ANOTHER EFFIGY BURNING AT CRAWSHAWBOOTH – “OATCAKE JEMMY’S” DESCRIPTION OF THE PROCEEDINGS.
To the Editor of THE BLACKBURN TIMES.
SUR, - Aw wor rare un pleased, when aw tuk up yoar pappur last Setterdu morning, to foind us you’d printed my lettur abeawt th’heffigy bourning; un sum o my frends un naybors wor us pleased abeawt id us aw wor mysel. Hoose an tawk’t wi sed id wor varra weel pud together, un thad id showed thad wi o bit mure praktis, aw shud mek o stunning riter, because aw roate plain, un nod loike thoose us is fur lerst, soa uz poor foak kuddn’t understand id. Aw‘m nod fratching o’mysel, yoa kaown, only aw’m pleased tu foind thad yoa un th’foak abeawt here is pleased wi wod aw’ve alreddy dun; un if yoar ogreeable, aw’ll undertek tu send yea a lettur neaw un then, deskribin anything us may happen tu be goaing on i’this place, or hev o chanse o gedding howd o’th news us wewl us thoose us hes bin browt up at th tip top skoos. Dad aw’m forgeddin wo aw tuke up mi pen tu rite abeawt – weh[?], we’ve hed another spree, last Setterdu neet, abeawt Owd Surat ogeoan. Yoa’ll remember thad th’other Setterdu neet th’Crawshawbooth foak bournt Owd Surat hissel, bud last Setterdu neet they bournt boath him un’ th young woman he ran away wi boath at once. Eh! wod a Crawshawboothther wor at th’toime! Th’streets wor kreawded wor nor on a fair day, un id wor kalkulated thad ther wer nearly three theawsand foak in’em at’th toime. This toime th’heffigies wor karried – nod in a kert us befoar, bud bi o lot o chaps, un wer browt deawn fro th’Gudshal Fowd way. Un vary konspicowas wer Od Mellody – th’Gudsha Fowd poet, us they kawn him, un whoa, aw’m towd, hes rittun sum poetry abeawt th’job. Yoa may think us ther’d be o terribul noyse when th’heffigies geet among th’foak – un soa ther wor. When they geet asoide o George Terry’s heawse, th’ Crawshawbooth policemen tried ta ged howd o one o’th figgurs, bud whether id snatched at his hand un med him led id a be or nod, aw doarn’d know, bud he moinded to do soa. Sum foak say us’th figgur tried tu jump o’th top o’th Bobby, bud aw think this kon hardly be true. Heawever, th’foak us hed th heffigies than toke to their heels loike mad, un befoar vary long aftur, they hed boath on em a fire, un blaysin away loike owt. Whoill they were bourning, th kreawd sung o soart ow o buryin hymn tu’th tune o th Owd Hundred, un if t[a] followin is nod wod wor sung, id owt tu hev bin, un thad’s neerly th’same –
Author:Oat Cake Jemmy
Publication:The Blackburn Times
Date:September 17th, 1864
This poem accompanied by a prose piece in dialect is fascinating in that it reveals the extent to which industrial and economic issues were integrated into traditional practices at the time. The practice of effigy burning in Britain is most obviously present on Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night (November 5th), when children make effigies of the Gunpowder Plot member and commemorate his execution annually. However, the practice was more widespread in previous years and different effigies were burned for different reasons, always accompanied by celebrations, often long into the night. This account’s deliberately exaggerated dialect emphasises the local nature of this particular tradition, specific to the village of Crawshawbooth, near Rawtenstall in south east Lancashire. One of the many fascinating things here is the personification of Surat cotton imported from India as an actual character, even given a wife. Burning ‘Owd Surat’ has a particular resonance during the Cotton famine. Surat cotton had shorter fibres than the embargoed American cotton and many mills were not properly set up to use it, leading to longer working hours and less pay for thousands of workers. The region’s eventual reliance on Surat despite it being hard to work led to it becoming a byword for financial hardship. – SR