10 MAY 1930, Page 10

Report of the County Stor ies • • Compet i t ion • 'FROM almost

every county of England and many 2-* of Ireland,' ,Wales and Scotland have gathered to the office of the Spectator representative expressiona, of local art, philosophy and language ; but the greater number have come from the further places : from Cornwall and Devon, from Aberdeen and from Kerry: They have been in inverse ratio to the distance from Goiter "Street' A -good ...many Old friends hate " turned up again," but about these we have 1! Ice:R. _quiet," as Kipling advises. There are two stories about train-troublers that are located in at least Six counties, The canniness of Aberdeen and -the dullness of the Midlands are over- done. Some of the best- stories and sayings do not illustrate . county individuality. It is; for example, delightfully recorded Of a Lincohishire minister that ie especially appreciated his Church a England brother and co-operator liecanse, as he said in a speech of thanks, he 'belonged to "no particular religion." But this Story, accompanied by several others, all of merit, is not locally characteristic. Some few are almost too local. One of these is con- tributed by that wholly delightful chronicler of rural life and local scenery, •Mr. A. G: Bradley; but perhaps a libel would lie, as the lawyers say, if we suggested that Wiltshire labourers were quite so witlessly taciturn as the carrier's boy who saw a parcel drop out at " 'Vizes " (Devizes), but said nothing till enquiries were made at Marlboro'. Those who know and admire the real agricultural labourer (a man generally of much_ elemental wisdom) will rejoice to know that the stories of his wit are more numerous than those of his folly; and the brief, simple Herefordshire story which particularly pleases us for several reasons (of which not all will appeal to the urban mind) is a subtle combination of foolishness and humour. .

Another, equally brief; from West Suffolk, soon reached the top of the pile, and is wholly compact of wit :- A West Sussex fanner Met one of his labourers coming along the lane with a lantern. •

"Whore be goin', then, Garge ? " he asked. George grinned, sheepishly. "I be gone coortin', muster." "You had no-ought to take a lantern goin' a-coortin', Garge. When I went coortin' my rnistus, I never took no lantern along, OaTge." .

No, so 'ee didn't, muster, but, then, see what 'cc got!" - L. F. RAMSEY, Camaelut, West Watering, Chichester.

An appended note .indicates true Wight into the Sub- tleties of rural idiom

[N.R.—A married labourer is Master, pronounced - Mass-ter. His employer is known as Muster. As long as a labourer remains unmarried he is known by his Christian name.] -

. A few of the stories would interest the learned author of The Golden Bough; They tell of curious but influential_ superstitions still, or at least recently, surviving. Prob- ably the casualties among superstitious beliefs have never been so heavy as during the later years of the motor revolution. The strangest of these is sent by Lady Margaret Shelley—a true' story recorded of a clergyman in Devonshire. " Jan " had died, and two months later his widow married Garge. When the two went to ask for the banns to be put up, the widow, fumbling with her purse, asked if she might buy a bell-rope-c--for this reason: " 'Tis because we're afeerd of Jan, yer honour; he said as how if I. tuk up with Garge after he wur gone he would give us no pace— and us thought that if us wounded a church bell-rope round his headstone it might keep un lyin' quiet.", The idiom seems to suggest "Ireland as well as Devon; and indeed, such superstitions are widely spread. Such superstitions are closely allied to the want of education that made possible so delightful -a comment as is sent from Dorset by V. Fetherstonhaugh Several years ago my sister, whose husband was Rector in a remote corner of Dorset, was talking with an old fisherman about certain recent discoveries. After, expressing a rather dubious - interest, he said, "What I'd like to know is, Where do all the w'old moons go to ? Now us, with all our cumuli' means, won't

never vind that out i " . _ .

Some of the best contributions are just bits of human sentiment, illustrating ways of thought and speech. They are perhaps too formless to be accounted prize-' winners, but -are made of "the real 'stuff -of humour and pathos. We cannot forbear quoting one of these in full, if only because the little women's "tub-trap ", and cheerful tragedy have gone home.


"'E's a nice little pony, but yu've got to keep a"drivin" of 'ii, keep a'drivin of 'im, look, miss," and she tugged the reins repeatedly.

She was a little rubicund figure, with bright eyes, who, single- handed, faced life and a drink-sodderrhusbtuid. - Her children were out in the world and she earned what she could with a little farm

and by hiring out the "tub-trap." • - - Jogging along, I enquired of her health. She suffered from - gall-stones and refused an operation, probably because she could not trust her affairs.to dad. . . • . _ -

"-Better now, thank!e, miss, but, I tell'e, sometimes they do fair seem to fetch the life out of I, and dad 'a 'don't Understand whatever. One day I did go and lie down on the bed te ease the pain, look and:dad, 'e come:.up and- 'a did say. to I, 'What be gem on about 7' an' I says to 'e, 'Oh, I do feel that bad ! ' and dad 'a says, 'Ow thee do study they gall-stones, mother ! ' Welt, miss, if ever you want the pony you're welcome, and mind and keep a'drivin' of 'im."

M. F. D. G. PENN, Oalaidge Lynch, Stroud, Glos.

The crispest of the stories (of which a very great number concern funerals) comes from the West of Ireland. It is an old theme, but well expressed.

At a Connemara wake the dead man was ostentatiously praised as possessor of most of the virtues :— •

All this while the widow had been crouched before the fire, with her son clasped to her knees, listening open-mouthed to the neighbour's panegyric. When he had ceased, she nudged the little boy and whispered in his ear, "For the love of God, Micky, run over and see if it is your father that is in the coffin at all."

There is the very taste and smell of the country in a Doiset story of an old man whose death was associated,' and doubtless thereby accelerated, with the ' eating of successive " voosters " or treacle possets, "an er ate en an er drank en" is a refrain worthy of a historic ballad.'

A Midland story of an old man's recollection of the last time. he went to church and having forgotten his "specs" " couldn't " turn th' Buke fast anoo " is redolent of the Midlands, though the idiom seems a little influenced by Lancashire. Both childhood and Devonshire are illuminated in the answer of the small boy found mal- treating a gosling: " VVha' fur his faither bite I'se leg fur then ? " On the whole, Devonshire takes the palm as a source of wit and individuality. More than one old but excellent. story told of successes in repartee over- their Somerset and Cornwall rivals. Nowhere else- except in Lancashire and Yorkshire is county rivalry w keen or appreciative.

" Some of the better contributions are, perhaps, too perfectly rounded off for the searcher after a true illustra- tion. Such are the admirable retorts of a countrywoman to the cross-questioning barrister at Taunton ; the very neat and- excellent story, not altogether new, of the broken bit of mirror found in a North Irish field ; and two very well told tales of experiences in the Melidips. This competition is "not of the grand old masters, not of the bards sublime," and we allot the prize to one of the shortest and simplest sent in:


- Scene : A carter and his team are moving slowly along a country road. A friend of his, who is ploughing a field close to the road, looks over the hedge and starts the following conversation :

- "Where bist gwan, Bill 1" • - "I be gwan nowheer." " Thn must be gwan somewheer tha bist on the road." "Tell "cc, I be gwan nowheer, I be 00Min'' back."

(Mrs.) R. LEE, Wellington, Hereford.

W. B. T.