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Weather And Folk Lore Of Peterborough And District Part 2

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APRIL.

ST. MARK'S EVE.

Take three tufts of gra.s.s plucked from a Churchyard, place them under your pillow and repeat aloud:--

Let me know my fate, whether weal or woe Whether my rank's to be high or low, Whether to live single or be a bride, And the destiny my star doth provide.

If this is done one dreams of the future.



When April blows his horn 'Tis good for hay and corn.

April showers make May flowers.

26th April was called Break Day. The Fen Commons were broke or opened by turning in stock.

MAY.

The May Day Garlands are of various forms. Those in Peterborough are formed of two hoops fastened together to form a globe and a stick or stave through the centre. The hoops are decorated with flowers and ribbons, and when the children possess one, the best doll is fixed on the stick inside the garland. Two girls carry the garland which is carefully covered with a white cloth. This is lifted at the houses and the wondrous garland is exposed whilst the children sing the following song, which is the favourite May Day song in the City. A friend has kindly given me the music and words which she wrote on the 1st May, 1904: from the children's performance:

[Ill.u.s.tration: Music]

I.

Good morrow, Lords and Ladies It is the first of May, We hope you'll view our garlands, They are so bright and gay.

Chorus--To the green woods we will go, To the green woods we will go, To the green woods we will go, To the green woods we will go.

II.

This bunch of May it looks so gay, Before your door it stands; It is but a sprout, but it's well spread out By the work of our Lord's hands.

Chorus--To the green woods, etc.

III.

The Cuckoo sings in April, The Cuckoo sings in May, The Cuckoo sings in June; In July she flies away.

Chorus--To the green woods, etc.

IV.

I'm very glad the Spring has come, The sun shines out so bright; The little birds upon the trees Are singing for delight.

Chorus--To the green woods, etc.

V.

The roads are very dusty, Our shoes are very thin; We have a little money box To put our money in.

Chorus--To the green woods, etc.

The Garlands are carried round on 1st May and on Old May Day.

The Huntingdonshire Garlands are usually of a pryamidical form of flowers and streamers, surmounted by a doll.

The frontispiece of May garland at Glatton is a copy of a water colour drawing by the Rev. E. Bradley (Cuthbert Bede) when living there in 1856.

In the earlier part of the last century it was the custom for a young man to get as large a branch as possible of May in flower on May 1st and fix it to his sweetheart's window. If the shutters were closed it was thrust through the diamond, oval, round, or heartshaped openings at the top of the shutters. The larger the branch and the more the blossoms the greater the compliment. If a quarrel had taken place, and peace not made, then the angry swain would fix a branch of blackthorn in the place which otherwise should have held the May blossom.

In the country if the servant maids had not pleased the farm boys they used to get a branch of the crab apple and put it in the girl's window.

MAY DAY.

A branch of May I have brought you, And at your door it stands; Well set out, and well spread about By the work of our Lord's hands.

Take a Bible in your hands, And read a chapter through; And when the day of Judgement comes, G.o.d will remember you, G.o.d bless ye all both great and small, And I wish you a merry May.

Another variation is:--

Arise! Arise! ye dairy maids, Shake off your drowsy dreams, Step straightway to your dairies And fetch us a bowl of cream, If not a bowl of your sweet cream, A pot of your brown beer; And if we should tarry in this town, We'll come again next year.

When Caster Common Lands were open to all and the gates taken off on May 13th, there was a struggle with the cottagers as to whose cow would get through the gateway first and the cow which secured the place of honour had a garland of flowers put round its horns when driven home at night, and the cow which was last to get on the Common returned with a "Dish Clout" tied to its tail.

Sunny May.

Cold May, good for corn and Hay.

Rain in May, makes plenty of Hay.

A May flood never did good.

The last two appear to be contradictory but the flood refers to the valley of the Nene and the lowlands which are apt to be flooded when the river overflows its banks. The mud and dirt consequently settle on the gra.s.s and make it unfit for hay, but the rainfall does good, causes the gra.s.s to grow and it is not injured by the silt.

Till May goes out, change not a clout.

29th May, Restoration Day, commonly called Oak Apple Day from an oak apple with oak leaves being generally worn on that day until noon. The leaves or apple at that time were put out of sight. Before noon everyone was challenged to "show your oak" and if none could be seen a blow or a pinch could be given, but after that hour the wearer of the oak could be struck. School boys used to fix leaves on the top of their boots, hidden by their trousers, and when challenged would lift their foot and kick the challenger, and so showing their oak and punishing the other boy.

When you hear the cuckoo for the first time you must run or you will be late for everything during the year.

WHIT SUNDAY.

In South Northamptonshire it is said:--

"Whatsoever one did ask of G.o.d upon Whit Sunday Morning, at the instant when the sun arose and played, G.o.d would grant him."

Turn your money in your pocket the first time you hear the cuckoo.

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