British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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304:                                 ROYAL OAK DAY.                          [MAY 29
a peck of copper was in earlier times scattered broad-cast among the people. The Reformation, however, swept these and many other old customs away, but after the Restoration of Charles II., the Dean and Chapter no doubt considered the 29th of May and the 5th of November ought to be kept as days of rejoicing, and as one means of doing so caused one of their officials to throw a bag full of pennies to the people who met in the college. The duty was entrusted to the senior verger of the cathedral. For many years it was the practice for the children of the Blue Coat Schools to attend Divine service in the cathedral, who were drawn up in rank and file in the nave, for the inspection of the prebends, who minutely examined the new scholastic garments of the Blue Coat scholars. This being done they were ushered into the choir, and at the end of the service a regular pell-mell rush was made for the cloister doors, in order to be present at ' push-penny,' The scenes on these occasions were almost beyond description. For a few years the custom thus continued, the attendants at ' push-penny' gradually diminishing ; for twenty-five years, however, it has been discontinued, nor is it likely to be revived."
At Durham also on the 29th of May, the choir ascend tho large tower of the cathedral, and sing anthems from the three sides of it. This is done in remembrance of the monks chanting masses from it in behalf of Queen Philippa, wrhen engaged in the sanguinary battle of Redhills with the Scotch King, David I., 1346. The battle is commonly called the battle of Neville's Cross, from the beautiful cross erected on the field of victory by the powerful Baron of that name, a fragment of which still remains. The reason given why an­thems are only sung from three sides of the tower, not from the fourth, is that a chorister once overbalanced himself, and falling from it was killed.—Times, May 6th, 1875.
The working men of Basingstoke and other towns in Hampshire arise early on the 29th of May to gather slips of oak with the galls on; these they put in their hats or any­where about their persons. They also hang pieces to the
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