real ale, London Pride, PEARLY KINGS AND QUEENS …blog 2
My second strip cartoon for Jones Wood Foundry 401 E 76th Street, New York City features a London phenomenon, Pearly Kings and Queens.
For a few minutes let’s see if we can turn you New Yorkers into Cockneys (and let’s hope you make a better fist of it than Dick van Dyke did in Mary Poppins). To be a proper Cockney you have to be born within the sound of Bow bells, the church in the borough of Bow (… but to honest, to us Brummies anyone born south of Watford is a Cockney!)
Every London borough has its own ‘Pearlies’, as they are affectionately known. The City of London, City of Westminster, Shoreditch, Bow, Hammersmith, Islington, Streatham…and so it goes on …and includes St Pancras where it all began. These colourful characters dressed from head to toe in pearly buttons are now registered charity organisations doing what they’ve always done, raising money to help the working classes. They have their own songs, their own dances and their own language. Cockney rhyming slang such as ‘apples and pears’…stairs, ‘plates of meat’ …feet, ‘trouble and strife’ …wife and ‘dog and bone’… phone.
In the late 19th century London costermongers (apple sellers) wore pearly buttons sewn down the outside seam of their trousers, on their waistcoat pocket flaps and the front of their caps. With their flash outfits and their Cockney rhyming slang they certainly stood out and they caught the attention of a young Henry Croft. Henry had grown up in a Victorian orphanage, but had begun to make his own way as a street sweeper and rat catcher. On his rounds he started to pick up pearly buttons that had dropped off the Coster’s garb. Eventually his collection of buttons had grown so big that he was able to sew the buttons on his own suit. Not just his outside leg, waistcoat and cap, but all over his trousers, his waistcoat, the front, back and sleeves of his jacket and the entirety of his top hat. He became the talk of St Pancras and beyond. He started to collect farthings, ha’pennies (half pennies) and pennies which he donated to charities like the orphanage he grew up in and the local hospitals and workhouses. And so it grew.
He persuaded others to dress the same way and collect money for charities and soon every London borough had its own Pearlies. When Henry Croft died in 1930 it is estimated he has personally raised £5000 (in today’s money £200,000…$256,000). Remember this was collected in the poorest working class areas of London. He has a life size statue standing in St Martins-in-the-Fields.
It is said you have to be pretty strong to be a pearly King or Queen because by the time all the buttons are sewn on an outfit can weigh as much as 30 kg. (phew!). Each king or queen has their own design, hearts, doves, diamonds, stars and wheels etc. These clothes are handed down to the next generation of pearly princes and princesses.
I can vouch for the time it must have taken them to sew these buttons on by the time it took me to draw them…no doubt Adeline will say the same when she’s painted them.
I started this cartoon with a line of Pearlies doin’ the Lambeth Walk (more of that later) and singing ‘Roll out the Barrel’ whilst the music was being ‘bashed out on the old Joanna’. (There’s another bit of Cockney rhyming slang …Joanna/piano, or to be Cockney correct, pianna)
The focal point of this cartoon had to be our Queen and Duke having a bit of a ‘knees up’ as a couple of Pearlies. She’s an amazing lady is Queen Elizabeth II, still fulfilling her royal duties at 91 and Britain’s longest serving monarch. The Duke of Edinburgh has now retired from public life, at the age of 95 he deserves a bit of rest. We shall miss his gaffes; quite outspoken is the Duke.
When English sparkling wine producers were granted regional status for their product last year they started to search for a name that would be as recognisable as champagne, cava or prosecco. And where do you think the UK Vineyard Association found the answer?
Right here at Jones Wood Foundry that’s where! Yes, Jason Hicks and Yves Jadot coined the name ‘British Fizz’ for their JWF and Shakespeare menus and the UK Vineyard Association have now applied to use it, so that only grapes grown in England, Wales or Scotland can use British Fizz on the labels.
So raise a glass, right here, right now!
Fuller’s London Pride beer has a rich malt and hops flavour, its full bodied and leaves a fruity taste. As the name implies it’s probably the cask ale mostly associated with the capital. It’s been brewed on the Griffin brewery site in Chiswick since the 1950s. It will be closely associated with all things London, particularly the flower than colonised World War II bomb sites after the German air raids on the city had finished, grabbing back ‘London Pride’ and so poignantly put into song by Noel Coward. In the cartoon I’ve used the flower around the feet of the Pearly King pouring the beer out.
The Scotch Egg is a real UK favourite for parties, picnics or a light meal with salad. The first printed recipe goes to Mrs Rendell in her 1809 book ‘The New System of Domestic Cookery’ although London departmental store, Fortnum and Mason, claim to have invented it nearly a century before. It consists of a boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, rolled in bread crumbs and deep fried or baked. There are many regional variations using pickled eggs, eggs marinated in Worcester sauce or mustard; there are those using quail’s eggs and a number of northern recipes substituting black pudding or white pudding for the sausage meat.
Well that’s you…fully fledged cockneys!
Let’s try you out. I’ll add a YouTube clip from the musical Me And My Gal starring Robert Lindsay, one of the UK’s top character actors. The song is a real cockney classic ‘The Lambeth Walk’…you’ll love this!
‘You’ll find us all, doin’ the Lambeth Walk…oi!