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10 posts from November 2014

30 November 2014

From Burnley to Cairo

Herbert Gladstone Booth is commemorated on the roll of honour for British librarians who lost their lives through service in World War One.  He was the first of the librarians on the memorial to die. We tell his story on the 100th anniversary of his death on 30 November 1914.

  Herbert Gladstone Booth
Herbert Gladstone Booth (1883-1914)  Noc

Herbert was born in Burnley Lancashire in 1883, the son of Thomas Booth and his wife Emma née Crossley. Emma was born in South Elmsall in Yorkshire and had worked in Burnley as a domestic servant before her marriage to Thomas in 1877. Both Thomas and Emma were cotton weavers in 1881.  By the time of the 1891 census, Thomas had become a loom overlooker and Emma was still working as a weaver. Herbert aged 8 is shown as a scholar with a one-year old brother Benjamin.  Emma’s sister Lilly Crossley, also a weaver, was living with the family.

In 1897 Emma died aged 39. Thomas married again in 1899 to Frances Pickles and they had a son Thomas James Eric born in 1905. In the 1901 census, Thomas is described as a ‘Librarian Books’ whilst Herbert is a cotton weaver.  Ten years later, Thomas recorded his occupation as a librarian with the Co-operative Society.

Herbert married Martha Ann Aspden in 1906.  Herbert and Martha were living in 1911 at 23 Dial Street Burnley with her mother Margaret Richards.  Their only child had died. Both Margaret and Martha were working as cotton weavers but Herbert had left the mill and had a job as assistant librarian for his father at the Co-operative Society. 

When he volunteered for the Army at Blackburn on 3 September 1914 at the age of 31, Herbert was an assistant librarian at the Marshall public library in Burnley. He re-joined the 1st East Lancashire Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, a unit of the Territorial Force in which he had thirteen years’ previous service from 1900-1913. Within days he had been promoted from driver to quartermaster-sergeant, the rank he had held on his retirement in 1913.  His unit was immediately posted to Egypt and he wrote home about the grand sights there. Sadly Herbert died of dysentery at Hospital Citadel in Cairo on 30 November 1914 after being ill for about six weeks. An eerie coincidence was that Herbert’s home address was 9 Cairo Street in Burnley.  The War Office granted his widow Martha a pension of 11s per week.

Article about Booth from Burnley Express 9 Dec 1914
Burnley Express 9 December 1914 British Newspaper Archive  Noc

Herbert’s death was reported at length in both the Burnley Express and Burnley News on 9 December 1914.  He was said to have been well-known and highly respected by local people. His name appears on the Burnley roll of honour for World War One.

 

Margaret Makepeace, India Office Records

Cc-byJason Webber, UK Web Archive

 

Further reading:

Herbert Gladstone Booth’s grave in Cairo War Memorial Cemetery

Photographs of Herbert Gladstone Booth and some of his fellow librarians who died can be seen in a British Library Facebook album

British Newspaper Archive

Lives of the First World War https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/lifestory/415182

Are you working on a World War One project which includes a website? Why don’t you nominate it for the UK web archive? Find out more - Your Web Archive Needs You!

 

 

27 November 2014

Circumnavigating Warbah and Rollicking Riproars, or how to cure the boredom of Empire

Who’s Who of 1942 records that Edward Wakefield and Tom Hickinbotham, British colonial officers stationed at Kuwait, circumnavigated the Persian Gulf island of Warbah. However, 20 years after their retirement from imperial service, they admitted that this was not such a spectacular feat after all.

In March 1961, an article was reproduced in several newspapers under titles such as ‘Hoodwinked by Hickinbotham’ and ‘Rawther A Joke on ‘Who’s Who’: Blokes Sailed Around Warbah’. The report notes: ‘Two distinguished Englishmen admitted Friday they've been playing a joke for years on that staid and authoritative annual volume ‘Who's Who’’. Hickinbotham is quoted saying: ‘It's all rather a joke. Warbah Island is, in fact, a mudflat […] only just visible at high water’. He continued: ‘One day I said to Mr Wakefield, “See, nobody’s heard of Warbah Island”. So we decided to put it on the map by sailing around it in a launch’.

