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Forum Home > Beliefs and other Oddities. > Old Traditions.

Alaska.
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Posts: 1404

Most will be aware, that this month has the longest day in it, Midsummer Eve, on the 21st. Being a rather suppositious lot in the Black Country, it was believed that Witches and Evil Spirits would all come out to play. To combat this danger, Church bells would be rung, at intervals, for the partaking of light refreshment of course, for the whole 12 hours up to midnight. Collections of flowers and seeds were gathered, and folige of all sorts decorated many houses. Now if you think that it was only on November 5th that Bonfires were lit, forget it. Large beacons, stacked high with of wood, had been used for centuries as a way of purification, and the entire village population would gather round in celebration when it was lit. The males, and sometimes females, would leap through the flames, believing this to be protection from evil, and good luck for the year ahead. You can still see this going on today, although with todays modern man made clothing, I wouldn't recommend it. Nor would I recommend that another part of the ritual be en-acted. This was last recorded in the latter part of the 19th century, and consisted of the construction of a " Sun Wheel ". The wheel, with hempen rope wrapped around it, covered in pitch, was then set on fire, and rolled down the nearest hill. I understand, that a recent attempt to revive the practice nearly ended in disaster, after someones garden fence caught fire. There's an old rhyme from the north of the county.


Push the wheel up Wholey bonk,

Comin' up, comin' up,

Push the wheel down Worley bonk

Goin' down, goin' down.

Singe the tails of imp and witch,

Burn them up in the nearest ditch.


There are many ways to celebrate Midsummer Eve, but being locked up as an Arsonist isn't a good way to start the Summer. You could always take a trip down to Wiltshire and Stonehenge, it may be a bit noisey, with the drum banging and strange druidic music, but at least you won't get your fingers burnt.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

June 2, 2012 at 3:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Black Country Dialect/ Accent.


One tradition that is as old as the hills, is the regions Dialect, or Accent. I say tradition, because every now and then, someone brings up the subject, and bemoans the fact that it seems to be dying out. In truth, its been on the way out ever since huge hoards of people, flocked into the region from all parts of the country, looking for work in the early 19th century, and bring with them, new words and sayings. To my knowledge, there isn't a town in the region which use's the exact same word for objects or situations, so how can they claim it's common to all of us. As for the rest of us, its a problem not only confined to the Blackcountry either, for the same can be said of the northern part of Staffordshire, in the five towns that make up present day Stoke-on-Trent. Now I was born in the region, and although my parents and grandparents all had a regional accent, I do not, well not unless I get excited. ( not so often now-a-days ) To be totally honest, it does grate a bit, and having it won't, I'm not afraid to say, get you far in modern work or social settings. Left to some diehards,( or idiots, insert your own word ) they would make it compulsary in schools lessons, spoken , and written. Language and accents/dialects, devolve through the ages, as they have always done, the many versions, heard less and less in the region, are a product of that never ending process. One day, it will all die out, and with it, something that really annoys me, and  I suspect, a great many others. It is just a dialect or accent, It is not, never has been, and never will be, a written Language. Some of the more pathetic attempts at this form of " communication " are in so called verse, and I for one, refuse to read them. Whats more, unless someone pays me a great deal of money, I will not include any on the website, unless it's to illustrate a point. What a truly dreadful example to our youngsters, who may already be struggling to grasp proper English, grammer, and spelling, to have to try and make sense of words, mostly made up by the authors, a large part of whom were never born or haven't lived within it's borders. By all means, if you must, keep the dialect going by talking amongst yourselves, but please, don't try and stuff it down everyones throats. Its not what any one of us learnt at school, both past and present, and, although I wouldn't want to upset anyone, most folk have no interest in the subject at all. There have been a great many in the past, who have had a go at the Brummie Accent, but it seems, these are the same people who get a bit upset when someone takes a pop at the way they speak. The phrase, " get a life " springs to mind.


