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The King of All Trade

Legend has it that the king of all trade is a BlackSmith.

Another legend is furnished by a Sussex blacksmith:f "On the 17th March, A.d. 871, when good King Alfred ruled this land, he called together all the trades (seven in number) and declared his intention of making that trades-man King over all the trades who could best get on without the help of all the others for the longest period. He proclaimed a banquet to which he invited a representative from each trade, and made it a condition that each should bring a specimen of his work, with the tools he used in working it.

1st. The blacksmith brought his hammer and a horseshoe.

2nd. The tailor brought his shears and a new coat.

3rd. The baker his peel and a loaf.

4th. The shoemaker his awl and a new pair of shoes.

5th. The carpenter brought his saw and a deal trunk.

6th. The butcher his chopper and a joint.

7th. The mason his chisels and a corner-stone.

"Now the tailor's coat was of such surpassing beauty of colour, and exquisite fashion, that all the guests, with one consent, declared it a

marvel of workmanship, and entirely eclipsing the handicraft of all the others. Upon which the horseshoe, bread, shoes, trunk, meat, and corner-stone were all thrown on one side as unfit for competition. Upon this the tailor was unanimously pronounced by the good king, and the general company, the fittest to be king of the trades, and was duly installed. This decision made the blacksmith very jealous and angry, and he declared that he would do no more work whilst the tailor was King; so he shut up his forge and ' sloped,'* no one knew whither.

"Now it came to pass that King Alfred was the first to need the sendees of a blacksmith, his horse haying cast a shoe, but he could gain no admittance. Then came one trade, then another, in fact all the six, each having broken his tools, thereby preventing him from carrying on his business until he could get them mended. The last of the six who came to grief was the tailor, who had broken his shears and was compelled to stop working. This all happened on the 23rd November (S. Clement's day) in the same year.

"Now King Alfred and all the trades determined to break open the forge and do the work themselves. So the King began to shoe his horse. The tailor began to mend his shears, and each trade in succession essayed to repair his tools, but all failed. The horse kicked the king ; the tailor bruised his fingers. The fire would not burn, and everybody got into everybody's way. The butcher began to shove f the baker, he shoved the shoemaker, who in his turn shoved the carpenter, and the latter revenged himself by shoving the mason, who passed the compliment on to the tailor, until in the general confusion the anvil was knocked over and exploded.

"At this juncture in walked S. Clement, with the blacksmith on his arm, the latter looking very angry at the wreck of his once tidy forge.

"S. Clement said nothing, but seemed to enjoy the discomfiture of the King and his company.

"At length the King, making a humble bow to S. Clement and the blacksmith, said :—' I have made a great mistake in allowing my judgment in this important matter to be governed by the gaudy colour
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and stylish cut of the tailor's coat, and in justice to the blacksmith (without whom none of us can do) proclaim him Bang.'

"Immediately all the trades, except the tailor (deposed), begged the blacksmith to mend their tools. So he shod the King's horse, and obligingly mended the tools of all who asked him; but he made and presented to the tailor a new pair of shears! This presentation took place at a feast given by the King to celebrate the event, who, in a neat speach, admitted having been taken in by the tailor's beautiful coat, but now felt the greatest pleasure in announcing that for all time the blacksmith should be regarded as the King of all the trades. 'So let us all drink good health, and long life to the jolly blacksmith.'

"The King then proposed, that to restore the harmony each should sing a song, and called upon the blacksmith to make a beginning, who sang the following :—

The Jolly Blacksmith.*

1. Here's a health to the jolly Blacksmith,

The bestf of all fellows,
Who. works at his anvil

While the boy blows the bellows;
For it makes his bright hammer to rise and to fall,
Says the Old Cole % to the Yonng Cole and the Old Cole of all.
Chorut. Twankie dillo, twankie dillo, dillo, dillo, dillo, dillo, dillo.

With a roaring pair of bogpipes mode of the green willow.

2. If a gentleman call his horse for to shoe
He makes no denial to one pot or two;

For it makes his bright hammer, Sec. Chorut.

3. Here's a health to the pretty girl the one he loves best.
She kindles a fire§ all in his own breast,

Which makes his bright hammer, Ice. Chorut.

4. Here's a health to King George and likewise his Queen,
And all the Royal Family wherever they're seen,
Which makes, <cc. Chorut.

• The words of this song have been supplied by several Sussex correspondents, and the version now given is corrected and collated from four versions slightly differing.

f "Prince " in one version. J "Clem " in one version.

