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This page has:  Manners and Customs of the Wolds   Yorkshire Customs in the 1800s   Thwing Meteorite  
 Amiens 1918

Manners and Customs of the Wolds
A History of Primitive Methodism in the Wolds was written by Rev. Henry Woodcock in 1889. He recalls earlier times (around 1810). In his work the surnames Coultas, Dalby and Barmby occur repeatedly. Here is his description of the language, people and homes of the Wolds in that time.

…….Every English county has forms of expression which would almost be a dead language to the people of any other county.  Suppose I were to say a native of Kent, what I heard a Woldswoman say to a lad fifty years ago; "Ah saay Jack, if thou disn't shut that yat Ah'll gie thee a clip o' the lug; for that and sue (sow) will get into t'garden and reat (root) up all them taties, and gobble all the collyflowers."  Would he know what I meant?  I think not.
Richard (commonly called 'Dicky') Fletcher (1748 - 1827), Bellman, of Bridlington, was famous for his factious and rhyming announcements, delivered in the unadulterated Doric of his native tongue of which the following is a specimen:
Tak'n oop this foornoon, opud th' nooarth sans,
Five kels, which I hev in my hans,
Who iver has lost em may just cum to me,
An they sall hev 'em agean, an we can agrea.
Fifty years ago we saw a number of people carrying a man shoulder height, sat astride a ladder, accompanied by shouts and beating of kettles.  It was called 'Riding the Stang,' and was done to punish him for ill-treating his wife.  'Stang' is the Norse word 'to punish' and they were punishing this man for his cruelty to his wife.  Mr Thompson gives the following lines sung on one of these occasions -
'Ban a dan dan, upon a tin can,
'Cause Michael Best thrash'd his woman,
He bang'd her, he bang'd her indeed,
He bang'd poor Nell, who stood little i'need,
It was neither with stick, nor stower, nor stean,
But he up with his neif (fist) and knock her down.
Like the Welsh they cling to their mother tongue.  When a man was once asked why he did not send his son to school he said - "I'm no schollard me sen, but ah kno' that ah weant let ma lad be teached to spell ta-tes with a 'p.' " Sometimes when a preacher talked about his 'father,' instead of 'fayther,' he did not escape criticism; of course, the preacher was right, but he 'fared nean the better fo' that.'  Even polite and educated people will occasionally lapse into what they call their mother dialect, ie that of seventy years ago.
There is plenty of the purest water on the Wolds, while the climate, less rigorous than some suppose, owing to the ozone-laden air from the not distant sea, helps us secure a hardy class of labourers who manfully develop the resources of the soil.  Strength, rather than grace of manners, is characteristic of the mass of the people, a feature which they are a little too proud.  A local poet says,
"Our Northern breeze wi' us agreaz,
And does for wark weel fit us,
I' public cares and all affairs,
Wi' honour we acquit us."
Captain Anderson, a native of Kilham, who, it will be remembered, spoke at the Mow Cop Camp Meeting, May 31st, 1807, in his poem, 'The Sailor,' thus describes the mode of life towards the close of the last century:
My clothing then it mostly was home-spun;
My stockings did my mother's taste display,
Black and white wool she mixed to make them grey,
But then the richest woman in the town
Would go to church in linsey-woolsey gown.
On Yorkshire Wolds we mostly barley eat,
For there they grow but very little wheat;
We lived on barley bread, and barley pies,
And oats and peas the want of wheat supplies.
A white jacket, a pair of corduroy trousers, a long smock, pulled up and tied around the waist, and a badger skin cap - such was the garb of the Wolds labourer one hundred years ago.  Today there is scarcely any perceptible difference between labourer and landlord, as far as dress is concerned.
The cottages (called Nooks) were much-walled and thatched roofed, about six feet high; some had beetling brows; beneath were small windows like eyes twinkling in the sun, and leaned like the Tower of Pisa; being whitewashed and embowered with flowers they presented a pretty appearance, which helped to compensate for the wretched accommodation within.  Behind the door hung the charm-stone and horse-shoe, turned upside down, for the purpose of keeping out the witch and wizard.  A spacious chimney, projecting half-way across the nook, left sufficient space for a large family to gather round the fire and see the day-light cut of the top of the chimney.  A group would be playing at cards in one corner, while others would be amusing themselves around the fire-side by betting odds which could see the most stars out of the chimney without rising from his seat.  A wood fire, with a sprinkling of coal, gave warmth to the scene.  Each cottage had it swell fed pig, and this home-fed bacon was a great treat, for as an old woman said, 'there was first a laveret of fat and then a laveret of lean.'  No pigs can beat those fed on the Wolds.
Every man was his own banker, and any surplus cash was put in some place in the nook, regardless of all interest.  When a good sum had been accumulated it was put into the foot of an old stocking and hid in some beam or 'boak.'  Sums of money, thus secreted, have been found in old nooks.  They had a singular way of reducing decimals from a bill, as appears from the following conversation between a respectable inhabitant of the village of Fimber and a tradesman -
Debtor - 'Billy, ah've come to pay thee ma bill - fifteen shillin.  Here's a handful of money, look at it as ah coont if doon.'
Creditor - 'Yes', replied Billy, glancing at the cash until the last coin was put down, 'it's the amount of ma bill to a tack and ah feels mich obliged to ye, sir; but oot o' this I owe you three shillin,' and taking the three shillings from the sum he had received, he handed them to the customer.
Debtor - 'Od sort and death, Billy, thou's boun to mak' a sad raffle on't; if thou gives me three shilling out o' that money, ah sall owe thee the money still.'
Creditor - 'No, sir; you've paid me th' amount o'  ma bill and if you tak up three shillin we shall be straight.
Debtor - 'Od sort; thou's ga'ing to mak' a raffle on't.  Prithee, Billy, let me reckon it.  Now, ma lad, thou mun tak' that money and coont it an' see that 'tis good; put it in thee pocket and then gie me three shillin of thee oan money, and we shall be straight.'
He did that and so settled the two accounts.
'Now, Billy,' said the man, 'thou framest summat like and ah thinks a'st better scholar of t' twa.'  The debtor then left, confident that he had proved himself a cleverer arithmetician than the creditor.
The farmer and his wife used to go to market on the same horse, the former in front, the latter behind on a pillion seat; the eggs, butter, crockery, and other breakable articles of domestic use were often the worse for the journey, though they went only at the rate of three miles an hour.  On a winter's night the groom stood shivering in the cold, anxious to catch the sound of 'Dapper's' hoofs, bringing home in safety, his precious freight, master, mistress and goods.  Today the same distance, nine miles, is travelled by rail in fifteen minutes, a speed that would have frightened our rude fore-fathers out of their wits.
A century ago, land was let at five shillings per acre, lambs sold at five shillings per head, and a yearling sheep fetched about eight shillings.  There were no well-trimmed hedges to shelter the sheep, which grazed in 'tedders' in the open field.  The mode of agriculture was most primitive; indeed the Wolds looked quite Oriental, for sturdy and compact oxen, with large curved horns, were to be seen at work, where horses and machines are to be seen today. In 1768, each wagon was drawn by two oxen and two horses.  As late at 1826 four oxen were employed in ploughing and road making at Whitby; and in 1858 oxen were used at a stone quarry at the same place, while at Howden a bull was employed in drawing a dray laden with oil cake.
