British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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June 23.]                     midsummer eve.                               321
Immediately after the election of office-bearers for the year ensuing, the brethren walk in procession three times round the Cross, and afterwards dine together under the presidency of the newly-elected grand master. About six in the evening the members again turn out, and form into line two abreast, each bearing a lighted flambeau, and de­corated with their peculiar emblems and insignia. Headed by the heraldic banners of the lodge, the procession follows the same route, three times round the Cross, and then pro­ceeds to the abbey. On these occasions the crowded streets present a scene of the most animated description. The joyous strains of a well-conducted band, the waving torches, and incessant showers of fire-works make the scene a carnival. But at this time the venerable abbey is the chief point of attraction and resort, and as the torch-bearers thread their way through its mouldering aisles, and round its massive pillars, the outlines of its gorgeous ruins become singularly illuminated, and brought into bold and striking relief. The whole extent of the abbey is, with " measured step and slow," gone three times round. But when near the finale, the whole masonic body gather to the chancel, and forming one grand semicircle around it, where the heart of King Robert Bruce lies deposited near the high altar, the band strikes up the patriotic air, " Scots wha hae wi' Wallace bled," and the effect thus produced is overpowering. Midst showers of rockets and the glare of blue lights the scene closes.—Wade's History of Melrose Abbey, 1861, p. 146.
The following extract is taken from the Liverpool Mercury, I June 29th, 1867 :—
The old pagan fire-worship still survives in Ireland, I though nominally in honour of St. John. On Sunday night I bonfires were observed throughout nearly every county I in the province of Leinster. In Kilkenny, fires blazed on I every hillside at intervals of about a mile. There were J very many in the Queen's county, also in Kildare and I Wexford. The effect in the rich sunset appeared to r travellers very grand. The people assemble, and dance
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