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Tally Ho

Research is a marvelous thing. Never before did I think to look at the world of opera and the Drury Lane plays which appealed to good dress-sense over circus buffoonery.
In the days after Mozart (1756-1791) and Hayden (died 1759), many who considered themselves cultured may have regarded it important to frequently bathe ones ears in the delight of music.

For country people this must have been just so, for they appreciated unadulterated birdsong from dawn to dusk. Just like music today, it was perceived to relieve melancholy. The best performers played for royalty in Vienna and Paris, and there was a healthy love of the stage by the English.

We had Shakespeare for goodness-sake.

Some sources say that boot-makers were commonly musicians and men of letters, and thus more susceptible to political schemes. Yet with the rise in opera fashions and celebrity actors and actresses who hung out with poets and writers, it seems possible to me that artisans had enthusiasm for this art-form.

I imagine that sometimes, stories regarding the theater, circulated the London coffee houses and chop-shops. I wonder if these stories could travel from one end of London to another in a night?

The fast pace of London, the excitement of celebrity and the sheer scream of the masked ball, (once famous in Covent Garden), transmits an emotion of Hollywood to me. Michael Kelly, the Irish actor, certainly seemed like a celebrity in his time.

That life itself becomes a play for the broadsides and fame brings riches, is a view I challenge, for Michael Kelly’s niece was on the stage from the age of ten, but seemed to rely on help from aristocratic circles to survive. What I did learn was that the actors who lived with and around Michael Kelly were unusual, possible eccentric types. Could they have been ahead of their time? Could they have contributed to what later became Bohemian subculture? I believe so.

So here is an exert of Reminiscences…, Volume 1 By Michael Kelly, Theodore Edward Hook set circa 1800, in Vienna:

“Upon my return, my servant informed me that a lady and gentleman had called upon me, who said they came from England, and requested to see me at their hotel. I called the next morning, and saw the gentleman, who said his name was Botterelli, that he was the Italian poet of the King’s Theater in the Haymarket, and that his wife was an English woman, and a principal singer at Vauxhall, Ranelagh, the Pantheon, &c.

Her object in visiting Vienna was to give a concert, to be heard by the Emperor, and if she gave that satisfaction, (which she had no doubt she would,) to accept of an engagement at the Royal Theater; and he added, that she had letters for the first nobility in Vienna.

The lady came into the room; she was a very fine woman, and seemed sinking under the conscious load of her own attractions. She really had powerful letters of recommendation. Prince Charles Lichtenstein granted her his protection, and there was such interest made for her, that the Emperor himself signified his Royal intention of honouring her concert with his presence.

Every thing was done for her; the orchestra and singers were engaged; the concert began to a crowded house, but, I must premise we had no rehearsal. At the end of the first act, the beauteous Syren, led into the orchestra by her caro sposo, placed herself just under the Emperor’s box, the orchestra being on the stage. She requested me to accompany her song on the piano forte. I of course consented. Her air and manner spoke “ dignity and love.”

A Very Fine Woman

The audience sat in mute and breathless expectation. The doubt was, whether she would melt into their ears in a fine cantabile, or burst upon them with a brilliant bravura. I struck the chords of the symphony— silence reigned—when, to the dismay and astonishment of the brilliant audience, she bawled out, without feeling or remorse, voice or time, or indeed one note in tune, the hunting song of “Tally ho!” in all its pure originality.

She continued shrieking out Tally ho! tally ho! in a manner and tone so loud and dissonant, that they were enough to blow off the roof of the house. The audience jumped up terrified; some shrieked with alarm, some hissed, others hooted, and many joined in the unknown yell, in order to propitiate her.

The Emperor called me to him, and asked me in Italian (what tally ho! meant?)—I replied I did not know, and literally, at that time, I did not. His Majesty, the Emperor, finding, that even I, a native of Great Britain, either could not, or would not, explain the purport of the mysterious words, retired with great indignation from the theater, and the major part of the audience, convinced by His Majesty’s sudden retreat that they contained some horrible meaning, followed the Royal example.

The ladies hid their faces with their fans, and mothers were heard in the lobbies cautioning their daughters on the way out, never to repeat the dreadful expression of “tally ho,” nor venture to ask any of their friends for a translation of it. The next day, when I saw the husband of “tally ho,” he abused the taste of the people of Vienna, and said that the song which they did not know how to appreciate, had been sung by the celebrated Mrs. Wrighton at Vauxhall, and was a great favourite all over England.

