Friendly Brook

Notes on the text

These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. We are grateful to Alastair Wilson for various comments and suggestions. The page and, line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of A Diversity of Creatures, as published and frequently reprinted between 1917 and 1950.


[Page 45 line 14] stooled ash a forest ash tree (genus Fraxinus) which has been cut down and permitted to grow again from the stump; producing, in due course, young saplings which make ash-plant walking-sticks, as used by the prefects in the ‘Stalky’ stories; Sophie Chapin has another in “An Habitation Enforced” (Actions and Reactions).

The young growth, giving the appearance of up-turned milking-stools (right) which explains the name, is harvested in rotation every few years as required.

[Page 45 line 16] two rod thick a rod in this context (also known as a pole or perch) is five and a half yards, or sixteen and a half feet, so the hedge is thirty-three feet (nearly ten metres) thick, and could also be called a shaw, or thicket. See page 46 line 10 below.

[Page 45 line 21] handbill in this context a light hand-axe with a curved blade.

[Page 46 line 10] original face of the fence In this context this presumably meant the face when the hedge was last trimmed twenty-five years before. It was unlikely to have been the truly original face unless it had been first ‘laid’ at that time (page 45, line 20), for which they would need the stakes and binders (page 46, line 21). It would be difficult to find the real original face of a hedge that might be a relic of the primeval forest that once covered this country, and was left as a boundary when the forest was cleared. [See Peter Brandon, The Sussex Landscape Hodder, 1974, p.94]

[Page 46 line 13] faggoted firewood made into bundles for easy carrying – Hobden is occasionally seen with one in the Puck stories, usually concealing a rabbit or pheasant for his supper; see verse 14 of “The Land” following this story, and page 47 line 7 below. We are not told, incidentally if the men are working on both sides of the hedge.

[Page 46 line 16] sacred holly ilex chinensis. The pagan Romans used it for decorating their houses and temples at the feast of the goddess Saturnalia, which the Christians took over as Christmas; it was regarded as bad luck to trim or cut down a holly tree. [See Steve Roud, The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Great Britain and Ireland, Penguin Books, 2003] The belief in the sacredness of the holly is also found in parts of India.

Some schools of thought believe it also prevented witches flying along the hedges. [or so said one of the old boys from the College of Estate Management, my alma mater: Ed.]

[Page 46 line 18] witness-board a line to guide them along the side of the hedge.

[Page 46 line 21] stakes and binders see page 46 line 10 above

[Page 46 line 25] a cord an’ a half in this context a cord was a measure of firewood, some fourteen cubic yards. It would make a big heap.

[Page 47 line 7] drawin’ the bottom for it setting out faggots etc. as a foundation for the haystack.

[Page 47 line 12] road-engines steam- or traction-engines; see “The Vortex“ at page 385 line 26 later in this volume.

[Page 49 line 9] sowed it abed stayed in bed.

[Page 49 line 12] valley folk country-people in England often regarded those from a mile or so away with scorn and may well still do so.

See “An Habitation Enforced” in Actions and Reactions, page 42 line 33: ‘Toot Hill parish folk, neither grace nor good luck …’

[Page 49 line 18] Peasmarsh a village in East Sussex on the A268 road between Rye and Beckley, some 3 miles (4.8 km) north-west of Rye.

[Page 49 line 23] new woman second wife.

[Page 49 line 24] contrived in this context arranged.

‘cordenly accordingly.

[Page 49 line 27] Barnardo children children from the charity established by Thomas John Barnardo (1845-1905) who opened his first orphanage in Stepney, East London, in 1874. When he died, there were nearly 8,000 children in his residential homes, more than 4,000 were boarded out, and 18,000 had been sent to Canada and Australia.

Nowadays Barnardo’s aims have largely been taken over by state-funded social provision, and it no longer runs residential homes for children; the last one closed more than 30 years ago. It does, however, continue to operate as a fostering and adoption agency. [A.W.]

[Page 49 line 28] candle-box a cardboard box for candles, an economical form of carry-cot.

[Page 49 line 29] chance-born illegitimate. (Parish)

[Page 50 line 5] five shillin’s five shillings in 1914 has a purchasing power of some £17.20 in 2007 – see page 60 line 16 below. [We understand from The Barnardo’s charity that this is indeed the sum they paid to their foster-homes; Ed.]

[Page 50 line 8] muck-grubber a sordid miser (Parish).

[Page 50 line 22] hurdled up surrounded by a fence of hurdles, sticks woven together on a wooden frame to make a stout barrier.

[Page 50 line 30] passed a farden in the mire passed a farthing in the mud; in pre-decimal days, when there were 240 pence in the Pound Sterling, a farthing was one quarter of a penny, the coin of smallest value.

[Page 51 line 5] scadderin’ scattering, in a random sort of way, as one scatters seed when sowing; just where it lands is a matter of chance. Much the same is true of gossip.

[Page 51 line 22] she don’t put on an apron o’ Mondays She did not lend a hand on washing-day when most households were very busy.

[Page 51 line 27] took dumb see Seymour-Smith, p. 347. Angus Wilson believes (page 264) that this is inspired by Zola’s Thérèse Raquin, and the other villagers by his La Terre which also gives its name to the verse that follows.

[Page 51 line 28] stroke a sudden interruption of blood to the brain, which can cause paralysis or death.

[Page 51 line 31] spoon-meat soft or liquid food.

