Today it’s time for the tale of Tom Moman who lived in the early part of the nineteenth century in East Yorkshire. He was a man whose wits were found to be wanting – a chucklehead or noddycock if you want the vernacular. Indeed for some time even up to the last century should anyone do or say something foolish, he might well have been called a “Tom Moman” in derision:
“Eeh tha big lummox, tha’s a reet Tom Moman”.
Be that as it may, Tom presents something of a paradox; on the one hand he is derided as a half-wit and on the other, the tricks he got up to show a great deal of native wit and shrewdness. Take for example the story of the great potato pie.
For those of you lacking an agricultural education a potato pie was a method of storing potatoes over winter. You dug them all up and lay them on a bed of straw in the field and then covered them thickly with more straw and finished the pie of with a “crust” of well-slapped down earth.
Now in a certain Holderness village there lived a farmer who was more than careful with his “brass” – he was downright mean and miserly. He was a tough old bugger and his one pleasure in life (that we know of) was driving a particularly hard bargain. One autumn, after a productive potato harvest he made his “pie” in a small field a little away from the farm at the other end of the village.
On a dark autumn night, Tom, who did odd jobs to earn a penny or two, came to Miserly Farmer’s door with a heavy sack of potatoes that he had paid for from his earnings. Miserly Farmer, knowing of Tom’s reputed lack of wits, took great delight in bantering and browbeating him until he accepted sixpence for the sack of spuds. Delighted with the bargain Miserly Farmer asked Tom to bring more sacks and he would purchase them at the same measly price of sixpence.
Every few nights for a month or so, Tom would shuffle up to Miserly Farmer’s door, bent double under the weight of a sack of potatoes. Every few nights Tom would pocket his sixpence and Miserly Farmer would chuckle and congratulate himself at having beaten down the half-wit.
Later that winter, Miserly Farmer wanted to open his “Pie” and move some of the potatoes down to his barn. Seeing Tom lollygagging around the village he asked him to help him in this task. Tom agreed. The next morning, Miserly Farmer waited for Tom to show up but he never did. Fuming, he plodded off to the potato field to move the potatoes himself. When he got there, he found the pie had been opened up and his spuds nicked.
Tom had his revenge – all these past weeks he had been selling Miserly Farmer his own spuds and pocketing the sixpences.
Personally I think his reputation for half-wittedness undeserved. Tom merely reflects the old Yorkshire saying:
‘Ear all, see all, say nowt; Eyt all, sup all, pay nowt; And if ivver tha does owt fer nowt – Allus do it fer thissen.
Email me if you need a translation!