From The Parish Clerk (1907) by Peter Hampson Ditchfield:
Robert Dicker, quondam cabinet-maker in the town of Crediton, Devon, reigned for many years as parish clerk to the, at one time, collegiate church of the same town. He appears to have fulfilled his office satisfactorily up to about 1870, when his mind became somewhat feeble. Nevertheless, no desire was apparent to shorten the days of his office, as he was regular in his attendance and musically inclined; but when he began to play pranks upon the vicar it became necessary to consider the advisability of finding a substitute who should do the work and receive half the pay. One of his escapades was to stand up in the middle of service and call the vicar a liar; at another time he announced that a wedding was to take place on a certain day. The vicar, therefore, attended and waited for an hour, when the clerk affirmed that he must have dreamed it! Dicker was given to the study of astronomy, and it is related that he once gave a lecture on this subject in the Public Rooms. There is close to the town a small park in memory of one of the Duller family. A man one night was much alarmed when walking therein to discover a bright light in one of the trees, and, later, to hear the voice of the worthy clerk, who addressed him in these words: “Fear not, my friend, and do not be affrighted. I am Robert Dicker, clerk of the parish. I am examining the stars.” Another account alleges that he affirmed himself to be “counting the stars.” Whichever account is the true one, it will be gathered that he was already “far gone.”
Another of his achievements was the conversion of a barrel organ,purchased from a neighbouring church, into a manual, obtaining the wind therefor by a pedal arrangement which worked a large wheel attached to a crank working the bellows. On all great festivals and especially on Christmas Day he was wont to rouse the neighbourhood as early as three and four o’clock, remarking of the ungrateful, complaining neighbours that they had no heart for music or religion.
The wheel mentioned above was part of one of his tricycle schemes. His first attempt in cycle-making resulted in the construction of a bicycle the wheels of which resembled the top of a round deal table; this soon came to grief. His second endeavour was more successful and became a tricycle, the wheels of which were made of wrought iron and the base of a triangular shape. Upon the large end he placed an arm-chair, averring that it would be useful to rest in whenever he should grow weary! Then, making another attempt, he succeeded in turning out (being aided by another person) a very respectable and useful tricycle upon which he made many journeys to Barnstaple and elsewhere.
However, just as an end comes to everything that is mortal, so did an end come to our friend the clerk; for, as so many stories finish, he died in a good old age, and his substitute reigned in his stead.
I’ve never seriously ridden a tricycle, but it’s the logical solution.
- Transvestite barrel organ dancers in 1930s Whitechapel and the 1860s London West End
With acrobats, clowns, and Doris and Thisbe, goddesses of wind.
- A sensational 1810 Parisian fire scene on top of an 1840s Russian barrel organ
But who are the three noseless Austrian ladies?
- An organ-grinder at Archway
Pleasures and treasures of the Edwardian street, by a descendant of Scottish banditti.
- Karl Marx condemns organ-grinders!
“Vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, maquereaux, brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars”
- Mechanical musical instrument invented for the 1851 London Great Exhibition by Henry Mayhew
He also coined “flaxen Saxon.” With other absurdities.