Tag Archives: Workhouse

A Wee Heartwarming Scottish Tale For The Wee Bairns!

Bronze Bobby, Rocking Dog

Bronze Bobby

It’s a long time since I did a post for the little small things, so here is a wee heartwarming Scottish tale for the wee bairns.

Hello little small things, very soon I want you to sit very comfortably whilst you listen to this tale. If you are very clever you will be reading this yourself. However, I must first warn you that this is definitely not a story for those of you who like fluffy white rabbits, twinkly princesses or cuddly purring pussy-cats!

So are you sitting extraordinarily comfortably? So we’ll begin… please remember to click the links as the story goes on.

Once upon a time, because of course that’s how all good stories begin, there was a man called John Gray. He lived a VERY long time ago, not quite at a time when dinosaurs roamed the planet, but still a very long time ago. John lived in Scotland, as you are very clever you will know that Scotland is famous for the Loch Ness Monster, noisy bagpipes, kilts and haggis. John worked as a gardener and was very poor, so he together with his wife Jess and son John decided to seek their fortune in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a very big city with a castle and a craggy hill called Arthur’s Seat. The cobbled streets in John’s time would have been noisy with people selling things, street performers, pedlars, horses and carts, beggars and children playing.

Poor John could not find a job, he was worried that his little family would end up in the workhouse. The workhouse was a really horrid place to be, with horrible food, itchy uniforms and no time to play. In time he was pleased to get a job working as a night watchman, helping the Edinburgh City Police. His job involved walking the streets of the city, making sure that there were no burglars about, and that everyone was safely tucked up in their beds. He would walk the dark streets in snow, fog and rain.

John was accompanied in his lonely job by his little dog Bobby. They loved each other very much and the people of the city used to love to see John and his faithful dog walking the cobbled streets together. John became very ill and there was nothing that could be done to help him, so sadly he died. Bobby followed Johns coffin into the kirkyard (churchyard) at Greyfriars and refused to leave his masters grave.

How long do you think that Bobby stayed by the grave? Have a guess. The little dog stayed there for fourteen years! He only left the kirkyard to go and have food. Each day the castle would fire a large gun at 1 o’clock and when he heard the gun Bobby would scamper off for lunch. After eating he would return to the kirkyard and that’s where he’d stay until the castle’s gun went off again the following day.

At first the graveyard caretaker would try to shoo Bobby away, but in time he realised just how devoted the little dog was to his owner. The caretaker kindly put some sacking between two gravestones to give Bobby shelter from the rain, snow and sun. I wonder if Bobby ever got frightened because the kirkyard is very creepy with lots of carved skulls, tombstones and angels. I certainly wouldn’t like to spend a night there!

In time The Lord Provost, similar to a Lord Mayor, was so touched by Bobby’s devotion that he presented him with a collar (If you are ever in Edinburgh you can see Bobby’s collar in the Museum of Edinburgh). Bobby became a little bit of a celebrity, with people coming especially to see him. I wonder if my great grandfather was one of those people who visited Bobby, because he lived and worked very close by.

Bobby got to be a very old dog, but eventually died in 1872 at the age of sixteen which is VERY old in doggy years! He was buried in a grave very close to his master, just inside the gates of the Greyfriars kirkyard, and I expect everyone was very very sad.

A year after Bobby died a very rich English lady who had heard the story of Bobby asked the council if they would allow her to pay for a water fountain in memory of the little dog. If you go to Candlemaker Row you can see Bobby’s fountain. Bobby is cast from a metal called bronze. Can you see in the photo how gold his nose is from people stroking it? If you are thirsty I don’t think you should drink from the fountain, the water looks very dirty.

In 1981 which isn’t ALL that long ago, a red granite headstone was placed on Bobby’s grave. People come from all over the world to see his grave and sometimes they leave sticks (because dogs simply LOVE running after sticks!), toys and flowers.

Maybe one day you’ll be able to go and stroke Bobby’s nose and see Edinburgh for yourself.

