Custom demised: Meltham Collop Monday Penny Scramble

Standard

This was a little known lost custom which existed in Meltham near Huddlesfield and apparently unique to there. This was a distribution of new pennies a sort of penny scramble on Collop Monday. The custom is first described in an 1929 edition of the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 

“Collop Monday.

“Collop Monday” was observed at Meltham, near Huddersfield, yesterday, by giving a newly minted penny to each child who appeared at the gates of Meltham Mills, and later by scattering further coins to an assembly of the young. I nearly assembled myself, but I am afraid it would not have been much use.”

The article goes on to say that:

“Formerly the children made the round of the village, saying, “Pray, dame, a collop or a halfpenny” at each house. But this has been dropped, and the scattering of shining new pence has taken its place. “

Apparently, the custom begun in 1881 by a Mr Edward Brook and was continued after his death in 1904 by his son. It would appear that he can adopted it from other penny scrambles which existed in the town such as at Whitsun. This custom however begun with the distribution of the coins from a leather pouch and then thrown to be scrambled for!  It was clearly popular with the local children as the money could be used to pay for sweets.

The article continues:

“The custom was begun in 1881 by the late Mr. Edward Brook and has been continued since his death in 1904 by his son, Lieut.-Col. Charles Brook. He, however, was absent yesterday, and so his son, Capt. Edward Wm. Brook — who was equerry to the Duke of Gloucester on his recent big game hunting expedition — came to the rescue. Among those present was Mr. John Pogson, foreman joiner at the Mills, who has been present at the ceremony ever since it started, and who has 66 years of working life to his credit.”

An article in the Leed’s Mercury of the same year stated that:

There is thought for the less burly, too, for before the scattering each child who comes to the works gates receives one of the bright coppers.

But the scrambling provides the real adventure. One or two who would have departed without participating in the riotous joy were rebuked by their colleagues.”

The Leed’s Mercury notes;

A Happy Crowd.

From a substantial bag, akin to that one sees on racecourses, Captain Brook hurled aloft the pennies, and the crowd surged forward and dashed back with screams of laughter, pushing, plunging and raiding to get the benefit of the shining shower.

Captain Brook was very judicious. Small girls, looking on wistfully, had a shower — several showers — for their special benefit, and one got the impression that only the very lazy or the hopelessly unlucky failed to augment their original capital.

Mr. John Pogson, who is 75, and has worked for 66 years at Meltham Mills, supervised the distribution. He has seen the pennies thrown for fifty years, and his patriarchal beard and paper workman’s can were a picturesque touch.

With his eyes alight with fun, John told me that the custom of scattering coins among children dates back to the period when the Israelites emerged from Egypt in bondage. At any rate there is something jolly and old-world about the business they carry it through in this pleasant Yorkshire village.”

A great glimpse can be felt in the article in the Yorkshire Evening Post from 1938:

Miniature rugby scrums took place all over the road, the bruised knees and hacked shins were speedily forgotten in the rush for possession.

Tiny tots hardly the size of “threepenn’orth o’ copper,” as one villager described them, fought with as much determination and vigour as the older children, and they seemed almost to enjoy being sat on and stamped on as they rushed to the bottom of the scrum.

Some of the lads are proud of the records they have set up at these Meltham scrambles. I spot to one who picked up a dozen pennies this morning. Others said that on previous occasions they had collected 27 and 30 pennies respectively.

The boys, incidentally, do not have it all their own way, and some of the lassies of Meltham had a very successful morning

It is not clear how long the Mills continued the custom but clearly understanding that one penny could become two in the hands of the parents perhaps by the time of the Second World War, it was the local shopkeepers who began handing out free sweets to children on the day. Sadly little is reported of the custom but what is remarkable is that it is reported to have continued up until the early 1990s by Mrs Annie Woodhead who ran a newsagents in the market square. Why it then died out is unclear but with her the last of this local scramble and the longest public association with collop Monday died out!  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.