Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Professions of yore

As a historian I am interested in old words and the sometimes obsolete phenomena they designate. One such word is "bodger," which originally designated a once-important occupation. According to Wikipedia, a bodger was
a polelathe worker, who made wooden goods from green wood, such as chair legs or candlesticks. These handmade chair legs were not of a lesser standard, and would be sold on to furniture factories for assembly.
Some people still do this work as a craft, or in the spirit of William Morris's medievalism: see the Bodger's Home for more.

Well, yesterday I ran across what looks like an even more obscure and presumably dead occupation. Chris Wickham, on p. 355 of Framing the Early Middle Ages gives us this passage in describing settlement patterns of old Ireland:

...the Vita of Aed mac Bricc of Killare, dating to around 800, refers to an itinerant ringfort maker who was asked by a rich man (dives) to make a triplex murus around his arx, clearly a significant status-symbol.
At first blush one would expect that all the itinerant ringfort builders are gone. But it's a big planet, with lots of people and lots of niches to support all kinds of activity. So I ask: are there any itinerant ringfort builders out there?


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