Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall, Vol. 1, by William Bottrell, , at sacred-texts.com
Crossing the stream we enter Paul parish and the village of Newlyn by a detached portion called Street-an-Nowan. The Cornish termination of this name is said to be an abridgment of "Noweth-an" (the new). Newlyn does not sound like a Cornish name; and there is a tradition that, long ago, some fishermen from Lynn, in Norfolk, settled here and named the hamlet they helped to colonize after their native place.
We have, hitherto, failed to obtain any legendary tale connected with Newlyn worth repeating. In our hunt for curious stories about the olden times we were recommended to visit an elderly dame who was said to know more about such matters than any other in the village. We called on the old lady, who soon discovered that she was some sort of a cousin, and found her in good talking humour; but all the stories she had to tell were mere anecdotes of comparatively recent occurrences, in which there was nothing more original than the following about her son Jan's good appetite on his return from Corpus Christi fair, and her very squeamish lodger, which we give (as near as we can remember) in Aunt Betty Chynoweth's own words, as a sample of the usual dialect of our elderly folks:—
"I haven't heard of a worse job for the feer than what happened to me, because I didn't stop up for our Jan. Why, cheeld vean, I've lost three yards of beautiful lace that I used to wear to my best cap on grand occasions like. Our Jan, you know, went to feer, and why shud’na (should he not), poor fellow, have a holiday now and then, as well as the gentry all the time? Yet, if some of the sour folks, who think themselves pious forsooth, could have their will and pleasure, poor Jack would be made a dull boy sure nuf. Our old man used to say, and most of his sayings are true, that those who pretend to be so very much better than other people are mostly found out in the long run not to be half so good, however sly they may be. 'Mammy, dear,' says Jan, when a went away, 'dear soas, the feer don't come but once a year, and I wan't say I shall
be home very early, so don't wait up for me, and you shall have as good a fairing as the feer will produce.' Away a went, looking as smart as any young fellow in all Newlyn town.
"Well, I didn't expect our Jan home very early, no more I didn't; so I got the kettle boiling by twelve o'clock, plenty of bread and butter cut, and baked a pasty for him besides, that he might have something savoury, as he was sure to come home hungry enough after drinking. As I had the kettle boiling, thinks I to myself, I may as just well starch the border of my cap to pass the time away; will be so much done against next day. I thought I wed make the starch pure and clear; but I suppose, my dear cousin, that I can't see so well by candle-light now as I cud fifty years ago—I am now turned of seventy—for the starch was rather dumplingy, so I though it would be better to leave the job for daylight, for fear I shouldn't do at fitty (properly); so I put the lace into the basin under the starch, and left at on the end of the table, and turned the clath over the eatables for our Jan. The fire was gone out. I didn't leave any of the lucifers, for fear of what might happen, with the queer things that will catch fire when one don't want them to, and half the time they are wanted to they waant—not half so good as a tinder-box. I took the candle, and was in the bed sleeping long before our Jan came home. When I got up in the morning I looked into Jan's chamber; there he was, stretched on the bed, poor fellow, with all his clothes on, snoring away like a porpoise. I pulled off his boots without waking him, went down and had a dish of tea for breakfast; then I thought I'd finish my starching, but when I came to look in the basin, I could hardly believe my eyes—lace, starch, and all were gone—the basin as clean as if a had been licked out. Thinks I to myself the cussed rats must have served me this trick; so out I went to search their holes to see if I could find the least bit of the beautiful lace that had been my grammar's grammar's. While I was searching about, the boy Jan came out and begin with, 'Mother, the feer just was fine sure nuf;—there were big boys and a little lady like a shilling doll, and living annatomys that they might try to fatten up a bit, and the best Punch and Judy I ever did see, with the dearest little dog Toby that could do everything but speak, and looked as if he could speak too if he had a mind to; and oh, crickey! I mustn't forget the dancers—didn't they throw their legs about as if they didn't belong to them, with their wheel-about and turn-about and do just so.' Here the cobba took me round the waist, and would make me dance like the show-people to the tune he whistled up. Faith, I did dance too, and why shouldn't I, threescore and ten as I am?"
