Avon Lea

[Extracted from Notes and Queries, 1st S. vol. xii. p. 100.]


Shrove Tuesday.—At Basingstoke, and in some other parts of Hampshire, on Shrove Tuesday, the boys and girls go to the houses of the well-to-do classes in little companies. They knock at the door, and then begin the following rhyme:

"Knick a knock upon the block;
Flour and lard is very dear,
Please we come a shroving here.
Your pan's hot and my pan's cold,
[Hunger makes us shrovers bold],
Please to give poor shrovers something here."

They then knock again, and repeat both knocks and verses until they receive something. The line in [ ] is not said in Basingstoke, and many other places. They have, too, a peculiar way of saying these verses; throwing a sharp accent upon the cćsural pauses, and staccatoing every word. At midday the children return home with their earnings, which consist of money, &c.

Shig-shag Day.—The working men of Basingstoke, and other towns in Hampshire, arise early on May 29, to gather slips of oak with the galls on: these they put in their hats, or anywhere about their persons. They also hang pieces to the knockers, latches, or other parts of the house-doors of the wealthy, who take them in to place in their halls, &c. After breakfast these men go round to such houses for beer, &c. Should they not receive anything, the following verses should be said:

"Shig-shag,* penny a rag,
[Bang his head in Croommell's bag],
All up in a bundle"—

but fear often prevents them. However, the lads have no fear, and use it freely to any one without an oak-apple or oak-leaf on some part of his person, and visible,—ill-treating him for his want of loyalty.

After noon the loyalty ceases; and then, if any one be charged with having shig-shag, the following verses are said:

"Shig-shag's gone past,
You're the biggest fool at last;
When shig-shag comes again,
You'll be the biggest fool then."

And the one who charges the other with the oak-leaf receives the ill-treatment.

April Fool Day.—The last verses also do duty after twelve o'clock on April 1, by altering "shig-shag" to "April fool." The line in [ ], in the previous verses, is not repeated at Basingstoke and some other towns; and without this I have, heard them used occasionally towards a dirty ragged fellow by boys in and around London.

Satanic Lore.—At Hurley I heard a legend of Winchester Cathedral. At the "Devil's dancing hour" (midnight), whenever the night is dark, and the wind high, or the weather stormy, his Majesty of Pandemonium turns coachman, and drives Oliver Cromwell and his general round the cathedral, the carriage being followed by all the people whom they were the means of killing, who yell and shriek fearfully. Of course the noise is to be explained by the wind whistling through the trees, and the legend by the battle of Cheriton Down, and the havock committed in the cathedral by Sir William Waller's men: yet it seems that the second visitation by Cromwell, after Waller had gone to Oxford and Cromwell had left Naseby, made a deeper impression; seeing that the above legend is sometimes told without the addition of the "general."

The above were obtained a few years since in passing through Hampshire. Had I gone for the purpose of collecting notes, no doubt many more could have been gathered. Perhaps some of the subscribers of "N. & Q." living in Hampshire will add to their number, as the county is rich in folk lore; and, as may be seen from the above, their historical significance is considerable.

*  I may mention, that the word shag among printers is applied to a disgraceful compositor; and, secondarily, to a dirty, ragged, drunken one.