Doug Titmus interviewed by Ishbel Beatty
“Everyone in the village used to have a nickname in the old days”, mused Doug Titmus. “Everyone?” I asked, disbelievingly. But when he produced a list of between 200 and 300 names, I began to believe him.
Doug is talking of his own memories of the 1920s and 30s, and also of his father’s mates before him. In a much smaller community than the present-day Gamlingay, and when nearly everyone worked locally, individuals were well known to many, and their particular quirks and personal traits were noticed and sharpened by regular observation.
Some of these names seem to have been derived from physical features, like Tubby, Porky, Sixfoot Hibbit (who was actually rather short), Long Lou James (a tall woman), Conk Wright, who had a big nose, Foxy Haydon, sharp and alert. Bubbles was a pretty girl, Snaily Goodfield was fond of eating snails.
Some names came from people’s occupations:
Putty Peters was a builder who puttied his window frames;
Keeses Emery sold watercress, and called out “cresses”, then “keeses” in the street;
Tarpot Wright was a workman who blackened sheds with his tar;
Gearbox Chapman delved into motor-engines in his scrapyard;
Doughnut Busby worked for the baker.
Can you guess at Chopsticks Larkins’s occupation? He wasn’t a Chinaman – he chopped lengths of wood into beanpoles and hurdles.
Did Scratcher scratch himself, and Burglar go burgling?
The three brothers Hutchinson, Rat, Mep and Podge, might have been childhood names which they carried into adult life.
Argue Bird was known for his arguing, and so possibly was Lawyer Hills.
Donkey Housden kept a donkey, but where Cuggy Housden got his name, one can only guess.
Other mysteries were Linky Larkins, Spider Bruce and Bunny Gore.
Twitty Bird may have tweeted, like his feathered friends, so might Chirrup Hinton.
Mousey Roberts wasn’t known for keeping mice, but Whistle Ives certainly whistled.
Plumber Munns was not a plumber, and I can’t tell you anything about Boozer Jiggle.
Mr Daniels the schoolmaster used to read Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe to his boys: from that writer’s name he became known as Defoe or Diffy Daniels.
There were seven Meeks’s – how related, I do not know, but their respective nicknames were Darty, Yatter, Jinks, Ickle, Oddsy, Brassie and Geg.
A number of Titmuses: Tippit, Heed, Pugly, Knock, Chub, Bodge and Ferret.
Here are a few “foreigners”:
China Stonebridge, Gandhi Lunniss and Caliph Jiggle.
Snuffy Richardson was a poacher, who claimed to use snuff to lure rabbits;
I don’t know what Trapper Cooper trapped or whether Weasel Leader joined him.
Did Drummer Caress beat a drum and Hatchet Whitbread wield an axe?
Boofum and Borum Dew sound like twins.
Little Old Lady Croot got his nickname from a popular song which he always sang – I wonder what
Whistle Ives used to whistle?
Lissy Norman is an easy one: his full name was Ulysses, and Hippy Hipgrave simply shortened his surname, like Cobby Cobb.
Who christened Skinnamalink Barford? – that’s an odd one.
Tarzan Chandler and Warrior Worboys might have been proud of their names, but I don’t know about Billy Goat Jakes, Knobby Pateman, Goosey Hunter and Cuckoo Titmus.
Treacle Gilbert and Fudge Giles would have gone well with Doughnut Busby, whom we have already noticed.
Two more Busbys were Toot and Hubby.
Waistcoat Gilbert and Trilby Harris make a dressy pair, with Cherry Hutchinson, Blossom Hodge and Poppy Drew to add a few flowers.
I’ll list the remaining 100 or more and leave you to make your own guesses as to their origins. Maybe they’ll stir some memories or you’ll come to your own conclusions as to their meanings.