When the land had been ploughed and made ready there were no drills to disperse the seed.  A man, mounted on a horse, with hopper before him, rode up and down the ridge scattering the seed while sitting at ease.  The corn, of which there was but a scant crop, was taken to the nearest market, in sacks, on the backs of horses.  A man was living thirty years ago who saw the first wagon load of corn start from Fimber for the Malton market.  It consisted of six quarters of oats, enough for one horse now-a-days, but when this quantity was put upon a wagon six of the strongest horses in the village were yoked to move it; and an old farmer said, "ah doot it will stick fast ga'ing up Towthorpe Hill."  Old and young left their nooks and followed the conveyance, and when the hill was mounted they were more surprised than their grandchildren were, when they saw the first train (1852) start from Fimber to Driffield.
The pleasures and amusements of the people were low and vulgar.  They were fond of rude sports and pastimes.  Men climbed the greasy pole for a leg of mutton, and women, tied in sacks, ran races for tea, sugar and snuff - rare and costly luxuries in those days.  Football, quoits, skittles, wrestling, dog and cock-fighting, rat hunts, bull and badger baiting were the most popular pastimes.  Each village had its 'pub,' which would have delighted rollocking Charles Dickens.  There were many, robbed of the means of obtaining the shelter of a home and warmth of a fire, became moonlight poachers and midnight marauders, stealing cattle, robbing hen roosts, and killing game.  Boxing and fighting were reserved for the Sabbath, and a man, still living, saw six fights outside Garton - the cock-pit of the Wolds - one Sunday afternoon.  The Derby was established in 1780 to improve the breed of horses, and the labourers would risk their last shilling on their favourite horse.  Swearing was common, and almost everybody swore at everybody else.
There were certain Annual Feasts and Festivals, when mirth fairly boiled over.  On Royal Oak Day, 29th of May, the church bells rang merrily, and an oak branch was hung at the horses' heads.  Shrove Tuesday was a red letter day to the young, for custom required, not only that they should have a half-day holiday, but also that the ever celebrated pancakes, the delight of Yorkshire children, should be good and abundant.  Ash Wednesday (understood by the children to mean 'Hash') used to remind us of the Scottish national dish, 'Haggis,' which is said to contain a deal of confused feeding.  Carling Sunday, the day when parents gave children peas, baked with butter in a frying pan, which, by the use of a pea shooter and a catapult, lads used to shy at the ears of people in the street and sometimes in the church - was a high day to the young.  On Bon Fire Day, November 5th, the youngsters used to rifle hedges and stackyards of such combustible materials as lay within the reach of their fingers, and carry them away; at night we held high revels by the side of a huge fire, kept alive by tar barrels.
Fair Days (called in the old English, 'Fayres') held in the towns, and in most of the large villages, around 'the cross,' had a sort of religious origin.  When churches and chapels were unknown in our land, the heralds of salvation preached to our forefathers from 'the cross,' on the green and so it came to pass that no place was thought better on fair dealing than about 'the cross,' where they were converted to Christianity and to a knowledge of what was right between buyer and seller.  The cross of the preacher became the mart of the people.
Originated for a good object - to bring together merchandise, they became scenes of bacchanalian dissipation.  To the young they were the brightest days of the year.  Families gathered under the parental roof; children clustered round the knees of their grand-parents, and coaxed or cozened them into all sorts of extravagances.  Tables were spread at night with nuts, oranges, apples, brandy-snap, gingerbread, treacle-sticks and other toothsome rarities.  "Shut your eyes and open your moths, and wait for what is coming."  With eyes shut, they waited till some sweet morsel, as pleasant as a drop of whiskey to the Irish, was put into their open mouths.  Parents would practice self-denial, for weeks, without a murmur, that their tables might be well spread at 'fair tame.'  "And are you going to enjoy yourself during the fair," was asked of a woman, both poor and pious.  "Yes, I am.  Ah'd pawn ma goon afore ah'd let the day pass wi'out a bit of summat ex-try for ma bairns."  Well-to-do people, who delight to provide roast beef and plum pudding at Christmas, will surely see nothing extraordinary in the joy of these poor people!
Let us glance at one of these fairs as they were seventy years ago.  Here are stalls with toys, curiosities, ballads, bats, balls, books, birds, rabbits, squirrels, fancy goods - everything in fact to feed the taste of the giddy throng.  There is the wheel of fortune going round, the winner taking their prizes in sugar sticks, &c.  Yonder are the low theatres, with gaudily painted scenery and flaunting dressed actresses, singing indecent songs and performing indelicate dances; and not only the low and the blackguardly, but tradesmen and farmers patronize the performance.  Children were taken to these dens, and so schooled in vice.  Wombell's menagerie was there with its pictures of young ladies catching lions by the jaw in the desert.  Whirligigs carried bedizened children round and round, while fathers and mothers, and still graver grandfathers and grandmothers, would look on, greatly enamoured of this mirthful amusement.  Common shows, with human monsters, were the most attractive objects of exhibition.  One man was exhibited because of his abnormal fatness, another because of his unequalled leanness; a giant, eight feet four inches in his shoes, weighing twenty-eight stones, and a dwarf, only twenty-four inches high; a two headed infants, a four footed dwarf; Tom Thumb, and a fat lady - these and other natural curiosities were favourite objects of public gaze, so recent as when Harry Brougham said, "the school master is abroad," and when Mechanics' Institutes had begun to improve the tastes of the masses.  Thousands flocked to these fairs, and the surrounding villages were, for the time being, almost depopulated.  There are signs, happily, that the day of these revolting exhibitions is waning, and that the travelling showman will have to merit a share of public patronage by attractions of a more legitimate and elevating, if less startling, character.
Fifty years ago at The Sittings, held in Martinmas week, during the bleak month of November, hundreds of servants of both sexes, used to gather in the public streets to be hired.  Farmers would pat young women on their shoulders and gauge the width of their stout arms, as though examining a cow in a cattle show.  Disgusting scenes often took place.  Now the Corn Exchanges of Bridlington, Driffield and other towns are places at the disposal of the females, many of whom avail themselves of the privilege.
