Author Topic: Thomas Milborne - the squeaking clerk  (Read 1213 times)

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Offline jplant1

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Thomas Milborne - the squeaking clerk
« on: 01 July, 2011, 05:07:36 PM »
Sometimes to fill idle moments in lunch break I look at the history of Newham as told in newspapers from Australia and New Zealand (Why? Because they are free to search, unlike the British Library). Here is a story from New Zealand that I cannot find any more about, but its too good not to share. To understand it you need to know that a "Precentor" is a sort of lead worshiper in a church service:

"Wanted a Precentor" is an advertisement never long absent from Otago papers, Its appearance is significant of a state of things not to be matched anywhere else out of Scotland, and peouliar, in this part of the world, to the south end of New Zealand. The Presbyterian of the Colonies has, as a general rule, reconciled himself to organs. In Otago, the " true blue" still drones his " praise" through his own private and personal set of pipes, and regularly advertises for his precentor, at£3o ayear or thereabouts, to lead him in the delightful exercise, and sustain him therein. Now the Scotch have a singing gift, but it doesn't run in the direction of psalmody. ' They can be light-heeled enough in a reel or strathspey, but, for solid, heavy-footed, dead-march complaining, commend me to a bush congregation engaged in "wreastling" with Martyrdom or the Old Hundred! Of course it sometimes happens that the "Precentor" is himself no better than a blind leader of the blind. This was generally the case with the old "parish clerk" of the English Church, a functionary now, happily, almost as extinct as the Dodo. An extract from Hale's Precedents, giving the reasons for which Thomas Milborne, clerk of the parish of East Ham, was "presented," or complained of, will give a good notion of the precentor system as it used to exist in England :—: —

"For that he singeth the Psalms in the Church with such a jesticulous tone and altitonant voyce, viz., sqeakinge like a gelded pigg, which doth not only interrupt the other voyces, but is altogether dissonant and disagreeing unto any musical harmonic. And he hath been requested by the minister to leave it, but he doth obstinatelie persist and contynue therein."

Otago Witness , Issue 1501, 21 August 1880, Page 17


Hale's Precedents in (Ecclesiastical) Criminal Cases [1475-1640] really exists, so the story is probably not a joke. The dates for Hales might make this Thomas Milborne this one, (From Essex County Archives) though Salcott is at the opposite side of Essex from East Ham:

25 July 1621
Indictment of Simon Wolnowe of Salcott labourer there at night broke into the house of Thomas Milborne and stole a bible worth 2s. and "a box" worth 12d. Pleads not guilty; guilty; read; branded. Witness; Thomas Milborne (ASS 35/64/1/37)