Wolds News: What do hot cross buns, hare pie and a whip have in common?

Easter seemed to come and go rather quickly this year; our focus was on lockdown and we asked ourselves how soon would we be able to return to living what used to be our normal lives.

Caistor's Gad Whip

Easter seemed to come and go rather quickly this year; our focus was on lockdown and we asked ourselves how soon would we be able to return to living what used to be our normal lives.

Perhaps the traditions of North Lincolnshire get forgotten when communities go through the challenging times such as we have endured in the past two years.

However, Lincolnshire has indeed got many customs with links to Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter.

Gad Whip Picture courtesy of Caistor Parish Church EMN-210426-084041001

An obsolete and unique custom that has been well documented is that of the ‘Caistor Gad Whip’.

These words comes from the Daily Graphic for Saturday April the 7th 1906:

“Every Palm Sunday the huge Gad Whip was cracked three times in the porch of Caistor Church as the reading of the first lesson was commenced.

“The tradition was part of a tenure by which a neighbouring property was held.

“The tenant himself had to crack the whip and after disturbing the first lesson he would retire until the second lesson began, by then proceeding up the aisle with the whip to which was now attached a purse containing 30 pieces of silver. The man would kneel before the reading desk and wave the whip three times round the clergyman’s head.”

This very curious ceremony ceased in 1846 and its exact origin is not exactly clear, accepting that the pieces of silver and a whip have some biblical connexion.

The ‘Gad Whip of Caistor’, pictured above and right, is the sole surviving relic, and the thong measures about 10 feet and consists of white leather.

Another custom comes from the village of Wickenby, near Market Rasen.

There on Maundy Thursday, after the morning service, all the children lined up on the Vicarage lawn and were given half a penny to spend at the local shop.

It wouldn’t go far nowadays, but you could get a quarter of sweets for that amount of money in the pre-war era.

Most of us will have eaten a hot cross bun in the run up to Good Friday.

Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that the hot cross bun is of pagan origin, being baked to celebrate the feast of one of the many goddesses of the moon, Diana of Astart.

The round bun represented the full moon, the cross cut the bun into four quarters.

A full moon always occurs during the spring equinox and Easter falls on the 1st Sunday after the full moon.

This is as it may be, but it seems rather more likely that the cross represents the christian cross; the link with Good Friday being particularly important in the Christian calendar.

I bought a hot cross bun the other day a month after Easter and, regrettably, they can be seen in our shops almost the whole year round.

I feel that this means that the focus on hot cross buns for Good Friday seems to get lost in the continuity. But then we are, sadly, living in an increasingly secular society.

Over in Gainsborough, a chap used to go around the town on Maundy Thursday and on Good Friday morning with a handcart selling buns.

The cart had hot bricks in to keep the buns warm, making the smell wonderful, and he had a hand bell to summon his customers.

He would also shout as loud as he could: “Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, one a penny two a penny. hot cross buns. If you have no daughters give them to your sons, one a penny two a penny hot cross buns.”

Hare Pie was once a popular dish in North Lincolnshire and was eaten on Easter Monday.

Apart from hare, it contained hard boiled eggs under a pastry case.

Near Louth is Hare Hill and it was there that the pie was distributed.

The local vicar’s wife made it and come Easter Monday the vicar would cut it up and throw it to the crowd that had gathered.

Lincolnshire had so many of these traditions and if you can find a copy of the book ‘A Lincolnshire Calendar’ by Maureen Sutton it is a real gem, with endless tales of local village traditions.

When I picked up my copy on a second hand book stall, I suddenly looked at the back and saw a picture of Maureen – and I realised this was the Maureen Sutton who I worked with many years ago at The Vale of Ancholme School in Brigg where she was the librarian. Small world!

As I write, we are all hoping that the lockdown is being gradually lifted.

These have been harrowing times and we probably all know someone who has been seriously ill or who has died in the past year.

A short spell in hospital recently showed me first hand how brilliant our NHS nursing staff have been – so dedicated and caring in the best tradition.

They have been the real heroes for me, putting their lives on the line in the service of others.

Which brings me to a 99-year-old royal, whose service to this country was also second to none.

When we look back at the past month, beyond the controversies of football super leagues and Downing Street redecorations, the long and distinquished life of Phillip, Duke of Edinbugh, came to an end a few weeks short of his 100th birthday.

How wonderful our Queen bore her sorrow and the picture of her mourning alone in the Chapel of Windsor, will be a lasting memory.

Watching it in good company, someone said; “We do this pageantry better than any other country in the world.”

Long may it remain so.

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