Wovember Words: One-erum, Two-erum, Cockerum

Today’s Wovember Word comes courtesy of Louise Spong of South Downs Yarn, about the counting words used by Sussex shepherds. The following extract comes from Shepherds of Sussex by Barclay Wills (originally published in 1938), who regales the following story:

He [the farmer] told me that one job was ‘telling’ the sheep. The sheep were allowed to run through a hurdle, two at a time, and, as the boy, he had to stand there and count them, keeping time with the shepherd, thus:

One-erum

Two-erum

Cockerum

Shu-erum

Shitherum

Wine-berry

Wagtail

Tarrydiddle

Den

—that ‘Den’ meaning a score, or twenty sheep through the hurdle.”

Recording of shep scores on”tally sticks” was once usual in Sussex, and specific instances have beennoted. Although I have not been lucky enough to find any specimens, some of the shepherds I have met have ysed them. One man referred to them, and said: “Most timesI used my crook-stick to cut notches in, so I never lost my count. ‘Tis a handy way if you beant much of a scholard. Pencil an’ paper be good in their way too, but not as good as a stick an’ a knife; the notches us allus to hand, an’ easy to remember.”

Shepherd Graham Langford of the Nepcote flock

Graham Langford, one of the three shepherds of the Nepcote flock in Sussex, regaled his own story about his new crook stick: I call my sheep by beating my stick on the ground, but one day the sheep were so stubborn and I got so grumpy that I beat so hard the stick broke in three places! I replaced it with a new stick, made from hazel, which is the traditional wood we use in Sussex for crook sticks.

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This entry was posted by tomofholland.

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