The favourite amusement of the people, however, was fox-hunting.  The bit of rough country from Flamborough Head to Rosebery Topping has been a favourite hunting ground since the days of the regency.  In the adjoining shire, Cleveland, as early as 1722 there was a hunt established which often passed into the 'breezy Wolds.'  Hunting parsons used to give out the 'meets' along with the 'banns' from the pulpits; and the parson was bound by custom at least, to give five shillings for every fox killed in his parish, and brought to the rectory gate.  This sum was spent at the public house, when the successful sportsmen mixed a bowl of punch which was drunk not wisely but too well.  Sixty years ago at the mere mention of the hunt there rose up before the minds of the people, and especially young people, visions of forty or fifty gentlemen in red coats, white leather breeches, and topped boots, bestriding a number of thoroughbreds; and fashionable young ladies, in their riding habits, taking fences and ditches like Centaurs; or coming to grief in amusing attitudes, to say nothing of the possibility of broken bones.  The romance of the chase, and especially the sound of the huntsman's horn, was enough to quicken the blood of the youngsters and make truants of them all.  They would leave shop or school, and rush, reckless of results - i.e. sprained ankles and dislocated joints, to say nothing of torn garments - to the fields as fast as their legs would carry them.  They were thrown into ecstasies when they saw the sportsmen, and their fair companions, perform wonderful feats of horsemanship and pass through all sorts of hair-breadth escapes, in pursuits of reynard's brush.  One day hunters and hounds got into Mally Sunley's garden, where the fox was killed.  Seizing a broom, she began belabouring the riders.  They roared with laughter.  "Hit him hard," cried one. "That's right," shouted another.  "Hit that fellow," screamed a third, for all seemed anxious to share in the chastisement.  It is right to say that they more than compensated old Mally for the damage done to her vegetables.

Part of Chapter 11 of Yorkshire Folk-Talk  by Rev. MCF Morris written 1892
The system of hiring farm-servants in the whole of the East and a considerable part of the North Ridings is one which seems first to call for some remark. Until recent years, when improved arrangements have been adopted, it was not too much to say that this institution was one of the curses of the country. That system, which till a few years ago was practically a universal one, and is still largely made use of, is called the Martinmas system. The statute hirings - statties as they are designated locally - take place, as far as the farm-servants themselves were concerned, at the worst possible time of the year. St. Martin's Day is on November 23rd, and the days are then about at their shortest and darkest, and the roads at their dirtiest. The only thing that can he adduced in favour of such a time is that farm work is then at the slackest.
St. Martin may be considered to be the patron saint of the East Yorkshire farm-servants; but it is to be feared they lightly regarded his name.
Almost without exception Martinmas was the season for the lads and lasses to change their spots, as they call their situations, and it was the occasion for a general holiday and merry-making all through the district. Martinmas week is a time of much social entertainment. Friends and relatives then meet at each others' houses; parties, dances, and amusements of various kinds are got up and being the one great holiday of the year with the young folks, the time passes all too quickly.
Those servants who are hired under this system are bound legally to their masters for one year. When the farmer engages a servant he gives him what is variously called his Jest, Gods-penny, or arles, which is a small sum of money varying from about two to ten shillings; if the fest be returned before the appointed day the servant is freed from the engagement, but if the money is retained the agreement is then binding.
These statute hirings were, and still are, held at the same time of the year in all the principal market towns.
As I remember them when a boy, it would be hard to describe a hiring day in one of our East Riding agricultural centres; such scenes of riot and disorder were they. Well do I recollect going through the streets of Pocklington on more than one occasion when the great festival was being held. It was throng deed and no mistake. In the first place, the streets were more probably than not inches deep in mud and sludge all iv a posh, as we should describe it in our country speech. Farmers and their wives, farm lads and lasses by hundreds, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, crowded the market-place; carriers' carts, gigs, vehicles of all descriptions poured into the town and teemed into the streets their living freights. Jack and Tommy, Joe and Harry, lustily greeted Polly, Sally, Jane, and Maggy; loud and hearty were the salutations between friend and friend joyous and exuberant were the spirits of these stalwart specimens of humanity. Although there was an element of business in the proceedings, the young folk had come there to enjoy themselves, and enjoy themselves they did. The actual hiring of the servants took place formerly only in the open street, which presented an animated appearance, and might be termed a kind of slave market. No doubt the farm lads and lasses were free to choose, and they received certain wages for their work; hut their build, muscle, and general physique were minutely scanned by those who engaged them: and well was it for them if their constitution was sound and robust; for the work to which they were called, though not disliked by those who could stand it, was no light matter. From daylight to sunset it was one continuous round all the year through. Ploughing and sowing, harrowing and rolling, washing and milking, work in the hay-field and work in the corn-field; hedging and ditching, an occasional threshing day with its attendant hard work, livering corn, plugging or scaling muck, foddering t' beeas and sike like these and countless other operations connected with the farm kept the youths and maidens perpetually a-gait. But after all, it was a healthy life. Early to bed and early to rise, with plenty of good wholesome food, preserved them in the rudest health; and if only the place to which they engaged themselves was a good meat spot, as it was called, that is to say, if they were well fed, all went well. A brother clergyman, of more than forty years' standing, once told me that in all his experience he never once had occasion to visit a sick case in the farm-servant class. The Yorkshire plew-lads, especially those in the East Riding, are as fine and well-developed a race as one can see anywhere; an army composed of such material might do wonders. But to return to the market-place of Pocklington, Martinmas Day there was a pleasure-fair day. The entertainments provided for the young men and women were of varied kinds. Rows of stalls lined the street, where all manner of meats and drinks were sold which would have disagreed with the constitutions of any ordinary mortals to an alarming extent, but which were indulged in freely and with impunity by these 'bruff' East-Ridingers. On these occasions 'cheap Jacks' and 'quacks' carried on a brisk trade; shooting-galleries and Punch and Judy were attractions to not a few, and shows of fat women, wild beasts, one-eyed and six-legged monsters, and all manner of horrors were literally besieged by uproarious crowds of claimants for admission, till the places fairly reeked again. It was a splendid harvest for the show-keepers, especially if the day was wet, and under that condition of weather the public houses were unfortunately also crammed almost to suffocation. It was from this point of view a sad sight. Boys and girls, lads and lasses, men and women were crowded together in the parlours and passages of the inns in a state of wild excitement, uproar, and confusion. Music, if such it could be called, and dancing went on merrily; coarse jests were freely indulged in; and songs of every description were bawled out in solo and chorus, and shouts of approval rent the air. It was like pandemonium let loose. All this naturally tended to demoralise the young people, and the results can be better imagined than described. It was only to be expected indeed that after a year's work and drudgery there should be some relaxation, and it was right that these hard-working farm-servants should have their enjoyment like anyone else; the only melancholy part about it was that it did not take a less debasing form. Happily the worst part of the old system is now done away with. The statties go on as of yore, but they are conducted in an altogether improved fashion. Both clergy and laity combined to get rid of the worst phases of the institution, if possible, and rooms are now hired in every town in which the girls are assembled by themselves, and can be engaged by the farmers' wives in an orderly and befitting manner; the Girls' Friendly Society and other kindred institutions all help in the same good cause, and although occasional brawls and disturbances take place, yet there is no comparison between the state of things now and what it was thirty years ago.
There is no class so difficult for a clergyman to deal with as the farm-servants engaged under the Martinmas system. They are a constantly shifting part' of the population. They like changing their 'spots,' and if possible, bettering themselves; and so at the twelve-month end away they go to fresh scenes. Sometimes they will stay on another year or more in the same place, if they can come to terms with their employers, but these cases are exceptions; the rule is for them to shift. They are at work all day, and so are tired at night, and go to rest early. The late well-known authoress of Plowing and Sowing appreciated the difficulties of their case as much as anyone, and with noble self-sacrifice she devoted herself some thirty years ago or more to the work of endeavouring to raise the moral and religious tone of the farm-servants near her home in the East Riding. No one could be better qualified for such a work than she was: for years she persevered in her task; but with all her special gifts and qualifications, the success that she achieved could not be said to be very encouraging, although she went through so much. Still, after what has been said, I feel bound to add that when these same farm lads marry, have homes of their own, and settle down in life, they turn out generally well-conducted and decent members of society.
