British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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July 25.]                    st. james's day.                                 345
upon their introduction, (he children of the humbler class employ themselves diligently in collecting the shells which have been cast out from taverns and fish-shops, and of these they make piles in various rude forms. By the time that old St. James's Day (August 5th) has come about, they have these little fabrics in nice order, with a candle stuck in the top, to be lighted at night. As the stranger occasionally comes in contact with these structures, he is suddenly surrounded by a group of boys, exclaiming, "Pray, remember the grotto I" by which is meant a demand for a penny wherewith pro­fessedly to keep up the candle. Mr. Thorns considers that in the grotto thus made, we have a memorial of the world-renowned shrine of St. James at Compostella, which may have been formerly erected on the anniversary of St. James by poor persons, as an invitation to the pious, who could not visit Compostella to show their reverence to the saint by alms-giving to their needy brethren.—Book of Days, vol. ii. p. 122; N. & Q. 1st. vol. i. p. 6.
The rector of Cliff distributes at his parsonage-house, on St. James's day, annually, a mutton pie and a loaf to as many as choose to demand it; the expense amounts to about £15 per annum.
It was customary at one time for the Corporation of Liverpool to give an annual public dinner, in the Exchange, to two or three hundred of the principal inhabitants, on the 25th July and 11th November, the days of the commence­ment of the Liverpool fairs, which were considered as days of festivity by all ranks of the community. On these days the mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses, in their gowns, went in procession with a band of music, from the Exchange to the middle of Dale Street, where they passed round a large stone, whitewashed for the occasion, and thence proceeded to another stone in the centre of Castle Street, and back to the Exchange, where they dined. This ancient custom was discontinued about the year 1760.—Corry, History of Liverpool, 1810, p. 94.
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