Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Old Devon Customs - Shrove Tuesday Part II

Another Dartmoor view - the view from Hound Tor looking towards Hay Tor.

I couldn't resist adding a few more facts about the Shrove holiday celebrations in old Devon. First some of the ditties that were sung:

Here's another version that was sung in Bridestow:

"Lean crock a pancake,
Flitter for your labour;
Dish a meal, piece a bread,
What you please to give me,.
I see by the string
There's a good dame within.
I see by the latch
There's something to catch.
Trepy, Trapy, Tro,
Please give me mumps and I'll be go;
Nine times, ten times,
I am come a-shroving;
pray, dame, something -
Apple or a dumpling,
Or a piece of truckle cheese of your own making,
Or a piece of pancake of your own baking."

At Hartland in North Devon, around 1891, you might have heard the following rhymes chanted:

"Flish, flash; flish, flash;
Watter, watter, ling.
Hev ee any pancakes?
Plaize vor let us in.
hev ee any best beer?
Hev ee any small?
Plaize vor gie us zomthing'
Or nothin' at all."

"Shrove Toosday, Shrove Toosday,
Poor Jack went to plow,
His mother made pancakes,
Her didn' knaw 'ow;
Her toss'd min, her turn'd min,
Her burnt min zo black,
Her putt zo much pepper,
Her poisoned poor Jack."
(Love it!)

I don't know if the following tradition is still adhered to in Gittisham (near Honiton in E. Devon) but apparently it was still carried out at the time Coxhead wrote his book, in the 1950s. This description dates from 1928:

"At Gittisham on Shrove Tuesday the usual custom of tip-toeing by the school children was observed. Marching from the school in pairs, they paraded the village and outlying places, crying, "Tip, tip, toe, please give us a penny and away we'll go." A large sum of money was collected in this way, which was taken to the school and divided amongst the children by Miss Richards (headmistress). "

Coxhead mentions that BBC recordings were made on Tuesday 17th February 1953 of this event at Gittisham still taking place. "The origins of this custom has been lost over the centuries, but 86 year old Mr Charles Bowyer, the village's oldest inhabitant, can remember taking part in it when he was a child and can also recall his father saying that it took place in his younger days. The ceremony has not changed over the past 75 years." I have just done a Google search, and am thrilled to say that this tradition has NOT died out:

This local tradition is carried out annually by local school children on Shrove Tuesday. It is believed to have orginated from the ceremony of beating the bounds.

From Valerie Porter's excellent book 'Yesterday's Countryside', she writes "that several centuries ago, when Shrove Tuesday was the nation's favourite day for sports, a company of saddlers in Chester started presenting the drapers with a wooden ball decked with flowers, held on the point of a lance. In about 1540 the wooden ball was changed into a silver bell, to be awarded to the man who could run the 'best and furthest on horseback' on Shrove Tuesday. later the shoemakers of Chester started presenting the drapers with a leather ball, called a 'foote-ball', and naturally they started kicking it around. But the leather balls had a tendency to break windows and so the ball was changed for a silver trophy and was given for foot races instead of the kick-abouts.

Other Shrove Tuesday games included tug-of-war and cock-throwing. The latter bestial sport involved tying live birds to a stake and throwing things at them until they were dead. In the Scilly Isles, having enjoyed a spot of cock-throwing, the lcoal boys would then chuck stones at people's doors in the evening. In Dorset, on Shrove Tuesday, they went in for the similar pastime of 'Lent crocking'. (As in Devon then . . .)

1 comment:

MammyT said...

My goodness, Jennie. What a way to begin Lent. I'm just wondering where that all began originally.