Edward C. Corbett and the Telling of Folk Tales

  • 17 Jan 2012
  • Folklore
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Folklore is the study of beliefs and practises once firmly held. Few now believe in charms, in giants and fairies, but less than a century ago people in lonely places believed in them. In Worcestershire and its borders, there are prehistoric remains once thought to be associated with them; especially near the Avon and the foothills of the Cotswold, and in the old Celtic border of the Teme Valley.

Edward C.Corbett and the Telling of Folk Tales

Edward C Corbett was a solicitor who gave up his practise to travel rough round the world. He had a flair for languages and in the period after the 1914 - 18 War travelled as an overseas represetative for Lea and Perrins promoting Worcestershire Sauce. At a time when people thought it eccentric, he lived on an old canal boat in Diglis Basin. He was a friend of Matley Moore, and often Bill met him at week-ends at the cottage on Powick Ham. In later years (c1946), Bill saw him very infrequently; he was almost blind and appeared very old. He was a snuff-taker, and not concerned with his appearance. He had a great interest in folk-lore, and was a wonderful story-teller of the old school, regarding it seriously as an art. Bill still recalled with deep pleasure the evenings spent in the deep winged armchair, beside the great log fire, listening to him until the fire had burnt to ashes.

In 1944, he gave a talk to the Worcestershire Archaeological Society on folk lore, and Bill quoted from his introductions:

'In modern times the telling of tales has been superseded by the reading of books... so the telling of tales has passed, both as an art or a diversion, to the illiterate who do not read, and to gather them from such a source is far from easy: it takes two to make such a trove, a teller who is willing to talk freely to a stranger, a listener of the kind to whom shy tellers will talk. In England both are rare, for the rustic Englishman who fears neither man nor weather, beast or devil, be mortal a feared of being laughed at, and will talk only to one who shows the simple faith that finds nothing too hard to believe; and such faith is seldom found or recognised in any but children and sages of very wide experience'.