  Sir Tom Hickinbotham and sketch map of KuweitLeft: Sir Tom Hickinbotham by Elliott & Fry, 7 December 1960, © National Portrait Gallery x82837
Right: Detail from ‘Rough Sketch Chart of Kuweit, Fao, M’gussa and Surrounding Country’, IOR/R/15/1/475, f. 82 Noc

  
Some newspapers put this prank down to the fact that imperial service in Kuwait ‘was all deadly boring’. Hickinbotham alludes to such boredom in a personal letter of August 1942 to William Rupert Hay, Political Resident in the Persian Gulf.  Comparing his temporary position to that of a family doctor, he writes: ‘He has no authority in the household while the family health is good [...] Most people loath to call in a doctor while they see hope of unaided recovery […] They are particularly unwilling to take their troubles to a locum tenens’.  Perhaps in an attempt to lift Hickinbotham’s spirits, Hay sent him 12 bottles of Persian wine the following week.

One way of combatting boredom was reading. Certain books could be a means of legitimating the imperial mission of which Hickinbotham was a part, although they could also serve as a form of escapism.

Man lying on his back reading‘Capt C. at Marshag. May 22nd 71’, Mss Eur F140/234/4  Noc

Hickinbotham’s ‘Private File’ contains correspondence with booksellers, providing details of the books that Hickinbotham procured for himself and the Kuwait Agency library.  These books include biographies that verged on hagiography, such as Philip Graves’s The Life of Sir Percy Cox: The Amazing Record of a Great Imperialist and Archibald Wavell’s Allenby: a Study in Greatness. Hickinbotham was also preoccupied with Arabian travel and exploration since he had served in Aden throughout the 1930s. He procured books like Paul Harrison’s Doctor in Arabia , Harold Ingrams’s Arabia and the Isles, and Hugh Scott’s In the High Yemen.

Publishers advertised to colonial officers by means of regular mailings of ‘Latest Arrivals’. Tailored advertising could also target the boredom and potential sexual frustration of a bachelor colonial officer away from home. One such example is a card fixed to a letter from Thacker & Company advertising the titillatingly titled Boudoir to Bar Stories, a ‘For Men Only’ collection of jokes and stories that ‘will throw you into rollicking riproars’.

  Invoice and advertising card from Thacker and Company Left: Invoice from Thacker and Company Limited, dated 11 May 1942, IOR/R/15/2/1030, f. 129r  Noc
Right: Advertising card from Thacker and Company, IOR/R/15/2/1030, f. 130v

The Empire was indeed boring. This was not because India, Kuwait or any of Britain’s colonies were intrinsically boring, but imperial administration was increasingly banal. Jeffrey Auerbach notes, ‘British administrators at all levels were bored by their experience travelling and working in the service of king or queen and country’ because ‘the empire’s “civilizing mission” was truly a banal affair of administration’. This had resulted in a situation where ‘reality simply could not live up to the expectations created by newspapers, novels, travel books, and propaganda’. Notwithstanding some exceptions, colonial officials, Auerbach concludes, ‘were deflated by the dreariness of their imperial lives’ and ‘desperate to ignore or escape the empire they had built’.

Daniel Lowe
Arabic Language and Gulf History Specialist  The British Library/Qatar Foundation Partnership
Twitter: @dan_a_lowe

Further Reading:

‘File [1/39 I] Major T Hickinbotham, OBE (Private File)’ IOR/R/15/2/1030

‘Wakefield, Sir Edward (Birkbeck)’, Who Was Who

‘Britons Admit Exploring Joke on 'Who's Who'’, St Petersburg Times (11 March 1961)

‘Hoodwinked by Hickinbotham: What's What in Who's Who’, The Oneonta Star (11 March 1961)

‘Rawther A Joke on ‘Who’s Who’: Blokes Sailed Around Warbah’, The Bluefield Telegraph (11 March 1961)

