British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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April I.]                          ALL FOOLS' DAY.                                       187
monster; and, in short, the whole family of innocent children were made April fools. Nay, my landlady herself did not escape him. The empty fellow has laughed upon these conceits ever since."
In the north of England persons imposed upon on this day are called " April Gouks." A gouk, or gowk, is properly a cuckoo, and is used here, metaphorically, in vulgar language, for a fool. The cuckoo is, indeed, everywhere a name of contempt.—Brand, Pop. Antiq., 1849, vol. i. p. 139.
In this county the following rhyme is said after twelve
" April fool's gone past, You're the biggest fool at last; When April fool comes again You'll be the biggest fool then."
N. & Q. 1st S. vol. xii. p. 100.
In connection with the ancient custom of making " April fools" on the 1st of April, the following hoax was practised on the London public on the 1st April, 1860. Some days previous thousands of persons received a neatly printed and official-looking card, with a seal marked by an inverted sixpence at one of the angles. It was to this effect:— " Tower of London. Admit the Bearer and Friend to view the Annual Ceremony of washing the White Lions on Sunday April 1st, 1860. Admitted at the White Gate. It is parti­cularly requested that no gratuity be given to the Warders or their Assistants." The hoax succeeded remarkably well, and consequently several thousand persons were taken in. For many hours cabs might have been seen wending their way towards Tower Hill on that Sunday morning; the drivers asking every one they met " How they should get to the White Gate." At last this piece of deception was found out, and the many thousands who had been thus imposed upon returned home highly disgusted.
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