There are a few other other old traditions they most don't adhere to today as well. I can't speak for everyone, but I long ago ceased to hang a Tin Bath on the kitchen wall. We've moved on a bit, since the days of having to light a fire under the big copper in most peoples " Brewhouse's " to heat up water for the Friday night bath. I no longer have to hammer a nail in the wall of the outside closet either, nor spend hours on a Sunday afternoon, cutting the weekends newspapers into six inch squares, and hanging them on said nail. Neither do I have to spend Mondays, like most kids on our yard, labouriously turning the handle on the Mangle, in an effort to extract the water from freshly " Dollied and pounded washing " before they were hung on the " line ". Some of the old ways though, I do miss, like staying as quiet as mice while hiding behind the pantry door when the Rent Man called, or marvelling at the intricate patterns of frost on the inside of our bedroom window in the winter. Or the sheer joy of passing the " Nit Nurses " test at school, and laughing at those who didn't,  who would then spend the next two weeks, having all manner of caustic materials vigorously rubbed into sore heads. I happily look back on the days when things had " seasons ", like the traditional start of  " Pea shooting " with a hollow reed, or the tradition of building a cart from old pram wheels, and the great " Conker Contests " we used to have. Not any of them were ever marked in a diary, yet everyone just knew when they started. I have just been struck with another thought, concerning the dialect, non of my brothers have an accent, indeed the only one in my family who has, is my sister. Now why is that I wonder.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 27, 2012 at 3:56 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

There are many forms of old traditional games that were played as well, and from time to time, the subject comes up. This month, there is a Book being Auctioned in Cheltenham, called the " Cotswold Games ". It was published in 1636, and details many of the games started by one Robert Dover, some years before in 1612. Chipping Camden was the setting for his annual games, and has been said to be an early attempt to emulate the original " Olimpick Games ".  Word spread, and some of the so called games were ' borrowed ' by many towns for inclusion at their Fair days. One that springs to mind, and  which can still be seen today, is " Shin-Kicking ". As a lot of Robert Dovers games were designed to encourage military skills in the peasantry, I have struggled with what application Shin-Kicking would have, against a bloke wielding a big sword. " Cudgel Fighting " I can understand, as most of the ragtag infantry would have been armed with whatever came to hand. "Spear Throwing " speaks for itself, as does throwing Hammers or Axes, and even Horse Racing, as a way of training Cavalry, but hurling a sharpened stake with your foot has me puzzled. This involved holding a three or four inch circumference stake in the hand, and propelling it forward with the foot. I assume the longest kick won. At some stage in all the activity, Dover inserted into the programme time to eat a morsal or two, and inevitably, a few measures of Ale. This presumably led to another strange game, " Dwile Flonking ". No, I didn't make that up, it was discribed as dodging beer soaked rags, and no wonder, in later years, the Puritans adopted a rather stern attitude towards such events. Just as excuse said some, for " Licentiousness and Beer drinking ", no doubt on a scale that would have won many contestants a modern Olympic Gold Medal. This is precisely the reason most of the fairs in the Black Country were discontinued, ( about 1860 ) especially the notorious gatherings at Wednesbury. Some of the more gentle pursuits that Robert Dover had, such as Sack Racing, Barrel rolling, Tug-of-War, Morris Dancing, and Sword fighting, have all survived into the 21th century. All the fun stopped during and after the English Civil War, and had to wait until the restoration before starting up again. Wouldn't do today though, would it, the Vicars Garden Fete being disrupted by the flinging of beer soaked rags, and Hare coursing across his prestine Lawn.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 22, 2013 at 11:49 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

One old tradition, and this one goes back hundreds of year, is the ancient act of " Well Dressing ". This of course, dates back to a time when our ancesters worshipped, and venerated, water. For them, it was both a giver of life, and the means by which their souls were carried off into another world. Wherever water sprang from the ground, someone would build a well head, from which all the villagers collected their water. It was customery, in many parts of the County, to offer some thanks for this abudance, so a few flowers  and other objects were cast into the well. This progressed into a bit of an artform, and the dressing of the well became a feature of village life. Where such wells still exist today, and there are a few in the northern part of Worcestershire and Staffordshire, the activity remains. Ilam, near Ashbourne, Derbyshire, is one place where the ancient art can be observed, as are the villages of Endon, Mayfield, Longnor, Newborough, and Ruston Marsh. Usually held at the end of May, the results can be very colourful. Do we still have any in the region now called The West Midlands, do let me know if there's one near you.


