Since posting the story about Bridget Ryan, I have become fascinated by The Workhouse and life therein. Tramps and vagrants were frequent callers to the workhouse door. One fascinating little titbit, I’ll share with you now;
Tramps and other travellers are often said to make use of secret signs. Such signs, scratched outside houses along the route, are used to pass on information or warnings about the treatment to be expected at a particular house. Some of the signs reckoned to be most widely used ones are listed below.
(Tick) “Yes” or “all right”
(Cross in circle) “A Christian household”
(Coins) “Money may be given here”
(Table) “A sit-down meal may be on offer””
(Loaf of bread) “Food only”
(Interlocking squares) “Threats may produce something”
(Box) “Spin them a tale” or “Eloquence may get a response”
(part of X?) “No” or “Nothing doing”.
(Bars) “Police may be informed or called”
(Dot in circle) “Police may be called”
(Dot in square) “Possibility of violence”
(Teeth) “Fierce dog!”
(Sickle) “Work may be offered”
(Triangle) “Too many have called recently”
Frank Gray, who became well acquainted with tramps and their habits was rather sceptical about the supposed use of secret signs by tramps. In his view, tramps were much likely to keep their intelligence of a neighbourhood to themselves, particularly when it came to generous households.