Jeffrey Auerbach, ‘Imperial Boredom’, Common Knowledge 11:2 (2005), pp. 283-305

Tom Hickinbotham, Aden (London: Constable, 1958)

Edward Birkbeck Wakefield, Past imperative: my life in India, 1927-1947 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1966)

25 November 2014

A most depressing read

 Many people grumble that health and safety measures are excessive, but in the 1920s there was
clearly much progress to be made, judging by the dreadful toll of industrial accidents and poisonings. These are revealed by the monthly statistics of occupational diseases and fatalities which were published by the Labour Gazette.

Labour Gazette 1921 - fatal accidents

Labour Gazette, Dec 1921    Noc


CJ Burrow 2Not surprisingly, mining and quarrying exacted the greatest toll in lives lost. Although mining is well-known as a dangerous occupation, I was still shocked to read in the Labour Gazette that in December 1921, 98 people died in underground mines and eight in surface mines. Looking through other editions of this monthly publication, I was even more shocked to discover that while this was the highest figure for deaths in underground mines that year, people were killed every single month. Only in May and June of 1921 were the casualties in single figures, and a total of 713 lives were lost that year.

The Labour Gazette for 1921 includes a summary of the causes of accidents in mines during 1920. During that year, 1130 people died in mines due to falls of ground (49.47%), haulage accidents (20.97%)
miscellaneous accidents underground (11.15%), explosions of fire-damp and coal dust (2.30%), shaft accidents (3.72%) and accidents on the surface (12.39%).

CJ Burrow 1       CJ Burrow 3

JC Burrow, 1893  Noc

The photographs accompanying this article, which date from the late 19th century, vividly illustrate the challenges of operating safely in the environment of the mine. By the 1920s, although there were still horrific numbers of deaths and non-fatal accidents, it seems there were already moves afoot to try to improve the lot of miners. The Labour Gazette for March 1922 includes a paragraph about the Miners’ Welfare Fund which was set up under the Mining Industry Act 1920 for purposes connected with the social well-being, recreation and living conditions of workers in and about coal mines. It was also to fund mining research and education. Research into miners’ safety lamps and coal dust dangers was funded by the first allocations of grants. The fund was supported by a levy of a penny a ton on the output of each mine. Coal mining had long been at the heart of the British economy, fuelling industry and transport by rail and steam-ship, so improving conditions was essential for the nation as well as the individuals involved in the industry.

Labour Gazette 1921 Advert 2

Advertisement in the Labour Gazette, 1921  Noc

Anyone interested in the history of working life should consider reading the Labour Gazette as it has a wealth of information about employment in different trades and industries, prices, wages,
disputes, legislation, government contracts and even statistics of poor relief. It provides remarkable
insights into Britain’s manufacturing past.

Penny Brook
Head of India Office Records   Cc-by

Further reading

Mongst Mines and Miners; or Underground scenes by flash-light: a series of photographs, with explanatory letterpress, illustrating methods of working in Cornish mines. Part I.-An account of the photographic experiences, by J. C. Burrow ... Part II.-A description of the subjects photographed, by William Thomas
(London : Simpkin, Marshall & Co. ; Camborne : Camborne Printing & Stationery Co., 1893)

Further images from JC Burrow are in the Online Gallery

Labour Gazette, 1921, 1922

20 November 2014

The Slave Trade at Aden, Part 2

We continue our story of the young man named Nusseeb, who was alleged to have been purchased as a slave by Ali Abdullah, supercargo of the ship Aden Merchant, and of the enquiry ordered into Nusseeb’s case by the Government of Bombay.

When the Aden Merchant, renamed Seaton, arrived back in Aden from Calcutta, Nusseeb was not on board. Captain S B Haines, Political Agent at Aden, denied the ship permission to leave Aden, and questioned relevant witnesses about their knowledge of Ali Abdullah and Nusseeb. Ali Abdullah himself refused to answer Captain Haines' questions, simply saying “… you are a father to all and I am your son, and you know I was tried in Calcutta. I have therefore nothing more to say”.

