'Cheips wi' Old Stockiners' is the name of a series of five articles. 'Cheips Wi' Old Stockiners' was first published by the Hinckley Times in the 1890s. This is a fine example of an oral history transcript of this period, by an interviewer who signs himself 'T'. It gives an insight into the cottage industry and the sort of lives people lived.
You see that chap I' the workus clothes sittin on the bench theer, that's old Jeff Ballard. Es varry fond o' sittin out 'ere i' the ten-acre watchin the childern pleeing about, that is when they let 'un come out o the Bastile yonder. I fale downright sorry for Jeff, arter puttin up wi' what 'e did and reckonin on ayin tutliree shillin a wick to live on and then t'ay to come on the parish arter all. Not but what they sees arter 'im varry well, and meks 'is last 'ears tidy com'fable for im; but Id sooner bodge along in these old woreout cord trowsis then wear sich a uniform as thattun, tho its a noo suit es got. I'm thankful to th'Ormighty as I'm kep out and got children to wuk for me.
'Ow wor 'e don out'n 'is livin? Well its a round about sort of a rigmarole, but if yer cent above sittin 'ere agen a old brokken-down stockiner for a while, I'll tell y'all the tops and bottoms on it.
I mun start back a matter o' forty 'ear agoo, and at that time there were a chap lived up Hog Lane called Nosey Bonshor, (I think 'is proper name were Jacob), and e'd got olt of about the wust-tempered, tarnation, scoldin wife as ivvor cuked a rasher i' the mortal world. Afore 'e married 'er folks told 'im what she wor, but yer see she were a on'y daughter and 'er old dad ed a little bit 0' property (a cottage or tow), and she were reckoned a bit of a cop i' them dees. Nosey said 'e knowed she were a bit orkard betimes, but e'd tame 'er down; dear heart alive! 'e might sooner a tamed the mo-est rampagin rynosoarus out o' the 'Merican jungle. So Nosey wunt 'ear reason, but b'gosh the poor chap ed t'ear summat else arter 'e wor married, as'd a spoilt the patience o' Job. It were nag, nag, all the blessed dee; if 'e sot i'the 'ouse it'd be “Ger outside wi' yer stinkin bacca and clean the pigstye out or summat,' and when 'e wor outside she'd 'oot “Why on earth doont yer come in and clean these ere winders astid o' loungin about theer, yer gret idlo 'ound.” Him and 'er were at it all dee - cat and dog, up and down, jawin, growlin, naggin grumblin, oh dear, oh dear! When 'e come 'ome from wuk a Friday nights she made 'irn tip up ivvery farthon of 'is wages, and she wor cluss ~' th' appence, on'y allowed 'im one arfpint a dee, (a pint on Satdys), and one ounce o' twist a wick. I tell yer 'e were as sucked in o'er tamin Nagglin Nancy, as folks called 'er, as ivver any man wor i' the world.
It were a wonder as the chap stood it out as long as 'e did do, for nobdy'd a 'listed or summat rash.
Howsomivver 'e tuk it in 'is ed one fine mornin an' done a slope, and nobdy knowed wheer 'e were gone tell a month or tow arter when 'e got sumdy in Liverpool to write a letter for 'im to Nancy, saying as 'ow 'e were jist gooin to wuk 'is passage out to 'Meriky in a sailin vessel called the Bonny Bess, and she'd druv 'im to it wi' nagglin, and sent 'is best respects and that were all.
The neighbours told Nancy it sarved 'er right, but it dint trouble 'er seeminly, for she got a few shillins off 'er old feyther and set up a bit of a cake and suck shop, and seemed as brazen as ever. I think she done varry tidy out o' sellin fardonswuths o' blacknobs and sich, for she ed a signboard put up o'er the winder, and come out in a noo frock of a Sundays, and kep tow pigs astid o' one, and got fat ersen, and luked well off all round.
I dessay you wunder what all this's got to do wi' old Jeff Ballard, doont yer sir, well I'm comin ter 'im arter a bit.
Things went on as usual tell the noos come i' the papers as the Bonny Bess were wrecked, and sunk, and drownded all the lot on 'em, cept one o' the sailors, and it gen 'is name and address so Nancy gets a letter sent axin 'im about it, and 'e sent word as there was a chap on the ship wi' red hair and a big nose, but 'e dint know 'is name.
