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Three Ha'Pence a Foot

by Marriott Edgar (1933)
Illustrations by John Hassall

Sam Oglethwaite were filling a knot 'ole wi' putty
Sam Oglethwaite were filling a knot 'ole wi' putty

Three Ha'Pence a Foot is another story about Noah and his Ark, and includes a term which may not be familiar to everybody: 'long bacon'.

Giving a 'long bacon' is an insulting two-handed version of 'cocking a snook'. To 'cock a snook' is to touch the tip of your nose with your thumb whilst wiggling the extended fingers of the same hand, in the direction of the person you wish to insult. The 'long bacon' version is the same, but for additional emphasis, the thumb of the other hand touches the little finger of the first hand.

The words presumably derive from:

  • 'cock' - the extended fingers resemble the crest on the head of a cock
  • 'snook' - snout (nose)
  • 'bacon' - similar to 'cock', in that the fingers resemble the waving edges of a crisp rasher of bacon
  • 'long' - long

In the same way that sticking out the tongue and uttering a "muuurrr!" of derision and contempt, both 'cocking a snook' and giving a 'long bacon' are considered childish gestures; unless you've just parked your car in the last available parking space and noticed the fella you were competing with is your ex-boss who made you redundant last month. In this case, cocking a snook makes the job loss well worthwhile.

I'll tell you an old-fashioned story
That Grandfather used to relate,
Of a joiner and building contractor;
'Is name, it were Sam Oglethwaite.

In a shop on the banks of the Irwell,
Old Sam used to follow 'is trade,
In a place you'll have 'eard of, called Bury;
You know, where black puddings is made.

One day, Sam were filling a knot 'ole
Wi' putty, when in thro' the door
Came an old feller fair wreathed wi' whiskers;
T'ould chap said "Good morning, I'm Noah."

Sam asked Noah what was 'is business,
And t'ould chap went on to remark,
That not liking the look of the weather,
'E were thinking of building an Ark.

'E'd gotten the wood for the bulwarks,
And all t'other shipbuilding junk,
And wanted some nice Bird's Eye Maple
To panel the side of 'is bunk.

Now Maple were Sam's monopoly;
That means it were all 'is to cut,
And nobody else 'adn't got none;
So 'e asked Noah three ha'pence a foot.

"A ha'penny too much," replied Noah
"A penny a foot's more the mark;
A penny a foot, and when t'rain comes,
I'll give you a ride in me Ark."

But neither would budge in the bargain;
The whole daft thing were kind of a jam,
So Sam put 'is tongue out at Noah,
And Noah made 'Long Bacon' at Sam

In wrath and ill-feeling they parted,
Not knowing when they'd meet again,
And Sam had forgot all about it,
'Til one day it started to rain.

It rained and it rained for a fortni't,
And flooded the 'ole countryside.
It rained and it kept' on raining,
'Til the Irwell were fifty mile wide.

The 'ouses were soon under water,
And folks to the roof 'ad to climb.
They said 'twas the rottenest summer
That Bury 'ad 'ad for some time.

The rain showed no sign of abating,
And water rose hour by hour,
'Til the only dry land were at Blackpool,
And that were on top of the Tower.

Sam stood on tower top
Sam stood on tower top

So Sam started swimming to Blackpool;
It took 'im best part of a week.
'Is clothes were wet through when 'e got there,
And 'is boots were beginning to leak.

'E stood to 'is watch-chain in water,
On Tower top, just before dark,
When who should come sailing towards 'im
But old Noah, steering 'is Ark.

They stared at each other in silence,
'Til Ark were alongside, all but,
Then Noah said: "What price yer Maple?"
Sam answered "Three ha'pence a foot."

Noah said "Nay; I'll make thee an offer,
The same as I did t'other day.
A penny a foot and a free ride.
Now, come on, lad, what does tha say?"

"Three ha'pence a foot," came the answer.
So Noah 'is sail 'ad to hoist,
And sailed off again in a dudgeon,
While Sam stood determined, but moist.

Noah cruised around, flying 'is pigeons,
'Til fortieth day of the wet,
And on 'is way back, passing Blackpool,
'E saw old Sam standing there yet.

'Is chin just stuck out of the water;
A comical figure 'e cut,
Noah said: "Now what's the price of yer Maple?"
Sam answered: "Three ha'pence a foot."

Said Noah: "Ye'd best take my offer;
It's last time I'll be hereabout;
And if water comes half an inch higher,
I'll happen get Maple for nowt."

"Three ha'pence a foot it'll cost yer,
And as fer me," Sam said, "don't fret.
The sky's took a turn since this morning;
I think it'll brighten up yet."

Sam's chin stuck out of the water
Sam's chin stuck out of the water

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