★ Isle Of Wight Shrovers Story :
Until within about the last thirty years, it had been the custom in the Isle of Wight from time immemorial at all the farms and some other charitable houses to distribute cakes on Shrove-Tuesday, called Shrove-cakes, to the poor children of the parish or neighbourhood, who assembled early in the morning at the different villages, hamlets, and cottages, in parties of from two to thirty or more, for the purpose of what was denominated “Going Shroving,” and the children bore the name of Shrovers. At every house they visited they had a nice Shrove-cake each given them.
In those days the winters were much more inclement and of longer duration than at the present time, and it often happened that, in addition to a severe frost, the ground was covered several inches high with snow, yet however cold or intense the weather, it did not prevent these little ones from what they called in the provincial dialect Gwine a Shrovun, and they jogged merrily along hand in hand from one house to another to obtain their cakes; but, before receiving them, it was expected and deemed necessary that they should all sing together a song suitable to the occasion; those who sang the loudest were considered the best Shrovers, and sometimes had an extra cake bestowed on them; consequently, there was no want of noise (whatever there might have been of harmony) to endeavour to get another Shroving gift.
There were many different versions of the song according to the parishes they lived in. The one generally sang by the children of the East Medina was as follows:
A Shrovun, a Shrovun, I be cum a Shrovun, A piece a bread, a piece a cheese, A bit a your fat beyacun, Or a dish of doughnuts, Aal of your own meyacun!
A Shrovun, a Shrovun, I be cum a Shrovun, Nice meeat in a pie, My mouth is verrey dry! I wish a wuz zoo well a-wet, I’d zing the louder for a nut!
Chorus. A Shrovun, a Shrovun, We be cum a Shrovun!
[Footnote 49: Composed of flour and lard, with plums in the middle, and made into round substances about the size of a cricket-ball. They were called nuts or dough-nuts, and quite peculiar to the Isle of Wight.]
The song of the children of the West Medina was different:
A Shrovun, a Shrovun, I be cum a Shrovun, Linen stuff es good enuff, Vor we that cums a Shrovun. Vine veathers in a pie, My mouth is verrey dry. I wish a wuz zoo well a-wet, Then I’d zing louder vor a nut!
Dame, dame, a igg, a igg, Or a piece a beyacun. Dro awaay the porridge pot, Or crock to bwile the peeazun. Vine veathers in a pie, My mouth is verrey dry. I wish a wuz zoo well a-wet, Then I’d zing louder vor a nut!
Chorus. A Shrovun, a Shrovun, We be cum a Shrovun!
[Footnote 50: Dame. The mistress of the house, if past the middle age, was called Dame, i. e. Madame.]
[Footnote 51: An egg, an egg.]
[Footnote 52: Throw away.]
If the song was not given sufficiently loud, they were desired to sing it again. In that case it very rarely required a second repetition. When the Shrovers were more numerous than was anticipated, it not unfrequently happened that, before the time of the arrival of the latter parties, the Shrove-cakes had been expended; then dough-nuts, pancakes, bread and cheese, or bread and bacon, were given, or halfpence were substituted; but in no instance whatever were they sent from the door empty-handed. It is much to be regretted that this charitable custom should have become almost extinct; there being very few houses at the present time where they distribute Shrove-cakes.
“There was another very ancient custom somewhat similar to the Shroving, which has also nearly, if not quite, disappeared; probably it began to decay within the last half-century: this was a gift of cakes and ale to children on New Year’s Day, who, like the Shrovers, went from house to house singing for them; but, if we may judge from the song, those children were for the most part from the towns and larger villages, as the song begins, “A sale, a sale in our town;” there is no doubt but it was written for the occasion some centuries since, when “a sale” was not a thing of such a common occurrence as now, and when there was one, it was often held in an open field in or near the town.”
So writes my kind and valued correspondent, Captain Henry Smith, but town is, I think, merely a provincialism for village. It is so, at least, in the North of England. As for the phrase a seyal, it seems to be a corruption of wassail, the original sense having been lost. The following was the song:
A seyal, a seyal in our town, The cup es white and the eal es brown; The cup es meyad from the ashen tree, And the eal es brew’d vrom the good barlie.
Chorus. Cake and eal, cake and eal, A piece of cake and a cup of eal; We zing merrily one and aal For a piece of cake and a cup of eal.
Little maid, little maid, troll the pin, Lift up the latch and we’ll aal vall in; Ghee us a cake and zum eal that es brown, And we dont keer a vig vor the seyal in the town.
Chorus. W’ill zing merrily one and aal Vor a cake and a cup of eal; God be there and God be here, We wish you aal a happy New Year.
[Footnote 53: That is, turn the pin inside the door in order to raise the latch. In the old method of latching doors, there was a pin inside which was turned round to raise the latch. An old Isle of Wight song says,–
Then John he arose, And to the door goes, And he trolled, and he trolled at the pin. The lass she took the hint, And to the door she went, And she let her true love in.]
[Footnote 54: “Aal vall in,” stand in rank to receive in turn the cake and ale.]
The above was the original song, but within the last fifty or sixty years, as the custom began to fall off, the chorus or some other part was often omitted.
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