So Nancy put up the shuts for a bit, and shed a tear or two, and sold one o' the fat pigs, and went into black wi' the proceeds, and arter they'd made enquiries she drawed Nosey's club money and set up tow moor pigs, and were reckoned a well-to-do widder.
Now sir, yer'd a thought as no chap wi' onny candle in 'is lantern ud a take up wi' Nancy, knowin what 'er temper wor, and 'ow shed badgered Nosey, but she ednt bin a widder long afore Master Jeff theer guz 'angin around 'er suckshop of a nights. O'course it were the old dad's tutbree ousen, and the pigs, and the blacknob trade as made 'er seem sweet in 'is eyes, and 'im bein a personable sort o' chap as wornt frit o'wuk, Nancy bagan to mek megrums at number two.
When 'e went saunterin along the corsey, she'd pop out o' the dure and say “How do Muster Ballard? its varry warm eent it?” and e'd say “Or it ez Missis” and she'd say “Woont yer come and sit down i' the shop for a minit and ay a drop o' hum-made wine?” and so on. The consequence were as Nancy went Church wi' a man for the second time, and the sign board ed to be altered, and as she's saved up tuthree oringe boxes Jeff ed to knock up another pigstye, and 'e chuckled to issen and thowt 'ow well 'e were gettin on. 'E wornt o' that opinion long tho', for if Nosey'd edjaw, 'e ed jaw and 'is face scrat an all, let alone pullin the 'air off 'is ed now and agen. There were nivver a chap sot on so bad sin 'Inckley were rolled down Sketchley 'Ill, quiet and 'armless as Jeff wor.
Several 'ears went on a thissun, and then Nosey come to life agen; nobdy knowed it were 'im, mind yer, but 'e told folks on it artreds. It seemed as e'd missed the ship through gettin locked up in Liverpool oer a street row, add 'd been wukkin theer ivver sin, tell 'e thowt o' geein 'Inckley a luke up, and nobdy rekernized 'im cos c'd growed a mustache and whiskers.
When 'e got 'ere 'e got talkin t'the landlord in a pub, and axed 'im 'ow Nagglin Nancy were goom on, and 'e told 'im as she were all right, but 'er 'usband 'd been drownded at sea, and she'd married Jeff Ballard, and 'er old dad wornt dead yit. So Nosey thowt t' issen “As she's doin so well, I'll gie 'er a call and turn this fresh fole out and spend some o' the money for 'er mysen,” and 'e guz up to the ouse, and were jist gorpin up at the signboard when 'e eerd Nancy ootin “Goo and clean them front steps, y'd idle 'ound, or I'll gie yer a taste o' this ere wet mop,” and out comes Jeff wi' a bucket o' water and a wet rag and sets to wuk scrubbin the steps: Nozey stood watchin 'im and laughin up 'is sleeve, and then out comes Nancy and 'oots “That 'eent the way to clean steps, gie me 'olt o' the flannel,” and tekkin it out'n his 'and, she fetches 'im a clout i' the chops wi' it. Nosey thinks “This woont suit me,” and shakes 'is ed, and guz and teks 'is ticket back agen by the next train. “Once bit twice shy,” sez 'e.
A year or two arter, Nancy's feyther died and left 'er 'is bit o' property, and she got moor can tankrous ivvery dee, but Jeff let 'er 'ev 'er own road and went wuk reglar, tell 'e ed a stroke as tuke the use out'n both 'is arms and then suddenly Nancy got the brontitus bad and died onexpected, and folks said as Jeff'd ay a bit o' peace now, and were varry lucky t'ay sich-an-sich comin in for the rest of 'is life.
And so 'e thowt, but this is wheer 'e sucked in, for Nosey got t'ear on it and come back and claimed it all off on 'im and the lawyers said as Nancy ednt made nivver a will and Nosey werre entitled to it, cos 'e were 'er lawful 'usband and Jeff nivver wor.
So Nosey ed the cheek to let the poor old chap goo t'the Bastile, as'd gone thro s'much while 'e were enjyin issen at Liverpool.
'E dint live long t'enjy it tho, for 'e caught the smallpox off o' one o' the tenants when 'e went to gather the rent one dee, and tuke wrong roads wi' it and died, wi' neer a fren to foller 'im t'the cimetarry.
No sir, I woont tek it thank yer, gie it t' old Jeff theer,, it'll buy 'im a bit o'bacca.