Dark Dorset Online Scrapbook is an archive of current and past events relating to local history, folklore and mysteries that can be discovered in the English county of Dorset.

Search the Dark Dorset Scrapbook Archive

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Pancakes and Football: The Customs and Traditions of Shrove Tuesday

The tradition of flipping the pancake
is often observed on this day
Today is Shrove Tuesday, Also known as "Pancake Day", Shrove Tuesday always falls on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday which is the first day of Lent in the Christian faith. Dates vary from year to year, but it usually falls in February, sometimes early March. It is the day of preparation for Lent, when the eating pancakes was made obvious by the need to up the eggs and fat, the eating of which were prohibited during the forty days of Lent.

Below: Shrove Tuesday 20th February 2007 at All Saints Church, Rectory Green, Easton, Portland, Dorset.



Shrove Tuesday in Dorset

Dorset Folklorist, John Symonds Udal wrote about the customs and traditions of Shrove Tuesday in Dorset in his book 'Dorsetshire Folklore' published in 1922:-
Lent-crocking. — Also known as Pancake Day. Dorsetshire was not behind other counties in the usual festive observances commemorative of this day. That especially applicable to its name of " Pancake Day " was the custom of " Lent-crocking " — the name speaks for itself — which obtained in many parts of the county.

The earliest reference to " Lent-crocking " that I can find from a Dorset source is from the pen of the Dorset poet himself, the Rev. William Barnes, in Hone's Year Book, p. 800 (ed. 1832), which, as it gives a very graphic description of the custom, racy as the soil, I give in full:—
"In some of the villages of Dorsetshire and Wiltshire the boys, at Shrovetide, still keep up a custom called Lent-Crocking, which originated in the carnival of Roman Catholic times, and consists in going round in the  evening to pelt the doors of the inhabitants with pieces of broken crockery.

" In Dorsetshire the boys sometimes go round in small parties, and the leader goes up and knocks at the door, leaving his followers behind him armed with a good stock of potsherds—the collected relics of the washing-pans, jugs, dishes, and plates that have become the victims of concussion in the unlucky hands of careless housewives for the past year. When the door is opened the hero, who is perhaps a farmer's boy, with a pair of black eyes sparkling under the tattered brim of his brown milking-hat, covered with cow's hair and dirt like the inside of a blackbird's nest, hangs, down his head, and, with one corner of his mouth turned up into an irrepressible smile, pronounces, in the dialect of his county, the following lines composed for the occasion, perhaps, by some mendicant friar whose name might have been suppressed with the monasteries by Henry VIII :—
'I be come a shrovin,
Vor a little pankiak,
A bit o' bread o' your biakin,
Or a little truckle cheese o' your own miakin.
If you'll gi' me a little I'll ax no more,
If you don't gi' me nothin I'll rottle your door.'(In later editions of his poems Barnes softened down the vowels " ia " of the rich Doric of the Blackmore Vale into " ea ". See Chapter II, p. 65 (n.)
"Sometimes he gets a piece of bread and cheese; and at some houses he is told to be gone, when he calls up his followers to send their missiles in a rattling broadside against the door. In Wiltshire the begging of pancake and bread and cheese is omitted; and the Lent-crockers pelt the doors as a matter of course.

"The broken pots and dishes originally signified that, as Lent was begun, those cooking vessels were of no use, and were supposed to be broken; and the cessation of flesh-eating is understood in the begging of  pancakes and bread and cheese."
 

In 1872 F. C. H. (the well-known Rev. Dr. F. C. Husenbeth) in Notes and Queries (Ser. iv, ix, 135) referred to a Dorset custom of boys going about at Shrovetide with potsherds to throw at people's doors. These were tolerated, but they were not allowed to throw stones. As they called at the various houses they used to sing this doggerel:—

" I'm come a-shroveing,
For a piece of pancake,
Or a piece of bacon,
Or a little truckle cheese
Of your own making.
Give me some or give me none,
Or else your door shall have a stone."
 

