Saturday 26th October 1918 saw the birth of one Hugh Pickles. Gerald Howat’s obituary following Hugh’s death in Blewbury, Oxfordshire on 24th September 1989 – five days before Hugh was due to retire – described him as ‘one of life’s enthusiasts and eccentrics’. Cricket, Hugh claimed, was his second religion. His first won him the loyalty and affection of generations. These were the staff and pupils of Worksop College, of which he was chaplain; his parishioners at Blewbury in Oxfordshire, of which he was vicar from 1964 until his death and his followers in his canonry, not of Oxford but of Kobe, of the Anglican Church in Japan.
For 25 years Hugh captained and ran the Oxford Diocesan Clergy Cricket side – his ‘second religion’ he said! Just three weeks before his death he had received the Church Times Cup when Oxford had beaten Rochester in the Final. A year earlier – aged 70 – he had performed his last cricket hat-trick (getting three batsmen out with three consecutive balls bowled). He was also a skilful coach – Phil Sharpe of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, and an England test player, was one of his discoveries. His knowledge of players, his presence at cricket’s great occasions, and his ability to entice the great and the famous to play for his occasional charity elevens made him, in his own way, one of cricket’s great celebrities.
Saturday 27th October 1764 saw the first issue of the New History of England that was ‘trailed’ in last week’s blog. Today saw the arrival of ‘Number 1 of a new History of England from the earliest Accounts of Britain, to the Ratification of the Peace of Versailles, 1763; Humbly inscribed to the QUEEN. By T. Mortimer, Esq; His Majesty’s Vice-Consul for the Austrian Netherlands: Printed for J. Wilson and J. Fell, in Paternoster Row and sold by Mr Fletcher at Oxford; Messrs Fletcher and Hodson at Cambridge, Mr Smith at Dublin and by all the Booksellers in Great Britain and Ireland.’
Subscribers were advised that:
I. The whole will be completed in One Hundred Numbers, making Two Volumes, in Folio.
II. Each Number will contain Three Sheets, printed on a new Letter (sic), and very fine Paper.
III. With every-other Number will be given an elegant Copper Plate.
IV. Number 1 will be published the 27th of October 1764 (this day), and the succeeding Numbers will follow in their proper Order, weekly, without Interruption.
V. This History will be decorated with elegant Copper-plates illustrating the most interesting and entertaining Events recorded in the British Annals; together with Portraits, at full Length, of all the Kings and Queens, in the Habits of the Times; executed by that admired Engraver, Mr Grignion.
VI. To enable every Person to form an Opinion of the Execution and masterly Embellishments of this work, Numbers I and II may be read gratis, and returned if not approved.
Following the above there is a long’ish piece by T. Mortimer of Smith-street, Westminster that I will not include here but will post later during this week. Together the pieces give us a fascinating insight into one aspect of the life of ‘gentlemen’ in the mid-eighteenth century.
[Capitalisation in the above replicates that in the newsprint.]
Saturday 28th October 1826: William Cobbett wrote in his diary for this day that ‘I have just put an end to my ride of August, September and October 1826 during which I have travelled 568 miles, and have slept in 30 different beds, having written three monthly pamphlets called ‘The Poor Man’s Friend’, and have also written 11 Registers. I have been in 3 cities, in about 20 market towns, in perhaps 500 villages; and I have seen the people nowhere so well off as in the neighbourhood of Weston Grove, and nowhere so badly off as in the dominions of Select Vestry of Hurstbourn Tarrant, commonly called Uphusband. During the whole of this ride I have rarely been abed after daylight; I have drunk neither wine nor spirits. I have eaten no vegetables, and only a very moderate quantity of meat; and it may be useful for my readers to know that the riding of 20 miles was so fatiguing to me at the end of my tour, as the riding of 10 miles was at the beginning of it. Some ill-natured fools will call this egotism. Why is it egotism? Getting upon a good, strong horse and riding about the country has no merit in it; it requires neither talent nor virtues of any sort; but health is a very valuable thing.’
