Monday, 23 September 2019

Sir Walter Raleigh and the over-zealous servant

Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) is widely credited for having introduced tobacco to England, having played a leading role in establishing colonies in North America that were particularly suitable for growing the crop, despite the fact that he never set foot on North American soil himself.

Whether Raleigh was directly responsible for bringing tobacco to England is open to doubt, but it is certainly true that he popularized pipe-smoking and was a keen smoker himself.

On one occasion this habit appears to have led to Raleigh having an unpleasant shock. It is not entirely clear where the incident took place, but one strong candidate is Raleigh’s Dorset Home of Sherborne Castle.

One of Sir Walter’s man-servants – so it is said – saw smoke arising from behind a bush. Knowing that Sir Walter was there, he deduced that something terrible had happened and that his master must be on fire. He therefore poured of jug of ale over the bush to quench the flames. This certainly did the trick as far as extinguishing the fire was concerned, but was the servant “fired” for soaking Sir Walter in ale?

Your guess is as good as mine!

© John Welford