Historic (lunch) date

NOTHING better than a bit of history is there? And here in Suffolk there's plenty of it.

James Marston

NOTHING better than a bit of history is there?

And here in Suffolk there's plenty of it.

It was on New Year's Day, as I lunched in the ancient medieval town of Bury St Edmunds - whose grid street pattern, as I have often told American people who are always keen to believe it, is the basis for New York city - on a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich with a side order of chips with some old friends called Mark and Liz who are planning to marry in 2009 and can't decide where to go on honeymoon.

Anyway, over luncheon as I eschewed autograph hunters and people pretending, or at least I think they were pretending, not to know who I am, we fell into a discussion about the ancient Abbey of St Edmund and its role in defining the laws and rights of peoples across the civilised world.

For it was at Bury St Edmunds, the story goes, that the great barons of England met under the cover of St Edmund's Day in 1214 to vow to force King John to accept the Charter of Liberties known as Magna Carta.

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Magna Carta limited the powers of the king, enshrined our rights and provided the basis for the development of constitutional law- heavy stuff I know but its importance cannot be underestimated, indeed it is a document referred to by politicians to this day and its clauses have echoed in successive legal documents defining human rights and national constitutions ever since.

Though much has been repealed, sections of this great legal document are still in force today including the right to trial by jury, the freedom of the Church of England and the protection of the liberties and customs of the City of London.

I recalled that somewhere in the romantic ruins of the great abbey there was a monument to this ancient meeting and decided that a new year's stroll to find out more would satisfy our curiosity.

We were not disappointed and, as a journalist who's rarely without a camera, notepad or eye for the intriguing, I was able to record the moment and jot down a poem on this fabled meeting I thought I might share with you, dear readers, today.

Where the rude buttress totters to its fall,

An ivy mantels o'er the crumbling wall;

Where e'en the skilful eye can scarily trace

The once high altar's lovely resting place -

Let patriotic fancy muse awhile

Amid the ruins of this ancient pile.

Six weary centuries have passed away;

Palace and abbey moulders in decay-

Cold death enshrouds the learned and the brave-

Langton-Fitzwalter - slumber in the grave.

But still we read in deathless records how

The high-soul'd priest confirm'd the barons' vow;

And freedom unforgetful still recites,

This second birth-place of our native rights.

Good isn't it?

SO, according to the pundits, lots of us are going to be holidaying in England this year what with the credit crunch and what have you.

Apparently Felixstowe, where, as regular readers will know, I have made my home and am very fond of, is expecting a bit of a tourism boom - well I'm pleased to hear it.

There's nothing better than a British seaside holiday is there?

It avoids ghastly airports - no place for children especially when I'm travelling, foreign food - though I don't mind a lasagne, and struggling with phrasebooks - though they all speak English anyway.

And now we've got a lovely beach in Felixstowe I can confidently predict I may well be spotted taking a dip when the weather gets better, in fact, I might even buy a lilo, though it must support my weight - perhaps I'll get two and strap them together.

New Year Honours eh?

To us journalists it's an annual rite of passage to write about, usually, fairly rich people who have the time to do things for other people, medium to high ranking civil servants who get a gong as well as a decent pension and people who act or run fast and add a touch of glamour.

Not that we're a cynical lot - honestly - there are, I suppose, occasions when those who put themselves out are recognised and over the years things have got a little bit more egalitarian - but there's still room for improvement.

Indeed I've decided to some up with an alternative honours list which should include

- People who have no money and still manage to do things for other people.

- People who work in the private sector and not just banking.

- No civil servants - they get enough.

- People from Suffolk - we never seem to get many.

- Not people who work for charities - that's their job.

Do you know anyone who's never been honoured but deserves it? Drop me a line.

James's question of the week:-

Is anyone watching Celebrity Big Brother? It's not my preferred viewing - I'd rather grate my head.

James' Mailbag:-

Dear Readers,

Clearly if there's something I don't know I shall have to ask Peggy Cole!

I was most fascinated by this week's letters and I shall be looking out for a copy of The Suffolk Dialect of the 20th Century, as mentioned below, as it's just the sort of thing that interests a wordsmith like me.


Dear James,

I HAVE just read your column referring to the expression “hicking along”.

I have in my possession a book entitled The Suffolk Dialect of the 20th Century (Third Edition) by A O D Claxton. Published by Norman Adlard & Co, 33 Upper Orwell Street, Ipswich 1968.

This gives the following definitions:

Hick: To hop on one leg.

Hicked Along: Walked lamely.

I hope this information will be helpful to you.

Mick Bloivs,

Springfield Road,


Dear James,

IN answer to your question about the expression “to hick along” as far as I know it means to be lame, so having an uneven gait.

You should have asked Peggy Cole! She'd know.

Thank you for your column, it's nice to have something light-hearted in the midst of all the bad/serious news.

Mrs A…. (I couldn't read your name)


Dear James,

I NOTED with interest your mention in your newspaper column of the word “hick” or “hicking”.

This is a word that was quite common in the 40s and referred to a person with a leg disability. For instance “he was a hicking along” meaning he was walking lamely or limping. Hick was often used to describe someone who was hopping along on one leg.

In my younger days I lived quite close to Ward Green, Old Newton, and remember a man who lived in an old cottage on the right at the top of the green.

He kept donkeys and he also used to hick along. His name was Hickey Farrow. Perhaps some of your older readers would remember him, I would be very interested.

Finally can I recommend “Suffolk Dialect of the 20th Century” by A O D Caxton in it you would find hick between hewd (past tense of to hold, pronounced howd) and hickin(g) to kick a scooter along.

Michael J Dorling

Gt Bentley,


Ps Peggy Cole would have known!

Dear James

I read with interest your column about the word “hick”.

In the Oxford dictionary the meaning of hick refers to a farmer. In America the people who come from the provinces and have bad manners, speech and narrow views are called hicks.

I think hicking about is a Suffolk saying. I can remember years ago when I had a slipped disc and trying to get to the bedroom my husband said “You get into bed and I'll do the hicking about”

Maybe someone else has another idea.

I agree with you, there is nothing more delicious than one of Peggy Cole's Suffolk rusks.


Maisie Tuckwell.

Dear James,

As a Suffolk visitor for over 70 years, resident near 60, if someone is hicking they are limping or walking badly.

I haven't heard any other usage.

Mick Ketchell, Great Barton