Although the work on the farms was hard, yet the plough lads took an interest in it, and especially in their horses. The agricultural horses in the Wold country are fine well-bred animals, and as I best remember them - namely, twenty to thirty years ago - they used to receive every care and attention on the part of the lads whose duty it was to look after them. It was a really pretty sight to see, as I have seen times and oft, a waggon load of grain being led from one of the highly cultivated Wold farms down to the railway for transmission to the West Riding or elsewhere. There was the strongly-made but not ungracefully shaped pole waggon, yoked whereto were three or four handsome black or bay horses with well-groomed glossy coats, their manes and tails generally arranged in neatly made plaits and intertwined with ribbons of varied hue, yellow and red, blue and green. There sits the waggoner, mounted on the near-side horse, a lad, say, of twenty summers, a fine strong healthy-looking fellow as any one need wish to see; he has the four 'in hand' and his whip-stock rests on his thigh. He is well and warmly clad, and his black wide-awake with a peacock's feather at the side, together with his red and blue variegated waistcoat add to the picturesqueness of the turn-out. As they near the bottom of a slack, crack goes the whip, and 'whoa-up Bonny,' 'Duke,' 'Star,' or whatever the horses' names may be, and away they go down the end of the slope kicking up the dust or throwing up the mud, till they are pretty nearly half way up the opposite side of the rise, when the horses have to stretch their limbs for a few paces till they are at the top of the hillock, and so again on they go, making light work of their task.
The servants engaged at Martinmas are for the most part boarded and lodged at the farm-house, or with a hind as he is called; that is to say, a sort of foreman among them, but living at a house other than that at which the farmer himself lives. This custom largely prevails in the East Riding, especially on the Wolds, where the farms are very large, sometimes extending to 1500 acres or more.
Besides the carnival of Martinmas, there are other lesser times of relaxation or rejoicing.
Harvest festivities, though still kept up to a considerable extent in East Yorkshire, are not held on such large or varied a scale as they were a generation ago. Means of rapid locomotion, the use of machinery, and gravitation towards the towns, have tended to do away with many interesting local customs which in former days added to country life a charm peculiarly its own.
The Mell Supper still retains its name and some of its old features amongst us at the present day, though shorn of much of its lustre. Its name is by some thought to speak for itself almost, mell or 'meal' being probably the same as the Icelandic mjol and Danish mel. The last sheaf that is gathered in, here in the North Riding, is called the mell sheaf, and the expression We've gotten wer mell is the same thing as saying the harvest is finished. It may be interesting to note in passing what some of the names are which are given to the last in-gathered sheaf in Denmark. In South Jutland, for instance, it is called enken or enkemanden, the 'widow' or the 'widower' ; in Vendsyssel it is named stodder or 'beggar,' and is driven home covered with rags; in Samso and Funen its title is 'the old man,' and in Sealand 'the old woman.' Similarly, the last load is called in West Jutland kvoedeloes or 'songload,' and is driven to the farmstead with singing and rejoicing. This is very much what is done, or used to be done, here, and perhaps in almost every country in Europe.
No mell supper can take place without dancing, and formerly the advent of  'guisers' formed one of the great features of the entertainment. These 'guisers' were men with masks or blackened faces, and they were decked out in all sorts of fantastic costumes. The starting of the dancing was not always an easy matter, but by degrees, as the dancers warmed to the work and as the ale horns came to be passed round, the excitement began to grow; this was increased by the arrival of the 'guisers,' and then the clatter of the dancers' boots doing double-shuffle and various comical figures, set the entertainment going at full swing. The 'guisers' would at times come uninvited to the feast, and as a rule they were well received, but sometimes the doors would be barred against them and their entrance stoutly resisted.
About fifty years ago it was very common when the 'shearing' of the corn was finished for three large sheaves to be bound together; for these, races were run by the women amid the greatest excitement. This also was called the mell sheaf, and would contain about a bushel of corn, and in the days when wheat was at such a high price as it once was the prize was worth having.
The mell doll is rather more a thing of the past, though it is probable that there are still many old people who can recollect it. It consisted of a sheaf of corn dressed in the costume of a harvester, and gaily decked with flowers; it was in fact a sort of rough and ready-made doll on a large scale.
I have been informed that at Kilburn, on the Hambleton Hills, the mell sheaf was tastefully made of various kinds of corn plaited together and covered with ribbons, flowers, &c. When the guests were ready for the dance, the mell sheaf would be placed in the middle of the room, which was frequently a disused one, and they danced round it. It was made like a figure and was sometimes called the mell doll.
At the time of which I speak, harvest thanksgiving services in churches were of course quite unknown; the introduction of this custom is surely a good and sensible one, as connecting religious observances with that which is man's natural occupation - the tilling of the land; in this matter we are but reverting to ancient usages which might perhaps be extended with advantage.
Fifty years ago seed-time had also its festival, though on a lesser scale, as well as harvest. At the backend, when the early sowing had been completed, the farmer made a sort of feast for his men, the principal feature of which was a 'seed-cake,' which was given to each of them. The cake did not get its name from anything that it contained, for it was in fact an ordinary sort of currant or plum cake, but from the occasion. On these minor festivals the men had as much ale to drink as they liked, and right well they enjoyed themselves. This old custom has, I believe, now quite died out.
The Christmastide observances in East Yorkshire, as elsewhere, are, and still more, have been in the past, many and various. The season is always looked upon as a time of joy even by the poorest. On Christmas Eve the houses are decked with 'hollin' or other evergreens, which are never burnt afterwards, but thrown away. The Yule clog used to be brought in and placed upon the fire along with a piece of that from the previous year which had been carefully preserved for good luck, in the same way as the Yuletide candle was. The Christmas candle is always a feature in the furnishing of the feast. It is lighted by the head of the house, and generally stands in the centre of the table, round which the members of the family sit to partake of the frumety and other dainties that deck the board. No other candle must be lighted from it, and before the family retired to rest the master of the house blows it out, leaving what remains of it to stand where it is until the following morning. The unconsumed piece is then carefully stowed away with other similar relics of former years; sometimes quite a large number of such pieces are accumulated in the course of years: it is considered in some localities highly unlucky to disturb these remnants during the year. It was further thought unlucky not only, as I have said, to take a light from the Yule candle, but also to give a light to any one on Christmas Day; so that in former times, before matches were invented as we have them now, the question used to be asked before retiring to rest on Christmas Eve, 'is your tunder dhry?' In former times the Yule candle was looked upon as almost a sacred thing. If by any chance it went out, it was believed that some member of the family would die during the ensuing year, and if anyone in snuffing it extinguished the light, that person would, it was thought, die within the year.
