What’s In A Surname?

Last week’s post –  What’s In A Name?   – which was was an updated and reworked version of a piece from 2016 about the meaning of my first name, generated quite a few comments from fellow bloggers about their own names. This was great: I really enjoyed the interaction and finding out where others’ names derived from. Back in 2016 I also wrote a companion piece on my surname, as it has a little history attached to it, and it seemed that it would be a natural follow up to last week to share again what I wrote about that name.

Pilch, in Norwich, as modelled by my daughter Katy
Pilch, in Norwich, as modelled by my daughter Katy

In case you hadn’t previously noticed (there was a major clue in last week’s post!) my surname is Pilcher. This name is largely native to East Kent, the part of England from which I come. I’ve not seen a recent telephone directory but when I was growing up there were two pages of us. You’d be hard-pressed to find more than five Pilchers in most other directories. The shorter version ‘Pilch’ is common in East Anglia, and was until recently the name of a long-established sports goods store in Norwich (now rebranded as Jarrold Intersport). Many UK surnames which end in ‘-er’ derive from a trade: Baker and Butcher are obvious examples of this. Less obvious examples are Cooper, a maker of barrels, and Fletcher – the man who made arrows. Or you could have Turner – unsurprisingly, this was the man who worked the lathe. Or for a really obvious one, try ‘Parker’ – yes, it really does mean the man who looks after the park. At its most basic, Pilcher is no different from these: he was the man who made a Pilch. You could be forgiven for not knowing what one of these is, or was, as the term – and the item of clothing to which it refers – has long gone out of fashion. A pilch was a kind of loincloth, usually made of animal skin with the fur still on it, and use of the name can be traced back as far as the 13th century. In all probability it is even older than that, but I haven’t yet been able to find an episode of What Not To Wear or How To Look Good Naked(ish) that goes far enough back to enlighten me on this. It is thought that it derives from the pre-7th century Olde English word ‘pylece,’ which means a skin or hide. It is recorded in several other forms including Pelcher, Pilchere, and the French Pelchaud, Pelcheur, and Pelchat, and is clearly an Anglo-French surname. Given the proximity of France to Dover, where I was born, this perhaps explains why there are so many Pilchers in that part of the country. As well as the maker and seller of pilches, the name could also be given to someone who wore them. We don’t appear to have a modern day equivalent of this, unless you know of anyone called Nappyer or Trusser. And for American readers, I don’t think Diaper counts!

In later years “pilcher” apparently became a popular term of abuse, being associated with the unrelated word “pilch”, meaning to steal, and the equally unrelated noun “pilchard”, a type of fish. Whilst some name-holders may originate from habitual use of these various terms, I like to think that my family origins belong to a noble tradesman rather than a thief!

And in a complete detour, I mentioned last week that I was known as Pilch by many schoolfriends, but also Glen, because of this, which was heavily advertised at that time:
My surname?

As I’ve mentioned, the name goes back as far as the 13th century: recordings of the surname include Hugh Pilchere, who appears in the tax registers (known as the Feet of Fines) of Cambridgeshire in 1275, and Henry le Pilchere in the Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire in the same year. Church records list the marriage of Henry Pilcher to Jane Empsley on June 2nd 1572 in Borden, Kent, whilst in France Henri Pelchat appears in the town of Bourg L’Eveque, department of Maine-et -Loire, on July 26th 1708. The first known recorded spelling of the family name is that of Mabilia Pullchare, which was dated 1214, in the “Feet of Fines of Essex”, during the reign of King John, 1199 – 1216. (I’m indebted to The Internet Surname Database at http://www.surnamedb.com for this information).

Whilst my name isn’t particularly special or famous, I rather like it and the fact that it has so much history attached to it. The only famous Pilcher that I know of is the author Rosamunde Pilcher, but no doubt there are others. After all, we’ve had long enough to make our mark in the world! Why not try following your own name back into history, perhaps by clicking the database link? You may find something interesting and surprising that you hadn’t come across before. And I set you the challenge of finding a name that has a meaning going back further than the 7th century!

Remembrance Sunday 2018

I know it’s probably a little greedy of me, but I support three football teams. The reasons for that are maybe the story for another time, but not today. One of those teams – Leyton Orient (the Os) – has a proud history which is relevant today. In its earliest incarnation the club was known as Clapton Orient, and players and officials from that club played a significant role in the history of recruitment for the First World War. I thought I would share their story as my mark of respect and remembrance today.

Two years ago, to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the British Legion published the story of those brave footballers who gave their lives. You can find the full story here but I thought I’d present it as a series of screenshots for you. (If they are too small to read on your screen, clicking on them makes them much larger, then you can press the ‘back’ arrow to return here):

That story holds a very special place in the heart of every Os supporter, and has been the basis for some very moving ceremonies when the team has been playing at home on the Remembrance weekend. It is also at the heart of a play called The Greater Game, which is currently playing a limited run in London.

The words on this poppy are very familiar: they have featured in those ceremonies and reflect the losses suffered by so many at that time – like the Clapton Orient lads – and in subsequent conflicts:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning,

We will remember them.

