Boot binder, catcher, clicker, closer

I read an interesting article about the traditional crafts and skills which run the risk of dying out; it mentioned swillers, coopers, wood turners, clog makers, trug makers and ladder makers, old crafts which are still being carried out but are at risk of fading away to remain only as surnames or occupations on old census forms.

One of my Elsden ancestors was a boot-closer… I sort of guessed what that was, and I was right, he sewed the uppers of boots to their soles… sewing soles… sewing souls… gosh, sounds like an idea for a fantasy novel! In looking up boot closer, I came across boot binder, boot catcher and boot clicker. A boot binder was one up from a boot closer; a binder operated a machine which attached the uppers and soles. A boot catcher was a servant at an inn whose job was to pull the boots from the gentlemen who were staying there. I guess some of the boots must have come right up to their thighs, and maybe having ridden a horse for many miles a person would be too tired and stiff to get their boots off themselves. A boot clicker was the person who cut out the leather for making the uppers, for the closer or binder to then attach..

Another ancestor on my maternal side was a basket manufacturer… he stared as a basket weaver and the family eventually had factories making baskets which would have been so useful in the days before other light weight strong materials such as plastics and metal alloys. I looked to see if I could find any other occupations to do with baskets and came across a basket man who actually was something else: he loaded barges with coal using a basket. A similar occupation was a willow plaiter or weaver, and prior to weaving the willow a withy peeler would have had to work on the willow stems or withies…. Which brings back another memory, of country dancing at school and doing a dance called ‘Strip the willow’… we danced away without a single thought as to what the name might mean!

By the way, a swiller makes a certain sort of basket, a cooper makes barrels and a trug is a shallow basket used in gardening or for gathering produce.

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