Signora Tally Ho!

Thus, however, ended the exhibition of English taste; and Signora Tally ho! with her Italian poet, went hunting elsewhere, and never returned to Vienna, at least during my residence.”

Biggleswade History Society Walk on Shortmead Street – Review

Advertised as : ‘Cracking Tales and dark Deeds in Old Biggleswade’  this walk was led by Jane Croot of Biggleswade History Society on Wednesday, 2 July 2014.


Having a busy life means less blogging – but here I am again! Recklessly writing children’s stories about my alter ego – a witch called Gwubbins, has meant slowing up on other projects. However, history will not be kept down and I could not resist a foray into the town of Biggleswade in Bedfordshire, England, for a walkabout with the Biggleswade History Society.

My connection to Biggleswade is through my grandparents who were the last of seven generations to live thereabouts. The walk was well attended and I felt at home with fellow enthusiasts as we listened to the stories Jane told about the infamous Shortmead Street, one of the oldest streets in Biggleswade.

Beginning by the modern bridge at the Dan Albone carpark, Jane related the story of a waggon that crashed into the River Ivel from the old (probably wooden) bridge that had been nearby in July 1787. Although I knew this story, she brought the incident alive and I knew that this walk and talk was going to be fun. Next she led us to the site of the old Sun Inn and explained how it would have looked and what this establishment would have meant to the coaches passing through and the employment opportunities that it gave the local people.

As we passed down Shortmead Street we were shown where the wharves for the canal goods once stood with old buildings and lost ale houses, although the Coach and Horses is still present. Jane gave an idea of where the wealthy lived and where the poor struggled. She indicated where Anchor Yard would have been, and there was no illusion, the home of my ancestors would have been rough and overcrowded. No wonder the expanding family moved out of the town, returning to the surrounding villages of Langford and Clifton.

The bell ringers were having a practice so that Jane was nearly drowned out at the grave yard of St Andrews Church, where we were shown two distinct gravestones, one of the founder of Battersea Dogs home, the other a grim reminder of an inspector of bridges who crossed to the wrong railway line one day, consequently losing his head. The papers of the day claimed he left over thirty children and there was speculation that he may have had a family at every station, as Jane had researched his records and he was never at home with his wife on census day.

The gory story of the body snatchers was retold at the other side of the graveyard and we learned that a dead body had no value, so when the thieves were caught, they were only fined, and this was probably paid off by the London School of Medicine who were often desperate for bodies to practice on…..

We learned of horse thieves who were hung, stocking stealers who brawled in the pub yard and serious rioting which was quelled with copious amounts of beer. I can honestly say that I felt well and truly connected to the Biggleswade of my ancestors for about two hours that evening.

Many stories survive despite there being no local paper until late in the 1800s. This History Society has an excellent website and a passion for the town of Biggleswade. Sharing time with this group gave me an excellent insight into the past, and like all great experiences, I made new friends.




Pigs as Horses



‘In the autumn of 1811 people doing business in Bedford market had the surprise of their lives when an eccentric farmer came to market in a vehicle drawn by four large
hogs. It had been specially constructed and was smaller than most other conveyances on the roads.

The farmer who lived outside Bedford is said to have entered the town ‘at a brisk trot’.
Crowds seemed to come from all over the place to see the unusual spectacle. He took the vehicle round the market place three or four times, then drove into the yard of the Woolpack Inn, where the hogs were unharnessed in a stable and fed well from a
trough full of beans and wash. The farmer went to do his normal market business,
returning three hours later with his purchases. The hogs were harnessed again and
the farmer set off home. He, his vehicle and his hogs drove out of Bedford to cheers of
encouragement from people lining the streets.

The farmer had only been training the hogs for this sort of work for six months. An
eyewitness commented ‘it is really surprising to what a high state of docility and tractablity he has brought them’.  A well to do man was so struck by the novelty of
what he had seen that he offered the owner of the trained hogs fifty pounds for the conveyance and the animals. The offer was indignantly refused.

The demonstration may have been in part a protest against government taxes levied on various forms of livestock to pay for the Napoleonic wars. There had been earlier protests at taxes on animals. When the horse tax was imposed by William Pitt in 1784 a northern farmer drove his cow to market to show his contempt for the legislation.’
Based on a report in the Wakefield and Halifax Journal of November 1811.

