Big thank you from

The sad tale of the poor Joe who hated work

by The Rambler 02/06/00

Up in the morning 
Out on the job
Work like the devil for my pay

But the lucky old sun 
Has nothing to do 
But roll around heaven all day.

Author unknown

That's an old one, but 'Big Joe', a casual farm labourer' who wrought for my dad, had a similar philosophy.

I can see him still, toiling behind Niblock's threshing mill on a sizzling hot day with sweat and 'stoor' blinding him.

When the flow of threshed straw was stemmed for a while and he headed for a place to sit down, he eyed 'Carlo'.

"Boys!" he murmured 'Wouldn't it be great to be an out dog. All he has to do is to lie up there in the sun and his 'mate' (food) will be brought to him."

'Big Joe' and Wee Joe', his cousin, had lived together with his aunt till she died.

He had had a regular job with a neighbour but had his aunts heart broken 'cracking at him' in the mornings to get him out of his bed.

When the good lady died he stayed in bed and of course the farmer got someone else. Wee Joe threw him out.

That left big 'lazy bones' dependent on casual work and lodgings.

He hated work. That is an understatement

He was so fond of it that he lay beside it at every opportunity.

But, like an ancient engine, although he was very hard to start he had a powerfu output, especially when up against competition.

He didn't like 'to be bate' to use his own words.

The sinews of Joe's arms were strong as iron bands, until his broad streak of laziness widened through abandonment of constant work. But his voracious appetite did not deteriorate.

He still needed a full cake of soda farls in eight halves to go with his forenoon cuppa. In halves buttered and stacked on a plate, the farls disappeared like sheaves fed into a threshing mill.

The first dozen of 'Aran Victory' spuds did no more than line his stomach.

Past middle ago homeless, jobless, and work shy the big fellow was on a slippery slope and soon he drifted into self-neglect


I overhead him getting counsel from an old man, but he brushed it aside.

'Ach, look at thon Anthony. He has never done a hand's turn and he's making it out rightly."

'Anthony' was a fellow parishioner, a few years his elder, who had taken to the road with a bag on his back in his youth and had spent his fife calling at houses as 'a poor man needing a wee bit of help' sleeping rough, but 'never doing a hand's turn'.

In a' word Big foe had it all worked out. He had decided m work no more!

But he never claimed public assistance. He was scared of officialdom.

He hadn't got his cards stamped ever, and he was convinced that 'they' would put him in gaol if they caught up with him.

In a few short years he was picked up lying rough, feeble and so heavily Infested that he had had to be admitted m the local hospital to be de-loused.

His case was so bad that It made newspaper headlines.

After that he was confined to an old people's home and became a familiar figure pushing a decrepit vintage pram around the streets - to what purpose it would be hard to guess. Townsfolk referred to him as 'the big drover'.

Anyhow, he lived to a ripe old age, a pathetic remnant of the big bulk of humanity with the pleasing melodious voice and outstanding ability to whistle who in his earlier days had regaled his neighbours happily whistling and singing as he strode home from work dally.

Ulster Star