Chuffy Hinton, Scrubbit Saunders, Hake Smith, Ecky Stonebridge, Bingo Jackson, Talby Wright, Modge Knibbs, Jock Orford, Crump Hills, Champ Bedford, Hoogy Whitfield, Bimbo Jakes, Mungo Norman, Bunk Gilbert, Nothing Peck; Inky Kitchener, Spaffy Darlow, Cowan Hibbit, Flitter Payne, Marrow Hutchinson, Shimmy Wright, Wiff Drury, Whip Leonard, Spit Gurney
Schemer Hills, Sloucher Cross, Boover Wisson, Tubby Richardson, H~ghey Payne, Dagger Hodge, Test Carter, Tec Hinton, Click Arnold, Kiff Cox, Diddy Meeks, Whoo Hutchinsop, Joey Harpur, Wiggy Harris, Cutty Walker, Doody Croot, Rubber Munns, Stribb Arnold, Brewer Arnold, Twisty Payne, Bouncer Bird, Shem Housden.
Then there were:
Des Titmus, Teggy Daisley, Timp Hibbit, Tomtom Jakes, Pinky Bartle, Brushy Reeves, Coz Gilbert, Jagger Giddings, Flitton Jakes, Zacky Housden, Arny Hutchinson, Bungy Emery,
Weekus Hibbit, Taunt Daniels, Vaudy Swannell, Minky Meeks, Buster Baines, Scranny Jakes, Colonel Bruce, Tary Wright, Toper Elwood, Bush Ranger Worboys, Rough Worboys
Pencil Drew, Orly Almond, Wag Hutchinson, Diffy Meeks, Golly Whitbread, Spannel Gore, Chicky Hibbit, Tubby Richardson, Neddy Jakes, Cropple Hibbit, Pip Meeks, Sloper Theobalds, Wimp Dennis, Cheddar Deeble, Dinks Daisley, Nudder Carter, Mohey Harris, Frizzy Waters, Crongy Allen, Moony Harris, Scaff Norman, Tank Daisley, Straity Cross, Snip Peacock
Jocky Whitbread, Dibber Cooper, Tarzan Chandler, Hoppy, Pop and Briar Hills, Tabby Norman, Logh Hodge, Sketchell Meeks, Flitter Jakes, Kya Emery, Butter Jakes, Slippy Hayes,
Rangy & Pritter Norman, Teggy Daisley, Tippit Titmus, Taddy Peel, Muzzle, Tuddler and Clog Merril, Puffy Drury, Tapper Peacock, Lifter Larkins, Screw Hutchinson, Skippo Inskip,
Snakey Jakes, Sherby Hutchinson, Buck Ayres, Snobby Cole, Muzzy Titmus, Gunner Larkins, Tintack Daniels, Titchy Richardson, Cobby Kitchener, Knocker Wright, Chub Titmus, Winkle, Crooty and Wimp Dennis.
And can anyone supply surnames for the following;
Top Cat, Gold Leg, Tumbler, Cuppa, Jemmy, Jester, Kruger, Buzzer, Pitch, Benbow, Metal, Spud, Cheeser, Tyre, Tizzy, Scratcher.
Still more names:
Squibb Almond, Amy Barford, Chopper and Nudder Carter, Moofy Careless, Chanky Larkins, Cat Caress, Babs Caress; Stibb Wright, Niffy and Scorpy Jakes, Dusty Knott, Tass Tassell, Tweedy Daisley, Freedie Whitbread, Frezza and Liger Dickerson, Trout and Boxer Meeks, Toopy Grey, Bunter and Boots Wale, Tiggle Stonebridge and Tiggle Peters (Tiggle = Cyril),
Wacker Payne, Cooee Hibbit, Smut Hodge, Stormy Hales, Tut Arnold, Tig-tig Grey, Bunger and I-dee-I Leader, Tarky and Snakey Arnold, Tut Arnold, Towzer Payne, Scaff Norman.
Thank you, Doug, for your memories, and thanks to those who added to them.
What Doug does not reveal is whether he was ever called by a nickname? Does anyone know that secret?