Bobby, Rocking Dog


Welcome To Edinburgh, Rocking Dog

Welcome To Edinburgh

Bobby In Print, Rocking Dog

Bobby In Print

Edinburgh Ancestors, Rocking Dog

Edinburgh Ancestors

Creepy Graveyard, Rocking Dog

Creepy Graveyard

Bobby's Grave, Rocking Dog

Bobby’s Grave

I Miss My Festive Gnomes!

Pretty In Pink!, Rocking Dog

Pretty In Pink!

This week has been seen through a blurry Lemsip haze. Thankfully I am on the mend, though I am sporting a rattling cough which is truly attractive, and reminiscent of a ghastly Dickensian workhouse scene! Tasks have therefore been small, dog walks laboured, domesticities minimal and sleep unsettled.

Today I decided to bring some spring indoors to cheer me up. I have missed my kitchen gnomes since they were boxed up and garrisoned in the attic. I organised wired mini milk bottles with spring blooms, Rocking Dog crooked hearts, some pink pom-poms and one or two other spring bits to deck the gilded kitchen circlet.

Yes, it certainly has bought pretty spring cheer to the kitchen and now I don’t miss the gnomes as much!

Whatever you are doing this weekend have a lovely one. Love from Rocking Dog x

 Gnome Place Like Home!, Rocking Dog

Gnome Place Like Home!

Attic Fodder, Rocking Dog

Attic Fodder

Pretty Things, Rocking Dog

Pretty Things

Spring Positivity, Rocking Dog

Spring Positivity

Spring Blooms, Rocking Dog

Spring Blooms

Anyone Seen The Tea Strainer?!, Rocking Dog

Anyone Seen The Tea Strainer?!

Gift Wrapping and Seafaring Artists Tale

Who Will Be The Lucky Recipients?, Rocking Dog

Who Will Be The Lucky Recipients?

On Tuesday I took my lovely octogenarian friend to the Holburne Museum in Bath. Currently on display is a temporary exhibition of paintings from the Swindon Collection, entitled Gwen John to Lucian Freud, Home and the World. One painting I particularly loved was one by Alfred Wallis, Ship amid Tall Waves. The painting inspired me to do a naive interpretation in the form of a pen drawing on black tissue for a gift I needed to wrap.

The catalogue gave me a gist of Wallis’s life and I wanted to make it into a little tale for children, so here goes!

160 years ago (that’s a VERY long time) a little boy called Alfred Wallis was born in a seaside town in Devon. Alfred simply loved the sea, and when he was nine he said goodbye to his parents and went off to be a cabin boy on a big ship. I rather suspect that you would prefer to be on a boat rather than going to school, especially if there’s Maths! Life must have been quite tough for young Alfred, with sea sickness, home-sickness, lots of shoes to polish and clothes to wash. When he was a little bit older he became a fisherman and caught fish in the icy waters near Canada.

Eventually he decided that he wanted to come home and have a little cottage and garden, no more adventures at sea. He met a lady called Susan and after asking her to marry him, they settled in the beautiful little Cornish town called St Ives. He had a job as a Rag and Bone Man. People would bring out pieces of furniture and junk they no longer wanted. Alfred would then repair and sell on some of the junk. He and Susan were poor, but very happy, they loved walking on the beach and drinking tea together in their little cottage.

After a few years Susan died, and Alfred was very, very sad. To help himself feel better he decided to start painting pictures. He loved to paint ships and the sea, and can you believe that Alfred even used ship paint to paint his pictures! As he was very poor and couldn’t afford proper paper, the kind shopkeeper would save him cardboard from boxes that had contained apples, cabbages and all sorts of other things. The cardboard suited Alfred just so!

One day two famous artists called Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood happened to be visiting St Ives.They passed Alfred’s little cottage and being very nosey looked through the open door. They saw lots of Alfred’s ship paintings nailed to the wall and were enchanted by them. They knocked on the door and spoke to Alfred, telling him how how much they loved his work. They supplied him with paint, and introduced him to rich people who they were sure would want to buy Alfred’s paintings.

