Skip to content

the shepherd and his flock …

April 13, 2023

One of the jobs a backhouse boy in the 19th century may have advanced to when he was about 16 years old was shepherd’s helper.  In time when he had learned the ropes, he could take responsibility for a flock of his own. At first, he might find the nights out with the flock a bit scary so his dad would sit with him until he got used to the noises of the night.

A shepherd was one of the most skilled and respected members of the village community. He worked alone and reliant on his one judgment.  The farmer would have to trust him implicitly before entrusting him with a flock of sheep whose welfare depended on him. It was a lonely experience but while it was poorly paid it was a regular income and during lambing time, he could earn a little more. Furthermore, if he killed a sheep he was entitled to its hide and the head and liver etc that could be boiled and made into a stew and a welcome treat for a poor family.

Shepherd families in the village continued for many generations, handing down rural skills and methods building up a good reputation with farmers and neighbouring shepherds providing medical advice and cures.

One shepherd I read about was fine looking man, his gait like many whose work is restricted to tending sheep is free from swaying and rolling movements like those used to walking with a plough. With a smock flowing gracefully behind him, with a crook on his shoulder and a dog at his heel he would walk majestically with steady even pace, head thrown back with his sheep following … a picturesque figure in the landscape.

All this aside, farm work was long hard and poorly paid, and the family lived mostly in poverty. However, there were two ways to relieve it, but both were illegal and harshly punished but it seems that most families had to take the risk. One was smuggling and the other was poaching my shepherd I think was not adverse to bringing home a hare or a rabbit under his smock if the opportunity arose.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: