Somerset Scoundrels

I’ve unearthed another gem of local history, Paupers and Pig Killers, The Diary of William Holland, A Somerset Parson, 1799 – 1818. Holland was far from a dusty vicar. He had lost 4 of his 5 children to Scarlet Fever, but then his wife produced a son on whom William doted, with frequent proud mentions of ‘The Boy’. Holland has a low opinion of the lazy ignorant locals, gets irritated with being called upon to deal with a local madman who is the responsibility of the Poor Overseers. He drinks a lot of tea with his friends and occasional social tipple, but is intelligent, conscientious and does his job well, and is often wickedly funny, as here:

“5 February 1800 Went up to Mr Amen in the quarry. Found him with two savage kind of men, Old Ware and his son. They were both full of complaints against one Davies who came from Stowey to this Parish and has now informed against several persons for cutting Lord Egremont’s wood.   This Davies is the greatest Scoundrel and Rascal, pilferer and wood-cutter that comes into any parish. I smiled at their complaints and said, ‘Well lads you have nothing to do but look sharp and I’ll warrant you he may be caught at the same tricks then show the Scoundrel no Mercy but haul him to the Justice at once.’ They vowed to watch him narrowly, nothing like setting a Thief to catch a Thief.

Tuesday February 25 Old Scoundrel Ware and his son passed by. It i said they are going to burn the greater Scoundrel Davies in effigy for informing against them for cutting wood. Lord Egremont’s wood. Sing Tantararara Rogues All. Went to Ashold and married a couple, the lady did not appear very small about the waist. [suggesting she was already pregnant?] Saw a large party go up the Hill to burn Davies in effigy. They paraded first through Stowey and the Scoundrel Davies had the impudence to march before them all the time.”

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