Source :Bedfordshire Magazine Vol 21 No 161

© Ella Jo

Happy New Year 2013

Christmas and New Year were especially fun this year as we saw out the old 2012. I staggered up to an eminent archaeologist in the pub on Christmas Eve to give him a ‘hot archaeological tip’ which he took very good humouredly (I realized later when I totalled up the number of brandies I had consumed)…

The end of 2012 saw happy neighbourly gatherings, drinks with old friends and the opportunity to review all the hard work the year had seen…perhaps 2013 will see a reaping of the rewards! And to top it all Father Christmas popped in to say hello on his way to see a little girl down the road – making it a very special Christmas indeed!

Patronymic Family Surnames

A patronymic is a component of a surname based on an earlier male ancestor such as the father or grandfather. Conveying lineage, patronymics names are still in use world wide. Patronyms pre-date the use of family names and can be found in many Celtic, English, Scandinavian, and Slavic surnames.Other cultures formerly using patronyms now pass on the father’s last name to his children, although patronymics are still commonly used as middle names in Russia.

In England, names ending with the suffix ‘son’ were often originally patronymic. The prefix ‘Fitz’ (from French for ‘son’), appears in English aristocracy from the time of the Norman Invasion, and in Anglo-Irish names. The name Fitzroy, meaning ‘son of the king’, was used by the illegitimate children of royalty, acknowledged as such by their fathers.

‘Mac’, meaning ‘son’ was prevalent in Scottish Gaelic, Irish and Manx, occurring as ‘Mag’ in Ireland. In Ulster, the Isle of Man and Galloway, ‘Mac’ was frequently anglicisized, eg ‘Qualtrough’ meant son of Walter and ‘Quayle’ meant son of Paul,(MacPhail). In Ireland, this truncation resulted in surnames such as ‘Guinness’. Colloquial Scottish Gaelic has other patronymics, still in use. An interesting crossover variation in the use of ‘Ó’ for grandson in Irish (anglicised as ‘O’) and ‘Ap’ for ‘son’ in Welsh. Thus ‘Howell’ from West Wales was derived from Uí Mhell of old Irish, which then became O’Well, then ‘Howell’ in their Welsh relatives.Thus ‘Ap Howell’ means ‘the son of the grandson of Mell’!

In Wales, before the 1536 Act of Union, all Welsh people used patronyms and matronym as the sole way of naming people. Welsh, used ‘Map’ which in modern Welsh is ‘Mab’, in contrast to the Celtic Scottish ‘Mac’. Up until the Industrial Revolution, the use of patronyms was still widespread, especially in the west and north of Wales. A revival of patronyms during the 20th century continues today. Because Cornwall was absorbed early on into England, patronyms are less common than toponyms or occupational surnames.

Meaning literally ‘son of the uncle’ in Old English , Eames meant maternal uncle. The term fell out of use after the Norman Invasion, although in the late 14th century poem ‘Sir Gawain And The Greene Knight’, the young Gawain addresses King Arthur as ‘myn em’. (part 1 line 356)

In the aristocracy or ‘courtly society’ there was a strong bond between uncle and nephew (Nave being a surname from the latter), and the forms ‘Eames’ and in America, ‘Ames’, probably survive from the relationship as a favorite or ward of an uncle. The alternative suggestion ‘son of Emma’ has been rejected, and the surname, ‘Neame’, certainly arises from the incorrect division of the customary form of address.

Mr H P Guppy in his ‘House of Family Names in Great Britain’ (1890), recorded Eames in only two counties, Bedfordshire and Somerset. ‘Numerous entries in the telephone directory show how tenaciously it has survived, spreading into North Hertfordshire’.
Bedfordshire Magazine Vol 17 number 129 Summer 1979.

© Ella Jo

The Ancient Order of Stone Cutters

Quarry man Sculpture at Langton Mantravers, Dorset

There is nothing better than hopping along for the ride when a friend offers to take you on a trip! We visited the beautiful South of England, journeying to the Isle of Purbeck in the county of Dorset. We were not disappointed and found much to amuse and educate.

Lyme Regis is famous for its fossils, but many will tell you that although they spend hours on the beach there, they don’t find a thing. However, the beach experience and the busy street down through the town is certainly worth stopping for!

