Parsons In A Pickle

Whilst scouring through the Victorian newspapers for suitable stories about the Whitechapel murders and the Jack the Ripper crimes, I came across the following article, which appeared in The Linlithgowshire Gazette on  Saturday the 10th of September 1898:-


“I think the most un-business-like man I ever knew (says Martin West in the “Church Gazette”) was the late vicar of a poor London parish. He , was a bachelor, and very penurious as regarded himself, living chiefly on cold beef, bread, and raisins, and allowing himself a new coat every two or three years.

What money he had went on his parish, and the worst of it was that, unless he was very carefully watched, other people’s money went too.


In an evil day someone gave him £500. This sum he banked and drew on with great freedom.

On the strength of it he started several things, until he was pulled up by his cheques being returned dishonoured.

A cross-examination revealed that he had already spent about £800 on the strength of this money, only, as he never filled up the counterfoils in his cheque-book, he had forgotten all about it.


A clergyman undertook to arrange everything connected with a school treat.

It was a lovely day, and the children, turning up in strength, were taken by train into the country.

In due time came the hour for dinner.

“My dear,” said the parson’s wife, “where is dinner to be?.”

Suddenly, from a cheerful man, he became an image of despair.

“I never thought about food at all,” he said; “there is no dinner.”

The host, was lavish with whatever was in the farmhouse, and everything suitable or unsuitable the village offered was bought up; but the children went very short, and before London was reached a good many were crying from positive hunger.


One of the most awkward fixes that I remember occurred at the time of the “Jack the Ripper” scare.

A very young policeman seized on a certain dignitary for no conceivable reason, except that be was dressed in black and carried a bag, both currently reported to be distinguishing marks of the assassin.

A top hatted figure by some gas-lamps.
The Popular Image of Jack The Ripper.


The dignitary explained, but it was no good.

“You may be what you say down there,” he remarked lucidly, but you are Jack the Ripper in London.”

Just then, his prisoner caught sight of a parishioner.

The choice, however, was an unlucky one, for the parishioner had, as he thought, a grievance against the rector.

“I don’t know him,” said the parishioner, with marked emphasis.

The dignitary tried to explain the unfortunate remarks away, but without success, and he was taken to the police station all the same, and detained till his identity was proved.


I knew a vicar who believed that a change of preachers was good both for his congregation and himself – for himself, as he could utilise old sermons.

Accordingly, he arranged with several clergymen to exchange with him.

One Sunday, on reaching the church, he was horrified to find the vestry occupied by three neighbouring clergy, each of whom had come on the understanding that he was to fill their pulpits.

One stayed and preached, the vicar reading the prayers in shamefaced manner.

The other two, who lived nearer, declined to stop for the service.


Once I knew of a parson who got himself into a very nasty hole, physically as well as metaphorically.

He was driving along a country road, on one side of which was disused gravel pit. Just by the side of it was a woman, who had visited a public-house, lying asleep.

Of course, he could not leave her, so he got out.


Half awake, she pulled at him, and over he went, dragging her with him, and down they went into the pond at the bottom.

The cold water sobered her, much to his regret, for she had a number of vituperative remarks to make about his behaviour.

The sides being too steep and broken for them to climb up, they had to wait till someone came along, and ropes were got. This took time, and, meanwhile, the woman had things to say.


When he regained the road, he found that the horse had gone home, so he had a couple of miles to walk, his muddy condition calling forth the compliments of all the boys he met.

This would have been nothing, only he found himself regarded with opprobrium in his parish as the parson who had been found drunk in the gravel pit along with Moll Smith.”