Taken from As the Story is Told. I actually tracked down a copy of Gaff Linkum digitally a few years ago [here] and read about half of it. It was interesting, though I could see why it didn’t become a best seller! I was hoping to find some clues about my own ancestors. While I didn’t pick out any “Ducks” in the book, it was still an interesting window into that time period.
To have a book written about your little village and its inhabitants is something special, even if it didn’t become a best seller.
The book Gaff Linkum is one that should be really enjoyed by anyone interested in Morpeth in the 1870s when the village was the commercial centre of South Kent. In the book Morpeth is described as a village which sat on the crest of a great sloping hill, small but picturesque, with its old-fashioned houses still wild and timbered, a great portion of it under cultivation, and the hand of man making huge onslaughts upon its timbered parts.
It was written by Archie P. McKishnie, who was born in New Scotland in South Harwich, a brother of the famous poet Jean Blewitt. Having lived in this area for several years and having possessed a special gift of depicting wild life as he had known it, gives the book special appeal for us.
The main character, of course, is Gaff Linkum, a wiry, red-haired, freckled-faced boy, who was supposedly an orphan having been left on a doorstep by a band of gypsies. Most of the other characters, of which there are many, were often suggested to McKishnie by actual people living at the time. There were, for example, the storekeeper and postmaster – Mr. Jacey Creation (J.C. Nation), a sturdy farmer – Edward Goosecall (Edward Coll), another storekeeper, who did business across from Jacey Creation – Mr. Bill Dustband (Husband) and a doctor and coroner of Kent County – Dr. Ashworth (Dr. Aylesworth).
Some Morpeth folk were indignant at finding themselves portrayed in a book, while others took pride in identifying themselves. Places likewise were easy to recognize with surrounding locations being referred to as Bridgetown, Clearview, Palmyria, and Sandtown. There was even a mention made of the Morpeth Brass Band, which was famous here at one time.
The book was published in 1907 and Mr. McKishnie himself traversed Kent and the surrounding country selling the book for $1.25 a copy. There are a few area people that still have copies of it in their possession.