One of the perks of being a freelance writer is you get to interview some amazing people. None more so than Aggie Smeeton. Not only is she the inspiration behind The Digfield Conjuror, but if she was still on this mortal coil she would be 127 years old!
Me: “So Aggie, you must be dead by now, so can you explain how I’m managing to talk to you more than a century after your birth?
Aggie: I can’t say I ‘ave a definite answer fer that, but I dare say that folks ‘ev the wrong idea about death. It don’t be no ending like they thinks. Life be nothing more’n a lot of stories wi’ us playing a part an’ when that be done we goo and find another story to tek part in. There don’t be no ending likes yoo thinks, just different stories and in some you gits a big part and some you git barely a mention.
Me: That’s very profound Aggie. Where did you get those ideas from?
Aggie: Well weren’t no school, I can tell yer. Wi’ Father ill most o’ time I wuz growing, I didn’t get to goo much and anyways, most on uz left about eleven. The boys, they’d goo on the farms and girls, mostly t’ big houses like me as got a place at Beasom Hall.
Me: Ah yes, you mention the big house there in The Digfield Conjuror. Were they good to you?
Aggie: Well in theer way they were. We wuz servants and you’ad to know yer place, but if you did yer work and kept yersen clean and daycent they treated you fair enough. In fact, it were one o’ the young misses who taught me to read proper, though I never did master a pen. Weren’t time fer it what wi’ scrubbing that theer range and the floors and lighting fires an’all afore breakfast.
Me: So you can read, but not write?
Aggie: Tha’s about size on it, but don’t be no trouble to me when I do be ‘eving you to do it fer me!
Me: Yes Aggie and a pleasure and a privilege it is too. I am so looking forward to sharing your story about the Digfield Conjuror, but times have change and few now would know the true meaning of a conjuror.
Aggie: So they’ll ‘ev to read me little tale t’ find out then! (Wicked laughter). Or else hope they don’t git in a story with old Joe Dancer! They’d soon see wha’ conjuroring means and it don’t be no trickery wi’ cards ad nekked ladies, I tells yer!
Me: So were there many people like Joe about in your time?
Aggie: Theer’s alwuz people like Joe Dancer, don’t matter what time it be. Evil be in all stories like a thistle in a field o’ barley. Try as yer might, yer’ll ne’re git rid o’ the runts and weeds as any on the farm chaps will tell yer! Joe he knowed things like a lot of folks them times, but he used ‘em fer ‘is own good and in the end it turned on ‘im. You ‘as a gift and you use it fer others, not fer yer sen, that’s why them ol’ conjurors and ‘edge witches wouldn’t never tek money fer owt. Only bread, ‘am, eggs, that sorta thing.
Me: I see. That changed after the war didn’t it?
Aggie: Yer could say that, fer most folks it did. Most o’ the old country ways were forgot, but a few on uz remembered. It were a strange thing when I thinks about it. I didn’t never ‘ev much interest in cures and things, ‘ceptin warts as you’ll know from me story, but when it were all done, a change come over me.
Me: In what way?
Aggie: Suppose I grew up fer one thing, but weren’t only that. I got to thinking about ol’ Joe and what ‘e bin up to and it made me sorry to think what he were a doin’ wi’ ‘is gifts so I thinks, well Aggie, me gel, yer maint be much good wi’ a pen, but there be nowt wrong wi’ yer eyes so you goo and git Joe’s books and fer every wrong ‘e did you do a right.
Me: So you became a herbalist? (More cracked laughter!)
Aggie: ‘erbalist? Ah … yer could say that, though it were ‘edge witch and cunning folk in my day! Anyway, me story’s about our Georgie and The Digfield Conjuror so nuff o’ me. When do I git t’ see it?
Me: Soon, Aggie. Just need to find a nice cover for it.
Aggie: Well don’t you goo printing owt wi’ out me seeing it fust else I’ll put a hex on yer!
I’m not sure she wouldn’t either so you’ll just ‘ev, sorry have to wait a bit longer to read Aggie Smeeton’s tale, The Digfield Conjuror, set in a rural English backwater at the beginning of the twentieth century.