I replied (p. 208) calling attention to the interesting account of this custoin given in Chambers' Book of Days (1864, vol. i, p. 239), and there spoken of as existing in Dorset and Wilts. I added a second verse, as given in Chambers, which savours more of the old vernacular speech. Chambers also gives a first verse which varies somewhat from that furnished by F. C. H.
 

The second verse is as follows :—

" A-shrovin, a-shrovin,
I be come a-shrovin,
Nice meat in a pie,
My mouth is very dry !
I wish a wuz zoo well-a-wet
I'de zing the louder for a nut.

Chorus :   A-shrovin, a-shrovin,
We be come a-shrovin,"


I may say that at that time I was not aware that the account in Chambers, though not the verses, was taken directly from Barnes's description in the Year Book given above.
 

Many years ago the late Rev. W. K. Kendall, of East Lulworth, sent me some MSS. containing various references to Dorset customs and superstitions which he had met with. His remarks as to this particular custom are well worth giving. He says :—

" I am told by a Portlander that it is still the custom for boys on Shrove Tuesday to go round the villages throwing stones, etc,, at the doors of the houses. The following doggerel is sung :—


'Slit, slat, sling,
If you don't give me a pancake
I'll make your doors ring.'

" On this account Shrove Tuesday is called ' Pansherding Day'. This custom has been observed also at West Lulworth until very lately.


"In the parish of Berwick St. James also the children go a-shroving. On Shrove Tuesday they sing the following verses from house to house :—
 

We are coming shroving,
For a piece of pan-cake,
For a piece of chuckle cheese,
Of your own making.
Is the pan hot,
Is the pan cold,
Is the peas in the pot,
Nine days old?
Is the knives and forks whet?
Is the bread and cheese cut?
Is the best barrel tapped?
For we are come shroving.' "


The following account of the custom as occurring at Stalbridge, in the northern part of the county, is taken from the Rev. W. S. Swayne's pamphlet on the History and Antiquities of Stalbridge (1889), p. 36 :—


" On Shrove Tuesday evening the boys of the parish were accustomed to pelt the doors of the inhabitants with shards and tiles ; this was called keeping Pan-shard night.
" The traditional account was that when King Alfred raised his banner at Stourhead the inhabitants of the neighbouring villages were in this way summoned to join him. This custom died a natural death soon after the passing of Sir Robert Peel's new Police Act."


The Rev. Herbert Pentin, late Vicar of Milton Abbey, in the northern part of the county, contributes an interesting account of this custom as still practised in that parish to the Proceedings of the " Dorset Field Club " for 1904 (vol. xxv, p. 4). After telling us that the sports in Old Milton were badger-baiting under the cedar trees in the Abbey churchyard, cock-squailing, cock-fighting, and playing of fives outside the west end of the church, whilst bowls were played on the bowling-green and ringing was very popular, Mr. Pentin goes on to say :—


" During Lent the children went ' Shroving' and ' Lent-crocking'. On Shrove-Tuesday the children, carrying sticks, knocked at the doors of the principal residents and repeated this doggerel verse:—


' Please I've come a-shroving
For a piece of pancake
Or a little ruckle cheese
Of your own making.
If you don't give me some,
If you don't give me none,
I'll knock down your door
With a great marrow bone
And away I'll run.'


"The result of this threat was that the children were given half-pence, apples, eggs, a piece of pancake, or a piece of ruckle cheese. A ruckle cheese was a small sour-milk home-made cheese weighing about a pound. It could be rucked, i.e. rolled along the ground. Hence its name
(More generally known, perhaps, as " truckle-cheese ". (See Barnes's Glossary.) In the evening the ' Lent-crocking ' began. Those people who had not given the children anything when they came ' a-shroving ' were then rewarded by having pieces of broken crockery and pans and other missiles thrown at their doors. In this way real damage was often done.


" The practice of shroving still exists in the present village of Milton ; it is one of the customs which have survived the demolition of the old town. It exists in other parishes, but is gradually dying out."


