REDCAR – Characters of the Olden Days

Accreditation Cleveland Standard 11/03/1933

Redcar Character of Olden Days
By Arthur Pratt

   When I was born Redcar was but a fishing village. The fishermen of those days were big and powerful, hardy, brave, adventuress, deeply religious, fatalistic and supernatural and even in those enlightened days believed in witchcraft.

Beef and Pudding at Funeral

   Many years ago my grandfather told me about the funeral- which he attended of an old miser who had resided in Redcar. If I remember right his name was Johnathon Joy.
At that time Marske was the burial place. He left instructions that his corpse was to be carried along the sands and the coffin to be turned three times round a stone at the foot of the cliffs below the old churchyard, and everyone that entered the churchyard was present with a sixpence. After the funeral a feast of roast beef and plum pudding was provided.
One morning I was seated alone, against the life-boat house, when Owd Tummedson (Captain Tomlinson) came along sat down, took out his pipe, and I said “My daughter has bought me a new pipe and I told her when I cast anchor that she was to put it in my coffin with a bit of baccy.”
I ventured to remark that he would require a big bit of baccy.

A Great Smoker

   “Yes! Another skipper and I once reckoned up what I had smoked in my lifetime. It amounted to two tons and a half.” He went on to say that he spent sixty years and six months at sea, and for forty years had nothing to do but smoke and think, smoke and think. He smoked never less than one pound a week in that time.
Matty Duck was the life-boat chantie man. Many a time I have enjoyed listening to Mattie sing when the boat was being drawn ashore, and he could sing to some tune.
Another old character was Johnnie Hump. He once built a barrow in his kitchen, and could not get it out. On one occasion a man told him he would give him a load of manure for his garden, “Its all ‘and picked and it will be good for th’ rubub.” (rhubarb)
Johnnie replied: “Ah prefers custud (custard) t’ mine.”
Cockle Nannie was a quiet inoffensive fellow. Every morning when the tide was favorable he could be seen with his swill over his arm going to the cockle sands, four miles away, over which bitter east winds blew sending the curlew wailing and shrieking over the weed strewn slub.
Cockles were a marketable commodity then. Vast quantities were to be had in the Tees estuary in the proper seasons.
Smealie Adamson was another quaint character. As a lad he brought milk into Redcar from a farm just outside the village.
One morning his mother told him to buy some prunes among other goods. When he was homeward bound the church bells were ringing which seemed to say, “Smealy, Smealy, eat the prunes. Smealy, Smealy, eat another. Smealy, Smealey, eat em all, or else I’ll tell th’ mother. Hence the nickname.
Other two local characters well known to us were Tom and William Blatherwick. They were very shrewd, hard headed men, who farmed a bit of land, and bought old wrecks, which were alas, too plentiful on the beach at that time.
They were both big, powerful men, and if anyone annoyed “awd Tom,” he threw his bat at them. I may say that is was no joke being hit by it, as it was heavy as lead owing to successive coats of tar.
Their stack garth was swimming with rats, after a thrashing day it was no unusual thing to fill two or three casks with dead rats.


dean May 21, 2010 Redcar