The old Christmas customs hold their ground much more firmly in the North than they do in the South of England. How they originated it would be rash to surmise, but that some of them are survivals of old heathenish customs there can, I think, be little doubt.
In the matter of the Christmas feasting there is nothing so distinctive of it as in the making of the frumety. He is no Yorkshireman who does not know what furmety or frumety is. It is one of our institutions. As regularly as Christmas comes round preparations are made for the manufacture of this Yorkshire dish. The name is clearly derived from frumentum, though when it was introduced into the country there is, so far as I am aware, nothing to show. The principal ingredient in this dainty, as the name implies, is grain, and that grain is wheat. On Christmas Eve there is scarcely a household but what makes frumety. If the people have no wheat of their own they always beg some from one of the neighbouring farmers, and' with this object in view the boys go round the villages and outlying farmsteads on St. Thomas' Day. To make the dish in orthodox fashion takes some time. The usual order of proceeding is this. First of all, the wheat is soaked in water for about a day: it is then put into a bag, and beaten upon the floor a few times in order to knock the hullins off, or the more effectual mode was sometimes adopted of thrashing the wheat contained in the bag with the flail; after which the hullins are separated by simply putting the whole into water, when the outer coat of the wheat rises to the top, and the pure corn is thus extracted. It is next put into the oven to cree for two or three hours; milk is then poured upon it in a pan which is put upon the fire to boil; sugar is added, together with nutmeg or other spices according to people's tastes and fancies. It is a dish which is highly appreciated. It is eaten by the whole household on Christmas Eve as they sit round the table with the Yule candles burning. It is customary also to have Yule cakes 'to' the frumety; these are small round cakes with currants, citron, and other ingredients: each person has one. There is no dish so universally par-taken of throughout the whole of East Yorkshire, not excepting Yorkshire pudding, as this. It is, however, never eaten at any other season than Christmastide, and as a rule on no other day than Christmas Eve, though some families will also make it on, or keep what is left till, New Year's Eve.
The old-fashioned 'pepper cake,' the peberkage of Denmark, is becoming, or rather, I should say, has become, more a thing of the olden days. It is however still made in the moorland districts of the North Riding; while in the East Riding and other parts the very name is unknown. This, too, is a Yule cake; it is a kind of gingerbread, and therefore more pungent than the Yule cakes of other districts; hence the name. It has nothing to do with pepper, at least not at the present date, not even in Denmark; though there, some of the dishes are doubtless what we might call 'subtleties' : but during the time of my sojourn in that hospitable country I never detected so much as a whiff of pepper in their cakes. Pepper they use certainly: perhaps they use it more than we do, for they have the saying 'Munden lober som en Peberkvaern' (the mouth, or as we should say, the tongue, runs on like a pepper-mill), or 'Munden gik paa hende som en Peberkværn' (she chattered away at a fine rate). If our good friends the Danes liken the female tongue to a pepper-quern they must surely use that article of seasoning pretty freely in some of their concoctions, whatever they may do in their cakes; these, I can answer for it, at all events, are free from it, and Peberkager are merely gingerbread cakes, just as Pebernödder are what we know as ginger-bread nuts.When the pepper-cake is eaten in the moorlands of the North Riding at Yuletide, cheese always is on the table as a concomitant, just as cheese and apple-pie go together all East Yorkshire over at all seasons.
There are many relics of old Christmastide customs which are still kept up in the district, such as the ploughstots and sword-dancers. Those connected with the sword-dancers are curious and interesting; they are described at some length in Henderson's Northern Folk-Lore, pp. 6770. The vessel-cup, which is a corruption of wassail-cup, is still commonly brought round by children in certain districts at Christmas. It consists of a small figure in a box which represented the Virgin Mary, the figure being encircled with evergreens and ornamentations of various kinds.
In some places, until comparatively recently, it was commonly believed that the oxen knelt in their stalls on St. Stephen's Eve; this, of course, was supposed to be in honour of the birth of the Saviour. It was so lately as this present year (1891) that I was speaking to a native of Westerdale about old customs, when I was told that it was quite within the recollection of my informant that the people in that dale used sometimes to go out at midnight on St. Stephen's Eve to try and see the owsen kneel as they were tied up in their byres.
From time immemorial great importance was attached to the first foot that crossed the threshold on New Year's Day. The 'lucky bird,' as he was called,  should be one of the male sex, and with dark hair. At many a house in this part of the country any other visitant than that described would on no account be allowed to be the first to enter the house on New Year's Day. In some places still it is customary for a boy or man with dark hair to call at every house on that day in order that he may be the first to cross the threshold, that so luck may follow during the year to the household. In other districts a fair man is supposed to be luckier than a dark one. Who knows but what these old traditions may have come down to us from those early times when the fair-haired invaders contended with the darker complexioned aborigines for the possession of the soil? Possibly connected with this idea is the fact which I have frequently noticed among the people of some parts of the East Riding, that they do not, as a rule, admire any one of dark complexion; 'dark-looking' and 'queer-looking' are with them convertible terms. The Norse blood of the East Ridingers may in some measure account for this; the Scandinavians are par excellence a fair-haired race. At the present day no hair can be fairer and no eyes bluer than those of the people of Eastern Denmark and Southern Sweden.
Many were the vestiges of ecclesiastical customs that survived till lately in this part of the country from mediaeval times. To take a single case from this parish: there was at least one old custom here that was kept up until comparatively few years ago. This was the ringing of the 'compline bell.' No one knew even what 'compline' meant, or why the bell was rung, which it always was at six in the morning, strange to say, and six in the evening, every day during Lent every year. The peculiar and confused nature of this usage can only be accounted for by the fact that the designation of the office was gradually lost in course of time, and so the titles of the two services became merged into one.
I need not speak of those customs which are common to the whole country: the keeping of the village Feast, which is held on the day formerly set apart in honour of the patron Saint of the church. Of late years these village festivals have been shorn of much of their former glory; they now frequently go by the name of 'Club Feasts,' in consequence of the benefit-clubs holding their annual social gatherings on these days. In most places on these occasions there is a service at the beginning of the day in the parish church, when some clergyman is invited to address the members of the fraternity. The religious element, however, is not so marked here as it is in the village feasts of some other countries. I was acting as chaplain at Engleberg, in Switzerland, some years ago, when the greatest village festival of the year was held. A service of a very impressive kind took place in the large church attached to the monastery there. The people flocked into it from all the country-side - men, women, and children - all gaily decked in their holiday attire; and very picturesque attire it was. They were in their places in the church before nine o'clock in the morning, when the service began. It lasted, if I rightly remember, about an hour and a half. The congregation was most attentive and devout, the singing admirable. The service ended, the people went out for the rest of the day and amused themselves in a seemly and rational manner, playing games, dancing, and so forth. It seems a pity that our Yorkshire village feasts are not more after the model of the Engleberg one. But good things are apt to degenerate, and it takes something like a revolution to restore them to their original state, if they are not exterminated altogether by the shifting tide of events.

