Weather And Folk Lore Of Peterborough And District Part 3

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Count the number of times the cuckoo calls when you hear it for the first time and, as many times as it calls, so many years will it be before you are married.

If a maid hears a cuckoo on the first of May, and takes off her left shoe, she will find inside a hair the colour of her future husband's hair. Girls used to get up early on May morning and go into the country and wait to hear the cuckoo.

An old adage is:--Don't change your clothes until the cuckoo picks up dirt.


The oak's slow opening leaf, of deepening hue, Bespeaks the power of Summer once again. _Clare._


The two June sayings are very optimistic:

A fine June, puts all things in tune.

A rainy June, sets all things in tune.


The gates of the Minster Precincts are still closed on this day to maintain the right of privacy.

The Proclamations of St. Peter's and Bridge Fair by the Town Crier, in the presence of the Mayor and Corporation, is still continued.

A copy of the proclamation was fortunately obtained for me before the old Beadle died. He had not a copy but used to repeat it from memory.


It was the custom, when the shearing was finished, for the Shepherds and Shearers to be entertained at supper by the Farmer. The Farmer's Daughter used to tie up posies of roses with ribbons and give a posy to each man, but the Head Shepherd always had the largest and best posy. It was considered by the girls to be great fun to put a quant.i.ty of pepper in the roses for the Head Shepherd, so that the poor Shepherd had severe fits of sneezing. Being expected, the joke never failed to cause a tremendous noise of sneezing, both natural and mock.

June was the month during which the feast was held and it was held as recently as 1856.

In some parts of Northamptonshire the last sheep to be sheared had a garland of roses placed round its neck.


As the clock strikes Midnight take some hempseed and go into the garden and begin to throw the hempseed on the ground, repeating these words:--

Hempseed I sow, Hempseed I hoe, He that is my true love, Come after me and mow.

After this, look over your left shoulder and you will see your future spouse.

In some places the sower goes round the house.

Another is to go into the garden backwards, in silence, and gather a rose and keep it in a clean sheet of paper without looking at it, until Christmas Day, when it will be as fresh as in June, and if it is worn on that day on the bosom he that is to be the husband will come and take it out.

Just before twelve o'clock at night take a clean chemise, wet it and turn it inside out and put over a chair before the fire, and when the clock strikes midnight your future spouse will come and turn the chemise. This must be done in perfect silence as a single word will break the spell.


On Midsummer Eve three girls are required to make a dumb cake. Two must make it, two bake it, two break it, and the third put a piece under each of their pillows. Strict silence must be preserved. The following are the directions given how to proceed: The two must go to the larder and jointly get the various ingredients. First they get a bowl, each holding it and wash and dry it together. Then each gets a spoonful of flour, a spoonful of water and a little salt. When making the cake they must stand on something they have never stood on before. They must mix it together and roll it. Then they draw a line across the middle of the cake and each girl cuts her initials each on opposite sides of the line.

Then both put it into the oven and bake it. The two take it out of the oven, and break it across the line and the two pieces are given to the third girl who places a piece under each pillow and they will dream of their future.

Not a word must be spoken and the two girls after giving the pieces to the third girl have to walk backwards to bed and get into bed backwards.

One word or exclamation by either of the three girls will break the charm.

Should a gale arise and the wind appear to be rustling in the room, during the baking or latter part of the preparation, if they look over their left shoulder they will see their future husbands.

In some districts the pieces of cake are eaten in bed and not put under their pillows but nothing must be drank before breakfast next morning.

Another variation is that two only make the cake and go through the same form as the preceding, only they divide it themselves, then each eats her portion and goes to bed backwards as in the first case and nothing must be drank or a word spoken.

An uncooked dried salt fish eaten before going to bed in silence and walking backwards and getting into bed the same way, causes ones future husband to appear in a dream with a gla.s.s of water in his hand if a teetotaller, or a gla.s.s of beer if he is not one. Nothing must be drank before breakfast.

An old woman said she had tried it over 40 years ago and her husband brought her a gla.s.s of beer and he was not an abstainer but rather the reverse.


Right glad to meet the evening's dewy veil And see the light fade into glooms around. _Clare._

The Harvest Home Suppers are now almost a thing of the past. I went to one about eight years ago and suppose it will be the last. It is held when the last load of corn is taken home. This load used to be decorated with boughs and flowers and the youngest boy employed used to ride on it singing:--

Harvest Home! Harvest Home; Two plum puddings are better than one, We've plowed, we've sowed, We've reaped, we've mowed, We've got our harvest home.

They also used to shout Largess! Largess! but seldom got anything given them. It was merely an old custom.

In the evening the supper was held, and after supper songs were sung.

The oldest labourer used to propose the health of the Master and Mistress and all would sing:--


Here's a health unto our Master, the giver of the feast, Not only to our Master, but to our Mistress; We wish all things may prosper whate'er he take in hand, For we are all his servants, and all at his command.

Drink, boys drink, and see you do not spill, For if you do you shall drink two, it is our Master's will.

I've been to France, I've been to Dover, I've been to Harvest Home all the world over, over, and over, Drink up your liquor and turn the bowl over.


Here's health unto our Master the founder of the feast, G.o.d bless his endeavours and give him increase, And send him good crops that we may meet another year, Here's our Master's good health boys come drink off your beer.

Some of the old songs used to be regularly sung. "The Poacher" was always a great favourite and the chorus, "For its my delight on a starry night" used to be given with great force and feeling. I wish I could remember the old songs which are now forgotten.

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Weather And Folk Lore Of Peterborough And District Part 3 summary

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