This week’s free London song ‘Backwards’ features our second special guest, cellist Rachel Webb-Peploe. The song is inspired by a funny little tale from Poplar High Street and a pub called The White Horse. A popular drinking spot run but just a regular East End married couple. Or where they? The twists and turns in the story of The White Horse, Poplar in London’s East End.
How well do you know your neighbours? Maybe the swingers next-door are actually accountants and maybe that dog has been fowling your front yard every single day for the last 12 years, is actually sweet old Mrs Plumridge at number 10. I remember as a young boy discovering that one of my neighbours liked to wash up topless every Sunday morning. The ensuing hours that I,and the other neighbourhood boys spent there basking in this wonderful spectacle was a poet’s dream, until one of the more astute among us realised that our Venus was actually a fat Geordie name Kevin. But nevertheless you never can tell what the neighbours are really up to.
Case in point, Mary East of London in the 1700s. Now Mary was a normal girl. She had a boyfriend and, perhaps like many of your ex lovers, this man like to dress up in masks and make strange demands. Except, he had an excuse because he was a Highwayman. Now his career as a highwayman was cut short as they generally are, and Mary East vowed at that point to never to love another man again. So she loved a woman instead. She shacked up with another young girl and decided the best way for their love to truly blossom, was for one of them to dress up as a man. So on the flip of a coin, Mary East became James Howe and from that point on and for the next 34 years, lived as a man with her female lover.
Now they bought a pub in Epping which was run quite well until an altercation with one other customers left Mary/James without the use of one of her arms. She received a pay out and the couple moved off to Limehouse and ran another pub . Now they were quite good at the pub game and over the years they amassed a sizeable sum of money, and decided to move onto Poplar, East London, where they bought a pub called the White Horse.
Now one dark and stormy night a lady turned up at the door and recognised James Howe, and as the cogs were turning in her head the penny dropped. “You’re Mary East!” she said, she had come from the same village as Mary. Now remember, at that time if you were in a same sex relationship you had big trouble on your hands. And so this visitor began to blackmail Mary over several years.
Eventually Mary had enough and took her blackmailer to court arriving on the day as Mary East, and of course the shock amongst the townspeople was electric. The case got adjourned and during that time Mary East sold the White Horse pub and was never seen again.
Play song above, view video for story.