British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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May 29.]                      ROYAL OAK DAY.                                    303
capers about in a most ludicrous manner. Some of them amuse themselves by casting dirt, whilst others, more mis­chievously inclined, throw stones at him: but woe betide the young urchin who is caught; his face assumes a most awful appearance from the soot and grease with which " Oliver begrimes it, whilst his companions, who have been lucky enough to escape his clutches, testify their pleasure by loud shouts. In the evening the whole party have a feast, the expenses of which are defrayed by the collection made in the morning.
Mr. Cuthbert Carlton, of Durham, gives in the Durham Chronicle, of November 29th, 1872, the following account of a curious custom called " Push Penny." He says : " This custom, which has been discontinued nearly a quarter of a century, is thus referred to in the Derbyshire Times of Satur­day last:—4 There is a custom which has been upheld from time immemorial by the Dean and Chapter of Durham on three days in the year—30th of January, 29th of May, and 5th of November, the anniversary of King Charles' Martyr­dom, Eoyal Oak Day, and Gunpowder Plot, which is known among Durham lads as " push-penny." On these days the Chapter causes twenty shillings in copper to be scrambled for in the college yard by the juveniles, who never fail to be present.' The practice observed every 29th of May, and 5th of November, was to throw away within the college thirty shillings in penny pieces. Whether the custom dates from time immemorial, it is difficult to say, but the two last dates would seem only to point to the origin of the custom at the end of the seventeenth, or beginning of the eighteenth centuries, to testify the loyalty of the Dean and Chapter to the Throne, and their appreciation of the happy restoration of the ' Merry Monarch,' and the escape of the King and his Parliament on the 5th of November. There was some such custom, however, during the monastic period, when pennies were thrown away to the citizens who were wont to assemble in the vicinity of the Prior's mansion. At Bishop Auckland the bishop was accustomed to throw away silver pennies at certain times of the year, and it is even said that so much as
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