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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 290 pages of information about The Parish Clerk (1907).

A parish clerk (who prided himself upon being well read) occupied his seat below the old “three-decker” pulpit, and whenever a quotation or an extract from the classics was introduced into the sermon he, in an undertone, muttered its source, much to the annoyance of the preacher and amusement of the congregation.  Despite all protests in private, the thing continued, until one day, the vicar’s patience being exhausted, he leant over the pulpit side and immediately exclaimed, “Drat you; shut up!” Immediately, in the clerk’s usual sententious tone, came the reply, “His own.” (William Haggard, Liverpool Daily Post.)

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N.B.  I have heard this story before, and in a different key: 

The preacher was a young, bumptious fellow, fond of quoting the classics, etc.  One day a learned classic scholar attended his service, and was heard to say, after each quotation, “That’s Horace,” “That’s Plato,” and such-like, until the preacher was at his “wits’ ends” how to quiet the man.  At last, leaning over the pulpit, he looked the man in the face, and is reported to have said, “Who the devil are you?” “That’s his own!” was the prompt response.

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In one of the village churches near Honiton, in 1864, the usual duet between the parson and clerk had been the custom, when the vicar appealed to the congregation to take their part.  In a little while they took courage, and did so.  This annoyed the clerk, and he could not make the responses, and made so many mistakes that the vicar drew his attention to the matter.  He replied, with much irritation, “How can I do the service with a lot of men and women a-buzzing and a-fizzing about me?”

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A somewhat similar story is told of another church: 

An old gentleman, now in his eightieth year, remembers attending Romford Church when a youth, and says that at that time (1840) the parish clerk was a person who greatly magnified his office.  On one occasion he checked the young man for audibly responding, on the ground that he, the clerk, was the person to respond audibly, and that other people were to respond inaudibly.

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Communicated by Miss Emily J. Heaton, of Sitting-bourne: 

My father lived and worked as the clergyman of a parish until he was eighty-nine years of age.  He remembered a clerk in a Yorkshire parish in the time of one of the Georges.  The clergyman said the versicle, “O Lord, save the King,” and the clerk made no reply.  The prayer was repeated, but still no answer.  He then touched the clerk, who sat in the desk below, and who replied: 

“A we’ant!  He won’t tak tax off ’bacca!”

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Communicated by Mr. Frederick Sherlock: 

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