Never Say Rabbit in a Boat
Written in 1977
First staged at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke on Trent


This was Nick’s first full length play, and explored the story of Hellyar Jan: fisherman, smuggler and born liar!

The action takes place on the beach of a small bay in North Cornwall and in Hellyar’s old house on the cliff above.
Reviews
'An eloquent theatrical document' - Birmingham Post 'Humour…..compelling characters' - Sentinel
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Play Extract

HELLYAR comes hopping in, holding his finger.

Squashed your finger eve e?

HELLYAR
Bloody rats!

HAMILTON
Rat bit e did e?

HELLYAR
Damn rat out there in the rubbish, gib’m a yell an slammed the door, catched me bloody finger, gyaw ta hell!

He hops and grabs the cleaning gear.  Sits and starts cleaning the gun.

HAMILTON
Want a beer Dad?

HELLYAR
Where d’y get that to?

HAMILTON
Up the pub, on the way ‘ome, stopped off an got this.

HELLYAR
Paid for?

HAMILTON
Course!

HELLYAR
Giss one thun.

HAMILTON opens a bottle and hands it to HELLYAR.

HELLYAR
Anyone up there?

HAMILTON
One or two.

HELLYAR
When was the last time you cleaned this gun boy, no wonder you can’t shoot straight, damn thing…(LOOKING DOWN THE BARREL)...’s rusted up!

HAMILTON
‘Undred an fifty stone a fish, all pulled be ‘and.

HELLYAR
That all?

HAMILTON
Each, that is…mind you, good money mind…dropped off when the wind got up though, thank God, easier then.

HELLYAR
‘When the wind is in the East, the fish dun’t feast’

HAMILTON
Gyaw I didn’ ‘alf envy they guard men at the end of the day, tis like takin sweets from a baby with a gurdy…

HELLYAR
Too damn soft, thass your trouble.

HAMILTON
They got strippers now…

HELLYAR
Eh?

HAMILTON
Strippers.

HELLYAR
(STOPS AND LOOKS UP)  Women?

HAMILTON
No ya daft arab.

HELLYAR
What then?

HAMILTON
(STANDS AND DEMONSTRATES)  You got your gurdy right?

HELLYAR
Ez…

HAMILTON
Let your line out, on your gurdy, find fish, wind up. You got a pully thing over on your other gunnel over ere…

HELLYAR
Gyaw.

HAMILTON
Line go round that, an back to this gunnel ere, now just ere, over the fish room, you got two strips a wood, like this…

HELLYAR
Gitton!

HAMILTON
Fish come up, over the gurdy, round your pulley, an they d’go through these strips, they d’catch their mouths an wrench em off th’ook.

HELLYAR
Good gor!  Tis a bloody factory boy!

HAMILTON
Blood bath more like.

HELLYAR
But there’s no skill to it these days boy.

HAMILTON
Not wi gurdies.

HELLYAR
All this electronic gear, dun’t knaw what a gannet is, some ob’m.

HAMILTON
They do.

HELLYAR
They dun’t!  Can’t tell a gannet from a black back… wouldn’t knaw what to do if they seed a whale.

HAMILTON
Run.

HELLYAR
None ob’m knaw any a the superstitions.

HAMILTON
Eh?

HELLYAR
The old superstitions boy, there was a lotta truth in em, used ta live by em man, all the’old sayins…

HAMILTON
When the wind is in the East…

HELLYAR
True that is, thass damn true, that is…

HAMILTON
Hahahaha!  Gyaaw, pack of ole…

HELLYAR
You laugh boy, but I can tell e a thing or two, make your ‘air curl…

HAMILTON
Gyat!  (HE drinks)

HELLYAR carries on with the gun.  At length.

HELLYAR
Never say rabbit in a boat, thass another one.

HAMILTON
Eh?

HELLYAR
Never mention rabbits in a boat. Bad luck that is.

HAMILTON
Gitton with e.

HELLYAR
Tis true that is, you mention rabbits in a boat boy, you’ll never catch fish.

HELLYAR
Gor I ab’m eard nothing like it…

HELLYAR
I tell e boy, you go round talkin rabbit talk in a boat they’ll…

HAMILTON
Who the hell’s goin’ ta mention rabbits in a boat anyway?

