A clergyman on one occasion had some trouble with his dog. This dog emulated the achievements of Newton’s “Fido,” and tore and devoured some leaves of the parson’s sermon. The parson was taking the duty of a neighbour, and feared lest his mutilated discourse would be too short for the edification of the congregation. So after the service he consulted the clerk. “Was my sermon too long to-day?” “No,” replied the clerk. “Then was it too short?” “Nay, you was jist about right.” Much relieved, the parson then told the clerk the story of the dog’s misdemeanours, and of his fear lest the sermon should prove too short. The old clerk scratched his head and then exclaimed, with a very solemn face, “Ah! maister ——, our parson be a grade sight too long to plaise us. Would you just give him a pup?”
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A writer in Notes and Queries tells a story of an old-fashioned service, and with this we will conclude our collection of curious tales.
A lady friend of the writer still living, and the daughter of a clergyman, assured him that in a country parish, where the church service was conducted in a very free-and-easy, go-as-you-please sort of way, the clerk, looking up at the parson, asked, “What shall we do next, zurr?”
LONGEVITY AND HEREDITY—THE DEACON-CLERKS OF BARNSTAPLE
There are numerous instances of the hereditary nature of the clerk’s office, which has frequently been passed on from father to son through several generations. I have already mentioned the Osbornes of Belbroughton, Worcestershire, who were parish clerks and tailors in the village from the time of Henry VIII, and the Worralls of Wolverley in the same county, whose reign extended over a century.
David Clarkson, the parish clerk of Feckenham, died in 1854, and his ancestors occupied the same office for two centuries. King’s Norton had a famous race of clerks, of the name of Ford, who also served for the same period. The Fords were a long-lived family, as two of them held the office for 102 years. Cuthbert Bede mentions also the following remarkable instances of heredity:
The Roses were parish clerks at Bromsgrove from “time out of mind.” The Bonds were parish clerks at St. Michael’s, Worcester, for a century. John Tustin had in 1856 been clerk of Broadway for fifty-two years, his father and grandfather having previously held the office. Charles Orford died at Oldswinford December 28th, 1855, aged seventy-three years, having been parish clerk from his youth, and having succeeded his father in that capacity: he was succeeded by his son Thomas Orford, who was again succeeded by his own son William, one of the present vergers in this church, aged seventy years. All these examples are taken from parishes in Worcestershire. An extraordinary instance of longevity and heredity occurs in the annals of the parish of Chapel-en-le-Frith,