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Lincolnshire Yellow Bellies

Why are folks from Lincolnshire called Yellow Bellies? Here are a list of possibilities, but no one seems to know for sure...

  1. The name came from the custom of Lincolnshire people hanging "belly" bacon for so long that it turned yellow.
  2. People living in the fens often caught malaria or ague from stagnant water, which turned their skin yellow.
  3. Opium taken to relieve malaria and other disorders also turned people's skin yellow.
  4. Wildfowlers (not flowers!) became covered in yellow clay of the fens as they stalked their prey.
  5. A Lincolnshire farmer with an ugly 28-stone daughter offered would-be husbands a dowry of as many gold coins as it would take to cover her belly.
  6. The fenland administrative Warpentake of Elloe was called in bygone times "Ye Elloe Bellie" as bel was German for low-lying. This was often corrupted into "Yellow Belly".
  7. Drivers of the Lincoln-to-London stage coaches wore yellow waistcoats and were nicknamed Yellow Bellies by London Cockneys.
  8. Legend had it that if shillings were placed on Lincolnshire stomachs at bedtime and they were still there the next morning, they would have turned into gold sovereigns.
  9. Many Lincolnshire country women carried their money or gold under their dresses when going to market and were called yellow bellies.
  10. The 10th Lincs Regiment of Foot had as its colours from 1851 to 1881 the red cross of St George on a yellow background.
  11. Soldiers of the 10th Foot once wore green tunics with yellow facings.
  12. An unpopular explanation is that the 10th Foot had retreated from the enemy in battle, and had been dubbed cowardly or "yellow".
  13. Officers of the Royal North Lincolnshire Militia would wear bright yellow waistcoats on the battlefield. This made it easier for their men to spot them. This version seems to be promoted in Lincolnshire schools as the "proper" explaination.
  14. There was a species of frog peculiar to the fens region which had yellow bellies.
  15. A Lincolnshire lady whose canary died replaced it with a frog with a yellow belly, in the belief that the frog would sing like the canary and said to it, "Now sing yellow belly."
  16. Labourers working to reclaim the fens became covered in the yellow clay.
  17. The Lincolnshire Mail Coaches which ran between 1785 and 1871 were painted dark blue with a bright yellow belly to conceal splash marks from the yellow county clay roads.
  18. On a bottle of Bateman's "Yellow Belly Ale" the explanation given is that farm workers collecting mustard seed got covered in yellow dust.
  19. Stewart Dowse reports that his uncle Wilford FOX told him it was customary to paint the belly of male sheep (rams) yellow, and the farmer could determine how many ewes had been serviced.

Aren't you glad you asked?

To add further confusion, Baz Willy tells me that if you were from Lincoln City, you were called a "Linnit" and folks from south of The Wash were called "Poachers" in the 1940s. Baz is a proud Poacher.

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[Last updated: 26-June-2009 - Louis R. Mills]