British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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Feb. 3.]
phraseology of the country, at Fasting's Even, used to bar ovt the master, i.e., to depose and exclude him from his school, and keep him out for three days. During the period of this expulsion, the doors of the citadel, the school, were strongly barricaded within; and the boys, who defended it like a besieged city, were armed in general with bore-tree or elder pop-guns. The master meantime made various efforts, both 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 he was repulsed and defeated. After three days' siege, terms of capitulation were proposed by the master, and accepted by the boys. These terms were summed up in an old formula of Latin Leonine verses, stipula­ting what hours and times should for the year ensuing be allotted to study, and what to relaxation and play. Securities were provided by each side for the due performance of these stipulations, and the paper was then solemnly signed by both master and pupils.
One of these articles, always stipulated for and granted, was the privilege of immediately celebrating certain games of long standing: viz. a foot-ball match and a cock-fight. Captains, as they were called, were then chosen to manage and preside over these games : one from that part of the parish, which lay to the westward of the school; the other from the east. Cocks and foot-ball players were sought for with great diligence. The party whose cocks won the most battles was victorious in the cock-pit; and the prize, a small silver bell, suspended to the button of the victor's hat, and worn for three successive Sundays. After the cock-fight was ended, the foot-ball was thrown down in the churchyard; and the point then to be contested was, which party could carry it to the house of his respective captain, to Dundraw, perhaps, or West Newton, a distance of two or three miles, every inch of which ground was keenly disputed. All the honour accruing to the conqueror at foot-ball was that of possessing the ball.*—Hutchinson's Hist, of Cumberland, vol. ii. p. 322.
* Addison is described by his biographers as having been the leader of a barring-out at the Grammar School of Lichfield.
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