Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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94                    Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
of the legs so that I could fasten on a pencil or pen, then, laying my paper on the greensward on the hill, I drew my circles, triangles, &c.
" On that part of the hill where my sheep required least attention, I dug a hole in the ground amongst the heath, and placed a large flintstone over it. No one would think of there being anything under it if they had seen it. In that hole I kept some books and a slate, which, when convenient, I took out and went to work at arithmetic, algebra, geometry, &c. This under-stone library was on Newmarket Hill, not far from a pond, near to which a cottage and a barn have since been erected. For more than thirty years the place where the hole had been was to be seen; and I have several times gone a little way out of my road to visit it and offer up my thanks to that gracious Providence who has so directed my way; but within these last few years the plough has passed over it, and I can no longer find the exact spot.
" My master, the head shepherd, at Kingston, had the keeping of twenty sheep as part of his wages; and I have heard old shepherds affirm that, in the generation before them, some of the shepherds had nearly, or quite all, their wages in this way, and it seems to have been of very ancient practice. We have an instance in the case of Jacob and Laban; and I think it probable that the wages of the labouring man were, almost of necessity, money being scarce, paid in this manner.
" At Midsummer, 1802, I went (at his request) to be head shepherd to James Ingram, Esq., of Rottingdean. Mr. Thomas Beard and Mr. Dumbrill had each of them sheep in the flock, but Mr. Ingram having most, he was my real master. The farm was called the Westside Farm, extending from Rottingdean to Black Rock, in Brighton Parish; it was a long narrow slip of ground, not averaging more than half a mile in width. My flock required very close attention, as they had to feed so much between the pieces of corn, and there were no fences to keep them off. In such situations a good dog is a most valuable help to a shepherd, and I was fortunate in having a very excellent one.
"The farm extending along the sea-coast, I caught great numbers of wheatears during the season for taking them, which lasts from the middle of July to the end of August. The most I ever caught in one day was thirteen dozen; but we thought it a good day if we caught three or four dozen. We sold them to a poulterer at Brighton, who took all we could catch in the season at i8d. a dozen. From what I have heard from old shepherds, it cannot be doubted that they were caught in much greater numbers a century ago than of late. I have heard them speak of an immense number being taken in one day by a shepherd at East Dean, near Beachy Head. I think they said he took nearly a hundred dozen ; so many, that he could not thread them on crow-quills in the usual manner, but took off his round frock and made a sack of it to put them into, and his wife did the same with her petticoat. This must have happened when there was a great flight. Their numbers now are so decreased that some shepherds do not set up any coops, as it does not pay for the trouble.
" I had a good father and mother, though they were poor, my father's wages being only 30 a year, and the keeping of ten or twelve sheep, having a family of ten children, yet we were never in want."
We doubt if John Dudeney has had any followers among Southdown shepherds in his pursuit of knowledge under
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