WordPress’ summary of my blog

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 10 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.


Gravestones in the Wind and Inaccurate Transcriptions

Spent the last few days breaking the back of indexing the transcripts of the local memorial inscriptions that my helpers and I (well mostly my helpers) have completed. The end is in sight but there is a fair bit of checking to be done. The sun came out – you may remember  this – it is a circular golden object that used to appear in the sky sometimes. Ideal, we can start some checking. Ah – sunny it may be but juggling lap top, pen, camera and sheets of paper in a force 8 gale with a wind chill factor of minus quite a lot, means checking was abandoned for another day. My companion was heard  to mutter ‘this is warm compared to Lapland’ – still worrying about that one. We are combining the information on the gravestones with that in the burial register and I am surprised by the level of discrepancy – different ages, different versions of names and several poor folk being buried a year or two before they died!

Still struggling through ‘C’ on my re-edit of Family Historians’ Enquire Within just how many things related to family history can begin with C? And they include many entries that need severe revision since the mid 1990s – ‘Canada’ and ‘Census’ accomplished now preparing to bite the bullet that is ‘Civil Registration’.

The holiday season is obviously prompting people to revisit their family history and I have exchanged useful information on Buckland Brewer families, including additions to my ’emigrants’ collection.

Had the first ever refusal of one of many corrections to Findmypast. Resubmitted  it with War and Peace in the ‘comments’ box. I did find ‘Seamster’ (if this exists as a word – presumably the masculine of seamstress) an unlikely occupation for a 19 year old male on a farm. I then worked back a few pages to find other upper case ‘T’s that were identical to the initial letter – this time mistranscribed as ‘L’ so another correction has gone in.

Y is for Yule – the history interpreter’s historical advent calendar and Christmas greetings

Enjoyable first Christmas Eve for our community shop. Now sat in front of the woodburner half watching Christmas TV and yes, indexing memorial inscriptions and burials from transcripts. Before you suggest I should get out more, one of my party has succumbed to yet more plague so it will be a quiet Christmas. West Country rail routes are still impassable so I hope everyone has got to where they need to be. I am happily tracking Santa as he speeds across the globe – he’s currently approaching the Taj Mahal. Looking forward to Skyping friends and family tomorrow.

Happy Christmas and a peaceful joyous 2013 to all – thanks for following my ramblings – more historical trivia soon.

Wren hunting

Hunting a wren by wren boys on 26th December, primarily in Ireland and on the Isle of Man, has possible associations with pagan or druidic rituals. The live wren would be tied to a pole and donations sought from townspeople, often in return for a feather, to pay for a dance that evening. Later the live wren was replaced by an artificial one.


Jol or Jule was the feast to honour Jolnir, another name for the Norse Odin, god of alcohol and ecstasy. It commemorated the winter solstice and was celebrated on 21st December. Large logs would be dragged in and burnt to create light on a time of darkness. The feast lasted until the Yule log burnt out.

W is for Wassailing – the history interpreter’s historical advent calendar and other anachronisms

Despite generally enjoying watching ‘Merlin’ on BBC TV, I was somewhat irritated yesterday when King Arthur, presumably speaking at some point during the Dark Ages, referred to the United Kingdom!


Waits were the night watchmen who played instruments whilst they patrolled the streets, to warn townspeople of danger. From this they developed into minstrels who gave performances in private homes or innyards. Villages often had their own band of waits.


Wassail was a traditional toast ‘waes hael’ (be well), to which the response was ‘drink hael’ (drink and be healthy). Wassailing, also known as apple howling, was particularly common in the west country. The apple king and queen, followed by a rowdy procession, would go from orchard to orchard blessing the trees. This was accompanied by shouting, the banging of drums and the firing of muskets.

T is for Turkey – the history interpreter’s historical advent calendar

Parcel wrapping today. I am going for a subtle brown paper and jolly ribbon look this year. I don’t know who invented brown paper (allegedly around in the C17th as seeds were wrapped in it in order to store them) but you’d think they would have made it a little easier to handle. I once papered a room in brown paper. The end result was fine but it stretched all over the place and was decidely the trickiest wall papering I’ve ever done. My wall papering days are now over as the walls in my cottage are too full of lumps and bumps.

25th December

In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main Christian holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. One of the earliest references to Christmas being celebrated on December 25th appeared in Antioch in the middle of the second century. At that time, Christians were still persecuted. It was not until 350 that Pope Gregory declared 25th December to be the official date for celebrating Christ’s birth.


Before turkey became the traditional Christmas meat, pheasant, swan or goose was eaten. It is believe that the first person to bring turkey to Britain was William Strickland in 1526. He sold the six turkeys he brought back from America in Bristol, for two pence each.

T is for Tree – the history interpreter’s historical advent calendar, the end of the world and other matters

Well, contrary to Mayan opinion, 11.11am has passed and we are all still here. I was prompted to wonder about the effect of the switch to the Gregorian Calendar. May this mean we are eleven days out?

What to do with the rest of the day – apart from spreading Christmas Cheer in the Community Shop? I think it may be an occasion for indexing a few more gravestones – I know how to party!


The Christmas tree is a C16th German tradition. Its use was first recorded in England in 1829 and it was popularised by Queen Victoria. It was derived from the ancient pagan traditions of bringing evergreens into the house during winter to symbolise the hope of spring.

 Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night was followed by a day when the home was blessed. The Puritans discontinued this custom and Twelfth Night lost its religious connections. It then became an occasion for over indulgence. It was therefore banned as a feast day in 1870.

S is for Snowmen – the history interpreter’s historical advent calendar – if you thought P was bad C is worse!

‘P’ and ‘E’ now done for the Family Historians’ Enquire Within edit. ‘Emigration’ took some time. Have finished now for the holiday season but did have a quick look at forthcoming ‘C’ and wished I hadn’t.

Events in my village this week have reinforced my belief in the need for proper history teaching. We need to equip people with the ability to gather facts from a variety of sources and to evaluate the accuracy of the evidence. Maybe then ludicrous rumours wouldn’t find their way on to social media sites so easily. Rant over!

Lovely time with Highampton History Society last night. I even sold copies of Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs to 40% of the audience! Mistress Agnes is now off duty until the New Year.

Snowmen are thought to be a survival of a totemic pagan ritual. The largest snow person was built in 2008 in Maine and was 122 feet 1 inch tall.

There is no biblical evidence for Jesus’ birth in a stable. The references to the animals and a manger have led to the association with the stable, although at the time of Jesus’ birth animals would have been brought in to share part of the living accommodation.

The star is another nativity tradition for which there is no biblical evidence. It is, in literal translations, a ‘bright light in the sky’, regarded by some as being a comet.