Isle Of Wight Shrovers

: Popular Rhymes And Nursery Tales

Until within about the last thirty years, it had been the custom in the

Isle of Wight from time immemorial at all the farms and some other

charitable houses to distribute cakes on Shrove-Tuesday, called

Shrove-cakes, to the poor children of the parish or neighbourhood, who

assembled early in the morning at the different villages, hamlets, and

cottages, in parties of from two to thirty or more, for the purpose of

what w
s denominated "Going Shroving," and the children bore the name of

Shrovers. At every house they visited they had a nice Shrove-cake each

given them. In those days the winters were much more inclement and of

longer duration than at the present time, and it often happened that, in

addition to a severe frost, the ground was covered several inches high

with snow, yet however cold or intense the weather, it did not prevent

these little ones from what they called in the provincial dialect

Gwine a Shrovun, and they jogged merrily along hand in hand from one

house to another to obtain their cakes; but, before receiving them, it

was expected and deemed necessary that they should all sing together a

song suitable to the occasion; those who sang the loudest were

considered the best Shrovers, and sometimes had an extra cake bestowed

on them; consequently, there was no want of noise (whatever there might

have been of harmony) to endeavour to get another Shroving gift. There

were many different versions of the song according to the parishes they

lived in. The one generally sang by the children of the East Medina was

as follows:

A Shrovun, a Shrovun,

I be cum a Shrovun,

A piece a bread, a piece a cheese,

A bit a your fat beyacun,

Or a dish of doughnuts,

Aal of your own meyacun!

A Shrovun, a Shrovun,

I be cum a Shrovun,

Nice meeat in a pie,

My mouth is verrey dry!

I wish a wuz zoo well a-wet,

I'd zing the louder for a nut![49]

Chorus. A Shrovun, a Shrovun,

We be cum a Shrovun!

[Footnote 49: Composed of flour and lard, with

plums in the middle, and made into round

substances about the size of a cricket-ball. They

were called nuts or dough-nuts, and quite

peculiar to the Isle of Wight.]

The song of the children of the West Medina was different:

A Shrovun, a Shrovun,

I be cum a Shrovun,

Linen stuff es good enuff,

Vor we that cums a Shrovun.

Vine veathers in a pie,

My mouth is verrey dry.

I wish a wuz zoo well a-wet,

Then I'd zing louder vor a nut!

Dame,[50] dame, a igg, a igg,[51]

Or a piece a beyacun.

Dro awaay[52] the porridge pot,

Or crock to bwile the peeazun.

Vine veathers in a pie,

My mouth is verrey dry.

I wish a wuz zoo well a-wet,

Then I'd zing louder vor a nut!

Chorus. A Shrovun, a Shrovun,

We be cum a Shrovun!

[Footnote 50: Dame. The mistress of the house, if

past the middle age, was called Dame, i. e.


[Footnote 51: An egg, an egg.]

[Footnote 52: Throw away.]

If the song was not given sufficiently loud, they were desired to sing

it again. In that case it very rarely required a second repetition. When

the Shrovers were more numerous than was anticipated, it not

unfrequently happened that, before the time of the arrival of the latter

parties, the Shrove-cakes had been expended; then dough-nuts, pancakes,

bread and cheese, or bread and bacon, were given, or halfpence were

substituted; but in no instance whatever were they sent from the door

empty-handed. It is much to be regretted that this charitable custom

should have become almost extinct; there being very few houses at the

present time where they distribute Shrove-cakes.

"There was another very ancient custom somewhat similar to the Shroving,

which has also nearly, if not quite, disappeared; probably it began to

decay within the last half-century: this was a gift of cakes and ale to

children on New Year's Day, who, like the Shrovers, went from house to

house singing for them; but, if we may judge from the song, those

children were for the most part from the towns and larger villages, as

the song begins, "A sale, a sale in our town;" there is no doubt but

it was written for the occasion some centuries since, when "a sale" was

not a thing of such a common occurrence as now, and when there was one,

it was often held in an open field in or near the town." So writes my

kind and valued correspondent, Captain Henry Smith, but town is, I

think, merely a provincialism for village. It is so, at least, in the

North of England. As for the phrase a seyal, it seems to be a

corruption of wassail, the original sense having been lost. The

following was the song:

A seyal, a seyal in our town,

The cup es white and the eal es brown;

The cup es meyad from the ashen tree,

And the eal es brew'd vrom the good barlie.

Chorus. Cake and eal, cake and eal,

A piece of cake and a cup of eal;

We zing merrily one and aal

For a piece of cake and a cup of eal.

Little maid, little maid, troll the pin,[53]

Lift up the latch and we'll aal vall in;[54]

Ghee us a cake and zum eal that es brown,

And we dont keer a vig vor the seyal in the town.

Chorus. W'ill zing merrily one and aal

Vor a cake and a cup of eal;

God be there and God be here,

We wish you aal a happy New Year.

[Footnote 53: That is, turn the pin inside the

door in order to raise the latch. In the old

method of latching doors, there was a pin inside

which was turned round to raise the latch. An old

Isle of Wight song says,--

Then John he arose,

And to the door goes,

And he trolled, and he trolled at the pin.

The lass she took the hint,

And to the door she went,

And she let her true love in.]

[Footnote 54: "Aal vall in," stand in rank to

receive in turn the cake and ale.]

The above was the original song, but within the last fifty or sixty

years, as the custom began to fall off, the chorus or some other part

was often omitted.