Despite the help from many artists who appreciated his talents, Alfred was still very poor and very old. He went to live in the workhouse. I don’t know if you know anything about workhouses, but they were very tough places, with strict rules and no luxuries. The Government did not want to encourage people to live there, it really was for people who had no other option. Many workhouse residents were orphans, or very poor, ill or like Alfred very old. Residents would be given food, clothing and a bed. Those that were fit enough would have to work to earn their keep.

Poor Alfred eventually died in the workhouse at the age of eighty seven. Lots of artists came to his funeral and they were very sad. Alfred’s grave is a magnificent one, with tiles by Bernard Leach, featuring a little seafarer stepping up into a huge lighthouse. The grave itself looks out onto the sea, with its bobbing fishing boats, foamy surf and glinting orange sun which rises and falls on the horizon.

I wonder what Alfred would think about the fact that his little cardboard boat pictures are now seen by millions of people every year in galleries all around the world.

Gift wrap detail-
Black Gift- tissue paper, anchor button, thick bakers twine,”Signo” white pen, sticky tape
Pink Gift- tissue paper, ribbon, rosette (made up of varying sized material circles cut with Pinking Shears, leaf shapes, old velvet hat decorations, button), “Love” ticket (Hobbycraft), Glue gun, sticky tape.

Unadorned, Rocking Dog


Frouing Kit, Rocking Dog

Frouing Kit

Rosette Detail, Rocking Dog

Rosette Detail

2015 Supper Versus Supper 1846 Style

Supper In A Jiffy, Rocking Dog

Supper In A Jiffy

Black Bean, Chorizo, Sweet Potato, and Coconut Bowl. This simple supper can be prepared and cooked in a jiffy and is truly delicious! taken from “Cut The Carbs!” by Tori Haschka. I estimate it’s a 10 minute prep’ time (as long as you have a good sharp knife to try and tackle the super hard sweet potato). Then it needs in total forty minutes to cook in the oven. Time enough to enjoy a glass of red and enjoy a spot of relaxation before the weekend begins.

For vegetarians the chorizo could be omitted and I think some cubed roasted halloumi would work well.

And the 1846 supper? I have finally made a start on transcribing an original 1846 recipe book. I bought it in St Peter’s St Peter’s Hospice shop in Cotham a few years ago, and it is truly one of the items i’d want to save if we ever had a fire (more likely a flood with a brook at the bottom of the garden!) I think it’s going to be an amazing, historical adventure with unknown ingredients, unfamiliar measurements and cooking methods. This little book with 141 recipe packed pages formed the basis of my daughter Sorrel’s university dissertation and it took her on a journey through the kitchens and dining in the 1800’s. It was fascinating.

The first recipe in this beautifully handwritten book has already had me foxed, simply deciphering the title. The internet has helped with being able to put in various permutations, and thus I think this first recipe is Frumenty. It is asserted that this is England’s oldest dish. Made from cracked wheat and milk it was sometimes served with meat, fish or venison. It formed part of the traditional Celtic Christmas meal and was often eaten on Mother’s Day. Servants were allowed to journey back to see their mothers on Mothering Sunday and were commonly served this dish to celebrate, and to sustain them on their journey back to their workplaces. In Victorian times it was served to Workhouse residents.

Frumenty features in Thomas Hardy’s “Mayor of Casterbridge” and also mentioned in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass”. Carroll wrote that frumenty was the food that snapdragon flies lived on- how romantic!

This first recipe is anything but cooked in a jiffy and involves wheat being beaten for several hours to remove the tough outer husks! We don’t know how lucky we are. I am looking forward to finding lots of hidden gems in this book, and wonder how many recipes I will actually want to try.

Whatever you are doing this weekend I hope it’s a lovely one and happy cooking!

Carb' Bible, Rocking Dog

Carb’ Bible

1834 Recipe Book, Rocking Dog

1834 Recipe Book