[Page 52 line 3] a great old lamp presumably an examination by X-ray

[Page 52 line 7] hem in this context (Parish) has ‘very’. This is confirmed by its use in “Dymchurch Flit” in Puck of Pook’s Hill(p. 258 line 23) where Tom Shoesmith says to Hobden: ‘You’re a hem of a time makin’ your mind to it, Ralph!’ when Hobden is a bit slow in recognising his long-dead friend.

[Page 52 line 23] muckin’ out removing the manure from pig-sty or stable etc.

[Page 52 line 24] traipsin’ ‘trapes about’ – to run about in an untidy, slovenly manner (Parish).

[Page 52 line 31] concerned in liquor drunk (Parish).

[Page 53 line 5] hurly-bulloo a disturbance (Parish) – usually ‘hullabaloo’.

[Page 53 line 7] Lewes The County Town (chief town) of East Sussex

[Page 53 line 18] backwent only explained by an example; ‘I only saw him backwent’ means ‘I only saw him when he was going away from me. (Parish).

[Page 53 line 25] Naun nothing (Parish).

[Page 53 line 32] beazled tired out (Parish).

[Page 54 line 1] ten shillings the equivalent of some £35 in 2007.

[Page 54 line 30] in his usuals Parish defines usuals as an allowance of food given to workmen as well as their wages, but from the context it probably means ‘somewhat drunk’.

[Page 55 line 16] cap and gown in this context the dress and cap worn indoors by the female domestic servants of the time.

[Page 55 line 30] chestnut-bats sticks of chestnut-wood. In “A Doctor of Medicine” (Rewards and Fairies page 269 line 12) Nick Culpeper exhorts his patients to: “take a bat” (which we call a stick in Sussex) “and kill a rat…” when he is fighting the plague.

[Page 56 line 4] elber not in Parish but from the context probably ‘elbow’, meaning corner or turn.

Seventeen Acre Fields are often known by their area.

[Page 56 line 5] sallies in this context, willows (genues salix) (Parish).

[Page 56 line 10] flats in this context a flat is a hollow in a field or a low-lying water-meadow (Parish).

[Page 56 line 24] mowchin’ to mouch or smooch ‘to prowl about … on the look out for spoils or profitable appropriation’.

toppin’- axe Parish has ‘top-axe or topping-axe – A light axe, about 4½ lbs (2· 05 kg.) used for trimming felled trees’.

[Page 57 line 2] full-girt timber mature trees. ‘girt’ in this context means ‘girth’ or width around the trunk; thus ‘trees that have grown to their full size.’

I would suggest that “full-girt” is really “full girth” – it means the same as J McG has said, but is a more obvious source, I would have thought.

[Page 57 line 14] our pieces now known as ‘packed lunches’, sandwiches or whatever that a working man takes with him for his lunch.

[Page 57 line 15] cried dunghill an’ run called it a day and went; see “Thy Servant a Dog” in the book of the same name, page 31 line 20.

[Page 57 line 20] bunger in this context one who does anything awkwardly – Parish pronounces it BUNJER

[Page 57 line 23] pookin’ Parish has pook A nudge or gentle poke, accidental or otherwise.

‘Pook’s Hill’, of course, figures in the ‘Puck’ stories, but here the name was clearly derived from Puck’s own name; as he says when he meets Dan and Una: ‘Puck’s Hill — Pook’s Hill ! It’s as plain as the nose on my face’. See “Weland’s Sword” in Puck of Pook’s Hill (page 7 line 31).

[Page 57 line 27] poltin’ Parish defines polt as ‘a hard drawing blow.’

[Page 57 line 31] puddle not in Parish but in this context presumably to paddle or splash about in water.

[Page 58 line 5] bee-skeps hives made of straw – these are painted white.

For more on bees see “The Mother Hive” (Actions and Reactions) and “The Vortex” later in this volume. Kipling was himself a bee-keeper.

[Page 58 line 6] tarrify Parish says: Tarrify: ‘Terrify’ (q v). The entry for Terrify says: (Usually pronounced terrify) – to tease, to annoy.
ORG quotes Edwin Way Teale (1899-1980), The Golden Throng, A Book about Bees (1943): ‘Bees never do anything invariably; they have their moods and tastes, same as us.’

[Page 58 line 20] ‘baccy tobacco.

[Page 58 line 22] slob thick mud. (Parish).

[Page 58 line 27] half-a-crown two shillings and sixpence, in modern decimal currency twelve and a half pence, but the equivalent of £8 or £9 in 2007.

[Page 59 line 4] a sovereign a handsome gold coin with a face value of one pound; worth nearly £70 in 2007.

he trousers ‘em puts them in his trouser – pocket

[Page 59 line 17] vittles victuals – pronounced as in the text – food.

[Page 60 line 10] where they kept their monies most of their transactions would be in cash which would be concealed somewhere in the cottage. The first owner of “Teem – A Treasure Hunter” keeps his money under a stone near the fireplace (Thy Servant a Dog page 160 line 4), and the English owner in the chimney-stack (page 179 line 8).

[Page 60 line 16] four shillin’s four shillings, twenty pence in modern decimal currency, but the equivalent 2007 value is nearly £14.

[Page 60 line 33] inquested on a man the Coroner had conducted a formal enquiry into the cause of death.

Robertsbridge a village on the River Rother in East Sussex approximately10 miles (16 km) north of Hastings and 13 miles south-east of Tunbridge Wells.

[Page 61 line 1] polted see page 57 line 27 above.

[Page 61 line 23] gulled out in this context swept away by force of running water (Parish).

[Page 61 line 32] hobbed up brought up (Parish).

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2008 All rights reserved