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#madeinmansfield – The Mansfield Story

Posted onPosted on 18th Jan

People from across the area are being encouraged to take part in a poetry and writing project that aims to showcase all that is positive about Mansfield and Ashfield.

The man behind the #madeinmansfield initiative, local writer Alan Dawson, said: “Imagine a world, if you can, without the internet and search engines such as Google. Imagine if this world was also without newspapers and no one travelled further than the next village – by foot.

In the 12th Century, during the reign of Henry II, information was passed on by word of mouth by the occasional traveller or minstrel resting in an inn – his tongue usually loosened by warm ale. It is no wonder then that even the King of England was not recognisable by most people living in Mansfield at that time.

It is said that when Henry visited Mansfield to do a bit of hunting in Sherwood Forest, he got lost and came across the honest Sir John Cockle – The Millar of Mansfield. The meeting became the basis for The Mansfield Story – a story that has been adapted many times, notably by Mansfield playwright Robert Dodsley in the 18th Century.

Malcolm Seymore, a local playwright and actor, is also interested in the story and has created his own adaptation of the tale, The Traveller’s Rest, as part of his Mansfield Tales – a collection of 10 short stories based on local history that Malcolm hopes to perform in the town. He has subsequently turned the tales into a Power Point show combining pictures and sound clips.

I have heard Malcolm recite Travelers’s Rest on Zoom and the language he uses brings the story to life.

Traveler’s Rest by Malcolm Seymore

I’m t’ fost t’ own up: I’m a man as sez wor ’e thinks. I mean, tek last Sat’dy. I’d been up since dawn, grindin’ flour in t’ mill, when Will Black come in. Big, surly bloke – runs a tavern in Mansfield.

Well, I’m baggin’ up ’is flour, and ’e’s stood there, watchin’ me like an ’awk! Now, yo ask anyone in Mansfield about me. They’ll tell yer yer’ll not find a fairer trader than John Cockle. I’ve ground flour for twenty years – an’ never so much as a grain short!

“Thar’ll be tuppence,” I sez.

Well, ’e went that red, I thought ’e wor goin’ to choke!

“’Ow much?” ’e sez.

“Yo ’eard,” I sez. “At least I charge a fair price for wor I do!”

“Meanin’?”

“Meanin’ your name’s a bye-word round ’ere fer short measures!”

Well, it’s only t’ truth. ’E never fills ’is quart pots up to t’ brim. They’re allus a good inch short.

Well, I thought for a minute ’e wor goin’ to jump over t’ table an’ stab me!

“John Cockle,” ’e sez, “that gret gob o’ yourn’ll get yo ’anged, one o’ these days!”

Well, that naight, I wor in t’ mill, suppin’ a drop of ale, when I ’eard it. It ’ad bin chuckin’ it dahn, all naight, an’, at fost, I thought it wor just another thunderclap. Burrit worn’t: it wor somebody bangin’ on t’ door, fit to brek it.

Ah, robbers! I thought. T’ woods are swarmin’ wi’ ’em! Lerrem in, they’d slit yer throat fer a farthin’!

Then again, worrif it wor someone lost, an’ I lerrem die of a fever? So, I drew mi dagger – just in case – an’ opened t’ door.

He wor a big bloke – a good ’ead taller’n me. ’E didn’t look like a robber. Well dressed, in woollen cloth, an’ all. Rich merchant, I sez to missen. Anyroad, I reckoned it wor safe enough to lerrim in.

“I got separated from the rest of the party,” he said.

I could tell from ’ow ’e spoke as ’e worn’t from rahnd ’ere. London, ’appen.

Well, seems ’e wor mekkin’ fer Nottingham, an’ got lost. Well, it’s easy done in bad weather.

I sit ’im dahn, an’, all of a sudden, ’is nose starts twitchin’. “Is that venison?”

“Want some?” I sez. I could see well enough ’e did.

Just that mornin’, I’d caught this stag. Cor! Gret brute it wor – antlers aht ’ere! Thank God, none o’ t’ foresters saw me, or I’d’ve bin for it!

Well, when I gid ’im t’ venison, ’e wolfed it dahn as if ’e ’adn’t et fer a week! ’E wiped ’is mahth wi’ ’is sleeve, an’ sez, “How does a miller come to be dining off venison?”

“It meks a change from tonips!” I sez – jokin’, like.

Burr ’e worn’t laughin’. “You know all deer in Sherwood Forest belongs to the King.”

Well, I worn’t goin’ to tek lessons from t’ likes of ’im! “’E’s a rich man,” I sez. “’E can spare a stag fer one poor subject!”

Well, that soon gorrim on ’is ’igh ’oss! “The King could have you hanged for poaching,” ’e sez.

“That’s bullies for yer,” I sez. “’E know nowt, an’ ’e cares less!”

I thought ’e wor gunna choke! “I’ve heard the King cares for all his subjects,” ’e sez.

“If yer believe that,” I sez, “yer a bigger rogue than ’e is!”

Well, that really got to ’im! I could see ’is ’and movin’ to ’is dagger. Then, there wor a knock at t’ door.

I open it, an’ there’s this bloke lookin’ at me like I’m summat t’ dog’s done on t’ doorstep. Then, wi’aht so much as a “by yer leave”, ’e barges in, looks rahnd t’ room, an’ drops dahn on one knee!

“Sire!” ’e cries. “Thank God, you’re safe!”

“Sire?” sez I. “Yer mean you’re—?”

“—that tyrant and bully you were speaking of.”

’E gets up an’ comes towards me. Well, if looks coulda killed…

“King Harry in person,” sez ’e. “And who, pray, are you?”

I could feel t’ rope rahnd mi neck already! “John Cockle,” I sez.

“You already know I could have you hanged for poaching the King’s deer, don’t you?” sez ’e.

I sez, “Yer knew it wor poached – burrit din’t stop yer eatin’ it, did it?”

Well, ’e stood there, lookin’ as if t’ roof ’ad just fell on ’is ’ead! Then, ’e sez to t’ other bloke, “What should be done with him, Sir Richard?”

“Kill the insolent wretch!”

“Give me your sword!” sez t’ King. Then, to me ’e sez, “Kneel!”

Well, I wor kneelin’ there. Eyes tight shut, waitin’ fer ’im to cut mi ’ead off, when I feel a tap on each shoulder.

“Arise, Sir John Cockle!”

Well, t’ other ’un – Sir Richard – got raight mad at this! “Kill him, sire!” ’e shahts.

“Oh, go and flatter someone else!” sez t’ King. Then, to me ’e sez, “At last, I’ve met a subject who’s not afraid to tell me the truth! I wish there were more like you, Cockle. I thank you for your kind hospitality.” The, ’e winks at me, an’ sez, “Enjoy the venison!”

Yo wait till I tell Will Black! So much fer mi big gob gerrin’ me ’anged! Sir John Cockle! Burr I bet, next time I go in that tavern of ’is, ’e still giz me short measures!