Mischievous Night or Hallowe'en in Palterton


Hallowe'en is the Scottish name given to All Hallows Eve - 31st October; the vigil of All Hallows or All Saint's Day.

A view around the hearth on All Hallows Eve

It is one of many Christian Festivals grafted on ancient pagan ceremonies, and it's superstitious practices - modern customs include bobbing apples, telling tales of witches, ghosts and trick or treat?

It is also a time associated, especially in Scotland, with certain pleasing superstitions attractively set forth in Burn's famous poem "Hallowe'en" - it is the night when young men and maidens are supposed, by observing certain rights, to have their future wives and husbands disclosed to them.

A verse from Burns Poem

In Palterton, Hallowe'en was called 'Mischievous Night': the night when the villagers expected trouble!  (I remember in my youth (1943 to 1950) almost every day and evening in the village seemed to be mischievous!)

Palterton was never short of "mischievous rogues" and on this night we paraded around the village in a gang each being in possession of a 'lantern' - a Turnip hollowed out and carved into the shape of a face with a lighted candle secured in the centre.  This was carried by means of a string handle which was fastened to each side.  The turnips we 'pinched' (stealing) from either the field or the farmyard store.  In those days vegetables such as potatoes, turnips, swedes, sugar beet etc. used to be heaped up and stored in a triangular shaped row and covered with straw to avoid the frost.  For those amongst us who didn't acquire a turnip, a Tin Can was utilised (which was faceless) and this doubled up to make a most suitable "winter warmer" for cold hands.

A "Winter Warmer" consisted of a Tin Can, mostly a cocoa tin which had a removable lid, which was pierced with nail holes, as was the bottom.  A length of string was knotted through the top of the tin in two places to make a handle.  Rag was stuffed into the tin, lit by a match and left to smoulder, the lid being replaced.  An occasional twirl of the tin on the end of the loop of string kept it smouldering, and the tin remained hot for very long periods and kept our hands warm on cold winter evenings.

Nowadays this practise would be condemned as highly dangerous, but none of us ever suffered either burns or injuries.

The pranks were mostly routine, though occasionally someone devised a unique plan to cause 'mischief'.  No garden gate was safe on it's hinges on "mischievous night" and every front door was a potential target for the 'door knockers' - that is to say, we knocked on doors and ran away!  Another trick was to tie adjoining doors together, then knock on both doors and run a short distance to observe both householders struggling to open their respective doors!

Bullroars was yet another antic practised by the gang of mischievous rogues.

Newspaper was stuffed up the bottom spout of a drainpipe and lit either with a match or from a "Winter Warmer".  The draught caused the flames to rise up the drainpipe and as they did, it roared like a Bull - hence the apt name for the prank.  This 'trick' had been a village custom for years.  This 'mischief' was performed from at least as early as 1900 by the Palterton rogues.

A favourite location for our "Bullroars" was the drainpipe fastened to the end house, next to the 'ginnel' (entry) to Scotland Yard and across from the post office.  As a baby I had lived in this house with my parents for a short time in 1935.  It was on West View.

So for decades it would appear the "mischievous rogues" of Palterton had been practising.  Now it becomes clear why the residents didn't look forward to Hallowe'en - in their youth they too had engaged in such activities and knew what pranks the night would bring!

Sadly or is it gladly, this tradition has died out in the village.  Mostly families do not allow their children out during the dark evenings.

Mischievous Night or Hallowe'en in Palterton

Email: ronstan@richardsbygonetimes.co.uk

Home Page: http://www.richardsbygonetimes.co.uk/

Created 2 December 2001
Last updated: 1 February 2004