In connection with yesterday’s post about English attitudes towards their Irish and Scottish compatriots I came across a pair of Gillrays (although he used the nom de plume ‘C Loraine Smith’ – a dig at the landscape painter Claude Loraine) from 1805. The first, called ‘Posting in Scotland’ shows an old post-chaise coming round the corner on a steep bumpy road, breaking its axle and hurling the occupants onto the highway. A shepherd, swathed in tartan, sits watching as the horses, somewhat resembling asses, kick over the traces. Driver, postilion and rider are all butt-naked, and the sheep are totally unperturbed by the commotion.
The caption, which I will not attempt to render into my mother tongue, is “Hald your Haund Mun, hald your haund! – en troth mun: en gin you na mind yoursel you’l just make the Muckle Laird coupeing his creels.” I have no idea what ‘coupeing his creels’ means! All contributions gratefully received…*
Its companion piece had appeared the month before under the title of ‘Posting in Ireland’ and shows a coachman preparing to leave the coaching inn known as The New Thatched House Tavern, somewhere between Athlone and Ballyragget. The emaciated horses are rib-thin; there is an air of poverty about the place; and the sow and her piglets are devouring potatoes. The woman advances towards the decrepit carriage, with its thatched roof, wielding a red hot poker with which to brand the horses into action.
The driver explains to his fare: “Forward immediately your honour; but sure a’nt I waiting for the girl with the poker just to give this Mare a burn Your Honour, tis just to make her start your Honour.” Needless to say the carriage is not going anywhere – the rim and spokes of its wheels are broken…
There are some lovely details in it – the sweep emerging from the chimney and giving a wave with his broom, the chicken on the roof of the coach pecking at the straw, the yokel waving a pitchfork.
As before, the images come courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library. They really are extraordinarily helpful – I e-mailed the Library, asking for seventeen high definition images for use in my forthcoming book “The Georgians – an Illustrated Introduction” and back they came the next day, free of charge…. that’s what I call good service!
Finally, I see that the pair of prints are shown on the G J Saville site here on sale for £900 the pair (although I am not sure that the stock details are up-to-date).
* My thanks to Elizabeth Cornwell for explaining that it means …. falling over.
According to the Dictionary of the Scots Language,
‘coup’ means ‘a fall, tumble; an overturning, upset’.
So it looks like ‘coupeing his creels’ means something like ‘overturning his baskets’, perhaps a colloquial expression for tumbling head-over-heels.
The Highlanders are all barefoot as well as wearing no underwear – normal in the Highlands from all accounts. Near the end of the 17th century it was said that Lochiel, the Chief of the Camerons, owned the only pair of shoes in the entire Cameron clan, and even he ran barefoot in battle or else he couldn’t keep up. (They’ve come up in the world, but perhaps David still goes barefoot behind the doors of No. 10!)
In the Irish picture, I see that the traveller’s one foot has gone through the bottom of the carriage, and his other through the front, while the whole vehicle is held together with a rope tied around the outside.
The inn’s sign shows a picture of a hawk or vulture attacking an infant, and the inn advertises ‘Nate postchase and whiskey nate – Entertainment for man and beast.’ I would guess that nate = neat.
Mike, have you ever considered a parallel blog on which you post Richard’s diary pages as pdf pictures?