See also a similar account by the same writer in Memorials of Old Dorset (1907, pp. 111-12).
Sometimes, it would appear, an attempt was made by the owner or occupier of the house whose door was so battered to derive some personal advantage out of " Lent-crocking" by a selfish limitation or variation of the old custom.


A correspondent (T. B. G.) in the Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries (1889, vol. i, p. 158), states that in the early days of the century a schoolmaster at Cerne was accustomed to permit each boy to hurl against the school door a log of wood, no matter what the weight; and great were the efforts to break through, or, at least, crack the venerable oak, well studded with iron. But nothing of the kind happened ; the only tangible result being the accumulation of a handsome pile of fuel for future use of the wily pedagogue.


But in later days, apparently, all owners of houses are not inclined to take so quietly the often unpleasant results that follow the attacks of disappointed " Lent-crockers " and appeal to the law for protection ; and, of course, however much one may regret from a folk-lore point of view that it should be so, when the law is invoked with that object custom must give way.
 

At all events this would seem to have been the result of the following case which I find amongst my notes, taken, I believe, from the Bridport News sometime in the " eighties " :—
 

"PANCAKE DAY

"Eliza Jane Horn and Fanny English, young women were summoned by Elizabeth —— of Allweston, for wilfully injuring a door, doing damage to the amount of eight shillings.


"Complainant was the owner of a cottage occupied by a widow named Harriet Cooper, and about ten o'clock on the night of Shrove Tuesday defendants, in obedience to old-established custom, were full of the fun and frolic associated with the day of pancakes and fritters. Accordingly they sallied forth with a large stone jar as the 'pan-shard' to use in the event of meeting with no response to the cry of ' Gie us some pancake O ! '
 

"Arriving opposite the house the widow was alarmed with a bang and crash at the front door and shook with fear. It was a long time before she could muster up enough courage to go and see the cause of the crash; and when she arrived at the front door, the panel of which was broken with the blow, she saw at her feet the remnants of the jar; and in the road close by were the defendants, hugely delighted with their achievement.

"Defendants now denied that they did the mischief ; but four witnesses were called who stated that they saw them close by the house at the time it was done, and that no one else was there.
 

"The Bench thought that sufficient evidence had been given to prove guilt, and fined defendants six shillings and costs, as well as ordering them to pay eight shillings damages. After some protest the money was paid."

Cock-squailing.


I do not suppose that the rural population of the western counties was more cruel or brutal in its amusements than those in other counties,—particularly in the midland or northern counties, where bull-baiting, dog and cock-fighting seems to have been very prevalent,—but the age was a rough one and the manners of the people uncouth. What wonder then if their amusements and customs sometimes followed suit!

The particularly cruel and barbarous amusement of " throwing at cocks ", or " cock-squailing ",—as it is called in the Dorset dialect,—was a common pastime on Shrove Tuesday and sometimes also, it is said, at Whitsuntide.
 

A spirited engraving of this so-called sport is shown in Hone's Every-Day Book (vol. i, p. 129), in which the bird,—a hen in this case,—is depicted lying wounded on the ground, tethered to a stake, and upbraiding, like Balaam's ass, those who had struck her.
 

George Roberts, the well-known Dorset historian and writer upon social subjects, in speaking of the cruelty of the seventeenth century and how it was fostered, alludes in his Social History of the Southern Counties (1856) to this custom. He says (p. 422):—

" When a young couple were blessed with offspring the mother, while early instilling the rudiments of virtuous instruction, did not fail to procure the means for early capability of keeping Shrove Tuesday in an orthodox manner. The village tailor made a cloth representation of a cock, which, being lined with lead, regained an erect position upon being knocked down by the juvenile cock-squailer. To practise upon a living bird was but the next step in the art."


Cock-fighting 


"Cock-fighting" was another form of pastime,—less brutal and degrading, perhaps, than the last,— commonly practised at this time.
 

It seems to have been largely followed in the old grammar schools, and Roberts speaks (p. 423) of " cock-pence " being still paid in some grammar schools to the master as a perquisite on Shrove Tuesday.
 

