Saturday, 24 May 2014

Write - An interesting snippet from this week

Life is fascinating and seems to be more so the older I become. The are anniversaries coming and going continually, we commemorate the beginning of World War I this year, for example. And there are more below.

This coin was minted in copper from around 1860 and remained legal tender until 1969. The coin was 1/480th of a pound. At that time there were 240d to £1; 20 shillings to £1; 8 half crowns to £1 and so on. A bit of a mathematical nightmare working to the base 12, or 240! In fact around the time I was born they were still using farthings!

After decimalisation in 1971 the 1/2p coin was re-introduced until 1974 when it was finally withdrawn. At that time it was 1/200th of £1!

There was a whole raft of language involved with the halfpenny which rarely received its full name. Quite often it was a ha'penny in bot incarnations and if you had 1 and 1/2d it was a penny ha'penny. Sometimes the same sum became 3 ha'pence. Which leads nicely into a piece of entertainment that was popular in the middle of the 20th century, - the monologue.

Stanley Holloway (1890 - 1982) 

Stanley Holloway popularised this form of poetry reading and I remember having an LP on vinyl of his recitations. One of them I reproduce below.

Three Ha'Pence a Foot

I'll tell you an old-fashioned story
That grandfather used to relate,
Of a builder and joining contractor
Who's name it were Sam Oswaldthwaite.

In a shop on the banks of the Irwell
There Sam used to follow his trade,
In a place you'll have heard of called Bury
You know, where black puddings is made.

One day Sam were filling a knot hole
With putty when in through the door,
Came an old man fair reeked i'whiskers
An th'old man said good morning I'm Noah.

Sam asked Noah what were his business
And t'old chap went on to remark,
That not liking the look of the weather
He was thinking of building an ark.

He'd got all the wood for the bulwarks
And all t'other shipbuilding junk,
Now he wanted some nice birds-eye maple
To panel the sides of his bunk.

Now maple were Sams monopoly
That means it were all his to cut,
And nobody else hadn't got none
So he asked Noah three ha'pence a foot.

A ha'penny too much replied Noah
Penny a foots more the mark,
A penny a foot and when rain comes
I'll give you a ride in my ark.

But neither would budge in the bargain
The whole thing were kind of a jam,
So Sam put his tongue out at Noah
And Noah made long bacon at Sam.

In wrath and ill-feeling they parted
Not knowing when they'd meet again,
And Sam 'ad forgot all about it
'Til one day it started to rain.

It rained and it rained for a fortnight
It flooded the whole countryside,
It rained and it still kept on raining
'Til th'Irwell were fifty miles wide.

The houses were soon under water
And folks to the roof had to climb,
They said t'was the rottenest summer
As Bury had had for some time.

The rain showed no sign of abating
And water rose hour by hour,
'Til th'only dry land were at Blackpool
and that were on top of the tower.

So Sam started swimming for Blackpool
It took him best part of a week,
His clothes were wet through when he got there
And his boots were beginning to leak.

He stood to his watch-chain in water
On tower-top just before dark,
When who should come sailing towards him
But old Noah steering his ark.

They stared at each other in silence
'Til ark were alongside all but,
Then Noah said what price yon maple
Sam answered three ha'pence a foot.

Noah said nay I'll make thee an offer
Same as I did t'other day,
A penny a foot and a free ride
Now come on lad what do thee say.

Three ha'pence a foot came the answer
So Noah his sail had to hoist,
And sail off again in a dudgeon
While Sam stood determined but moist.

So Noah cruised around flying his pigeons
'Til fortieth day of the wet,
And on his way home passing Blackpool
He saw old Sam standing there yet.

His chin just stuck out of the water
A comical figure he cut,
Noah said now whats the price of yon maple
And Sam answered three ha'pence a foot.

Said Noah you'd best take my offer
It's the last time I'll be hereabouts,
And if water comes half an inch higher
I'll happen get maple for nowt.

Three ha'pence a foot it'll cost you
And as for me Sam says don't fret,
'Skys took a turn since this morning
I think it'll brighten up yet.

God Bless