Web Page 2076
3rd August 2014
Top Picture: Portrait of a Tramp
Second Picture: The most famous ‘Little Tramp of All’ Charlie Chaplain
One of the things that I remember from my youth, especially during the summer time, is the regular appearance of the Tramp. Those gentlemen of the road, they were normally men although there were a few ladies who adopted this life, who would wander the countryside living rough and working on the land as and when they could.
The one I remember always looked the same, a very battered black fedora hat, lank greasy hair and unkempt beard, an old Royal Naval great coat tied in the middle with thick sisal, trousers with string around the calves and battered Army boots. All his worldly goods were either hanging from his waist or rammed into an ex government knapsack over his shoulder and there was always a bundle in one hand. In his other hand would be a walking staff cut from the hedgerows and was obviously a good and trusted friend. He would pass our house on the main road every Spring and pass back again in late summer, where he went to or where he came from I have no idea and sad to say it was years before we realised that we had not seen him for some time, we assume that he died somewhere on his regular circular route.
From what I can understand there were two main types of tramp, those with a beat or circuit and those who just wandered the countryside as the whim took them. Those with a circuit would have a regular walk getting to know the people and places on the way. They got to know where they were welcome and where they were safe, those who would give them temporary work or a handout and those who would allow him to stay in an outhouse or barn. The work would involve some form of harvesting apple picking, pea picking, hop picking or the like, all of which has now been superseded by harvesting by mechanical means. Some tramps developed a talent for hedge laying or ditching and other country crafts but again all these tasks are now either defunct or done mechanically.
The wandering tramp was totally different they would wander the whole country wherever the fancy took them. These were the ones who would use the secret signs we have all heard about to inform fellow tramps of friendly or hostile areas. They had no set route and were almost impossible to track.
Most of the tramps, but not all, were ex-servicemen who, after demobilisation found it difficult or impossible to resume the life they had before their military service and had nowhere else to go. Even though I say servicemen there were a small number of lady tramps, it has been estimated that there were about two women tramps for every male tramp. The history of these women can only be guessed at.
One thing that a tramp was very definite about is that they were the Gentlemen (or Ladies) of the Road and not gypsies or Romany’s, these nomadic peoples were most certainly not part of the tramps way of life.
The derivation of the word ‘tramp’ is interesting, it comes from the Middle English as a verb meaning to "walk with heavy footsteps" (as in the modern English trample) probably from the German language. This was later converted into use as a noun to describe a particular sort of person.
The author George Orwel made this comment about tramps in the 1930’s:-
A tramp is typically English and no one knows how many individuals make up the tramp population but it was particularly bad in England and Wales when unemployment was bad during the Depression. To assist him, the authorities at that time created (workhouses) where they could find food and shelter. They were about fourteen miles apart and no one could stay for more than one night, but they were fed and provided with somewhere to sleep with a roof over their heads, but they had to seek a new resting-place every night.
With a modern society we hope not to see tramps around any more although, despite the fact that I have not seen one personally for years, I have no doubt they are still around somewhere roaming around the countryside and living off their wits.
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News and Views:
On this Day 3rd August 1960-1965
On 03/08/1960 the number one single was Shakin' All Over - Johnny Kidd & the Pirates and the number one album was Elvis Is Back - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was Rawhide (ITV) and the box office smash was Psycho. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 03/08/1961 the number one single was Well I Ask You - Eden Kane and the number one album was Ipswich. The top rated TV show was Harpers West One (ATV) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £not very interesting and 13.25 were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.The big news story of the day was No Hiding Place (AR).
On 03/08/1962 the number one single was I Remember You - Frank Ifield and the number one album was West Side Story Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.The big news story of the day was Marilyn Monroe dies.
On 03/08/1963 the number one single was (You're the) Devil In Disguise - Elvis Presley and the number one album was Please Please Me - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.The big news story of the day was Computer will predict chances of marriage success.
On 03/08/1964 the number one single was A Hard Day's Night - Beatles and the number one album was A Hard Day's Night - Beatles. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Manchester United were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 03/08/1965 the number one single was Help - The Beatles and the number one album was The Sound of Music Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was Riviera Police (AR) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.