It is remarkable how nearly all the days, great and small, that are observed throughout the district have an ecclesiastical nomenclature - sometimes distorted and corrupted, but quite unmistakable. Events used to be spoken of as happening not upon arty particular day of the month, but in some such way as the following :- ' A week afoor Martinmas,' 'sumwheers aboot Thomas Day,' 'Cann'lmas,' 'A fo'tnith cum Barnaby,' Barnaby being a local fair held on the Feast of St. Barnabas; 'aboot Peter tahm,' i.e. about St. Peter's Day; 'Whiss'n Munda,' 'Paums'n Setherda,' i.e. the Saturday before Palm Sunday; 'Hallow E'en,' the vigil of All Saints' Day, and so forth.
The days of Holy Week were noted by means of the following familiar saying : ' Collop Munda, Pancake Tuesda, Frutas We'nsda, Bloody Tho'sda, Lang Frida 'll nivver be deean whahl Settherda t' eftherneean.
It will hardly be believed when I say that some of our old folks would not know that the civil year now begins on January the 1st. I remember very well on one occasion having to enlighten an aged couple on this point, who were unable to fix New Year's Day any more definitely than by saying it was 'sumwheers aboot Kess'nmas'; but this same couple quite outdid me in their knowledge of the times and seasons of the local fairs and village feasts.
Another relic of mediaeval ecclesiastical terms survives in the saying, Tid, Mid, Miseray, Carling, Palm, Paste-egg Day. What Tid and Mid are, I cannot say with any degree of certitude; some suggest that Tid is a corruption of Te Deum, while Mid may be Mid-Lent. Miseray is evidently a corruption of the first Latin words of the penitential Psalm appointed for use in Lent, - Miserere mei, Deus. Carling Sunday was very generally observed till quite lately; it is the fifth Sunday in Lent. Grey peas were always eaten on that day, being fried with bacon or butter; the Cleveland dales-folk used to get their peas from Whitby beforehand, and I have heard them say they did not think it was Carling Sunday without peas. Palm speaks for itself. Palms however, or rather the substitution for them - the hazel with catkins - are now seldom used on Palm Sunday as they used to be. Paste-egg Day, also called by another corruption, Pace-egg Day, is Easter Monday; the derivation is obvious. On this and the following day it is the custom to roll hard-boiled eggs, coloured in various ways, and use them as playthings. Hence Easter Monday used to be called Troll-egg Monday: in the neighbourhood of Pickering, and probably in other places, it is still so called. Something of the same kind is, or till lately was, carried on in Denmark, where Paaskeleg, or, as we should translate it into Yorkshire, Easter laakin', is a term well understood, where old and young, men, women, and bairns, meet in the green fields near the town and play all manner of games. I should add that in former times Paste-egg Day was applied to Easter Day itself, and among the country folk the five latter Sundays of Lent and Easter Day were called respectively by the names just alluded to - Tid, Mid, Miseray, Caning, Palm, Paste-egg Day, no name being assigned to the first Sunday.
As already mentioned, Good Friday is sometimes called Lang Frida, which corresponds with the Danish Lang-fredag. In this part of the country it was considered unlucky or impious to turn the soil on Good Friday with spade or plough, or in any other way. Indeed, there is a strong feeling still surviving in some places of Friday generally being an unlucky day; for instance, I have heard of those who would not set a hen on a Friday, and of others that they would not allow a fresh servant to come upon that day. There is, too, very commonly a disinclination to begin a piece of work on Friday; the rule generally is to do so on a Monday. The saying 'Friday flit, short sit' is well known.
There was till lately a very strong tendency throughout the length and breadth of the district of which I am speaking to keep up all the old customs, to observe the days and seasons as they have been observed for generations. In no part of England, I should suppose, do they die harder than in East Yorkshire, unless it be Cornwall, perhaps. And not only is this the case with regard to the old ecclesiastical institutions, dating back to the middle ages, of which so many traces still survive; the times and seasons connected with agricultural operations were also duly noticed spring, summer, autumn, winter, seed-time and harvest, the new moons, May Day, Midsummer Day, with many more, have in days gone by been in some way or other specially honoured, nor are those honours yet forgotten quite.
Again, the terms employed by our country folk in speaking of the different parts of the day, are peculiar, and worthy of notice. In the first place, day and night are not used exactly in the ordinary way; for instance, if one asks, 'Did it rain last night?' we may be told 'No, but it rained at two this morning,' when it was pitch dark. Night is night, and morning is morning, in the strictest sense - with this extension, that neet begins at lowzin tahm, i.e. about 5 p.m. in summer and earlier in winter. At that hour in summer-time the plew-lad will perhaps stop his horses, pull up his watch like a bucket from a well, and say to the girl getherin' wickens, 'Anne, it 's neet.' She would simply say, 'Is 't?' and set off home. Morning begins at one o'clock, and although it extends, strictly speaking, till the following noon, yet the latter part of it - that is to say, from about nine o'clock till twelve - is always designated 'forenoon.' T' eftherneean (afternoon), extends from dinner till lowzin' tahm.
The old idea of the sun dancing on Easter Day is one that has extended itself to many parts of the kingdom. It was at one time very prevalent in this district.
I was informed not long ago, by an elderly man, that when he was in farm service fifty years back, it was the custom on Easter morning at sun-rise for the farm lads to get a bucket of water and place it so that the sun was reflected in it; if the sun glimmered, as he expressed it, it would be wet on that day, and if it shone bright and clear in the water it would be fine. But a more important prognostication was always made when the day was ended; for it was understood that if it was fair on Easter Day there would be a fine harvest following it, while if the morning were wet and the afternoon fine, the 'fore-end' of the harvest would be wet and the 'back-end' fine, and vice versa. This belief, too, was a very widespread one.
Another old Easter custom, and of a more animated kind, was the following. From Easter Sunday noon to Monday noon the men and lads, and from Monday -noon to Tuesday noon the women and lasses, used to take each others' shoes and impose some fine for redemption. My informant, the son of a clergyman who for many years held a living in the North Riding, says he well remembers the excitement under this old custom when he was a boy (1838-48). A notorious woman, a native of Welbury, used to come to that place all the way from Sunderland yearly, and timed her visit so as to enjoy the fun. No really modest and timid girl durst stir out alone. Big young fellows of eighteen, who defied the women and girls, were often overpowered by numbers, and had their boots carried off, the laces being cut. The rector's rather dandy pupil had his coat torn right up from skirt to collar when he attempted to walk through the village on the evening of Easter Monday. At this same place it is recorded that a nurse in a farmer's service, while walking on Easter Sunday afternoon with the children, was stalked, chased, seized, and robbed of her shoe by a young man in the farmer's coo-pastur opposite the rectory, and that she was seen limping back with only one shoe on. A fine, cheerily given, in return for 'Please for your buckle,' settled the majority of cases. The lasses took caps, whips, or anything else they could seize. Before a shoe was taken the demand in the form just given was always made. The word 'buckle' was of course a survival from the times when buckles were in vogue; they were not worn at the time spoken of.