Hutchins also (History of Dorset, iii, 197) refers to the custom of cock-fighting on Shrove Tuesday having been long established at Wimborne Grammar School, and only discontinued at the beginning of the last century; but as it is there dealt with at some length as rather constituting a local custom at Wimborne, I will reserve further notice of it for my chapter on Local Customs.

Kicking the Ball 

"Kicking the ball,"—to which the modern and highly scientific game of " football" was in the olden days entirely restricted,—was a pastime customary to Shrove Tuesday in certain parts of Dorsetshire,—though not, I believe, to any large extent.

From time immemorial, however, it would seem to have been indulged in at Corfe Castle by the quarrymen of Purbeck; but is so identified with their life and customs that I thought it better to deal with it in my chapter later upon Local Customs rather than treat it here as a calendar custom merely.


(i) Quarrymen's customs. — One of the oldest and most interesting amongst the customs of the Isle of Purbeck is that connected with the quarrymen of the district—the " Purbeck Marblers ", as they were anciently called. These quarrymen, who were resident in the districts of Corfe Castle and Swanage, were formed into a strong company or guild, to whom was granted a charter confirming all their rights and privileges. These were evidenced by a series of Articles of Agreement. Corfe Castle was the proper metropolis of the quarriers' country; though Swanage, being the place of shipment of the stone, the business tended more to that quarter. At one time, it is said, the general meeting was opened at Corfe, and adjourned to Swanage; but afterwards the meetings were held at Corfe and Langton respectively.
 

Marblers Football and Boots
displayed at the Corfe Museum
Hutchins (vol i, pp. 682-4) gives an account of the Marblers' • Company and of the articles of their charter, which account was taken from a paper by the late Mr. Oliver W. Farrer, which appeared in that interesting but short-lived—and now very scarce—publication, The Purbeck Papers, in 1859. Hutchins states that the early history of the company is involved in obscurity, the ancient records having been destroyed in a fire at Corfe Castle. They were governed by certain rules or articles of agreement, which it seems to have been customary to renew at intervals, for several copies, varying only in orthography, are extant. To one of these, in the possession of the only member of the company then resident in Corfe Castle, and one of the wardens, was attached a seal, purporting to be the seal of the Company of Marblers, but it was a heraldic  device, viz. On a pale three roses slipped proper. (The Roses of Kempstone in Corfe Castle bore "on a pale three roses slipped ".)

To this account of Mr. Farrer's I would refer those who desire a fuller account of the company and its constitution.
(References might also be made to Biggs's Isle of Purbeck, pp. 27-8 ; and for privileges and customs of Corfe to the late Mr. Thomas Bond's History of Corfe Castle (1883), p. 125.) In the Standard newspaper of 10th March, 1886, appeared a very good and succinct account of a meeting of the Purbeck quarrymen at Corfe Castle on Shrove Tuesday (their customary day of meeting) of that year. This account I, many years after, sent to the Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries (1907), vol. x, p. 249, with references to Mr. Farrer's article in the Purbeck Papers ; and as it expresses all that it seems to me necessary to state here about the Company and its customs, I reproduce it.
 

A photograph of Purbeck Marblers
kicking a football through the
streets of Corfe Castle, Dorset,
on Shrove Tuesday, 1938
"A curious old custom among the quarrymen of the Isle of Purbeck was observed yesterday at Corfe Castle. There is among the quarrymen a charter bearing the date 1551, which is rigorously obeyed in order to keep the working of the stone quarries in the Isle of Purbeck in the hands of the freemen. To be able to take up one's freedom one must be the legitimate son of a freeman. He must be 21 years of age, up to which time his wages belong to his parents.