"'Good Lord, but I am hungry, mother,' says Jan, when we had finished the jig; 'were ’e out here searching for anything? You were kind, dear old soul that you are, to leave that basin of nice thick brath on the table for me; it was nice and thick and sweet; the cabbage was capital too; I thought as was rather tough at fust, yet down a went, honey-sweet
and rich as butter. Have ’e got a basinfull more for me this morning, old dear?' Well, you may believe me my dear cousin, I couldn't tell whether to laugh or swear to hear the great bussa-head tell me how he had eaten the basin of starch for brath and clunked my precious old lace for cabbage; but, laws me, nobody can be vexed long with our Jan—he is such a goodhearted soul. You should see the great bag of fairings he brought home,—I have some in still. You shall have some; but don't tell anybody about our Jan's supper, for the rest of the youngsters will nickname him Starchy Jan, or Manny's cap, or something.
"When I told our lodger, the exciseman, about Jan's supper, he laughed sure nuf, and said he was a broth of a boy. I wish he—our lodger I mean—wasn't more particular then our Jan; for what do ’e think of the trouble I've got to please an? Last Sunday, when he was about to start for church, he said, 'An Betty, I would like to have the piece of beef boiled for dinner, and I should like to have it done green.' Away he went. 'Done green,' thought I; 'whatever can a mean?" but not likean to show my ignorance, I didn't ask an any more questions.
"As soon as a was gone out of sight, I went into the next-door neighbour's. 'An Jenny,' says I, 'you're a good cook; our lodger es jest gone to church, and a told me to boil his beef green: whatever can a mean? Es et best to gather some dock-leaves and other greens, so as to boil them down weth the beef? Cabbage-leave we have none to spare from the few young plants in the garn (garden), and it will be such a pity, too, that the good brath one might get out of such a nice piece of meat should be spoiled. But dear soas, I must do all I can to please his whimseys such a lodger can't be picked up any day: never mind the brath.' So we put out heads together, An Jenny and I. The beef was boiled, surrounded with plenty of dock-leaves and other greens, tel et was green as a leek, and very tender.
"Our lodger came home from church, and whiles he was takan off some of his toggery I dished up the beef. When he was settled to his dinner, I went into the hale (best room), curtseyed, and said, 'I hope sir, your beef es done to your mind: you'll find en brave and (very) green, and, from the time et have been boilan, as tender as a chick, I should think.' 'Green enow, by God,' said he, 'and boiled to rags; but what the devil,' said he, holding the piece on his fork to his nose, 'can the meat be smellan of? Now, I always tell ’e, An Betty, you may take the brath you are so fond of, but I waunt have all the gravy boiled out of the meat to make your broth good, and have all sorts of nasty lap (trash) cooked weth et. And I can't guess whatever you've put in the pot to-day!' 'Arrea! then don't ’e believe et,' I answered him smart, 'that I or anyone belongan to me do want your brath, but you hadn't the sense to make use of the liquor your meat is cooked in, and it's a sin and a shame to give such good brath to the pigs; besides, you might
very well eat all the yarbs boiled in the crock to green your beef,—they weddent hurt ’e; round robins and beets are good pot-herbs, and the old people used to say that young butter-docks are both meat and medicine, of one only knew how to cook them aright. At last et came out that what he meant by cookan meat green, was to half boil et! What queer ways of sayan things foraners take up! As he dedn’t much like the beef, I brought him a nice rice-pudding, cooked for our own dinner, and he was very well satisfied."
When the explanation took place the lodger was rather surprised, but did not much admire his landlady's novel receipt for cooking meat green. On leaving home the next day he requested An Betty to roast his meat for dinner, and wished her better success with her cooking. He had not gone far from the door when the old dame ran after her lodger. It was long before she overtook him. As soon as she could speak, with wheezing and panting, she asked the gentleman if he would like to have his meat browned on both sides. This was a puzzler for her lodger, as he could not conceive how the meat could be turned round before the fire without browning it on all sides. Our fashion of roasting in an oven he would rather call baking. The old lady, however, did her best, and at last succeeded in pleasing her lodger.