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From the town of Bacup with blackened faces and unusual costumes comes a unique folk dance troup. The team dances several garland dances once common as part of rushbearing festivals around the area, but also a “nut dance” of which they now seem to be the sole surviving example.
Whilst the clogs shirt and britches are traditional Lancashire, the white and red hooped skirt and white hat/turban seem more exotic in origin.
While Morris Dancing is rumoured to have been derived from the dances of the Moors, the African tribe that conquered large parts of Spain, Portugal and Southern France. The tradition danced by the Britannia dancers seems to have a more definite link. It is rumoured to have been taught to Cornish tin miners by Moors who came to this country and found employment in the mines. When the work in Cornwall became scarce during the 18th & 19th centuries some of the Cornish miners came to the North-West to work in the mines and quarries and brought the tradition with them.
The Pace Egg Plays are traditional village plays, with a rebirth theme, in which St George smites all challengers and the fool, Toss Pot, rejoices. The drama takes the form of a combat between the hero and villain, in which the hero is killed and brought to life, often by a quack doctor.
The plays take place in England during Easter; indeed, the word ‘Pace’ comes from the old English word ‘pasch’ literally meaning ‘Easter’, but have also been known to have been performed at other religious celebrations such as Christmas.
I stoode beside Tim Bobbin’ grave
‘At looks o’er Ratchda’ teawn;
An’ th’ owd lad ‘woke within his yerth,
An’ sed, “Wheer arto’ beawn?”
“Awm gooin’ into th’ Packer-street,
As far as th’ Gowden Bell;
To taste o’ Daniel’s Kesmus ale.”
TIM.—”I cud like o saup mysel’.”
“An’ by this hont o’ my reet arm,
If fro’ that hole theaw’ll reawk,
Theaw’st have o saup o’th’ best breawn ale
‘At ever lips did seawk.”
The greawnd it sturr’d beneath my feet,
An’ then I yerd o groan;
He shook the dust fro’ off his skull,
An’ rowlt away the stone.
Rochdale Town Hall, is a fine example of gothic revival architecture and home to some of the best modern stained glass in the world. The grandeur of this building was such that according to local legend, Hitler had plans to take the building stone by stone back to Germany if he won the war. This is also supposedly the reason why Rochdale, despite it’s industry, escaped pretty much unscathed during the German bombings.
A competition was held to produce a design for the building which was won by William Henry Crossland. Work started in 1866 on the site of an abandoned 17th Century mansion and was completed five years later at a cost of £160,000 (eight times the original budget, and a remarkable sum for a town the size of Rochdale.) the work was so costly that to this day some of the internal decoration remains unfinished.
But what visitors to the town may not know is that the building you see today is different from the original.
The original clock tower was 134 feet high and had a 106 foot wooden spire richly gilded and surmounted by figures of Saint George and the Dragon.
Bury Grammar School is an independent grammar school that has existed since c.1570 the following tale is thought to have originated from the early days of the school. It seems that teachers were made of stern stuff in those days.
Old Mr. Hodgeson the master of the grammar school at bury was sat at his midday meal when his wooden trencher started to spin alarmingly.
Convinced something was wrong he returned with all haste to the schoolhouse to find the schoolboys in a panic and the air fouled with brimstone.
In a foolhardy show of bravado one of the boys had recited the Lords Prayer backwards and in doing so had summoned the Old Nick himself to the school.
Being a learned chap, Hodgeson knew that the only way to banish the devil would be to give him a task which he could not perform, yet if the devil could complete three tasks the price would be his soul.
First Hodgeson demanded that the devil count the blades of grass on the Castle Croft, within a moment the devil returns with the answer.
Getting more desperate he asks the devil to count the grains of sand on the school brow. Again the devil completes the task easily.
With only one chance remaining, the old schoolmaster thinks for a while and without panic, having worked for years with little devils in front of him, he asks the devil to count the letters in the Bible in the nearby Parish Church.
Knowing he is beaten, since he cannot enter the church, the devil lets out a roar and descends through the schoolroom floor back to hell, leaving a great crack in the hearthstone where he passed through.
Glossary of Lancashire dialect.
Bawls eawt, calls out
Fauce (False), knowing, wise
Hafe, or Hofe, half
Nau’but, naught but
Papper, paper, newspaper
T’, Th’, the
Within a narrow gorge known as “The Thrutch” within Healey Dell nature reserve and now overshadowed by the viaduct hides a pool and waterfall, before the flood of 1838 which destroyed it, it also contained a cavern in the rock which had a pulpit, reading desk and seats, formed by the action of the water. This is still known as the Fairies Chapel.
In local folklore the Chapel was formed when the King of the Fairies, aiding Robert of Huntingdon to overcome a curse, turned a local coven of witches to stone.
“There” the King said, “practice your unholy rites. There you have a chapel for your evil worship. And long may it be ere any mortal be so foolish as to seek you out in your wicked den.”
In overcoming the witches, Robert was forced to sacrifice his uncle’s ring which was the only proof of his claim to the title of Huntingdon and thus took his first step towards his destiny as the outlaw Robin Hood.
There was a lord of worthy fame,
And a hunting he would ride,
Attended by a noble traine
Of gentrye by his side.
And while he did in chase remaine,
To see both sport and playe,
His ladye went,
as she did feigne,
Unto the church to praye.
This lord he had a daughter deare,
Whose beauty shone so bright,
She was beloved both far and neare
Of many a lord and knight.