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Maggoty Ceilidh Band

Who was Maggoty Johnson?

The band's name refers to Samuel Johnson, (1691-1773) who was a wit, musician, actor, and playwright. He was employed as jester and dancing master at Gawsworth Hall near Macclesfield. Although born Samuel Johnson, in life he became known as Lord Flame, and in death as Maggoty Johnson.

He is buried in Maggoty Wood, Maggoty Lane, Gawsworth, Cheshire. His grave, a grade II listed ashlar brick tomb standing in a beech wood, can still be seen today. (see photo on the right)The final resting place of Samuel, nicknamed Maggoty Johnson, is unusual in that it is not in a graveyard or other consecrated ground, and there are two memorial stones with alternative inscriptions. He was buried in this unconsecrated ground at his own request, unusual in a country where most were buried in a churchyard. Transcriptions of the grave inscriptions are displayed on plaques near the grave and these are reproduced below. The first inscription is joyful and was probably dictated by Johnson himself. The second, placed there three generations later in more righteous less joyful times, scorns the first's mocking of Judgement Day. Samuel 'Maggoty' Johnson, alias 'Lord Flame', was a poet and musician of considerable talent. He appears to have been one of England's last professional jesters, employed by the Lord of Gawsworth, but available for hire to the local gentry where, because of his sharp wit and endearing repartee, he was invarably allowed free license.

In 1729 he made an appearance in London as an author, with a play bearing a title to match his own eccentricity. 'Hurlothrumbo, or 'the Supernatural', ran for fifty consecutive nights at the Haymarket Theatre. Johnson himself took the leading role of 'Lord Flame', a name that he subsequently adopted for himself throughout the rest of his life.

He had numerous other works published including 'The Blazing Comet' and 'A Vision of Heaven', whilst several others, including some of his own personal favourites, were destined to remain only in manuscript form.

He retired to New Hall, a property in Gawsworth granted to him by the lord of the manor, where he lived along with a faithful female servant for many long years. As a mark of respect for her he designed her a special tomb, which he had built in Gawsworth woods, one of their favourite haunts. His plans to have her buried there were thwarted however by her brother who insisted on her receiving a Christian burial.

On his own death in May 1773 he himself initially received a Christian burial in the local churchyard. It was only then discovered that his wish was to be buried in the vault, which he had originally designed for his servant. His body was duly disinterred and reburied at the intended location.

Picture of the grave ofMaggoty Johnson
Picture of the inscription on the gravestone of Maggoty Johnson Picture of the inscription on the gravestone of Maggoty Johnson