Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/334

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298 Hampshire Folklore.

in the Test valley, the maypole and the May Queen are still an annual institution, but entirely managed, if not originated, by the schoolmaster, not the villagers ; so I was told there was a danger of the children looking upon it as part of the school curriculum instead of a rural festival.

There is, however, one rural custom, — quite free from officialdom, — much observed in the county, which I am inclined to connect with these May-time festivities rather than with its professed historical origin, and that is the observance of Shick Shack Day.^ This is the country- folk's name for Royal Oak Day, May 29th, when, wrote Miss Yonge at Otterbourne, " those who omit the wearing of the oak-apple are liable to the drenching which in Devon belongs to the first."

Herrick's well-known lines commencing " Come my Corinna, come ! " apply, of course, to May Day, but they find parallel even now at Upton Grey on the twenty-ninth, not the first of the month. The Rev. R. M. Heanley tells me : —

"At Upton Grey there is a very special celebration of May 29th, Royal Oak Day. The church bells are vigorously rung at 6 a.m., after which the ringers place a large branch of oak over the church porch, and another large one over the lychgate, and then proceed to put smaller branches in the gateway of every house all up and down the village street. This is supposed to ensure good luck for the remainder of the year, and any omission is sure to be followed by disaster of some sort or other." ^

  • The origin of the term Shick Shack, if noted in dictionaries at all, is said to

be obscure, but I find that at Gloucester College School the boys not wearing oak apples on the 29th of May were hooted at by their comrades, who yelled ' shig-shag ' as an " opprobrious epithet " after them (Notes and Qiuries, 5th S. vol. iv, pp. 176-7). Shack in the Western United States means a roughly built house or cabin, especially such a one as is put up for temporary occupa- tion while securing a claim under the United States pre-emption laws. This may be a sidelight, for many old Hampshire and Sussex words are to be found nowadays in Yankee 'slang.' Common of Shack is the right of all members of a community to turn their cattle after harvest into the common field. Shag is, according to Skeat, Danish for wattle.

® At Crondall and other churches, the bells used to ring on the 29th.