Michael Booth

The Tale Of Albert Gristle.

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I will tell you a tale that is true and will once more bring to mind one of Nottingham's forgotten characters. The man in question was the late and sorely missed Albert Gristle.
Albert was a dweller in Narrow Marsh during the 1890s when the reputation of "the Marsh" was at its worst.
Albert was a man who once seen was not easily forgotten. He had a wooden leg, black and burnished by the elements, since Albert never slept anywhere but beneath God's good sky.
He had a black and bushy beard and on his shoulder he had a stuffed parrot. This parrot had been his companion when Albert sailed on the seven seas, although Albert could only remember five of them, except when he was drunk. The parrot was long dead but Albert had formed such an attachment to it he had had it stuffed and kept it close by him at all times.
His leg had been lost, so he said, in an encounter with a shark off the Goodwin sands. Sharks are not normally seen off the Goodwin sands but this shark was a rare Halibut shark, the most deadly and rarely seen of all that dreadful class of fish.
Because Albert was unfit for work in the nearby mills he had become the knocker-upper for those who rose each day before dawn to start their 20 hour shift at the mills in the Lace Market.
Every morning he would sway and curse his way along the narrow alleys that made up the Marsh waving his knocker-upper's pole aloft like some wooden badge of office.
His gait was awkward and slow and his aim with the pole was even worse because of his unsteady state. Often he would take several attempts at each window before he could strike it and call out the customary "Are ya up me lad".
His walk was so slow that before long those he had woken would gather behind him in a sullen crowd and watch his antics, well there was no telly in those days.
Often as he tired he would take so many swings at each window that the occupant of the house above would already be awake, roused by the laughter of the crowd who stood around the lurching, cursing figure of Albert.
If this happened Albert's pole would strike the head of the unfortunate occupant as they looked out of the window to see what all the noise was about. In this event the crowd would call out to prevent such a calamitous collision "DUCK".
On these occasions Albert's cry would be rendered as "Are ya up me... DUCK" and raucous laughter would accompany Albert's journey to the next house.
It became quite the joke in all the mills and pubs in the marsh to call out to anyone passing "Are ya up me DUCK" since this would invariably bring the recipient of this cry to tears of laughter.
And so it remains today, just try it yourself. Walk around any city in any country in the world and call out to passing strangers "Ay-up midduck".
Most will stare at you as if you are mad but anyone from Nottingham's fair city will instantly smile and laugh and return that greeting.
It's in our blood dear people of Nottingham so shout it loud and remember the dear departed Albert Gristle who is still putting a smile on all our faces

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