"Once during the year the quarrymen used to meet at Corfe Castle Town Hall and there read the charter, and on that occasion, viz. Shrove Tuesday, ' free boys ' claim and take up their freedom. Yesterday morning a large number of quarrymen assembled in the Town Hall, Corfe Castle, and proceeded to the election of officers, after which about twelve freemen were sworn in. Each man has to sign the roll of freemen, pay a fee of 6s. 8d., provide a penny loaf made on purpose by the baker of the place, and buy a pot of beer. The man thus sworn in becomes his own master. Should any of the freemen desire to marry during the next year he has to pay to the stewards a ' marriage shilling ', and should he neglect to do this his wife loses all interest in the quarry and cannot take an apprentice to work for her. After the above business was transacted the ceremony of ' kicking the ball' commenced. The ball is provided by the man who was last married among the freemen, and is presented in lieu of the ' marriage shilling '. If it should happen that no freeman has married since the previous Shrove Tuesday the old football is used. The ball was taken from the Town Hall to a field at Corfe Castle, and there kicked about by any one who wished.
 

"These very novel proceedings terminated by the ball and a pound of pepper being taken to the lord of the manor as an acknowledgement to him in respect of the way to the River Ower."

(ii) Kicking the Ball.—The custom of kicking the football "to be provided by the man who was last married amongst the freemen ", is alluded to in the above account. In a later set of rules provision was made for the carrying of the ball to Ower—I believe on the following day, Ash Wednesday. I have seen it stated somewhere that in these degenerate days it was carried, not kicked, to its destination. The Bridport News in March, 1884, speaks of the annual custom of the Swanage Freemen " kicking the ball " as having taken place at Corfe on Shrove Tuesday. It says that the custom was one that had been kept up annually for generations past. The ball was taken to Corfe Castle, and kicked from the Castle grounds through Corfe on towards Swanage.
 
Below an extract taken from the Chambers Book of Days February 9th 1864, details the tradition of Shrove Tuesday.
"SHROVE TUESDAY

Shrove Tuesday derives its name from the ancient practice, in the Church of Rome, of confessing sins, and being shrived or shrove, i.e. obtaining absolution, on this day. Being the day prior to the beginning of Lent, it may occur on any one between the 2nd of February and the 8th of March. In Scotland, it is called Fasten's E'en, but is little regarded in that Presbyterian country. The character of the day as a popular festival is mirthful: it is a season of
carnival-like jollity and drollery—'Welcome, merry Shrovetide!' truly sings Master Silence.

The merriment began, strictly speaking, the day before, being what was called Collop Monday, from the practice of eating collops of salted meat and eggs on that day. Then did the boys begin their Shrovetide perambulations in quest of little treats which their senior neighbours used to have in store for them—singing:

'Shrovetide is nigh at hand, And I be conic a shroving: Pray, dame, something, An apple or a dumpling.'

When Shrove Tuesday dawned, the bells were set a ringing, and everybody abandoned himself to amusement and good humour. All through the day, there was a
preparing and devouring of pancakes, as if some profoundly important religious principle were involved in it. The pancake and Shrove Tuesday are inextricably associated in the popular mind and in old literature. Before being eaten, there was always a great deal of contention among the eaters, to see which could most adroitly toss them in the pan.

Shakspeare makes his clown in All's Well that Ends Well speak of something being 'as fit as a pancake for Shrove Tuesday.' It will be recollected that the parishioners of the Vicar of Wakefield 'religiously ate pancakes at Shrovetide.'

Hear also our quaint old friend, the Water Poet—'Shrove Tuesday, at whose entrance in the morning all the whole kingdom is in quiet, but by that time the clock strikes eleven, which (by the help of a knavish sexton) is commonly before nine, there is a bell rung called Pancake Bell, the sound whereof makes thousands of people distracted, and forgetful either of manners or humanity. Then there is a thing called wheaten flour, which the cooks do mingle with water, eggs, spice, and other tragical, magical enchantments, and then they put it by little and little into a frying-pan of boiling suet, where it makes a confused dismal hissing (like the herniae snakes in the reeds of Acheron), until at last, by the skill of the cook, it is transformed into the form of a flipjack, called a pancake, which. ominous incantation the ignorant people do
devour very greedily.'

