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TALES FROM AROUND THE VICTORIAN WORLD.

YOUR VICTORIAN HUB FOR ALL THOSE LOST TALES OF VICTORIAN LIVES PAST

Month

January 2017

Beheading Alligators

Good old Victorians; heavily into conservation!

Besides that, seemingly, no tale is too gory for 19th century parents to tell their ‘Little Folks.’

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Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young’ of 1890.

‘On the river Guayaquil, in South America, sportsmen find a “happy hunting-ground” in the mud banks there, where alligators most do congregate. These ugly and treacherous creatures are detested wherever they exist, and any, even the cruellest method is employed for killing them. One plan is adopted on this river which seems to be brutal, but in this case the end no doubt justifies the means. As the tide goes out the alligators bury themselves in the soft mud and lie there in a sleepy state until the returning water brings with it fishes and reptiles upon which they prey. Armed with a sharp edged axe the hunter wades in top-boots across the mud, and jumping on the drowsy beasts shoulders, hacks at the neck until he severs the head from the trunk. In vain does the aroused alligator strike out with its tail, or turn itself round and round in the hope of “throwing” its executioner, who is placed beyond reach of claw, teeth or tail. all the same the hunter must have great presence of mind, strong nerve, and a sure foot.’

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Dressing the Wells

Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young’ of 1890.

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‘In the third week of every June, the town of Buxton, in Derbyshire, holds high holiday. The springs and fountains are decorated with boards of quant and tasteful designs, in which flowers are lavishly used. Banners, flags and triumphal arches adorn the streets, while bands of music enliven the town, and many old English sports are revived for the time. This period of mirthfulness is a survival of the ancient custom of dressing once a year the mineral and other wells for which Buxton is famous.’

About Ascension Islands

Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young ‘ of 1890.

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‘In the South Atlantic Ocean here lies a little island that bears the name of Ascension, because, so it is said, a Spanish sailor discovered it, in 1501 on Ascension Day-the last Thursday but one before Whit-Sunday. The isle is only eight miles long by six broad, is 960 miles from the shores of Africa, and its population numbers 140 souls. It was not inhabited till 1815, when the British occupied it in connection with Napoleon’s imprisonment in St. Helena. Nowadays its chief use is as a hospital and station for victualling the navy. Being of volcanic origin and having a very dry climate, there is little verdure about it, although the tomato, pepper, and castor-oil plants and various European vegetables are grown with success. The gardens suffer a great deal from land-crabs and rats. To get rid of the latter pest, cats were imported. But the cure was worse than the disease, for the cats showing a taste for birds’ eggs, became themselves a real nuisance. Huge turtles, of four or five hundredweight, are caught at and near he island, the name of whose port is Georgetown.’

Faithful unto Death

Taken from ‘Little Folks the Magazine for the Young’ of 1890.

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‘It is hard for those who live in these days to understand the devotion with which the Highland clansmen attended on their chief. At the battle of Killiecrankie (1689), Lochiel was followed by the son of his foster-brother, who watched over him with the most unselfish zeal lest harm should befall him. The chief, missing his friend soon after the fight had begun, found him at last mortally wounded by an arrow. He had just strength enough to tell Lochiel that seeing a soldier in General Mackay’s army aiming at him from the rear, he sprang behind the chief and so saved him from certain death, receiving in his own person the arrow that was intended for Lochiel. Nor was this simple act of heroism rare in those times. Such deeds almost always inspired by a high sense of duty, and occasionally were prompted by true affection.’

What are Nardoo Stones?

Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young.’ of 1890.

(A typical Victorian explorer’s and writer’s supercilious take on natives living in their own country.)

