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I thought some might be interested in this article.


From Ancestors magazine, January 2005, p.73

Thee Dost Make Posh!

Mont Abbot, Cotswolds carter and shepherd, died in 1989 aged 87. He lives on in a fascinating book, Lifting the Latch, based on conversations with Sheila Stewart. In this extract Mont buys a suit for his wedding in 1923.

I were looking forward to spending the rest of my life in Kate’s good hands. I were determined that when I slipped that guinea gold ring on her slender finger I’d look my best in a decent wedding-suit. Up till then I’d had to put up with our Mam buying me ready-made tack. It were usually good hard-wearing stuff but, me being six foot two, it fitted only where it rubbed. The jacket were never long enough in the sleeves nor broad enough across the shoulders; and I had no say in the cut of the lapels nor the jib of the weskut. I dared meself to go to the best tailor in Chipping Norton, knowed for miles around for making hunting-tack for the nobs, and ask him straight out how much he’d charge to make a suit for the likes of Montague Archibald Abbott.

G. HANNIS. BESPOKE TAILORING it said over his double-windowed shop: though what Bespokes had to do with tailoring I couldn’t fathom. It were a dark November evening. I’d looked in straight from work, worried he’d be closed, I hadn’t had time to wash and brush up.

It were a small genteel establishment, stuffed with quality; from its thick mahogany counter to its new silent electric light. The sporty-looking tweed-suited proprietor and his quietly dressed lady assistant looked up in surprise as I stood at the opened door; not wanting to cart in all the mud on my working clobber “How much for a bespoke suit for the likes of me?â€

They didn’t take I serious at first. The lady shivered. The gent looked me up and down and vary near told me to hop it. “Serious,†I says.

He pulled himself together; perfectly polite. “It depends on the cloth; sir -and the amount,†he added, sizing up my workaday frame propping open his mahogany doorway “Good wool worsted for you, sir woven at our local mill, would be £18.â€

Eighteen quid! The most I’d ever earned in the heyday of farm labouring during the War had been twenty-five shillings a week. I were determined to earn that suit. I went mad, hiring myself out to every job and farmer in the district ... (plus employment at a sawmill and working for the council). By the end of January I had the money.

Mr. Hannis and his daughter was staggered when I insisted on paying for the suit before I were even measured. “It’s like this’ ere,†I says, plonking my bag of savings on the counter before them. “If you was to get this bespoke suit together and I was to snuff it, slithering about on ice in this freezing wind for the Council, I’d like to will it to our old bwoy, Jim. He be the same B-size as me, give or take a few minor alterations.â€

I were a walking wonder to they after that; and the next time I came for a fitting, the whole family, young George, old lady and all, came from round the back of the shop to have a gawp.

I can still remember the shared excitement of choosing my first tweed with Mr. Hannis, flopping out all they quality cloths on the rich polished counter... They understood my needs and met my circumstances: giving me fittings out of working hours, and cutting my weskut to button high, with deep pockets, so that, years hence, when it were old and used for working out in the fields it were ideal for keeping out the cold and housing small tools.

I remember with fond appreciation, for comfort and good workmanship, each of they suits: but none of ‘em gived me quite so much of a thrill as my first, my wedding-suit. Old Mr. Hannis made it in three weeks; he felt beholden, he said, having been paid prior; to give me priority. I remember taking Dad with me for my final fitting. Dad studied it close.

“I’m buggered!†he gasped, looking up to Mr. Hannis with great respect. “Thee dost make posh!â€

Taken from Sheila Stewart’s, Lifting the Latch: A Life on the Land, published courtesy of Day Books, 2003. The book can be ordered from Day Books, Orchard Piece, Crawborough, Charibury, 0X7 3TX,
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