Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Paupers and Pig Killers . . .


The title comes from a book I have which is the Diary of William Holland, a Somerset Parson, 1799 – 1818.

It is a pleasant little book (though I don't think he was a very benevolent Parson - he seemed to find the poor of the parish very tedious!). I found it of particular interest as he was writing around the time that my Devon ancestors were moving village to search for work, on account of the Napoleonic Wars. Agricultural labourers - of which there were many - underwent terrible hardships because of the price of wheat. He was the Parson at Overstowey, on the edge of the Quantock Hills in Somerset. He and his wife lost 4 of their 5 children to an epidemic of scarlet fever in the space of a fortnight, and raised only Mary (who survived) and William, who was born when his wife was 47. A Welshman by birth, he was born in Denbighshire in 1746. Sadly, many of his 90 diaries didn't survive. He must have been quite an outspoken character, and his hatred of all Democrats, Methodists and Catholics probably found him few friends.

A comment of his, one May day in 1800:

"There is a fire downstairs in the parlour which should not be at this time of year." Oops - bet the maid got it in the neck for that one . . .

He certainly spoke as he saw:

Oct. 5 1803: "Mr and Miss Keats could not come to dinner having had a serious Rumpus amongst the servants. That tribe of beings are much altered of late years, no subordination among them. The Glorious Effects of the French Revolution."

January 12, 1812:

"Rode out to Plainsfield and spoke to Farmer Stone about this Infamous Girl they have taken into the Parish (Porter). She will corrupt the whole Parish if she continues here, the parents take her in the hopes to make gain of her, and moreover they expect support from the Parish too. I will put a stop to this and Farmer Stone says he has a Summons for her for she does not belong to this Parish. She is the daughter of Villain Porter's wife by the brother of the husband before marriage. It is grievous to have such things take place under ones nose and yet not be able to stop it. Alas - what will this world come to?" If only he knew . . .

I think he had rather a sharp wit. Perhaps a tad judgemental too . . .

“Briffet is here to kill the sow. A horrible looking fellow, his very countenance is sufficient to kill anything, a large hulky fellow, a face absolutely furrowed with the small pox (a very uncommon thing in these days of inoculations) two ferret eyes and a little turned up nose with a mouth wide as a barn door and lips as thick and projecting they look like two rollers of raw beef bolstered up to guard against, as it were, the approach to his nasty ragged rotten teeth. However, he is a good pig killer”.

I did wonder if the pig above might be called Briffet too . . . you have no idea how long it took me to find that photo!

3 comments:

MammyT said...

I think you may have mastered the art of understatement in naming Parson Holland not very benevolent. Seems to me his pastoring may have been a career choice, rather than a matter of the heart! Amazingly colorful expression in his diaries. Briffet and the pig could have been kin, to hear him tell it. (But he is a good pig-killer...that cracks me up.)
Was he Church of England, Presbyterian, or what...?

Kim said...

That pig is far too lovely to be called Briffet :) Those excerpts were fascinating and the last one made me laugh out loud, priceless. Thanks for sharing those :)

Kim x

Bovey Belle said...

I think he was Anglican - that's what became what we call Church of England nowadays - I "think" . . . I reckon he took the wrong career choice too. If you can get hold of the book, it is quite an eye-opener!

Kim - that's what you need up the field - a nice porker. What would your ma say to that?!