Thursday, 20 August 2015

The ghost of Tripe Harry

St Nicholas Church Gardens, Whitehaven - the burial site of Tripe Harry
THERE can be few lovers of tripe who have shown such dedication as Harry Spence of Whitehaven, Cumbria.

The itinerant tripe seller has continued his trade in the harbour town for nearly 200 years - not letting a little thing like death stand in his way. His ghost - or 'boggle' as such things are known in Cumbria - continues to walk the streets with his tripe basket on his arm. Not much known is about this tripe champion but in December 25th 1952, W. Watson wrote an article in The Whitehaven News about Harry which revealed some biographical details:

"He lived in  a small house at Douglas Bourne Passage in the Market Place. It was said he owned a small brig called 'Providence' which was lost with all hands about the year 1816. The disaster evidently turned his brain and he hanged himself about 10 years later in his bedroom. He was buried in St Nicholas Churchyard but his immortal spirit was not so easily disposed of and nothing gave it so much consolation as to walk the streets at midnight with a tripe basket on his arm."

Mr Watson goes on to relate that "the ghost appeared most frequently to night watchmen who passed most of the night dozing in the shelter, and the old fellows would make solemn declaration as to how, when, and where they had seen Tripe Harry, with minute details of his appearance."

He is just one of a number of ghosts walking the streets of this Georgian town though none of the others have continued with their trade beyond the grave. Nor do we have any report of anyone actually stopping the spectral salesman and tasting his tripe. Tripe Harry has not been seen for a few years but we have every confidence that late-night revellers in need of some sustenance will be served once more by this bountiful boggle.

* See also The Tripe Marketing Board

(My thanks to Mary Chisholm for her help in the research of this article).