British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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316                                      MIDSUMMER EVE.
[June 23.
The custom of making large fires on the Eve of St. John's Day is annually observed by numbers of the Irish people in Liverpool. Contributions in either fuel or money to purchase it with are collected from house to house. The fuel consists of coal, wood, or in fact anything that will burn: the fire­places are then built up and lighted after dark.—N. & Q. 3rd S. vol. xii. p. 42.
Isle of Man.
Formerly the inhabitants lighted fires to the windward side of every field, so that the smoke might pass over the corn; they folded their cattle and carried blazing furze or gorse around them several times; they gathered bawan fealoin or mugwort as a preventive against the influence of witch­craft ; and it was on this occasion they bore green meadow grass up to the top of Barule in payment of rent to Mannan-beg-mac-y-heir.—Train, History of Me of Man, 1845, vol. ii. p. 120.
The date of the first establishment of a regular watch or guard for the City of London is uncertain. Stow assures us it has been instituted " time out of mind;" and we have, as early as the 39th Henry VI., the following entries:
" Payde to iiij men to wacche w* the Mayre and to goo wl him a nyghtes, xvjd#"
" Payde in expenses for goyng about w* the Mayre in the town in the wacche, iiijdl"
The watch for the ensuing year was always appointed with much pomp and ceremony on the vigil of St. John, or Midsummer's Eve ; hence the appellation of the Midsumme Watch. On this night, as we learn from Stow, the standing watches in every ward and street of the city and suburbs were habited in bright harness. There was also a marching watch consisting of as many as 2000 persons, most of them old soldiers, who appeared in appropriate habits, armed, •and many of them, especially the musicians and standard-
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