by Bill Carson
The below extract is from Cornelius Brown’s- Notes About Notts, 1874:
One of the curious characters who had lived in Nottingham was known as old Tom Booth, a notorious deer stealer, who died on the 26th March, 1752. For years the exploits of this individual have been a never-failing subject of conversational interest in various circles. Thoresby relates one of the old man’s feats a follows:-
“In Nottingham Park at one time there was a favourite fine deer, a chief ranger, which Tom and his wily companions had often cast their longing eyes on; but how to deceive the keeper while they killed it was a task of difficulty. The night, however, in which they accomplished their purpose-whether by an any settled plan or not it is not known- they found the keeper at watch as usual in a certain place in the Park. One of them, therefore, went to an opposite direction in the Park, and fired his gun, to make the keeper believe he had shot a deer; upon which away goes the keeper in haste to the spot, which was at a considerable distance from the place where the favourite deer was, and near which Tom Booth was skulking. Tom, waiting a proper time, when he thought the keeper at a sufficient distance for accomplishing his purpose, fired and killed the deer, and dragged it through the River Leen undiscovered”.
Mr F Whiteman inform us that Booth was a stout man, and by trade was a whitesmith. The stone marking his place of interment is in St Nicholas Church-yard, against the southern wall of the church. It bears the following inscription:-
“Here lies a marksmen, who with art and skill,
When young and strong fat bucks and does did kill;
Now conquered by grim death (go, reader tell it!),
He’s now took leave of powder, gun and pellet.
A fatal dart, which in the dark did fly,
Has laid him down among the dead to lie.
If any want to know the poor slave’s name,
Tis old Tom Booth,- ne’er ask from whence he came”.
Old Tom was so highly pleased with this epitaph, which was made before his death that he had it engraved on the stone some months previous to its service being required. In addition to the epitaph itself, the head-stone was made to include Booth’s name, & c, and also that of his wife, blank places being left in each case for the age and time of death. Booth’s compartment of the stone was in due course properly filled up, but the widow, disliking the exhibition of her name on a tombstone while living, resolved that such stone should never indicate her resting-place when dead. She accordingly left an injunction that her body be interred elsewhere, and the inscription is incomplete to this day.