It was customary to present the first pancake to the greatest slut or lie-a-bed of the party, 'which commonly falls to the clog's share at last, for no one will own it their due.' Some allusion is probably made to the latter custom in a couplet placed opposite Shrove Tuesday in Poor Robin's Almanack for 1677:

Pancakes are eat by greedy gut,
And Hob and Madge run for the slut.'
In the time of Elizabeth, it was a practice at Eton for the cook to fasten a pancake to a crow (the ancient equivalent of the knocker) upon the school door.

At Westminster School, the following custom is observed to this day:—At 11 o'clock a.m. a verger of the Abbey, in his gown, bearing a silver baton, emerges from the college kitchen, followed by the cook of-the school, in his white apron, jacket, and cap, and carrying a pancake. On arriving at the school-room door, he announces himself, 'The cook;' and having entered the school-room, he advances to the bar which separates the upper school from the lower one, twirls the pancake in the pan, and then tosses it over the bar into the upper school, among a crowd of boys, who scramble for the pancake: and he who gets it unbroken, and carries it to the deanery, demands the honorarium of a guinea (sometimes two guineas), from the Abbey funds, though the custom is not mentioned in the Abbey statutes: the cook also receives two guineas for his performance.

Among the revels which marked the day, football seems in most places to have been conspicuous. The London apprentices enjoyed it in Finsbury Fields. At Teddington, it was conducted with such animation that careful house-holders had to protect their windows with hurdles and bushes. There is perhaps no part of the United Kingdom where this Shrovetide sport is kept up with so much energy as at the village of Scone, near Perth, in Scotland. The men of the parish assemble at the cross, the married on one side and the bachelors on the other: a ball is thrown up, and they play from two o'clock till sunset. A person who witnessed the sport in the latter part of the last century, thus describes it: 'The game was this: he who at any time got the ball into his hands, ran with it till overtaken by one of the opposite party: and then, if he could shake himself loose from those on the opposite side who seized him, he ran on: if not, he threw the ball from him, unless it was wrested from him by the other party, but no party was allowed to kick it. The object of the married men was to hang it, that is, to put it three times into a small hole on the moor, which was the dool, or limit, on the one hand: that of the bachelors was to drown it, or clip it three times in a deep place in the river, the limit on the other: the party who could effect either of these objects won the game: if neither one, the ball was cut into equal parts at sunset. In the course of the play, there was usually some violence between the parties: but it is a proverb in this part of the country, that "A' is fair at the ba' o' Scone."'

Taylor, the Water Poet, alludes to the custom of a fellow carrying about 'an ensign made of a piece of a baker's mawkin fixed upon a broom-staff,' and making orations of nonsense to the people. Perhaps this custom may have been of a similar nature and design to one practised in France on Ash Wednesday. The people there 'carry an effigy, similar to our Guy Fawkes, round the adjacent villages, and collect money for his funeral, as this day, according to their creed, is the burial of good living. After sundry absurd mummeries, the corpse is deposited in the earth.' In the latter part of the last century, a curious custom of a similar nature still survived in Kent. A group of girls engaged themselves at one part of a village in burning an uncouth image, which they called a holly boy, and which they had stolen from the boys: while the boys were to be found in another part of the village burning a like effigy, which they called the ivy girl, and which they had stolen from the girls: the ceremony being in both cases accompanied by loud huzzas.

These are fashions, we accompanied opine, smacking of a very early and probably pagan origin. At Bromfield, in Cumberland, there used to be a still more remarkable custom. The scholars of the free school of that parish assumed a right, from old use and wont, to bar out the master, and keep him out for three days. During the period of this expulsion, the doors were strongly barricaded within: and the boys, who defended it like a besieged city, were armed in general with guns made of the hollow twigs of the elder, or bore-tree. The master, meanwhile, made various efforts, by force and stratagem, to regain his lost authority. If he succeeded, heavy tasks were imposed, and the business of the school was resumed and submitted to: but it more commonly happened that all his efforts were unavailing. In this case, after three days' siege, terms of capitulation were proposed by the master and accepted by the boys. The terms always included permission to enjoy a full allowance of Shrovetide sports.