Monday 29th October 1618: To me Sir Walter Raleigh was one of the great explorers and characters of the Elizabethan era and beyond. What I didn’t know – or if I did, I’d forgotten about it – was that he was executed on this day. Just in case you share my gap in the knowledge of the man, this is a potted history of his life to his death. He was born about 1554 to a Protestant family in Devon; spent some time in Ireland in the suppression of rebellions and became a landlord of property confiscated from the native Irish. Queen Elizabeth knighted him in 1585; he played a major role in the English colonisation of North America and, with the benefit of a Royal Patent, explored Virginia and laid the basis for future English settlements there. He then appears to have gone a bit too far when, in 1591, he married Elizabeth Throckmorton, one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting. The trouble was – he had not asked the Queen’s permission for the marriage! As a result both Walter and Elizabeth were sent to the Tower. When they were released he did the sensible thing and they retired to his Dorset estate. After the death of Queen Elizabeth he was again imprisoned in the Tower, this time for being involved in a plot against King James. Once again he was released and led a second expedition to South America in search of ‘El Dorado’ – the ‘City of Gold’. When they found nothing his men ransacked a Spanish outpost. Surprise, surprise, the Spanish were not pleased about this, nor was King James. On his return to England Sir Walter was again arrested but this time there was no forgiveness and, on this day 29th October 1618, he was beheaded in the Old Palace Yard at the Palace of Westminster.
Monday 30th October 1967 gives us something very different to the above as Richard Burton writes in his diary: ‘I bought Elizabeth the jet plane we flew in yesterday. It costs, brand new, $960,000. She was not displeased. I think we can operate it at a reasonable, practicable rate – perhaps with luck almost nothing. This may sound like famous last words but I feel safe in it. It can, in 12 to 15 hours, and with one or two stops depending on the weather, cross the Atlantic. It can land on any small airfield including unpaved ones. It can land at Abingdon when we go to Oxford next month. It can land at Saanen [his home in Switzerland]. It also means that we never have to land at that horrible London Airport ever again.’
31st October is All Hallows Eve is the evening when, it is said, ghosts roam abroad and witches traditionally hold their Sabbats. Your scribe will have been walking the streets of Peterborough for four nights including this one telling spooky, ghostly, stories BUT there are many other superstitions and traditions attached to All Hallow’s Eve. For instance, it is considered a VERY GOOD day for foretelling the future – especially with regard to your love life. Many of these rituals relate to APPLES. For instance: if a girl stands before a mirror while eating an apple and combing her hair at midnight on Hallowe’en, her future husband’s image will be reflected in the glass over her left shoulder! If she peels an apple in one long piece, and then tosses the peel over her left shoulder or into a bowl of water, she will be able to read the first initial of her future partner’s name in the shape created by the discarded peel. She could also hang the peel on a nail by the front door, and if the ini¬tial of the first man to enter matches that of the peel he will be her unknown lover.
Hallowe’en is also the occasion on which groups of unmarried boys and girls would twirl apples on strings over a fire; the order in which the apples fall off the strings indicates the order in which they will be married (the owner of the last apple to drop will remain unmar¬ried). One custom we all know is ducking for apples. Everyone puts in their own apple and then, without using their hands, attempt to take bites out of other apples floating in a bowl of water or suspended on a string. Superstition has it that you are fated to marry the owner of the apple you manage to bite. Alternatively, if you take the apple to bed and sleep with it under your pillow you will get a vision of a future spouse in their dreams!
There are some things that it’s NOT SENSIBLE TO DO at Hallowe’en. One is not lingering in churchyards or doing anything that might offend the fairies or other malicious sprites. It is also not a good idea to go hunting over Hallowe’en, as you may accidentally wound a wan¬dering spirit. If you are walking down a road and hear some¬one walking close behind, do not look round as it is likely to be death himself following you. It is also risky to look at your own SHADOW in the moonlight on Hallowe’en. Your shadow is linked to your real being and any injury to your shadow injures you. If you look at your own shadow then you are looking at yourself and, due to the bad things abroad on Hallowe’en, looking at your real self in this way can change you for the worse. BUT – Children born on Hallowe’en will enjoy lifelong protection against evil spirits and will also he endowed with the gift of second sight.
1st November is All Hallows Day / All Saint’s Day. It is also the beginning of the traditional English Mummer’s Plays and the Celtic Samhain – the night on which the dead were said to leave their graves. This belief still reverberates in Cheshire on All Souls’ Eve and All Souls’ Day. The Mummers here are called ‘Soul Cakers’, and in their song they beg for cakes or money for their dead ancestors. This is a Hallowe’en ritual – or is it an All Souls’ ritual? These two days have become horribly confused in folklore. In any event, all your scribe can advise is that over Hallowe’en you should be careful – very careful.