Gurdypedia

Documenting the curious world of the hurdy-gurdy.

“Old Sarah” - the well-known hurdy-gurdy player

Graham Whyte has posted a wonderful piece on “Old Sarah” - a blind hurdy-gurdy player from London, born in 1786, taken from “London Labour and the London Poor” by Henry Mayhew.

“ I was born the 4th April, 1786 (it was Good Friday that year), at a small chandler’s shop, facing the White Horse, Stuart’s-rents, Drury-lane. Father was a hatter, and mother an artificial-flower maker and feather finisher. When I was but a day old, the nurse took me out of the warm bed and carried me to the window, to show some people how like I was to father. The cold flew to my eyes and I caught inflammation in them. Owing to mother being forced to be from home all day at her work, I was put out to dry-nurse when I was three weeks old. My eyes were then very bad, by all accounts, and some neighbours told the woman I was with, that Turner’s cerate would do them good. She got some and put it on my eyes, and when poor mother came to suckle me at her dinner-hour, my eyes was all ‘a gore of blood.’ From that time I never see afterwards. She did it, poor woman, for the best; it was no fault of her’n, and I’m sure I bears her no malice for it. I stayed at home with mother until I was thirteen, when I was put to the Blind-school, but I only kept there nine months; they turned me out because I was not clever with my hands, and I could not learn to spin or make sash-lines; my hands was ocker’d like”

More here and Google books scan of original article here.