Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Ghost of Squeeze Guts Alley

In the City of Truro, where I live there is a small alley way connecting Duke Street to St Mary’s Street. It’s called Squeeze Guts Alley for reasons that will become obvious.

As you may have seen, if we are friends on Facebook, I have recently posted some pictures showing me in Squeeze Guts Alley.

The whole thing started when a friend said he thought I would have difficulty, because of my size, getting through the Alley.

I was having a wander around town with some other friends one Sunday morning, and thought it would be good to have pictorial proof that I could easily get through. So my friend Andy took this picture:

Then another friend challenged me to see if I could get through sideways. To prove I could Andy took this picture on the following Sunday:

As we were preparing to take the picture another man came through the alley. He told us it was called Squeeze Guts Alley because you have to squeeze in your guts when someone else wants to get past. He also told us that he had heard that the Alley was haunted, but he didn't know any details. That set me off on a mission to find out about the haunting. I'll come to that in a moment.

Before I get to that here are a couple of pictures, taken by my friend Julie, which show Andy and me squeezing our guts to get through the Alley:

Now for the haunting:

I looked through various books and on the Internet to see if there was any information about the alley being haunted, but drew a blank. So I went off to local history sections of the Library and Museum. I was kindly given permission to look through some very old documents. There were many boxes to look through; I must have spent nearly a week going through all the stuff. Eventually, I came across a very old and delicate booklet entitled ’The Ghosts of Truro’. But it didn't say who had written it or who was its publisher.

To my amazement this little rhyme appeared on the first page:

Fiery Steve

If, on a fine Midwinter’s Eve,
Through Squeezeguts Alley you should stray,
Please beware of fiery Steve
Who haunts the ope upon that day.

A passage followed describing the sad story of Stephen H. Treffry who died on Friday 20th December 1787:

Squeezeguts Alley is believed to be haunted by the ghost of Stephen H. Treffry. He was aged 27 at the time of his death on Friday 20th December 1787. At an inquest held at a local hostelry it was found that he died from burns and the impact of a fall from the first floor window of his home in Duke Street Passage (now called Squeezeguts Alley).

It appears that Stephen was in the habit of throwing hot coals, from the fire in his sleeping quarters above his workshop in Duke Street Passage, onto to noisy persons who passed through the Passage late at night. The Parish Constable, Constable John Bolitho, reported that Mr. Treffry had spent time in the Town Prison for previous occurrences. It seems that, on this occasion, he had not realised that live coals had fallen from his coal shovel on to the floor of his quarters, flames took hold whilst he was remonstrating with persons in the alley on whom he had tried, unsuccessfully, to pour live coals. It appears that when he realised his home was on fire he attempted to dowse the flames, but the flames caught his nightshirt, in great fear he ran to window and fell through and plunged to his death. The persons in the alley, a Mr. George Richards and a Mr. Peter Richards, who were brothers, did manage to put out the flames but were unable to save Mr. Treffry. Constable Bolitho also stated the Duke Street Passage and other opes were used by men rushing to find work at the Quay when a boat docked and the bell was sounded. Those who found work would return at the end of the day, often having a local inn on their way home, and could therefore create a lot of noise, To the annoyance of many local residents.

Mr. Treffry was well known and liked, by many local residents who had known him since his childhood when his parents had a business selling vegetables in Middle Row. He himself had been in business as a Carpenter and Gilder in the premises in Duke Street Passage for several years. Many of his customers spoke well of him and the quality of his work. It was stated that he would greatly missed.

Although other stories related in the booklet were found in various documents.
There is no trace of this story or the rhyme anywhere. Maybe it was considered fictitious and not worthy of publication.

I hope you enjoyed reading it.

And don’t forget to look up when you’re passing through Squeeze Guts Alley.

(Ope is used in Cornwall for small alleyway or passage).

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Was he wearing his titfer...

It’s amazing how time goes so quickly. When I looked at my blog the other day I realised it has been nine months since I published a post.

So, I thought it was about time I wrote something. I was prompted to do this because I have just spent an hour at Waterstones in Truro listening to Liz Fenwick (author of The Cornish House and The Cornish Affair) talk about the process of getting books published and the impact of social media. I enjoyed the talk and it inspired me to come home and do this.

So I’m going to tell you about something that happened today:

I remember watching the film The Hours. In which Virginia Woolf explains that she cannot write anything until she gets the first line to a book, and it is that first line that inspires her. I think quite a few writers work that way (I forgot to ask Liz Fenwick about that). 

Anyway, I woke up this morning (always a good thing), sat on the edge of my bed, and while I was sitting there these words came into my head:

‘Was he wearing his titfer when you last saw him Mrs Clack?’

I’m not sure where these words came from. But, I did hear them in the voice of Inspector Fred Thursday, in the latest episode of ‘Endeavour’, which I was watching just before I went to bed.

I mulled these words over, thinking maybe this is the start of something big, my first best seller maybe!

I continued to cogitate on these words when I was sitting contemplating; in the place where I often sit contemplating. A second line came to me and I realised it was developing into some kind of crazy poem:

Did you see his titfer,
When you saw him Mrs Clack
I don’t think so sergeant,
Unless it was behind his back.

At that point I decided I was going mad, so I had a shower and tried to forget it.

Obviously, I couldn’t forget it or it wouldn’t be written here. I’m not going to do any more with it though.

Titfer is slang for a hat. Tit for Tat = Hat