Billy Hallam found work on a variety of local farms, his main talent being cattle droving. He lived in a barn up on Sir William Hill, could neither read nor write and stank to high heaven of cows and pigs.
He received a weekly food ticket of six shillings from the Public Assistance Office at Bakewell, which he would come and spend at our shop. All his purchases were swept off the counter without ceremony into his old sack. I was always thankful when he had gone, as in addition to the foul smells emanating from him, his language was very blue. This was very embarrassing in front of my wife, the shop girls and our customers.
One day Billy was in the shop to spend his weekly ticket, when a car pulled up outside and from it stepped Colonel Stephenson’s wife. Mrs. Stephenson was a real lady, she had been presented at court and had moved in the very best of circles. She was a very good customer too, so I had to make sure that she received the best possible attention when in the shop. An encounter between her and smelly Billy in my shop could mean trouble, and I awaited her entry with much trepidation.
Billy, however, surprised me by stepping to one side and allowing Mrs. Stephenson to get to the counter to be served first. Of course this still left Billy in the shop and in close proximity to her. As I attended to her I could see Billy looking her up and down, much as he would appraise a prize heifer at Bakewell Market. Mrs. Stephenson made her purchases with only an occasional twitch of her nose and left the shop for the car with me to carry her goods out and place them in the boot. When I got back into the shop Billy sided up to me.
“Who’s yon?” enquired Billy, with his usual economy of words.
I told him that it was Mrs. Stephenson.
“’Ast ‘er a bin guttin’ a rabbit or summat?” he then asked.
I could not quite follow his line of thinking and pressed him to explain.
“Why. All that blood on her finger nails, ‘er must ‘ave ‘ad ‘er ‘ands up a ruddy rabbit”.
Then the penny dropped. He was referring to Mrs. Stephenson’s scarlet nail varnish!
On another day when he came to spend his six shillings, which bought him exactly the same items each week, he said,
“I’ll non be wantin’ bacon this wick”.
“Why is that Billy?” I asked.
“Well t’mon from Public Assistance ‘as bin ter inspect me cote (dwelling), an’ the bastard ‘as gone an’ condemned all me cookin’ tackle! I’ve non got a fryin’ pan”.
Well I just had to smile at this, but smelly old Billy topped it off as he was going out of the shop.
“I’m a goin’ ter call in t’pinfold on me way up t’hill ter get me’sen sum new ‘uns”.
So saying, off he went to the rubbish tip in the Pinfold to salvage some old cast-off pans to replace his ‘condemned ones’.
Billy was taken to Newholme Hospital at Bakewell when he was too old and infirm to look after himself. During his early days there he was allowed to go to the market on Monday’s, where he would enjoy meeting up with some of his old cronies and former employers.
On one such a day he saw Tom Rowarth, a local farmer who Billy had worked for over the years. Billy thought that he might be able to touch Tom for a few bob, just for old times’ sake. He sidled up to Tom at the side of the sheep pens.
“Good mornin’ to ya, Mr. Rowarth,” greeted Billy in a loud voice, for he remembered that Tom was a little deaf in one ear.
“Good Day to you Billy,” replied Tom.
Billy hesitated for a few seconds, then ventured
“Can you let me have two bob Mr. Rowarth?” to which there was no reply from Tom. Billy thought – deaf ear, better try t’other side of him.
“Can you let me ‘ave half-a-crown Mr. Rowarth?” bellowed Billy.
Tom looked round sharply at Billy.
“You might as well go back to the two bob side, Billy, ‘cos your gettin’ neither!” was Tom’s reply.
So much for the Maynard Tap Room characters, remembered now by only a few of the village elders. Sadly there is little to tell of the fourth of the old cronies, Albert Hewitt. He was always intow with Gibbs, Manchester and Hallam, ever ready to slip in a wry comment or witty observation. Their like will never be seen again, that’s for sure!