Aftermath of the Swing Riots

Mrs Emma Jane Simpson

Eliza stills frets about the fate of Ned Bushby, locked up in Horesham jail, but knows nothing more than that he will be taken afore the Lewes Assizes.  I have told her not to worry, for though the riots across the country have incensed the gentry, withal  retribution is not so very fierce and, having caused no damage to any living thing, it is unlikely that Ned will be punished too severely.  The rumour also flies that Young Olliver hath sought and paid for someone to speak on Ned’s behalf which all do think fair considering the history of those two.

Indeed, unless they do have maggots in their brains surely to goodness the gentry have seen the way the wind blows:  in the towns and cities keeping order may prove possible with the aid of these constabularies or Peelers or however they are titled. But, out in the countryside where the people know the lay of the land and outnumber their masters many times, they have the means, as has been shown of late, of causing much mischief. We live not in the ancient days of our ancestors, but at a time where people do question the old order, as the doings in France and thereabouts have taught the gentry everywhere.

Not that I myself do hold the gentry to account on behalf of myself – I thinks only that they be simple folk withal.  Not simple in their ways, of course, with all their silly fripperies and furbelows:  but simple in their minds, like our Nelly and young Willy below stairs.

Take young  Master Olliver and his threshing machine.  Born and bred around these parts he was, and running the fields with little Ned and the other village lads happy as you please when was  but a stripling.  So he knows how things go hereabouts.  Yet, like a child on market day with a farthing burning a hole in its pocket, so excited was he by this teknologikal marvell (Eliza begs pardon and says she is not mindful of the writing-down ways of such a modern word which did not exist in her time at school), nothing does for it than he must go and slap his money down for it without a single thought in his head above ‘saving money’. Addle-pate! How does it further him to part with such a large sum and then have all his ricks burned down and his best and strongest worker shipped off to the Colonies?

Far better, thinks I, that he should save his money and pay instead to ‘prentice Ned Bushby – aye an’ William Worthing  son of John Blacksmith; and Thomas Haye  who be such a dab hand at mending  and making all manner of things – to learn the workings of this machine and how it is fashioned. Then all in the village can be paid through winter by learning the details of this craft...and mayhap even fashion them for others!  Eliza tells me I have no ideas of scientific things and this would not do.  But I know that Ned and the lads be not boobies and could put their minds to any mortal thing were they but showed the way of it! And certain sure I am that such a craft did not spring into the mind if the gentry to fashion: they who wouldn’t know a field of wheat from a row of cabbages. It must, for sure, have been a working man who dreamed up such a thing!

Only think of all the fuss too that the poor silly creatures do make in recent times of the chalybeate.  Why Doctor This and Professor That must explain to all of its ‘magical’ properties, and people must apply to Lady What and Lord Why to learn of its efficacy. So then those mazed creatures, with much screwing up of their faces, and holding of their noses, do drink it down by the glassful and tell each other that the worse the smell and the taste, the better the effect. Lumpkins!

Why old Tom Shepherd and his father afore him and his Granfer afore that could have told of the effects of the water: for don’t they all hereabouts bring their flocks to the well twice every year?  And doesn’t  every goodwife who has ever raised a child know where to go for healthful cures?  Yet how we all do laugh to hear of these silken ladies and gentlemen drinking of the water by the cupful and wonder that they do not, every one, puke and pule for days after. Nasty, smelly, discoloured juice! It may do for the sheep to drink it (though some, at times, refuse) but everyone do know that the noxious potion should be distilled, proper, into drops and had with a spoonful of honey or a nip of John Fiddler’s  brandy.

It do worry me, at times, to think that the fate of all do rest in the hands of such as they!!