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‘The Nardoo is a plant that belongs to Australia..As it yields food supplies to the natives of the Darling and other districts where it is found, it is regarded as valuable. The natives are amongst the least civilised of human beings, and it is interesting to note that they use stone for grinding the nardoo seeds into flour, just as the remote ancestors of the British folk used hand-stones to grind their corn. The nardoo hand-stones are called wallong, by the natives. They are round or oval and of various sizes, the largest being 6 inches in length, 41/2 broad, and 3 inches thick. They have hollows cut in them to enable the hand to grasp them more easily. In grinding grass or seeds a little water is sprinkled by the left hand, while the stone in the right hand grinds the seeds until they form a sort of gruel which runs off the sandstone slab by a channel into a piece of bark, or a wooden bowl. The mess is then baked in ashes, or eaten as it is, the native using his crooked forefinger as a spoon.’

The History of a Statue

(I wonder if this statue was ever created? I can find no reference to it at all. But then again, during WWII 60% of Kaiserslautern was destroyed by allied bombing! How different the world might have been had Frederick lived)

                      Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young’ of 1890.

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‘When the late Emperor Frederick was Crown Prince of Germany he visited an orphan asylum in the town of Kaiserslautern. Noticing an ailing, sad-looking boy amongst the inmates, he took him in his arms and promised to be his god-father. The poor child, rather frightened at first at the affection of a stranger, at length grew very friendly with the Prince, and began to play with the medals and other decorations on the distinguished visitor’s breast. Then some years afterwards Frederick became German Emperor, a post which he filled for only a few months, when he died to the grief of the whole world. The folk of Kaiserslautern resolving to raise a statue to his memory, decided that it should represent the Prince with the baby in his arms tugging at the medals and crosses. Considering how many statues are erected nowadays that possess neither interest nor merit, this one will at all events be interesting. Let us hope it will be meritorious as well.’

May-day Hymn on Magdalen Tower

(Nowadays, I believe the little ‘ragamuffins’ simply hurl themselves into the river)

Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young’ dated 1890.

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‘Every May-day morning, at five o’clock, a Latin hymn is sung on the top of the beautiful tower of Magdalen College, Oxford, by the men and boys of College Chapel. after the grace, as the hymn is also called, the bells ring out a merry peal. Hundreds of sightseers are attracted to the spot. Hearers they cannot be called, for the urchins of the city cause such a din in the street by the blowing of small horns that the music aloft is heard only now and then above the tootle-tootle of the penny trumpets. It is not easy to tell how this May-day custom arose. Music of some kind, it is believed, has been sung on the tower top every first of May morning since the year 1498. There are those who say that by the early part of this century the climbing of the tower for the singing of the catches and other light music had become only an excuse of the choristers to annoy the folk below by pelting them with eggs and other missiles. The choir and horn boys have been at feud for many years, the latter having defied all the efforts of the police to bring about peace. Some authorities trace in this quaint ceremony an allusion to the feast of the goddess Maia of classic times; but others hold that, since the month is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the celebration was devised in her honour.’

Why the ‘Nutcrackers’ are so called.

(A nice bit of Victorian blood and gore for the littlun’s! )

Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young’ dated 1890.

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‘The famous regiment of Buffs, used also to be known as the 3rd Foot, once rejoiced for a while in the nickname of the “Nutcrackers.” This was after the battle of Albuera, which was fought on the 16th of May, 1811. In this terribly fierce conflict they attacked the Polish Lancers, whose heads they cracked. Then, after the fashion of the nut-cracking tool, they opened to avoid the charge of the Polish horse, and retreated. In a few minutes, however, they again took the field, and once more proceeded-like brave British soldiers-to fight with all their well-known courage for king and country.’

Pussy’s Value

Taken from ‘Little Folks a Magazine for the Young’ of 1890.

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‘Whatever might be the case nowadays, there was a  time when the cat was held in considerable honour in Wales. King Howel Dda,”the Good,” who died in 748, ordered that the price of a kitten before it could see was to be one penny. When it caught it’s first mouse its value became twopence, and the price was afterwards raised to fourpence. The Prince’s granary was guarded by cats, and if anyone slew or stole one of these watch-cats he was severely punished. He had either to forfeit a ewe, or to give up as much corn as would cover the cat when it was hung up by its tail.’

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