Aden
Aden, 1 January 1871 WD 2574 Images Online     Noc

In his report to Government, Captain Haines gave a description of Ali Abdullah which is worth quoting in full: “Ali Abdullah is about 40 years of age, tall for an Arab, and muscular; and evinced great bravery during various skirmishes with the Arabs, prior to the capture of Aden by the English, being then Governor of the Town, and afterwards appointed Arab Custom Master by Government, an Office he held with credit for three years”.

Although none of the witnesses could give the whereabouts of Nusseeb, Captain Haines discovered that Nusseeb and the other alleged slaves had been sent from Calcutta to Jeddah on board another ship sailing under Arab colours.

The Bombay Government accepted that the evidence taken by Captain Haines bore much against Ali Abdullah, and they saw the absence of Nusseeb from the ship on its return to Aden as strong proof in favour of the testimony of those who claimed to have witnessed his purchase. However, the Government was very unhappy with Captain Haines' examination of the witnesses, describing it as not only very loosely but carelessly taken, and describing his investigation as having “…been conducted in a manner which would reflect but little credit on any court of justice”. Captain Haines was admonished that he should have tried Ali Abdullah on a charge of slave-dealing, and was ordered to do so.

Just over three months later, on 24 August 1844, Captain Haines sent a report of his attempts to bring Ali Abdullah to trial. Unfortunately, the witnesses previously interviewed by Chief Magistrate Patton at Calcutta had since travelled to Jeddah, where they had dispersed, and they were not expected to return to Aden. Worse still, the boy Nusseeb could not be located in Jeddah by the British Consul residing there, and his whereabouts could not be discovered. With an absence of witnesses and conflicting testimony from the investigations in Calcutta and Aden, Captain Haines felt he had little choice but to come to a verdict of not proven and recommended that the case be dismissed. The Government of Bombay agreed with that decision.

John O’Brien
India Office Records Cc-by

Further Reading:

Slave Trade, Vol 3: Proceedings regarding the charge of slave dealing against Ali Abdulla, the supercargo of the barque called the Aden Merchant, in the case of a boy named Nusseeb, who Ali Abdulla allegedly purchased from Ali Ibn Hamed of Aden [IOR/F/4/2066/94848 pp.1-28].

Slave Trade, Vol 6: correspondence relating to the slave trade in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf [IOR/F/4/2066/94851].

Slave Trade in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf [IOR/F/4/2087/96921].

Read our story about slavery in Muscat.

 

18 November 2014

The Slave Trade at Aden, Part 1

The records of the Board of Control, the Government body set up in the late 18th century to supervise the activities of the East India Company, contain collections of correspondence relating to kidnapped Indians, often children, who were sold as slaves along the coasts of the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. The Government of India was keen to close down this disturbing trade and the correspondence which flowed between Calcutta, Bombay and British officials in Aden and the Gulf show the different measures taken to protect children from slavers, and to reunite those rescued from slavery with their families in India.

However, this could be a difficult undertaking, as the case of a boy named Nusseeb illustrates. The case was initially investigated in November 1843 by J H Patton, Chief Magistrate of Calcutta, who acting on information received from Captain S B Haines, Political Agent at Aden, found Nusseeb on board the ship Aden Merchant which was in the port of Calcutta at the time. In a statement, Nusseeb gave his age as 16 or 17, and denied that he was a slave. He claimed that two years previously he had been the slave of a man name Ali Ibn Hamid in Aden, but that he was badly treated and so ran away. He then freely offered his services as a khalasi (a dockyard worker or sailor). He stated that he shipped aboard the Aden Merchant at Aden in the summer of 1843 on wages of 6 rupees per month, and that he was happy on board the ship, had plenty to eat and drink, and was never ill-treated. Several of his shipmates, including Ali Abdullah, the supercargo of the ship, also gave statements that Nusseeb was a free member of the crew.

