could. He was a great lover of flowers, and had contrived a sort of little greenhouse over the great oven at the back of his house, and there he used to bring up lovely geraniums and other flowers, which he sometimes sold. He was a deeply religious and devout man, and during an illness of the clerk took his place in Church, which was more important when there was no choir and the singers sat in the gallery. He was very happy in this office, moving about on felt shoes that he might make no noise, and most reverently keeping the Church clean, and watching over it in every way. He also continued in the post of schoolmaster, which at first he had only taken temporarily, and quaintly managing it. He was found setting as a copy "A blind man's wife needs no paint," which he defended as "Proverbs, sir, Proverbs." Giving up part of his business to his nephew, he still sat up at night baking, for the nephew, he said, was only in the A B C book of baking, and he also had other troubles: there was insanity in his family, and he was much harassed. His kindness and simplicity were sometimes abused. He never had the heart to refuse to lend money, or to deny bread on credit to hopeless debtors; and altogether debts, distress, baking, and watching his sisters all night, and school keeping all day, were too much for him. The first hint of an examination of his school completed the mischief and he died insane, drowning himself in the canal. It is a sad story, but many of us will remember with affectionate regard the good, kind, quaint, and most excellent little man.

A few lines, half parody, half original, may be added as picturing the old aspect of Otterbourne, about 1830:-


I remember, I remember,

Old times at Otterbourne,

Before the building of the Church,

And when smock frocks were worn!

I remember, I remember,

When railroads there were none,

When by stage coach at early dawn

The journey was begun.

And through the turnpike roads till eve

Trotted the horses four,

With inside passengers and out

They carried near a score.

"Red Rover" and the "Telegraph,"

We knew them all by name,

And Mason's and the Oxford coach,

Full thirty of them came.

The coachman wore his many capes,

The guard his bugle blew;

The horses were a gallant sight,

Dashing upon our view.

I remember, I remember,

The posting days of old;

The yellow chariot lined with blue

And lace of colour gold.

The post-boys' jackets blue or buff,

The inns upon the road;

The hills up which we used to walk

To lighten thus the load.

The rattling up before the inn,

The horses led away,

The post-boy as he touched his hat

And came to ask his pay.

The perch aloft upon the box,

Delightful for the view;

The turnpike gates whose keepers stood

Demanding each his due.

I remember, I remember,

When ships were beauteous things,

The floating castles of the deep

Borne upon snow-white wings;

Ere iron-dads and turret ships,

Ugly as evil dream,

Became the hideous progeny

Of iron and of steam.

You crossed the Itchen ferry

All in an open boat,

Now, on a panting hissing bridge

You scarcely seem afloat.

Southampton docks were sheets of mud,

Grim colliers at the quay.

No tramway, and no slender pier

To stretch into the sea.

I remember, I remember,

Long years ere Rowland Hill,

When letters covered quarto sheets

Writ with a grey goose quill;

Both hard to fold and hard to read,

Crossed to the scarlet seal;

Hardest of all to pay for, ere

Their news they might reveal.

No stamp with royal head was there,

But eightpence was the sum

For every letter, all alike,

That did from London come!

I remember, I remember,

The mowing of the hay;

Scythes sweeping through the heavy grass

At breaking of the day.

The haymakers in merry ranks

Tossing the swathes so sweet,

The haycocks tanning olive-brown

In glowing summer heat.

The reapers 'mid the ruddy wheat,

The thumping of the flail,

The winnowing within the barn

By whirling round a sail.

Long ere the whirr, and buzz, and rush

Became a harvest sound,

Or monsters trailed their tails of spikes,

Or ploughed the fallow ground.

Our sparks flew from the flint and steel,

No lucifers were known,

Snuffers with tallow candles came

To prune the wick o'ergrown.

Hands did the work of engines then,

But now some new machine

Must hatch the eggs, and sew the seams,

And make the cakes, I ween.

I remember, I remember,

The homely village school,

The dame with spelling book and rod,

The sceptre of her rule.

A black silk bonnet on her head,

Buff kerchief on her neck,

With spectacles upon her nose,

And apron of blue check.

Ah, then were no inspection days,

No standards then were known,

Children could freely make dirt pies,

And learning let alone!

Those Sundays I remember too,

When Service there was one;

For living in the parish then

Of parsons there were none.

And oh, I can recall to mind,

The Church and every pew;

William and Mary's royal arms

Hung up in fullest view.

The lion smiling, with his tongue

Like a pug dog's hung out;

The unicorn with twisted horn,

Brooding upon his rout.

Exalted in the gallery high

The tuneful village choir,

With flute, bassoon, and clarionet,

Their notes rose high and higher.

They shewed the number of the Psalm

In white upon a slate,

And many a time the last lines sung

Of Brady and of Tate.

While far below upon the floor

Along the narrow aisle,

The children on their benches sat

Arranged in single file.

And there the clerk would stump along

And strike with echoing blow

Each idle guilty little head

That chattered loud or low.

Ah! I remember many things,

Old, middle-aged, and new;

Is the new better than the old,

More bright, more wise, more true?

The old must ever pass away,

The new must still come in;

When these new things are old to you

Be they unstained by sin.

So will their memory be sweet,

A treasury of bliss

To be borne with us in the days

When we their presence miss.

Trifles connected with the love

Of many a vanished friend

Will thrill the heart and wake the sense,

For memory has no end!

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