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Ol' Jack Frighten'um

Jack Butler was known locally as “Ol' Jack Frighten’um”. For his last 20 or so years he lived in notoriety in Pound Bottom Wood, Cadmore End, in a rat infested shack constructed from odd pieces of tin and board.

Jack was born illegitimately and grew up under the care of the Saunderton workhouse, where he had the good fortune to be taught to read and write. Up until his death he could be seen writing on scraps of paper, perhaps crouched over an open fire in the clearing for his hovel.  He claimed to be writing to the King or other authorities though none replied - Jack said that they were too afraid of him! One resident remembers him writing to the Prime Minister during an outbreak of foot and mouth in 1930 to complain about the seemingly unnecessary slaughtering and burning of healthy livestock.

From working age he rented a cottage on Cadmore End Common, before having to be forcibly removed from it by the landlord due to rent arrears. Those who remember him from then recall him having a temper but being clean, well mannered and sociable. He built his first ramshackle hut in Pound Wood at the age of 68, where he subsisted through making and selling faggots of firewood (i.e. small bundles of twigs).

Ol' Jack Frighten'um - photo courtesy of Doris Hoing

As he grew older he became more decrepit but locals would often stop by to chat or look after him - bringing food or clothing. Curious children would often visit and be gifted with sticky sweets from a dirty tin. One local resident remembered Jack complaining at their picking bluebells from the carpet of flowers across the woodland floor, saying they were "God's flowers". As well as attending Sunday services at Cadmore church, he often preached the Bible to those who visited him and said that God had told him he could not die.

Only two people were at his funeral, acquaintances from the Old Ship where he would often sit by the fire to dry his wet clothes. After his death the owner of Pound Wood burnt down his shack; two Wheeler End boys found 2 shillings in the ashes, riches indeed for a ten year old in 1936!

Location

Cadmore End

Grid Reference

SU776929

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