An aged lady, Mrs. Gill, who is now eighty-four years of age, remembers that between the years 1825 and 1835, in a parish church near Welbeck Abbey, the clerk used to announce the date of the Duke of Rutland’s rent-day. Another correspondent states that after service the clerk used to take his stand on one of the high flat tombstones and announce sales by auction, the straying of cattle, etc., and Sir Walter Scott wrote that at Hexham cattle-dealers used to carry their business letters to the church, “when after service the clerk was accustomed to read them aloud and answer them according to circumstances.”
Mr. Beresford Hope recollected that in a Surrey town church the notices given out by the clerk included the announcement of the meetings at the principal inn of the town of the executors of a deceased duke.
In the days of that extraordinary free-and-easy go-as-you-please style of service which prevailed at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century, the most extraordinary announcements were frequently made by the clerk, and very numerous stories are told of the laxity of the times and the quaintness of the remarks of the clerk.
An old Shropshire clerk gave out on Easter Day the following extraordinary notice:
“Last Friday was Good Friday, but we’ve forgotten un; so next Friday will be.”
Another clerk gave out a strange notice on Quinquagesima Sunday with regard to the due observance of Ash Wednesday. He said: “There will be no service on Wednesday—’coss why? Mester be going hunting, and so beeze I!” with triumphant emphasis. He is not the only sporting clerk of whom history speaks, and in the biographies of some worthies of the profession we hope to mention the achievements of a clerkly tailor who denied himself every luxury of life in order to save enough money to buy and keep a horse in order that he might follow the hounds “like a gentleman.”
Sporting parsons have furnished quite a crop of stories with regard to strange notices given out by their clerks. Some of them are well known and have often been repeated; but perhaps it is well that they should not be omitted here.
About the year 1850 a clerk gave out in his rector’s hearing this notice: “There’ll be no service next Sunday, as the rector’s going out grouse-shooting.”
A Devonshire hunting parson went to help a neighbouring clergyman in the old days when all kinds of music made up the village choir. Unfortunately some difficulty arose in the tuning of the instruments. The fiddles and bass-viol would not accord, and the parson grew impatient. At last, leaning over the reading-desk and throwing up his arms, he shouted out, “Hark away, Jack! Hark away, Jack! Tally-ho! Tally-ho!”
[Footnote 71: Mumpits and Crumpits, by Sarah Hewitt, p. 175.]