to it. This was " burning the old witch." I will quote his letter. He says :
" The custom of ' bonnin awd witch ' was often referred to during the early part of my country life, even if the custom was not observed. I have heard harvesters say, ' We ought to burn the last bit of this year's crop,' and suggest that 'we do it now,' but the ganger or master would say, ' Ah weeant hev it ! Thoo'U set clooase hod mebbe ! ' (I won't have it ! You'll set the field on fire perhaps).
" I have, however, a distinct recollection of witnessing ' bonnin t' awd witch,' and could point out the very spot m the field in Weaverthop Parish. A labourer had taken part of a field of barley to cut, tie, and stook, and [it] being the last piece to cut on the farm, his wife, who was ' gathering,' said, ' At doon dinner tahm (time) you tway (two) lads sail see t' awd witch bont, if we ger (get) all doon ti neet.' ^ When we came to the last ' swathe ' (breadth) the man was about fifteen yards before his wife, who was gathering and laying into sheaves, so that before she saw he had finished he had cut the last, tied it into a sheaf, and lighted it with, I think, the first lucifer I had seen. He was a smoker, and I think his wife did not know that he'd got the new light ; and, I think, partly because of his extravagance in using a lucifer, and also accomplishing the business so much more quickly than she would have done with flint and tunder \_sic\ or peter paper,^ she shouted out to him, ' Thoo greeat cloothead. thoo owt ti ha bont it stannin ! ' (while still uncut). ' Thoo's deean it wrang ! That weeant flay d'witch ! ' (won't frighten the witch).
"This happened in September, 1850, but as to your question, Is it done now ? I can't remember having heard it mentioned during my nine years here (South Cave). It was often referred to as a custom when I was at Bonwick (near Hornsea), and I remember particularly, in the wet harvest of 1880, that Willie Crozer (who was over fifty then, and is living still at Skipsea Brough) and I were cutting the last acre of barley a few days before St. Martin's Day, and when he came to the last few strokes he stopped short, and looking up, said, 'What am Ah ti deeah
' This is rather obscure, but I think it means that the woman promised at dinner time they should see the witch burnt at night if all were cut. ^ Paper saturated in a solution of saltpetre.