In years gone by there could have been scarcely a village in North Yorkshire whose inhabitants did not connect the Eve of St. Mark's Day with death. The notion was that those who kept St. Mark's watch - that is, those who watched in the church porch at midnight from twelve till one - would see the spirits or forms of all those in the place who were to die in the course of the year following, pass into the church one by one. By some it was thought necessary that the watch should be repeated for three successive nights, but generally the vigil was on St. Mark's E'en only. Many times have old people spoken to me about those whose faith in this supposed power of looking into the future was unshaken and unshakeable. I should add that if he who kept watch on St. Mark's Eve should happen to fall asleep during the hour, it was understood that he would himself die during the year from that date. I remember being told of a case of this kind by a former inhabitant of Westerdale. There was an old dame in that neighbourhood who was noted for the accuracy of her investigations in this particular; only, in her case, the watch took place always on Christmas Eve instead of that of St. Mark. On one occasion, it seems, as she was keeping her vigil she fell asleep. It was consequently acknowledged by all who knew her that she was doomed to die before the year was out; accordingly, from day to day, she was watched with no little interest, in the expectation that she would sicken and die. However, time went on and she appeared in her usual health. Six months, nine months, ten months passed, and nothing seemed to indicate that her end was at hand. But during the twelfth month a change came over her; she became ill and took to her bed. Still she lingered on till it came to the last week of the fatal time, but she continued apparently in much the same state, though she was in reality getting weaker. The last day of the year came, and she was still alive, though it was evident she was rapidly sinking, and so it went on till within two hours of the completion of the year, when she quietly breathed her last. A case of this kind would make a profound impression on the minds of the simple folk, and would more than compensate for a dozen failures. I enquired of my informant whether the old lady was generally right in her prognostications, to which I received answer, in a tone that clearly betokened unswerving faith, 'Aye, sha was reet eneeaf.'
The customs connected with marriage festivities have changed a good deal of late years. The old custom, for instance, of running races for ribbons is not so prevalent as it was when I was a boy, and as I remember it in the East Riding, when the races used to be run by the young men down the 'town street,' generally immediately after the marriage service at the church was concluded. Sometimes it used to be arranged that the races should finish at the house of the bride's father. The prize was nearly always a ribbon or ribbons, very commonly a white one as representing the bride, and coloured ones similarly the bridesmaids. Now-a-days, where the traditional custom is still kept up, scarves or handkerchiefs are frequently substituted for ribbons. It was a proud moment for the victor on these occasions, and many a man will recount with delight and elation the number of ribbins he has won in such contests.
In some places the old custom for the bride and bridegroom on their return from the church to be presented at the door of the bride's house with a cake on a plate is still observed. The bride takes the cake and eats a portion of it, while the bridegroom lays hold of the plate and throws it behind him. The future happiness of the young couple is supposed to depend on the breaking of the plate. Sometimes the cake is cut into small pieces and thrown by the bride over her head and the plate broken. Another 'use' is for someone to meet the newly married couple at the churchyard gate carrying a live chicken. He follows the bridal procession to the bride's house, making the chicken squeak, and will not go away 'till the chicken is satisfied.'
In some of the North Riding dales, and probably in other places also, the antipathy to green as a colour for any part of the bridal costume is still very strong. I was once at a farmhouse in a remote district near Whitby, and, when discussing olden times and customs with an elderly dame, was informed there were many she knew in her younger days who would rather have gone to the church to be married in their common everyday costume than in a green dress. My informant herself was evidently one of those who held the same faith on this point as her early companions, for she instanced a case that had come under her own observation where the bride was rash enough to be married in green, but it was added that she shortly afterwards contracted a severe illness! Neither is blue much less unlucky as a colour for the wedding dress, at least if one may judge by the old saying anent the bride, that
'If dressed in blue
She 's sure to rue.'
When the wedding party are leaving the church it was, and still is in certain places, a custom for a handful of coppers to be thrown to the children; and as the bride and bridegroom are on their way to and from the church a salute would be fired from guns filled with feathers: this, too, though still practised at some places, is by no means so common as it was formerly.
In olden days, before police and detectives were much thought about, many more offences against the law passed undiscovered than at the present time. Private adventure schemes, as we might word them, for the discovery of law-breakers must have been plentiful enough at one time; but they have now passed out of mind. Some, however, have survived until a comparatively recent date. One of the longest lived of these terrors to evil-doers was the custom of resorting to the Bible and Key for the detection of a thief. The method was a favourite one in many parts of the country, Yorkshire not excepted. The modus operandi was this: A key was placed in a Bible, and after having been bound round tightly with string, the Bible, with the key inside, would be hung from a nail in the wall or some convenient place. The name of the suspected thief would then be repeated three times, and if the key turned in the Book, the person who had been named was declared the thief- The female portion of the community sometimes had other, and to them more interesting uses for the Bible and key, I mean the finding out of their future husbands. In these cases the Bible would be opened at Ruth i. 16, 17, and the key placed in it there, and either fixed by a piece of string and the Bible suspended by another piece of string, or the key was simply placed in it at the chapter named and then set upon the table. The name of the wished-for husband was then mentioned, and if the wish was destined for fulfilment, the key in either case would be found turning towards the said verses.
Other means, however, of a less serious nature were resorted to by the country lasses of a generation or two ago for making the same momentous discovery as that just referred to. There is an example told me by one who had herself made trial of it. Twelve sage-leaves had to be gathered on a given day at noon, and put into a saucer: they were then kept in the saucer till the midnight following: at this hour the 'chamber' window was thrown open, and one by one the sage-leaves were dropped down into the road below simultaneously with each stroke of the hour on the clock. It was believed by the young maidens that the future husband would then be seen or his step heard in the street below.
Again, another tried method, not less curious than that just recorded, was the following: The first egg of a chicken was procured: this had to be boiled or toasted. Those interested in making the test had each of them to stand on something upon which she had never before stood; it might be a pair of bellows or an iron baking sheet, or anything else ready to hand. The members of the company then took hold of the egg and simultaneously cut it into portions. Thereupon each one in strict silence took her share, ate it shell and all, and walked backwards to bed. It was thought that this device enabled them to dream who their future partners in life would be.
There was another quaint old custom practised by our fanciful forelders, of which I have been told, though I have not been able to ascertain exactly what the correct usage with respect to it was: accounts vary. This custom is in connection with what was called Love Posset, or Dumb Cake. The idea was that by a due observance of the ritual connected with its manufacture, a girl's future husband could be ascertained. The proper day for making Dumb Cake was the eve of St. Agnes. What all the ingredients of the cake were I know not, but one principal one was salt. I remember being told some years ago, by an old inhabitant in one of the dales, about the composition of this mystic cake. It was somewhat as follows : In the first place four people had to assist in the making of it, each taking an equal share in the work, adding small portions of its component parts, stirring the pot, and so forth. During the whole time of its manufacture and consumption a strict silence has to be observed. Even when it is being taken out of the oven each of the interested parties must assist in the work. When made it is placed on the table in the middle of the room, and the four persons stand at the four corners of the room. When set on the table the cake is divided into equal portions and put upon four plates or vessels.
