Legendary outdoors chronicler Alfred Todger stays in town this week with news of the Muckthwaite village fete and a fascinating insight into local history and customs.
Muckthwaite, Friday 25 August, 2006
First, I'd like to apologise for absence of column last week. It
were terrible, there were a two-headed cow born in't village and it
took three of us to hold it down while the local lasses plucked its
eyebrows and applied lip-stick. Twice over obviously. By the time we
were done, I were done, so to speak.
And by time I were right again, it were time for annual
Muckthwaite Fair. Now, those of you as have grown oop in town may not
realise the importance of fetes and fairs to village life. It's a
chance for the community to come together and reaffirm traditional
village values, plus Mr Pills, the chemist, does a roaring trade the
This year I were honoured to be head of the judging panel for
Muckthwaite's traditional rat-growing contest. I've heard
Muckthwaite's rats were mentioned in Domesday Book and they were
certainly in FHM a few years back. The contest itself goes back to
the Black Death of 1302 when legend has it that the villagers of
Muckthwaite were the only folk for miles around untouched by
Seems that local rats were so fierce that the black rats as were
carrying plague turned round and ran away, a bit like that children's
story, but less media friendly. That's why in place of war memorial
in centre of village there's a statue of a giant rat that we garland
with flowers once a year.
Anyhow, I digress. The competition this year were particularly
close. Young Billy Arfwit came oop with a reet humdinger of a rat,
Tyson it were called, the size of a small dog, and with fiery red
eyes - turns out he'd been feeding it on raw meat. Most years he'd
have walked it, but this time Granny Smithers from Arse End Farm had
summat special. Tinkerbell she called it, the biggest, blackest rat
you ever did see.
Now you'll be expecting some barbaric ritual like rat-fighting,
but in reality I weighed up the competitors then declared Tinkerbell
the winner. Granny Smithers were reet chuffed as Tinkerbell was
dressed in the traditional flowery gown and paraded through town as
our Carnival Queen.
Now I know some people'll find that odd, but to be honest, folk
round here aren't showy and some good old-fashioned cotton floral
fabric's more than good enough. Why waste silk or satin when the pigs
could be wearing it?
Good country sense, there's nowt like it.