Banks of the Hooghly at Calcutta
Banks of the Hooghly at Calcutta, with the court house in the distance c1872 Photo 179/(4) Images Online     Noc

This information was relayed back to Captain Haines in Aden, who was clearly angered by the lack of success of Chief Magistrate Patton in prosecuting Ali Abdullah for slave-dealing. Writing to the Secretary to the Government of Bombay, Captain Haines stated that it was “an incontrovertible fact known now to all Aden” that Ali Abdullah had purchased Nusseeb from Ali Ibn Hamid for 35 German Crowns. Captain Haines claimed also to have discovered that Ali Abdullah had purchased other slaves, whom he had then mixed with the crew, unknown to the principal owner of the ship, and further that he had charged the owner for them as lascars. He pointed out that the evidence gathered by Chief Magistrate Patton was “…from parties more or less likely to be involved in difficulties if any facts were revealed”.

Unhappy with this outcome, the Government of Bombay gave instructions to Captain Haines to begin a full and careful enquiry into the charge against Ali Abdullah on his return to Aden, and also into the circumstances under which he had become possessed of other slaves. The results of that enquiry will be the subject of the next Untold Lives posting.

John O’Brien
India Office Records  Cc-by

Further Reading:

Slave Trade, Vol 3: Proceedings regarding the charge of slave dealing against Ali Abdulla, the supercargo of the barque called the Aden Merchant, in the case of a boy named Nusseeb, who Ali Abdulla allegedly purchased from Ali Ibn Hamed of Aden, reference IOR/F/4/2066/94848 pp.1-28.

Slave Trade, Vol 6: correspondence relating to the slave trade in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, reference IOR/F/4/2066/94851.

Read our story about slavery in Muscat

 

13 November 2014

Terror and Wonder Indian-style

Inspired by the latest exhibition Terror and Wonder I looked for ‘haunted’ materials in the India Office Records. To my disappointment I couldn’t find any ghosts, vampires or Goths among the Honourable East India Company’s servants. All was not lost however: the archive of the British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia (BACSA) contains a file with papers relating to ghosts.

Man looking at a ghostly black figureNoc

From Ghosts: being the experiences of Flaxman Low ... With twelve illustrations by B. E. Minns  British Library on flickr  


In 1839 W. B. Hamilton built a house on a plot of land in Simla near the old cemetery.  Lt. Col. W. L. F. Yonge of the Royal Artillery bought the house in 1865 and 30 years later it was inherited by his daughter Elsie Macandrew.  ‘Charleville’ was rented out by the Yonges and that’s when the trouble started.

  Rental document for Charleville
Rental document for Charleville  IOPP/Mss Eur G89 Noc

Just before World War One, Col. P. and his wife moved into the house. They invited their niece Miss S. to stay with them.  Returning home one evening they found all the servants outside. The bearer reported he had seen a sahib in Miss S’s room. They searched, but couldn’t find anyone. After a peaceful night, the young lady went to take a bath and suddenly the whole house could hear her screaming.  She was standing, wrapped in towel, shrieking: ‘They are throwing cold water at me! Can’t you see?’

That was just the beginning. Dinner parties at ‘Charleville’ must have been amusing with missing cutlery, misplaced flowers, and rooms in disorder. Maj. H. of the Royal Engineers was certain that the servants were behind the hauntings so he and Col. P. sealed the dining-room and came back the next morning. To their surprise, the seals were unbroken but the whole room was in disarray.

Col. P., being a devout Catholic, called for a priest, who sprinkled holy water and said the prescribed prayers. The poltergeist must have been of a different religious persuasion as the disturbances carried on. The P. family had had enough and decided to move.

When Mr. Bayley lived at ‘Charleville’, one of the servants reported a sighting of a sahib in fancy clothing who walked through the door. After the Bayleys, Officer H. of the Sappers and Miners moved in. His little girl saw a man in old clothes on many occasions. The home didn’t bring good fortune – H. died at Gallipoli.

After the H. family, a Japanese consul and his wife stayed there, but after only three weeks they left in despair. Around 1914 a Mrs. A. bought the house and she still lived there in 1947 undisturbed.

