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TRICKER, William (c1804-1891) – Agricultural labourer

William Tricker, referred to as “Old Tricker”, features in Chapter V of A H Savory’s Grain and Chaff from an English Manor:

Old Tricker came to Worcestershire originally with a farmer who migrated from Suffolk, which proves him to have been a valuable man.  But he was worn out even when he first came to work for me, though as willing and industrious as ever.  My bailiff often praised him – for his work was excellent, if somewhat slow on account of his age – and used to tell him that “All as be the matter with you, Tricker, is that you was born too soon,” which was only too true, for he must have been the oldest man on the farm by at least twenty years.  He was a steady worker, and was often so absorbed in his job, such as hoeing, that, being, moreover, somewhat deaf, he was not aware of my approach until I was quite close.  On such occasions, with a violent start, he always said:  “My word, how you did frighten I, to be sure!  Shows I don’t look about me much, however, don’t it?”

He was fond of fairs, wakes and “mops” – no doubt they were reminiscent of old days, for he lived in the past – and he would often beg a day off for such outings; he was a subject for the chaff of the other men for his gaiety when these jaunts took place.  They pretended that, as a widower for many years, it was time for him to think of another courtship.  On a festive occasion, when we were giving a dinner to all the men and their wives, great amusement was caused by crackers, which the guests, I think, had never seen before, containing paper caps and imitation jewellery; and it was a merry scene when all around the tables were decorated in the most incongruous fashion.  Old Tricker happened to become possessed of a plain gilt wedding-ring, and of course chaff was levelled at him from all sides:  “Ah, Tricker; sly dog, sly dog!” and so on.  He was greatly pleased, accepting good-naturedly the part of pantaloon of the piece; and I am sure, from his beaming smiles, he felt, for a time at least, dozens of years younger.

Years before, when still able to do a good day’s work, he walked to Ipswich to revisit his old home, a distance of about 160 miles, which he accomplished in four days, and returned in the same time.  He had been specially struck by the building of a new post-office there – this must have been at least thirty years before the time of which I am writing.  One of my brothers who lived near Ipswich was visiting me, and I introduced him to the old man, knowing that they would have common interests.  No sooner did Tricker hear that my brother had just come from Ipswich than he inquired anxiously if the new post-office was finished.  “Oh yes, and pulled down some years ago, and a new one built!”  Tricker was astonished; the years had evidently slipped by him unnoticed, and no record of dates remained in his memory.

Tricker often got a little mixed in the names of novelties or in unusual words.  I chanced to pass him one day along the road, on my omnicycle, and next time I saw him he referred to it, adding:  “I didn’t know as you’d got a phlorsopher (velocipede and philosopher)”!  Some of my land had been occupied by the Romans in very distant days, and coins and pottery were frequently found.  Tricker, having heard of the Romans, also of Roman Catholics, jumbled them together, and “reckoned” that the former inhabitants of these fields were “some of those old Romans or Cartholics”.

Tricker, as a very typical representative of the agricultural labourer in old age, was engaged as model for a figure in a picture by Mr Chevalier Taylor, then staying in Badsey.  He sat in this capacity when work was not very pressing, and day by day used to repair to the artist’s lodgings with his tools on his shoulder.  His remuneration was half a crown a day – ordinary wages for an able-bodied man – but he told me that the inaction was very trying, and that a day as model was much more exacting than a day’s work on the farm.

When the old man could no longer complete even a short day’s work, and suffered from the cold in winter, he decided to go to the workhouse for a time, but he was out again before the cuckoo was singing, and we found him light jobs “by the piece”, so that he could work for as long or as short a time as suited him.  He was most grateful for any assistance, and told me that, “A little help is worth a deal of sympathy”.  Eventually he became a permanent inmate of the workhouse, much to my grief; but it is, of course, impossible to run a farm on which heavy poor-rate has to be paid, as a philanthropic institution.  The difficulty with aged and infirm persons is not so much food and maintenance as the necessity for nursing and supervision, which are expensive and difficult to arrange.  Tricker told me that he could live on sixpence a day, and if it had been a question of food only, and our village could have cut itself adrift from the Union and the rates it entailed, we could easily have more than kept the old man to the end of his days in comfort.  For years he was the only parishioner receiving any help from the immense sum the parish annually paid in rates.

William Tricker was born at Cockfield, Suffolk, about 1804.  He was living in Worcestershire in 1844 when he married Mary Harris at Badsey.  William was a widower and Mary a spinster.  They had no children, but it is not known if William had any children by his first wife. They lived all their married life in Badsey, until Mary’s death in 1877.

It was probably then that, well into his seventies, he moved to Aldington and went to work for Arthur Savory.  He lodged with Samuel and Amelia Butler at Elm Cottage.  William spent the last years of his life in Evesham Union where he died in 1891.