While the subject matter is in the north of the County, and this tradition, in recent years at least, has caused more complaints than pleasure, Bonfire Night and the Fireworks. As far back as the start of the 1800s, this activity upset many folk. The Church Council at one place though, banned the use of Fireworks in 1819. Burslem, as every knows, was no stranger to noise and pollution, it being a centre for the production of Pottery, which required the burning of vast ammounts of Coal. Someone. the year before, must have upset the Church Wardens, for the day before the big event, they issued a notice, prohibiting the use of " Squibs, Crackers, Guns, Pistols, and other Fireworks. The full force of the Law, the notice said, would be bought against any Shopkeeper selling such items, and signed by the High Constable, Thomas Bathwell.  Oh, that it should be that easy today, we would all have a bit of peace and quiet.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 10, 2013 at 11:28 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Now there's one old tradition of the Black Country, that I have never understood, Why do some folks hate Brummies ? It's not as if the Black Country is superior in any way, nor that the region has produced anything that has made the rest of the Citizens of the UK, any better off. I know that some won't like this post, but then again, if they can come up with something that originated in the Black Country, do tell me. Birmingham was the centre of many trades, even way back in the 17th Century. It was their business men that expanded, and set up new factories, and it was their demand for coal, that started the boom in the area. If anyone can come up with some of the geat inventions, that made this country a World leader, and prove that the inventor was Black Country born and bred, and this was where it all started, please feel free to tell me. Why this attitude still persist's, I don't know. Perhaps it's lack of real knowledge on the part of some natives, passed on to the younger ones, who believe it to be true. So here's the challange then, Name the top ten Inventions that came directly from the Black Country, from 1600, to 1960. Just click the Contact Me button, and I will list them.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 14, 2013 at 3:53 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

The fear of being buried, while still alive, was a thought that crossed many folks minds in previous centuries. There are many tales in the Balck Country, of coffins being opened, and the tell tale signs of scratch marks being recorded on the inside of the lid. Medical science wasn't so good back then, and some conditions, could lead the medical men to send a supposed body off to the morgue, only for the "dead ", to sit up on the slab, and frighten the staff half to death. All kinds of procedures were adopted to reduce the risk, but on the ocassions it happened, the fear mounted. Sticking a large Pin or Needle into the corpse was one method, not very successful as it turned out, especially if the subject was in a deep coma. The more superstitious, had a clause written into their will's. A bell in some cases, was to be provided in the family vault, so if the deceased wasn't actually dead, he/she could ring for service. String or wire,  attached to an outside bell, was sometimes wrapped around a limb. This gave rise to certain graveyard jokers, creeping about in the dark, pulling the wire, and raising false hopes, not to mention bringing on a few heart attacks. Some elected to have a have a finger or toe chopped off, no blood flow, no life. Without a suitable painkiller, I would have thought the pain would have been enough. Others, stipulated that the medical man was to remove the head, which is a certain way of making sure you couldn't complain, if indeed you hadn't gone to join your maker. There were a few though, that put off burial altogether, by ordering that they should be left above ground, just in case. This caused a few problems, mainly because a week old corpse doesn't smell that good, and in order to comply with the terms of the will, i.e, the Legacy, it had to be done. this next bit is from The Manchester Guardian, 1868.


" There is a tradition that this Lady, who is supposed to have died a hundred years ago, acquired a strong fear of being buried alive, and left certain property to her Medical Attendant on condition that her mortal remains should be kept above ground."


The body in question belonged to the former Miss Beswick, a woman of wealth, who previously resided at Birchin Bower, an old and delapedated Manor house near Hollinwood. She, when young, had witnessed the distressing sight of her brother, dressed in a white shroud, about to have the lid screwed down on his coffin, when it was noticed he was in fact still breathing. You will be pleased to read, that he lived for a great many years afterwards. The good Doctor, knowing that she was indeed well and truely dead, had her body embalmed in Tar, for there was another condition in the old dears will, and that was that she should be returned to the old Manor, every ten years, to lie in "state ". A canny man was the Doctor, for on the codition that he could carry out this duty, he sold the by now mummified corpse to the Manchester Natural History Museum, where it became a great attraction for the more morbid members of the citizens of Manchester. Now it came to pass, that over time, the old Manor house was converted to house several families in what today we would call a block of flats. In order to be able to carry out his ten year ritual, he made it a condition of the tenancy agreement. He was forced though, by the tenants, to confine her " visits ", to an old Barn on the site. As is the way of all flesh, so it was with the old Manor, it became unihabitable and was pulled down. It's supposed, that the Doctor, either now dead, or no longer compus mentis, had no say in the final choice of the late Miss Beswick. She was laid to reat in July 1868 in the Harpurhey Cemetery. There is a little postscript to this tale, for it would appear, that even after all this time, Miss Beswick wasn't well pleased, for her restless spirit has been sighted on many occasions wandering around the site of the old Manor in Hollinwood. How she manages that, wrapped in Bandages and covered in Tar, is anyones guess.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 24, 2013 at 3:57 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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