Nicknames

Nicknames of local characters in Rochford and surrounds

By Brian Pettitt

There have always been nicknames used in sports and some of my favourites include: John Eales the outstanding Australian Rugby World Cup winning captain who was known as “Nobody” ..because “Nobody’s perfect”.  Football had Fitz Hall who was known as “One Size” and cricket has Ben Foakes known as  “That’s All...” and of course the well known cricket commentator -  “Bumble” – David Lloyd,  apparently because he looked like puppets on television at the time known as Bumblies.

I was first intrigued by the local nicknames when I met a guy out walking on Broomhills Meadow who introduced himself as “Shumper” Brown (real name Geoff).  I of course asked where the name came from and he advised that it was given to him by the kids at primary school and I would have to ask them.  I did and no-one could recall.

An old friend told me that when he worked at Rankins’ Piggery in the 1950s there was a chap called “Spot” who I have since learned was Spot Hyam who was the father of Dave from Canewdon who works for Cottis’ Farms.  Spot was a horseman but no-one knows why he got the name.

Gordon Purkiss of the Ballards Gore farming family who lived at Moats and Springs. was known as “Should” and Brian Sharp of Paglesham was “Ferret”.  When I interviewed the 3 Paglesham natives they referred to a chap who worked on a local farm as “Roop Toop” and said he was quite a character but would not be drawn any further!  Donny Stranks in his interview elsewhere on the site tells us he was known as “Oily” often coming home on his bike covered in oil from his days labours as a mechanic.

In Rochford there was a renowned Chimney Sweep and local character called Rhubarb (Killworth) about whom we would like to learn more. “Tater” Bines worked at local farms and was so named as he was always involved in “riddling” the potatoes after the harvest.

It is likely that the inclination to allocate nicknames came from the habit of past generations using the same Christian names across generations where grandfather, father and son might all have the same name so may well have been differentiated by their nickname.

An article in the Southend Standard of 3rd July 1902 looked at the issue.  In summary it said that whilst it can take some research to identify the history around surnames a number are quite straightforward eg. Smith, Carpenter, Cooper etc. However, although there is a prevalence of nicknames in country places their origin is often difficult to discover. Once applied, the nickname, whether complimentary or otherwise, generally sticks for life and becomes among the men the ordinary form of address. A stranger coming to the village of Canewdon asking for Mr Whitwell would be asked whom he meant as there were several, but had he asked about “Congo” he would have been directed immediately to the correct person.

The following are given as examples of the time: Bluff, Bosco, Bossie, Bucky, Chicken, Chippy, Cod, Congo, Cully, Dabby, Didler, Ditcher, Dyker, Frog, Fudge, Herring, Jersey, Jumbo, Knocker, Longpost, Norler, Peacock, Peg, Pip, Plummy, Pudden, Rattler, Rossi, Shampy, Sixty, Smiler, Swinger, and Wusser. None of the names seem to have any particular characteristics and it is notable that none start with a vowel. 

Clearly the background to these names was a mystery over 100 years ago and we are not much the wiser today.

This page was added by Brian Pettitt on 08/03/2018.
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