Friday, 20 September 2013

Tramps and Beggars. 1911.


To Griddle was to sing in the streets and most Boston Folk of 1911 would recognise old Mary, the Griddler. She was a little old woman with hair as white as snow. Her black bonnet was carefully pinned on, and her old shawl neatly arranged round her shoulders. She walked by the aid of a thick stick, which was also her protection against dogs and impish boys, and she sang in a most pitiful quavering voice a verse of a moody hymn. She only knew one verse, so when she came to the end of it she cleared her voice, and commenced again, her seemingly tottering old age obtaining many coins.

But there was another side to Mary, she loved gin, and when she had had a good soaking of this spirit, her old face flushed with the liquor, she would sing out some music hall ditty and dance around with her white hair falling on her shoulders waving her old bonnet as a kind of baton. When she had finished  she would be escorted to the lodging house and put to bed. Next morning, with trembling hands, she would attempt to renovate her battered bonnet and then out into the streets she would go as Mary, the Griddler.


This man was a regular in the Workhouses of the region, Boston included. His great aim was to scratch on the walls of the Casual Wards he visited some expressive rhyme, and very proud he was of them too. A few of them had adorned the doors or walls of Boston Workhouse and he was known to all the tramping fraternity.

The Boston Workhouse.
Here are a couple of his rhymes. Writing on tramp life generally, he says.

The sailor loves the sea,
The soldier loves his camp,
But give to me this good old spike,
And the free, open life of a tramp.

Breaking stones was one of the tasks given to the inmates in exchange for a bed and meal, he wrote this on the subject.

When I was young and in my prime,
I could break my stones by half-past nine,
But now I'm old and getting grey,
It takes me nearly all the day.

Mouching........................going to peoples houses begging
Johnny Gallagher............A policeman

One of these types was met on the "Drag" from Spalding to Boston in 1911, he was a young fellow, capable of doing any amount of manual work, yet all his talk was of his prowess in "mouching."

"What," he said, in reply to a query as he was nearing Kirton village, "frightened of getting locked up? Not me! Why only yesterday I tried my best to get locked up in Spalding, but though I mouched forty houses and got plenty of scran and two drums of tea I never saw a Johnny Gallagher. Now I'm told that the Kirton copper is a bit keen but I'm going to mouch it."
He was left to "run round the houses," as he expressed it, but his luck must have been in for he was seen in Boston the next day still out of the clutches of the law.

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