First Day & Flies

by carolinejupp2014

Opened to the public today. Recorded some great stories.

One of the visitors mentioned how embarrassed he was at bob-a-jobbing as a boy scout. His embarrassment reminded me of something I was reading today in the Shed – an interview with one of the Street-sellers of Fly-papers and Beetle-Wafers in Mayhew’s London Labour and London Poor of 1851.

‘I went into the fly-paper trade, ” it’s nearly two years ago, I think ” because a boy I slept with did tidy in it. We bought the papers at the first shop as was open, and then got leave of the deputy of the lodging-house to catch all the flies we could, and we stuck them thick on the paper, and fastened the paper to our hats. I used to think, when I was in service, how a smart livery hat, with a cockade to it, would look, but instead of that I turned out, the first time in my life that ever I sold anything, with my hat stuck round with flies. I felt so ashamed I could have cried. I was miserable, I felt so awkerd. But I spent my last 2d. in some gin and milk to give me courage, and that brightened me up a bit, and I set to work. I went Mile-end way, and got out of the main streets, and I suppose I’d gone into streets and places where there hadn’t often been fly-papers before, and I soon had a lot of boys following me, and I felt, almost, as if I’d picked a pocket, or done something to be ‘shamed of. I could hardly cry “Catch ’em alive, only a halfpenny!”.

Not sure what Beetle-Wafers are… Mayhew leaves that to our imagination.