AT the end of the nineteenth century "nicknames" were very much in evidence all over the West Country. In a village where there were many families with the same surname these appellations were often useful in distinguishing one family from another. Some of them were accepted with good grace but others were resented by their bearers as they were far from complimentary. When one spoke of Shiner, Daddy, Doctor. Archer, John Shepherd, Blue. Tinto, Badger, John Turkey. Pincer, Bawley, Scotty. Shotty, Shaver, Nimbo, Trimmer, Grando, Cuckoo, Little Truth and Catch-a-fluke there was no dificulty in knowing to whom the term applied. My Grandfather, because of his knowledge of herbs and their medicinal value, was called " Doctor." I shall never forget my indignation when I went home one day and told m father that a certain sailor had called me "Young Doctor". After the death of my Grandfather that name was given to a boy in another family and he has held it ever since. I often wondered how he got that name and recently asked him. His reply was most interesting and I give it as he gave it to me:
" You remember Mr. Tom Darracott who used to live up in Church Street Well he was a good man and he was very fond of us boys. He used to gather us together in a room near his shop and teach us to sing hymns. One night he announced a hymn " Come let us join our cheerful songs " and said, " Now, boys this is a beautiful hymn and it wan written by Doctor Watts." All the other boys began to look at me and laugh. Mr. Darracott began to laugh as well and said, " Well ! well ! We've got Doctor Watts here ", and that was how Tom Watts got the name of Doctor some sixty years ago.
Nicknames were often given to boys when playing together. I remember, as a boy, playing with my brothers Jim and Ernest outside my father's shop. At that time W. E. Gladstone, the Prime Minister, the Grand Old Man was about to address a mass meeting at Plymouth. This gathering was advertised all over the county and my father put a poster bearing a photo of Gladstone in the shop window. When it was displayed, a little fellow came across the road and said, " Who's that old man ?"
" Oh ! " said my oldest brother, " That's the Grand Old Man."
The little chap looked up and said, " Grand, O ! " and we began calling him by that name and "Grando" is his name today.
Another way of distinguishing one individual from another was by prefixing his occupation before his surname. Thus we had Grocer Clarke, Tailor Webber, Barber Baker, Butcher Drake, Baker Tucker, Cap'en Drake and Farmer Will How. These prefixes have dropped with the exception of Cap'en and Farmer.
The custom of wives speaking of their husbands by their surnames was very common. It was most noticeable among husbands and wives who had been in service together where the men were always spoken of by their surnames. Mrs. Williams, in speaking to Mrs. Mitchell, would say, " Williams wants your man to come fishing with him on Saturday," and the reply would be, " I'll tell Mitchell when I get home."
One seldom hears such conversations today (i.e. 1966).
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