British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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342                               st. kexelm's day.                  [July 17.
the Parson/' the origin of which is said to have arisen on this wise:—" Long, long ago, an incumbent of Frankley, to which St. Kenelm's is attached, was accustomed, through horrid, deep-rutted, miry roads, occasionally to wend his way to the sequestered depository of the remains of the murdered saint-king, to perform Divine service. It was his wont to carry some provisions with him, with which he refreshed himself at a farm-house near the scene of his pastoral duties. On one occasion, however, having eaten up his store of provisions, he was tempted (after he had donned his sacerdotal habit, and in the absence of the good dame) to pry into the secrets of a huge pot, in which was simmer­ing the savoury dish the lady had provided for her house­hold ; among the rest dumplings formed no inconsiderable portion of the contents. The story runs that the parson poached sundry of them, hissing hot, from the cauldron, and, hearing the footsteps of his hostess, he, with great dexterity, deposited them in the sleeves of his surplice. She, however, was conscious of her loss, and, closely following the parson to the church, by her presence prevented him from dis­posing of them, and, to avoid her accusation, he forthwith entered the reading-desk, and began to read the service, the clerk beneath making the responses. Erelong, a dumpling slipped out of the parson's sleeve, and fell on the clerk's head; he looked up with astonishment, but taking the matter in good part, proceeded with the service. Presently, however, another dumpling fell on his head, at which he, with upturned eyes and ready tongue, responded, " Two can play at that, master," and, suiting the action to the word, he immediately began pelting the parson with crabs, a store of which he had gathered, intending to take them home in his pocket to foment the sprained leg of his horse, and so well did he play his part, that the parson soon decamped, amid the jeers of the old dame, and the laughter of the few persons who were in attendance."—Brand, Pop. Antiq. 1849, vol. i. p. 344.
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