(Taken from ‘For The Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon, September 1914)

On Remembrance Sunday, those words by Laurence Binyon never lose their meaning or their simple power to remind us of the sacrifice made by so many to protect the way of life we enjoy today – above all, our freedom.

I believe war to be abhorrent. However, that does not stop me from marking my respect for anyone who has ever taken part in a campaign to protect my freedom. I will observe the official silence in my own way, and will give them my silent thanks.

This year marks the Centenary of the end of the First World War, and there is much publicity for it. But I fear that with the passing of time, and without this major anniversary to remind us, the significance of this act of remembrance is decreasing, as this little poem illustrates:

Wherever you are, however you do it, I hope that you will be able to spare a moment today to give thanks for those who have died to protect your and my way of life. We should never forget. We owe them so much.

 

Watching The Wheels

I seem to have lost a month. How careless of me! As you may have spotted from the recent hiatus, I’ve been ill and just didn’t feel up to blogging. They told me the virus would take 6 weeks to get out of my system – and they were right!

Firstly, I’d like to thank all of you who have wished me well, both here and on Facebook. Good blogging friends are irreplaceable! Also, a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who has visited my blog while I’ve been absent. I’ve been stunned by the levels of views, likes, comments and new follows even at a time where I haven’t given you anything new.

So, what have I been doing? The short answer is….not much, if I’m honest. In the early stages the viral infection caused me so much pain and soreness that I didn’t feel like doing anything. I then got into a routine of watching far more daytime TV than is good for anyone’s sanity! If the programmes don’t get to you the adverts will – what exactly does it mean to be ‘so moneysupermarket’ anyway, other than being a total moron behaving inappropriately? But mostly I’ve been a watcher of life and events as they have been unfolding: that poses risks to our sanity too!

We are living in strange, unsettling times. I wrote a piece some months ago about politicians’ need to tell lies to get what they want. Recent events, particularly in the US, have shown how spectacularly I underestimated their capacity for untruths. Or ‘alternative facts’ as we are now informed they should be called. And it seems I was wrong to hope that the Orange One would tone down his views after being elected. But he had record crowds for his inauguration, everyone loves his executive orders, the protests against his ‘it isn’t a Muslim ban’ are orchestrated by paid stooges, so all is going swimmingly well, isn’t it!

One thing I haven’t done during my absence is watch any so-called ‘reality TV,’ as these programmes bear no relation to any form of real life that I know or would want to be a part of. Even the names can be misleading: be honest, how many of the participants in the recent series of ‘Celebrity’ Big Brother had you heard of? It’s not as though anyone from a reality show has ever gone on to succeed at anything in real life, is it? Oh, wait……. It would appear that the American people have elected as their President (or POTUS45 as he is known) the former host of their version of the Apprentice. Please, UK, don’t even think about doing the equivalent of that here! The thought of Lord Sugar running this country fills me with almost as much dread as the thought of the Orange One on his mission to destroy the world in four years or less. And a quick aside: why do they call him POTUS45 yet they try to give the Superbowl a touch of class by listing it with Roman numerals, i.e. Superbowl LI? Shouldn’t they try to give their President some class too? POTUS VL has a certain ring to it, I think. But then again, no matter how hard you polish a turd it’s still a turd…. although he may have given some meaning to what I think it means to be ‘so moneysupermarket’ – see above for the definition!

There have been some good points in my recent absence, though, in respect of this blog. My post Mental Health Matters seems to have taken off like none of my posts has ever done before. I wrote it 4 months ago and it is still receiving ‘likes’ on an almost daily basis – over 90 now. I’m grateful to all of you for this, as it is an important issue. I now have over 500 followers for this blog, and more are joining every day – again, my thanks to you all! This has encouraged me to keep writing about the topic which seems to be attracting most of you – mental health – particularly since the UK Government’s recent announcement of more support for mental health treatments. A post on that will follow in the not too distant future. Spoiler alert: I’m not convinced by them!

My Facebook friends will have noticed that I have been sharing many more political posts recently. No one has unfriended me yet, but I suspect that some may have hit the ‘mute’ button! Taking time out to become an observer of life has filled me with many fears for our country – Brexit means being a poorer relation with a totally uncertain future – and for the world as a whole. Can any of us sleep soundly knowing that the nuclear codes are in the very small hands of a petulant, thin-skinned, childish, bullying tyrant who clearly hasn’t the slightest clue what his new job actually means? In my own small way I’m trying to do my bit against him – I’ve followed him on Twitter and have taken to retweeting his comments with my own added. I don’t know if this will work, but I’m hoping he blocks me as I could wear that as a badge of honour!

I chose the title for this piece from a song by a man who was sufficiently committed to stand up and protest for what he believed in. The anti-Trump protest movement in the US and around the world needs to keep doing the same, or we’ll be watching the wheels fall off, not go round:

I’m off to catch up on all your blogs – I’ve missed a lot in the past month or so! See you again soon.