The spirit of the future husband of one of the four would then appear and taste from the plate of his future bride, being only visible to her whose husband he was destined to be. As a preliminary to this, every door of the house had to be thrown open. The traditional hour for making the feast was midnight. My informant said that in her district this mystic repast was made on St. Mark's Eve. I cannot, however, think that this was general. The orthodox time was the eve of St. Agnes. An additional observance was for each damsel to take her portion with her up stairs, walking backwards to the bedroom; she was then to eat her share of the undainty concoction and get into bed. On carrying out strictly all the recognised forms and ceremonies she might thus hope in her dreams to behold her future husband.
Much more was I told about these functions connected with the Love Posset or Dumb Cake. Dreadful and unexpected things happened sometimes, especially when the feast was held on St. Mark's Eve. Possibly the spirit resented any deviation from the primitive custom of holding the rite on any other than St. Agnes' Eve ; at any rate, on one occasion of which I heard tell there was evidently something not altogether pleasing to the invisible powers; for, to use the words of one whose faith in them and other like mysteries was quite unshaken, when the doors were opened on the night referred to, 'there was a soughing and a rattling, the dog's hair stood on end, and a coffin came tumbling through the door and fell at the feet of one of the party, who died in that year.' And again, on another occasion there were such unearthly noises that the whole company rushed upstairs without even giving themselves time to close the doors. On the whole, therefore, it may be as well for those who may think of resorting. to the Love Posset or Dumb Cake method of determining who their partners for life are to be, to be careful not to attempt to hold festival on St. Mark's Eve or any other eve but on that of St. Agnes only.
Local peculiarities in the matter of customs and feasts exist, as might be expected, to a considerable extent. Thus, for instance, at Helmsley there is still held once a year what is called the Vardy Dinner. In the days before the Government appointed sanitary officers, Helmsley elected its own local committee to inspect the town once a year as regards sanitary matters. In the evening the inspectors met, supped, discussed, and gave their 'verdict.' Hence Vardy Dinner. The form, I am told, is still kept up, but chiefly for social purposes. The dinner is held annually, the committee having earlier in the day gone through the form of walking through the main streets, scrutinising at least the outside of dwellings as they pass. The Helmsley folk jokingly warn one another on this important day thus:- ' Look to your drains and chimneys.'
A custom with a somewhat similar intention used to take place at Kilburn immediately before the village feast, which there is held on the Saturday after Midsummer Day. A man was dressed up to represent the Lord Mayor of York, and another to represent the Lady Mayoress. These two were then dragged through the village street in a cart by lads. As they went along they recited a doggerel and visited all the houses of the place, exhorting the people to tidy their gardens, trim their hedges, and make their tenements look generally respectable for the feast; in the event of these orders being disregarded a mock fine was imposed.

The Thwing Meteorite
The village of Thwing is where the Coultas and some other ancestral families come from. Here is an account of a meteorite strike in the area, part of Bulmer's History and Directory of East Yorkshire (1892) describing Thwing.
"Wold Cottage is about two miles north of the village, formerly the residence of Major Topham, a well-known writer, and for several years editor of a newspaper called The World. Here, on the 13th of December, 1795, was observed a most extraordinary natural phenomenon - the fall of an unusually large meteoric stone. Major Topham has given the following account of it : - " It was on Sunday, about five o'clock, the 13th of December, 1795, that the stone in question fell two fields from my house. The weather was misty, and at times inclined to rain; and, though there was some thunder and lightening at a distance, it was not till the falling of the stone that the explosion took place, which alarmed the surrounding country, and which created so distinctly the sensation that something very singular had happened. When the stone fell, a shepherd of mine, who was returning from the sheep, was about one hundred and fifty yards from the spot; George Sawden, a carpenter, was passing within sixty yards; and John Shipley, one of my farming servants, was so near the spot where it fell that he was struck very forcibly by some of the mud and earth raised by the stone dashing into the earth, which it penetrated to the depth of 19 inches from the surface. While the stone was passing through the air, which it did in a north-east direction from the sea coast, numbers of persons distinguished a body moving in the clouds, though not able to ascertain what it was; and two sons of the clergyman of Wold Newton, a village very near me, saw it pass so distinctly by them that they immediately ran to my house to know if anything extraordinary had happened. The stone, in its fall, excavated a place of the depth before mentioned, and of something more than a yard in diameter. It was fixed so strongly in the chalk rock that it required some labour to dig it out. The breadth of the stone was 28 inches, and the length 30 inches, and the weight 56lb."
To commemorate the event, Major Topham erected a column with the following inscription : - " Here, on this spot, Dec. 13th, 1795, fell from the atmosphere an extraordinary stone, in breadth 28 inches, in length 30 inches, and whose weight was 561bs. This column was erected by Edward Topham in 1799." The stone, or rather a portion of it, is in the British Museum."

Amiens 1918
August 8 1918 marked the start of a three month offensive that ended the First World War. The German commander called it 'the black day of the German Army'.                                                                                  (click on photo to enlarge)
signupThe opening of the offensive was the Battle of Amiens in which Jesse Barmby died. It was probably his first big battle as he only joined up 10 months before in Canada (there was no large battle with Canadian troops during the early 1918).
Up until this battle, there had been a terrible trench warfare stalemate with very little movement of the front but a great loss in life. During the first day of the battle the front moved 7 miles - unheard of gains in that war. The front had been held by British and Australian troops but in great secret they were reinforced with fresh Canadian troops. Also part of the French army to the south was involved. Secrecy was very important to the plan. Battles during that war were usually started by a heavy, long bombardment of enemy positions to 'soften them' before the infantry advanced. This time there was no bombardment to alert the Germans that an attack was coming. The other innovation was to use tanks - to quickly get past the trenches and put tanks into operation on firm ground. This technique had been tried out on a small scale by the Australians a month before with success. Almost 600 tanks were brought to this part of the front. Aerial photographic reconnaissance was another innovation. Four Canadian infantry divisions were moved in without being detected by the Germans. Surprise was made complete by an early fog on the morning of the battle. The advance was within 500 years of the Germans when they began to return fire, and they fired at where the allied forces had been, not where they were by then. To the north were the British, then the Australians, then the Canadians and to the south the French. The German troops suffered heavy losses and surrendered in large numbers. Their morale was cracked and this was probably the greatest aspect of the victory. The Germans all knew that the battle had not included many American
Jesse gravetroops and that the Americans were arriving in larger numbers. The German mood became defeatist. Allied morale on the other hand became optimistic. The war was over in 3 months.
Total allied casualties were 22,000 and total German casualties were 74,000, more than 3 times. The casualties in the Canadian forces were 9074 of which 2266 died. Jesse Barmby must have died in hospital of wounds because the battle only lasted 4 days and he died 7 days after the battle ended but is reported as a casualty in that battle. The story goes that Jesse did not expect to be accepted when he went to enlist because he had asthma, but there was nothing wrong with his lungs on the day, so he was accepted. He probably only experienced a few months of the hell of living in trenches, he probably did not suffer any gas warfare but did die in a big winning battle.
Bob Barmby visited Jesse's grave and sent me a copy of some photos.