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The saddler of Bawtry

26 Aug 2017

 

We tweeted the curious expression don’t be like the saddler of Bawtry over on HH the other day—an eighteenth century phrase warning never to refuse the offer of a drink:

 

 

And, well, it’s all too strange to leave unexplained.

 

Bawtry is a small market town near Doncaster in South Yorkshire, England. According to the story, once upon a time a saddler (i.e. saddle-maker) from Bawtry fell foul of the law and found himself sentenced to be hanged at the nearby York gallows.

 

At the time, a tradition was in place that allowed anyone condemned to die at the York gallows the chance of one final drink at a tavern on the outskirts of the city. The saddler of Bawtry, however, turned down the offer and so was taken straight from his jail cell to the gallows and hanged. 

 

Had he accepted the offer, however, a horseman who was en route with a last-minute reprieve from the local justice of the peace would have arrived in time to save his life. As it was, by turning down the drink, the saddler was somewhat unceremoniously killed. 

 

Whether true or not, this tale has ultimately been used as a proverbial warning not to turn down a drink since the mid eighteenth century at least. 

 

 

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