  Plan of Charleville
Plan of Charleville  IOPP/Mss Eur G89   Noc

Simla was a-buzz with the story that the ghost was that of a man buried in the cemetery who had murdered his wife and was now earthbound.  The anonymous author ‘Hyderabad’ was so captivated that he checked the graves and burial books. His investigation was not successful, as none of the men matched the story. There were no murders, or at least no confirmed ones, and the only tragedy he uncovered was the death of a Mrs Codrington and her young children. 

Dorota Walker
Reference Specialist, Asian and African Studies  Cc-by

Further reading:
‘Hyderabad’, 'The most haunted house in Simla', Journal of the United Service Institution of India, v. 78, no. 327, April 1947, pp. 299-304.
Papers relating to ghost stories, including drafts for a book Ghost Tales from the Raj edited by K R N Swamy and Meera Ravi; also copies of articles by Swamy, IOPP/Mss Eur F370/1357.
K. R. N. Swamy, M. Ravi, British ghosts and occult India: an anthology, Writers Workshop, 2004.
William Lambert Francis Yonge Yonge Papers, IOPP/Mss Eur G89 .

 

10 November 2014

Allan Leonard Lewis VC: Wales’s forgotten war hero

Lance-corporal Allan Leonard Lewis was the only soldier born in Herefordshire to win a Victoria Cross during the First World War. But, as an adopted Welshman, his heroism is not acknowledged at all in Neath where he lived before the war. He is one of Wales's war heroes, and yet his sacrifice is not officially recognised in the place where he worked and joined the army.

 

Allan Leonard Lewis VC
Allan Leonard Lewis VC - courtesy of WalesOnline Noc

Tragically, Allan Lewis was awarded the VC posthumously because he was killed in action, aged 23, at Ronssoy during the battle of Epehy on 21 September 1918. His award was for 'most conspicuous bravery'.  First, on 18 September 1918, he was in charge of an advancing section of the 6th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment which was held up by ferocious machine-gun fire as it attacked outposts of the Hindenburg Line.

The official citation reports that, after observing how two enemy machine-gun teams were pinning down his men, Lewis 'crawled forward, single-handed, and successfully bombed the guns, and by rifle fire later caused the whole team to surrender, thereby enabling the whole line to advance.'  This in itself was bravery of the very highest order, but Lewis was not finished.  The London Gazette reported that three days later he 'again displayed great powers of command'. Unfortunately, though, 'having rushed his company through the enemy barrage' he was killed 'while getting his men under cover from heavy machine-gun fire.'

  Newspaper report of Lewis's parents receiving his VC
Western Daily Press - Friday 11 April 1919 British Newspaper Archive Noc

By any standards, Lewis's actions at Ronssoy were remarkably brave, and he made the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect his men.  But the fact that his heroism is not noted at all in Neath, or indeed anywhere else in Wales, adds an even greater level of interest and poignancy to his story.

Although Allan Lewis was born just over the border with England, at Whitney-on-Wye, he was in many ways a Welshman, so much so that he had attempted to learn Welsh.  One of nine children, he had left school at thirteen to work on the land, eventually becoming a gardener at Truscoed House near Llandeilo in West Wales.

Lewis always enjoyed working with machines, though, and this led to him becoming an employee of the Great Western Railway.  He moved to Neath, and, after a period as a conductor, he drove a GWR bus on the Pontardawe route. 

So, with such strong roots in Neath, why does he remain a forgotten hero, even in his adopted home town?

Tireless research and campaigning by Mr Vyvyan Smith over the past forty years provides us with an explanation. 

Lewis joined the army in Neath in March 1915 and in doing so he left his job without seeking official permission from his employer.   This seems to have been too much to bear for the managers of the GWR, and they long harboured a grudge against the man who was to die seven weeks before the end of the war.

Indeed, not even the award of a posthumous VC served to change their minds. Other GWR employees who won a VC had locomotives named after them, but this honour was never afforded to Lewis.

