The Baptism of Monkey Joe (about 1860)
Written by John Maryon, 1897-1975.
I had heard of him since I began to know myself because he was a step uncle to my father and born about 10 years before him (1860) at the ‘Wheatsheaf” Nine Ashes. I got to know him by sight in Brentwood up to about 1928, when I belive he died – in Billericay infirmary, or paupers end up. A diminutive figure with a large mottled nose, and a squeaky little voice speaking in broad Essex dialect. Such a dialect as you seldom hear now, 1970, having been eradicated by 46 years or so of BBC broadcasts and later TV. Mores the pity as it had considerable humour about it, but to be fully appreciated, spoken with a long drawl, unsuitable for what little expression one has time to explore himself now. Time is money and everything is calculated in terms of time.
I suppose Joe had a formal Christian baptism and this could be ascertained by a perusal of the church registers of High Ongar for that period. But legend says, he had another and more boisterous one at the “Wheatsheaf” Nine Ashes. This was done I gin, I understand, and undoubtedly the High Priest would have been Bob Amos – 1828-1917. A sporting farmer, living hard by at Lorkins Farm, on Christian name terms with Jim Mace, and not a bad artist with his fists himself. Could play a fair tune on a piana, or a strapping chorus girl from London, could he inveigle her down to his farm. An excellent shot with a 12 bore was he, and muzzle loader before it. He could mix in any company – high or low – with a strong preference for the latter.
This baptism would in modern parlance – be right up his street. With him would be Dick Oliver a younger protégé of Bobs in the fist game, Choikey Brazier, Hookey Winger, Rhubarb Chandler, and other worthies. They all earned a tough ill paid living in agriculture, and the taking of the products thereof to the Metropolis. Especially hay for the teeming horse population there. Also among them, would be also certainly be Lardie Farmer, a very kind person, but also of necessity rough and tough, and of most uncertain temper. Always came in for a certain amount of teasing from the poverty striken community, but the teaser would find himself with bodily injuries, if he took things too far.
So little Joe was christened in gin, and with this inestimable start, proceeded to grow. He grew up in a rural environment, his father and my great grandfather being a jack of all trades such as thatching, sheep shearing, horse clipping and haybinding. He was also the licensee of small country beerhouses and was landlord of three of these oasis – “The White Horse” burned down finally, after degenerating into a private residence on Paslow Common, the Wheatsheaf, and finally the Shepherd inn on Kelvedon Common. Little Joe was to grow to manhood in the last named pub and by his appearance and cunning left his nickname “Monkey” as part of the unofficial title there: premises acquired viz – The Drum and Monkey.
Joe’s father was a poacher and the receiver and disposer of poached game. He always obeyed the eleventh commandment, by never being caught at his pastime. Little Joe’s mother, being as broad as she was long, became the Drum, of the Drum and Monkey. She died of cancer on these premises.