Sunday, February 10, 2019

Withy Peelers, Delvers and Stuff

Since the Doomsday Book an English census of one kind or another has traveled an insidious journey to the present. The 19th Century saw a burgeoning of occupations and for one or other obscure census reason all of them were recorded and many of them had been around a very long time. A Delver for example was someone who used a spade and dug ditches. A Hedge Looker was someone employed to supervise the repair of hedges and fences, excellent work if you could get it.  A Withy Peeler was someone employed to remove the bark from Willow. And for those interested in the origins of surnames a great many have their beginnings in an occupation that frequently moved along several generations. "Which Bob do you mean?" "Bob the Rubbler." There were 600 people with the surname Rubble in the US 1940 census. "Oh that Bob. I thought you meant Bob the Tide Gauger."  There were 3,000 people with the surname Gauger in the US 1940 census, and yes a Tide Gauger had the perfect job of measuring the tides for pay while a Rubbler sorted the smaller stones in quarries.

In time some surnames became a little dubious, subjected their owners to degrees of puerile sniggering, and one surname that has a topographical origin changed from Bottom, the name's origin in low lying land, and who was a weaver in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, to Botham, an English Cricketer who had his family contained generations of unrestrained stubbornness and retained the name Bottom might not have been knighted by the Queen of the English for his services to English Cricket. The question of the hour, at least in my clearly degenerating mind, is why the owners of a surname with an origin in Pressing and Packing Herring haven't pulled themselves together sufficiently to find a replacement for their surname of Pecker. Mind you it's a rich tapestry, and possibly future generations will all follow the David Pecker trend of using the more modern meanings in their inherited names to inspire their life's calling. And come to think of it, I have sometimes wondered about the possibilities of making candles, its the whole nut eating perfumed come to Jesus hot wax thing that kind of puts me off.

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