This extraordinary attitude clearly affected perceptions of Lewis in Neath where his name is not included on any civic war memorial. Surely, it is now time to acknowledge the significance of Allan Leonard Lewis VC, a Welsh hero who gave his life for his country.

Huw Bowen
Swansea University

 

Further Reading:

The V.C. and D.S.O. A complete record of all those officers, non-commissioned officers and men of His Majesty’s Naval, Military and Air Forces who have been awarded these decorations from the time of their institution, with descriptions of the deeds and services which won the distinctions and with many biographical and other details, edited by the late Sir O'Moore Creagh and E. M. Humphris (London, 1924)

 

07 November 2014

The Moustache Murder

 
Smartly dressed man with a moustacheLast Movember we brought you the cautionary Lay of the Red Moustache. This year we have found more tragic verse in the British Library collections to alert our readers to the dangers of becoming too fond of the splendid moustaches now sprouting forth.  A warning - parts of Mr Newton’s poem are not for the squeamish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The Moustache Murder
Or, the Cruelly Commercial and Lugubriously Lyrical Legend of Noddlekins and Jemima

 Now all ye good people, pray listen to me well,
‘Tis of a young bank-clerk I’m going for to tell;
His name it was Noddlekins, rather reckless and rash,
Who wore upon his upper lip a very fine moustache.

Now as Noddlekins was a-standing in the counting-house one day,
The Manager came up to him, and thus he did say,
“Go, get a sharp razor, and remove all that hair,
For mustachers the Directors are determined you shan’t wear.”

“My dear sir, my dear sir,” young Noddlekins replied,
“I’ll oblige you in any other mortal thing beside;
But before I will lose one hair out of my moustache,
I will see the whole place go to everlasting smash.”

“Now go, boldest Noddlekins,” the Manager he gasped,
“If you will not consent that your face shall be rasped,
You must leave – for I’ve promised, and my promise I will keep,
To make a separation of the goats from the sheep.”

Now Noddlekins had a sweetheart, Jemima by name,
She suggested the moustache, and she doted on the same;
And her feelings experienced a terrible crash,
When she heard that her Noddlekins thought of shaving his moustache.

She most viciously jibbed like a foal at a fence,
And she wouldn’t hear a word of poor Noddlekins’ defence;
But she said, “if you mean to act like a little boy at school,
Recollect, Mr Noddlekins, I won’t wed a fool.”

As Jemima was walking near her father’s abode,
She spied her dear Noddlekins a-lying on the road,
Half-shaved, with his throat cut, and a billet-doux to prove,
That his suicide was occasioned by moustachios and love.

On his dear half-denuded mouth she deposited one kiss,
And she said, “It’s my tantrums have brought you to this.”
The she slit her carotid with more spirit than sense,
And their lives are both in the pluperfect sense.

Now all ye young bank-clerks who wish to cut a dash,
Never quarrel with the governor on account of a moustache;
And ye maidens be careful lest you come to act in time a
Sad tragedy like the razor-slaughtered Noddlekins and Jemima.

At twelve the next night, by the Manager’s bed-side,
The ghost of Jemima with weasand slit wide,
Arm-in-arm with her Noddlekins, whose throat was cut too,
Said, “Serene might our gullets be if it hadn’t been for you!”

Now the Manager no longer in the bank dare remain,
So he slipped on his cloak and popped off to the train;
But standing on the platform he felt rather queer,
And he died with a gurgle like a bottle of beer.

Now this is the moral or epilogue to the play,
(The other was an interlude put in by the way,)
You may learn from this song, which is true, I declare,
That this here only happened on account of that hair.

 

If you would like to read more of John Newton's verse, here is the source -

Title page of The Shavers Shaved or The Fatal Moustache

Title page of John Newton The Shavers Shaved or The Fatal Moustache (1858) 11649 e.36  Noc

Margaret Makepeace
India Office Records

The picture of the man with a moustache is taken from Cook's Handbook for London (1894) 10347.h.23  - available on the British Library flickr photostream.

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