British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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58                                         COLLOP MONDAY.                              [FEB. 2.
At Eton it was the custom for the scholars to write verses either in praise or dispraise of Father Bacchus, poets being considered as immediately under his protection. He was therefore sung on this occasion in all kinds of metres, and the verses of the boys of the seventh and sixth, and some of the fifth forms, were affixed to the inner doors of the college. Verses are still written and put up on this day, but the young poets are not confined to the subject of writing eu-logiums on the God of Wine. It retains, however, the name of Bacchus.óBrand's Pop. Antiq., vol. i. p. 62. Status Scholce Etonensis, a.d. 1560, fol. 423.
On the day termed Hall' Monday, which precedes Shrove Tuesday, about the dusk of the evening it is the custom for boys, and in some cases for those who are above the age of boys, to prowl about the streets with short clubs, and to knock loudly at every door, running off to escape detection on the slightest sign of a motion within. If, however, no attention be excited, and especially if any article be discovered negligently exposed, or carelessly guarded, then the things are carried away; and on the following morning are dis≠covered displayed in some conspicuous place, to expose the disgraceful want of vigilance supposed to characterise the owner. The time when this is practised is called "Nicka-nan night f and the individuals concerned are supposed to represent some imps of darkness, who seize on and expose unguarded moments.
On the following eve (Shrove Tuesday), the clubs are again in requisition ; but on this occasion the blows on the door keep time to the following chant:
"Nicka, nicka nan; Give me some pancake, and then 1'11 be gone. But if you give me none, I'll throw a great stone, And down your doors shall come,''
Report of the Royal Institution of Cornivall for 1842; AT. & Q. Id 8. vol. xii. p. 297.
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