In days not very long gone by, the inhumane sport of throwing at cocks was practised at Shrovetide, and nowhere was it more certain to be seen than at the grammar-schools. The poor animal was tied to a stake by a short cord, and the unthinking men and boys who were to throw at it, took their station at the distance of about twenty yards. Where the cock belonged to some one disposed to make it a matter of business, twopence was paid for three shies at it, the missile used being a broomstick. The sport was continued till the poor creature was killed out-right by the blows. Such tumult and outrage attended this inhuman sport a century ago, that, according to a writer in the Gentleman's Magazine, it was sometimes dangerous to be near the place where it was practised. Hens were also the subjects of popular amusement at this festival. It was customary in Cornwall to take any one which had not laid eggs before Shrove-Tuesday, and lay it on a barn-floor to be thrashed to death. A man hit at her with a flail; and if he succeeded in killing her therewith, he got her for his pains. It was customary for a fellow to get a hen tied to his back, with some horse-bells hung beside it.

A number of other fellows, blind-folded, with boughs in their hands, followed him by the sound of the bells, endeavouring to get a stroke at the bird. This gave occasion to much merriment, for sometimes the man was hit instead of the hen, and sometimes the assailants hit each other instead of either. At the conclusion, the hen was boiled with bacon, and added to the usual pancake feast. Cock-fights were also common on this day. Strange to say, they were in many instances the sanctioned sport of public schools, the master receiving on the occasion a small tax from the boys under the name of a cock-penny. Perhaps this last practice took its rise in the circumstance of the master supplying the cocks, which seems to have been the custom in some places
in a remote age. Such cock-fights regularly took place on Fasten's E'en in many parts of Scotland till the middle of the eighteenth century, the master presiding at the battle, and enjoying the perquisite of all the runaway cocks, which were technically called fugies. Nay, so late as 1790, the minister of Applecross, in Rossshire, in the account of his parish, states the schoolmaster's income as composed of two hundred merks, with 1s. 6d. and 2s. 6d, per quarter from each scholar.

The other Shrovetide observations were chiefely of a local nature. The old plays make us aware of a licence which the London prentices took on this occasion to assail houses of dubious repute, and cart the unfortunate inmates through the city. This seems to have been done partly under favour of a privilege which the common people assumed at this time of breaking down doors for sport, and of which we have perhaps some remains, in a practice which still exists in some remote districts, of throwing broken crockery and other rubbish at doors. In Dorsetshire and Wiltshire, if not in other counties, the latter practice is called Lent Crocking. The boys go round in small parties, headed by a leader, 'who goes up and knocks at the door, leaving his followers behind him, armed with a good stock of potsherds—the collected relics of the washing-pans, jugs, dishes, and plates, that have become the victims of concussion in the hands of unlucky or careless housewives for the past year. When the door is opened, the hero,—who is perhaps a farmer's boy, with a pair of black eyes sparkling under the tattered brim of his brown milking-hat,—hangs down his head, and, with one corner of his mouth turned up into an irrepressible smile, pronounces the following lines.

A-shrovin, a-shrovin,
I be come a-shrovin;
A piece of bread,
a piece of cheese,
A bit of your fat bacon,
Or a dish of dough-nuts,
All of your own makin!
A-shrovin, a-shrovin,
I be come a-shrovin,
Nice meat in a pie,
My mouth is very dry!
I wish a was zoo well-a-wet
l'de zing the louder for a nut!
Chorus—A-shrovin, a-shrovin,
We be come a-shrovin!

Sometimes he gets a bit of bread and cheese, and at sonic houses he is told to be gone; in which latter case, he calls up his followers to send their missiles in a rattling broadside against the door. It is rather remarkable that, in Prussia, and perhaps other parts of central Europe, the throwing of broken crockery at doors is a regular practice at marriages. Lord Malmesbury, who in 1791 married a princess of that country as proxy for the Duke of York, tells us, that the morning after the ceremonial, a great heap of such rubbish was found at her royal highness's door."

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Visit our website