British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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March 25.]                      lady day.                                      181
At St, Alban's certain buns called " Pope Ladies " are sold on Lady Day, their origin being attributed by some to the following story:—A noble lady and her attendants were travelling on the road to St. Alban's (the great North road passes through this town), when they were benighted and lost their way. Lights in the clock-tower at the top of the hill enabled them at length to reach the monastery in safety, and the lady in gratitude gave a sum of money to provide an annual distribution on Lady Day of cakes, in the shape of ladies, to the poor of the neighbourhood. As this bounty was distributed by the monks, the " Pope Ladies " probably thus acquired their name.— See N. & Q. Ath S. vol. x. p. 412. Another correspondent of N, & Q. (4th S. vol. x. 341) says these buns arc sold on the first day of each year, and that there is a tradition that they have some relation to the myth of Pope Joan.—See also the Gent Mag. 1820, vol. xc. p. 15.
The gyst-ale, or guising-feast, was an annual festival of the town of Ashton-under-Lyne. It appears from the rental of Sir John de Assheton, compiled a.d. 1422, that twenty shillings were paid to him as lord of the manor for the privilege of holding this feast by its then conductors. The persons named in the roll as having paid 3s. 4d. each are:—" Margret, that was the wife of Hobbe the Kynges (of misrule) ; Hobbe Adamson ; Eoger the Baxter; Robert Somayster; Jenkyn of the Wode; and Thomas of Curtual." The meaning of the term gyst-ale is involved in some obscurity—most probably the payments above were for the gyst, or hire, for the privilege of selling ale and other refreshments during the festivals held on the payment of the rents of the manor. These guis-ings were frequently held in the spring, most probably about Lady Day, when manorial rents were usually paid; and, as the fields were manured with marl about the same period, the term marlings has been supposed to indicate the rough play or marlocMng which was then practised. This, however,
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