HELLYAR
Aah you dun’t knaw boy, you’d be surprised ‘ow often rabbits d’ crop up in a conversation.

HAMILTON
They do wi you. You dun’t talk about nothin but rabbits.

HELLYAR
Tid’n only me boy.

HAMILTON
Bloody rabbits all the time, you ab’m got nothin else in your ‘ead bar rabbits…you an Stan Deock, saw e today, em another rabbit fiend.

HELLYAR
Gya e dun’t knaw nothin.

HAMILTON
E’m all right.

HELLYAR
Dun’t like’n.

HAMILTON
Harry asked’n come in on the net with us.

HELLYAR
Eh? Who?

HAMILTON
E’m comin in with us, sixth shareholder.

HELLYAR
E ‘idden!

HAMILTON
‘Sright.

HELLYAR
Why wad’n I consulted?

HAMILTON
Did’n think you’d mind.

HELLYAR
You can’t ave e in!

HAMILTON
We’ve all decided.

HELLYAR
That does it, that is. What the hell do you. think you’m playin at Askin ‘im!  ...Bloody arabs!

HAMILTON
Aw come on Father…

HELLYAR
What on God’s earth… thass me that is, mentionin bloody rabbits. I knew it, thass it, id’n it, thass talkin rabbits, I told e boy, they’m bloody potent these superstitions, mention bloody rabbits…

HAMILTON
You’m not in a boat!

HELLYAR
Anywhere!  We’m talkin boats an rabbits, the two dun’t mix!  Talkin boats an rabbits then you tell me bloody Stanly’s in on the net, e’m like a bloody rabbit e is, in a boat, jumpin up an down
like a doe on ‘eat….

HAMILTON
What the hell’s wrong wid’n?

HELLYAR
Wrong wid’n!  There’s every damn thing wrong wid’n!  E’m a bloody Jonah!  You’m sunk wid’n anywhere near a damn boat or a net or a…sunk!

HAMILTON
Well tis too late Dad, we asked’n an e’s keen, e’s comin ere now with all the others to discuss the purchase.

HELLYAR
What a bloody flabborsome mess!

HAMILTON
Tidn flabbersome!  Now just leave off Stanly Father…

HELLYAR
I wun’t leave off’n!

HAMILTON
There idn’ nothin you can do ‘bout it so drop the bloody subject. They’ll be ere in a minute.

HELLYAR
Bloody smilkin e is…

HAMILTON
Leave off your words.

HELLYAR
Put in wi the bread an took out wi the cakes..

HAMILTON
Aww…

HELLYAR
You can’t afford to risk a man like Stanly Deock near a net!

HAMILTON
Look, it take five men to handle a net, beach seine…

HELLYAR
I done it wi two.

HAMILTON
You got ‘ave two in the bloody boat!  One rowin, one shootin!

HELLYAR
Ez you, thass right..

HAMILTON
How the hell’re e goin t’aul it if you got no-one on beach?

HELLYAR
....I arn’t goin ‘ave nothin do wid’n if Stan Deock is roped in for shareholder.

HAMILTON
You’m a damn stubborn ole man.

HELLYAR
If e’m in a boat, Amen said the goose boy, I wun’t go near’n, not for any price…

HAMILTON
Keep’n ashore, e dun’ ave ta shoot or row.

HELLYAR
Get the bugger within fifty yards of a boat an e’s in’n boy, e’m too damn excitable, I seen im capsize a damn boat, tryin to land a conger, got that excited by it, sea was flat as a pea on a plate an e capsized the bugger tryin to kill this ere conger.

HAMILTON
We got ‘ave six share’olders, we got th’original five’n me an you make six, an all the others agree to Stan an e’m keen to do it.  Anyway, you dun’t do bugger all, juss sit an grumble…

HELLYAR
Stanlys in, I’m out. There’s such a thing as seaman-ship an e lack it…

HAMILTON
He dun’t.

HELLYAR
E lack it summin cronic.

HAMILTON
E’ll be ere in a minute…

HELLYAR
I’m gone.