5 One version gives it, " carries a fire.''
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Here's a health to the jol ly Blacksmith, the best of all fellows, Who
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works at his anvil while the boy blows the bellows, For it makes his bright

hammer to rise and to fall, Says the Old Cole to the Young Cole, and the
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Old Cole of all. Twankie dil-lo, twankie dillo, dillo, dillo, dillo, dillo,
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[The spirited music, which is traditional, and does not occur in Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time, was kindly written down by Mr. Samuel Willett, of Cuckfield, Sussex, and is confirmed by several Sussex people.]

"Whilst this song was being sung, the tailor crawled under the table and slit up the blacksmith's leather-apron with his new shears into a regular fringe, and from that day no blacksmith ever wears an apron which is not so ornamented or mutilated."

Two points in this interesting, and original legend, require special notice, viz. "the explosion of the anvil," and "the apron fringe." Mr. Young observes that there is in all anvils a deep depression, or hole, which on S. Clement's day is filled with gunpowder, and a plug of wood is driven in tightly; a hole is next bored through the plug, a little powder poured in, and it is then ignited. This is called "firing the anvil." As regards the slits in the apron, they are almost invariably to be seen in a blacksmith's apron, and most of them believe they originated as stated in the legend. One correspondent,* however, says: "You may probably notice at the present day blacksmiths' leather-aprons have five slits in the corner signifying the lion's paw. Having the lions on their smithy is said to constitute a freehold. In olden times many of the smithies were small erections put up on the waste by the roadside."

Another informant says: "When Solomon's Temple was built, all the trades met together at a supper, and everybody was asked to go except the smiths. The latter left off work in disgust, and when the other workmen wanted their tools mended the smiths refused, so Solomon gave a second supper, and had the tags (or fringe) cut in their aprons, which he gilded."

In Sussex on S. Clement's day (Nov. 28rd) there was an old custom of going round from house to house asking for apples and beer, and it was called Clemmening. The Rev. W. D. Parish observes: "The children in some parts of East Sussex still keep up the custom of Catterning and Clemmening, and the Sussex blacksmiths are particularly active in commemorating their patron saint; the anvils are

* Mr. Henry Colgate, of Fletching, Sussex.

fired with a lcrad explosion, and at least a half-holiday is kept. At Burwash, a few years ago, it was the custom to dress up a figure with a wig and beard and pipe in his mouth, and set it upon the du»r of the inn where the blacksmiths feasted on S. Clement's day. This figure was called Old Clem."*

The rhyme sung on these occasions is thus quoted by Mr. Parish:

"Cattern' f and Clemen' be here, here, here,
Give as your apples and give as your beer.
One for Peter,
Two for Paul,

Three for him who made as all.
Clemen' was a good man,
Cattern' was bis mother. J
Gives as your best,
And not yonr worst,
And God will give yonr soul good rest"

In the Clog Almanacks a pot is marked against Nov. 23rd in allusion to this custom of going about to beg drink with which to make merry.

The following notes on the modern observance of the day are furnished by Mr. Thomson :—

"A supper takes place on the 23rd Nov. annually. I have made inquiries of the oldest smith in my shop. From him I gather that it is customary in some places to personate ' Old Clem,' particularly in the Government dockyards. § In many private establishments it has also been the custom for the masters to give the smiths a waygoose,! that is, a leg of pork with the bone drawn and the pork stuffed with sage and onions, and roasted. This has been the custom in Bristol, Liverpool, and even in Brighton. In all cases it is usual for the oldest blacksmith to take the chair, and the youngest the vicechair.

* Dictionary of the Suuex Dialect.
f S. Catherine, whose day is Nov. 25th.

% This is of course erroneous. S. Catherine was a virgin saint, and died A.D. 307; S. Clement died A.d. 100.

§ Cf. Brand's Popular Antiquitiet (edit. Sir Henry Ellis), vol. i. pp. 408-409.

|| The word is thus spelt by Halliwell, who defines it as an entertainment given by an apprentice to his fellow-wovkmen. It is now generally spelt rcayz-goote.

* The writer is indebted for this to Mr. D. Thomson, foreman, smiths' department. L.B.&S.C. Railway Co.'s Works, Brighton.

f This was kindly taken down in 1883 by Edmund Young, Esq. M.R.C.S. of Steyaing, from the lips of a poor fellow in a deep decline.

(Source of the Legend)

Forge