Beach combing brought to light some small, smoothed pieces of glass, rounded by the pounding waves. I thought they may look good on a homemade ceiling hanging or light shade – or even perhaps a mobile that could be hung outdoors. They are certainly unique shapes, catching the light in different shades – I thought up cycling these bits would suit someone who loved arts and crafts.

Recent landslides had claimed lives in Dorset after a wet summer – and there has been some coastal erosion at Lyme Regis. The landslide which had fallen from the cliffs turned out to be an old rubbish dump – and it had spilled its contents over the rear of the beach. One old comber, unafraid or oblivious to the danger, was picking his way through the rubbish, although it seemed to us that the stuff couldn’t be more than thiry years old. We didn’t think the beach looked too clean, but it was interesting and extremely scenic. Signs made the danger clear to the visitors and there was a museum.

A further nosey mosey saw us calling into the small village of Corfe – with its iconic ruined castle on a hill above, and a visit to the coast at Worth and Langton Mantravers outside Swanage.

This is the land of quarries and there is a rich history concerning occupations regarding stone, closely tied in with the area.  Corfe was the place where the quarry-men updated their ‘Ancient Order of Purbeck Marblers and Stonecutters’ agreements (on Shrove Tuesday every year, before a game of football). We visited the Fox pub where the meetings had always taken place and saw a few artifacts in the tiny museum opposite, which used to be the village lock up!

A walk around the coast near Worth took us to St Aldhelms Head – a scenic path looking out over cliff tops with the blue sea fading into the sky in the distance. The view was superb and the wild flowers were dazzling.

A short distance away was the village of Langton Mantravers with two pubs, a church and a lovely little museum. Barely changed from the seventeenth century it was a little gem, and valued its quarrying history. The museum showed a 20 minute film about the stone quarries of the area and how the stone was used. Apparently there are more farming exhibits for the museum but no place to show them – so sadly they are in storage. The charming museum building had been the vicars stables, behind the church, which itself had been very small at one time, but enlarged over the centuries. One church warden is commemorated even though he was a brandy smuggler who hid his booty in the church roof. When the weight of the brandy caused the roof and walls to collapse, his identity was discovered, because his son had written down all the activities in his diary! I believe this church warden was transported to Australia!

We ended our nosy mosey at the remains of the coastal quarry at Langton Mantravers. Called Dancing Ledge, I think this quarry got its name because of the scrambling and balancing needed to get across and down to the edge of the sea. It really is like dancing when you have to look so closely at where you are putting your feet!

The sun shone on the glittering waves and baked the quarry stone. Some rugged types jumped into a hole which had been blasted by dynamite to allow people to swim without chancing the dangerous tides. Dorset – what a place!

Corfe Castle
Beach at Lyme Regis

Ghosts – The Battle of Olney Bridge

Oh the English Summer – what a joy to burble about on a Sunday dreaming of the England of yester-year…oh how my mind is haunted…..

To explain – I was going for a walk to Emberton, Bucks because it was a nice day and I had spent too long slaving over a hot computer (so hot it got stuck).

The way to the country park was over a bridge. On the bridge I paused because I saw a plaque, and the plaque said that on the bridge back in 1643 The Battle of Olney Bridge took place. This had my blood racing, for I realized that at this place I was in the land of my ancestors.

I knew that at least one or two of my family were involved in the English Civil War, but  Civil War records were not kept properly, if at all.

The connections hinge on one Sir Samuel Luke who was the head honcho at the Newport Pagnell barracks. He was a staunch Parliamentarian and Puritan – to the point that some wit wrote a satirical poem about him in a rather unflattering way.  ‘Hudibras’ published after the restoration of the monarchy in 1663 by Samuel Butler was basically a mock heroic poem criticizing the Puritans – later the style was called ‘Burlesques’. Butler actually worked as a secretary for Sir Samuel Luke – its as if he was stalking him for a literary attack in his own home!

Sir Samuel Luke was also the squire at the Manor of Haynes, the residence of my folks in the early 1600s. Being a smallish place the gentry would have known and employed the village people. By 1643 the Luke family had been in Haynes for two generations and my family would also have been there for two generations. Or would they?

The records are a jumble- the oldest son was always named after the father….and theories can fail.

Sir Samuel Luke
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