Friday, 17 January 2014

Clever Clogs

When I was a lad, we did occasionally see clogs about .... Lancashire clogs of course, but they were normally worn by older people, and even then they were something of an affectation, worn only for Morris or Clog dancing, or sometimes for particular jobs where their non heat transferring properties were useful e.g. hot metal working. The 1970's comedy group, 'The Goodies' even used them in a generic manner in a comic sketch called "Ecky Thump" in which a lethal martial arts was developed in the North / Yorkshire, involving men with tied trousers, wielding Black puddings and wearing clogs.

Kung Fu Kapers

But a few decades earlier, say just before or around the second world war, they were essential and daily footwear for many people, especially the poorer element of society, or as mentioned, where their non heat transferring properties were useful, such as tarmac laying (when the hot tar was still tamped by hand and foot). The movie Hobson's Choice was about a Bootmaker, who when the film starts is primarily making (well getting his worker Willie Mossop to make), clogs, as the staple footwear of the working class. Clogs were sometimes handed out as part of poor relief; the Blackburn 'Weekly Telegraph' recorded five people receiving "gifts of clogs or parcels of clothing" in 1912.

Of course clogs are not not unique to the UK and former empire colonies. Some parts of the US had clogs as well, and in fact there is a form of clog dancing known as Appalachian Clogging.

Henry Hobson  - Clog and Bootmaker

Of course you can still buy clogs ..... but now they are kinda trendy, and healthy footwear for ladies and gentlemen  .... but the clogs that I am talking were not like that. Although they are still made in the traditional way if you want to go to a specialist maker for handmade versions, today's clogs are more often than not made in factories. The sort seen today are what used to be referred as 'neet' or night clogs, which involved having fancy patterns in the stitching or tooled leather.

Modern Clogs Are Often Ornate

No the sort of bad boys that I was thinking about, are the sort of day to day clogs that fish porters and the like wore. Something like these indeed ......

Old Fashioned Working Clogs

..... Just look at the clogs on these chaps. Of course clogs lived on in the local language even when few wore them .... In some British sports such as Rugby Union and Association Football (soccer) when you committed a heavy foul on an opponent, it was sometimes referred to as giving them a 'clogging' ...

In some local English dialects, giving someone a beating was sometimes referred to as a 'purring' by older men in the mill towns, such as those around Manchester. This term purring came from what apparently had been a form of fighting known as "Up and Down Fighting" .... a method of settling scores amongst the steel mills and fish workers in Lancashire, which had apparently involved much male nudity, a la Alan Bates and Oliver Reed in the film 'Women In Love';

"It is all up and down fighting here. They fought quite naked, excepting their clogs. When one has the other down on the ground he first endeavours to choke him by squeezing his throat, then he kicks him on the head with his clogs. Sometimes they are very severely injured."

So rather neatly, this post ends as it started, with a local Northern / Lancashire 'martial arts' method, involving 'Clogs', but one which even The Goodies would never have dared to parody on TV ......


  1. As someone who can remember people wearing cogs in northern England, I can admit that they were tiring on the feet but good for joints.

    Thanks for the post, brought back a few memories.

    1. Well I guess they were the first and original Dr Scholl sandals that ladies in the 1960's wore! Thanks for the comment


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