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Around two hundred years ago, a couple named John and Mary Howe took over what was described as a neat and commodious inn opposite Eyam church. Though past their prime, the simple demands of their regular customers were easily satisfied and the daily routine of our host and hostess was seldom disturbed by outsiders.

Then one day two strangers, ‘Lunnoners’ in fact, broke off their Peakland jaunting to call at the inn, asking for a hearty beef dinner. Having no beef, Mary suggested bacon and eggs instead. In response to an order for wine, she offered some of her home-made ‘ellaberry’.

The first bottle of wine went down very well and the strangers called for another bottle of ditto. ‘Ditto?’ muttered Mary in confusion, ‘What make o’ wine is that?’ Going out to John in the garden she whispered, ‘Tha’ll ha’ to come thysel. I’ve ta’en a bottle o’ ellabery to they two fellas int’ parlour, and now they wantin’ one o’ ditto. What should I do?’

‘Oh gi’ ‘em another o’ same’, said John, ‘appen they’ll never notice.’

The second bottle was relished as quickly as the first, while Mary kept her fingers crossed until the call came for ‘ditto repeated’. Again she appealed to John: ‘I wish thou’d come and talk to these Lunnoners, lad. Now they want a bottle of ‘ditto repeated’. Dost tha’ know what sort it is?’

‘I know nowt abaht it. Tha mun take ‘em one like t’others, they’n know no different.’

After the third bottle had been emptied, the guests called Mary for the reckoning. ‘Well’, she worked out, ‘the first bottle is two shillings and six pence, the second yo’ remember were ‘ditto’ and that’s five shillings, and I can’t sell a bottle of ‘ditto repeated’ under seven shillings and six pence.’ Mary eventually arrived at a total of fifteen shillings, generously adding ‘an I’ll give thee t’ bacon and eggs’.

Julie Bunting

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