Treasure of the week. No. 33: The wild man of Cottingley : the wandering life of Jack Lob

‘A Sketch of the Life and Vagaries of ‘Jack Lob’ of Cottingley, near Bingley; a wandering beggar’, pages 10-16 in Interesting Interludes in the Singular Life of William Sharp, alias ‘Old Three Laps’. Printed by Thomas Harrison of Bingley, c. 1856. (Reference: JND 116/4)


The life of Jack Lob was a continual struggle for existence; want of instruction, deprived of his parents when young, and isolated from the working classes by his own indolence and partial insanity, he wandered from one place to another wherever he could pick up a penny of a crust of bread. In the cold nights of winter, in frost and in snow, he crept into old barns, mistrals, pig styes, under hay stacks, and into hedge row bottoms, with an empty stomach and scanty clothing.

John Robinson, better known by the name of Jack Lob, was born at Coppy Coppice, near Cottingley. His father was a soldier but died when John was young. “He was rather short, his physiognomy exhibiting a want of intelligence, having the appearance of an Ourang Outang or wild man of the woods.”

His friends persuaded him to take work in the various coal pits, where he could find employment as a drawer up of coals, but his long habits of vagrancy and mendacity led him to fall back again to his old course of begging, for he said he liked liberty with all its privations better than labour.

He was once confined, as he called it, in the Bastile, or Thackley Workhouse, where his wants were amply supplied but one night escaped though the closet seat. Efforts were made to find him and bring him back, but he managed to evade the vigilance of the parish officers.

Some exploits of this wandering and homeless man are recounted in this tract, giving us, today, something of the flavour of a problem still with us. On his death, local landowner, William Ferrand, without being asked. generously made up what was necessary.


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