Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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The. Sussex Sheep-Shearer.                103
men must cease to be civilized—cease to eat mutton and wear broadcloth—before the shepherd and the sheep-shearer disappear from the ranks of labouring men. May they, then, flourish—and in Sussex, and on the Sussex Downs especially, eslo perpeiua !
In the absence of any picture of a sheep-shearing feast, the following graphic description of a harvest-home one, given by Mr. Rock, jun., of Hastings, in the 14th volume of the Sussex Archaeological Collections, as witnessed by him at a farm in Boreham Street, in East Sussex, twenty years previously, may be taken as closely approximating to it, especially in the gravity of the proceedings! The custom of "turning the cup over" was, doubtless, common to both occasions:—
"Towards the close of the meal we could hear a rather monotonous chanting proceeding from the kitchen. The effect, heard faintly, except when occasionally an intermediate door was open, was by no means disagreeable. Our host explained the ceremony of 'turning the cup over,' which was going on in the kitchen, and invited us to take part in it ourselves. Accordingly we all adjourned to the kitchen, which we found crowded with the labourers of the farm and the men who had assisted them in harvesting.
" At the head of the table one of the men occupied the position of chairman; in front of him stood a pail, clean as wooden staves and iron hoops could be made by human labour. At his right sat four or five men who led the singing; grave as judges were they; indeed, the appearance of the whole assembly was one of the greatest solemnity, except for a moment or two when some unlucky wight failed to ' turn the cup over,' and was compelled to undergo the penalty in that case made and provided. This done, all went on as solemnly as before. The ceremony, if I may call it so, was this:—
"The leader, or chairman, standing behind the pail with a tall horn cup in his hand, filled it with beer from the pail. The man next to him on the left stood up, and holding a hat with both hands by the brim, crown upwards, received the cup from the chairman, on the crown of the hat, not touching it with either hand. He then lifted the cup to his lips by raising the hat, and slowly drank off the contents. As soon as he began to drink the chorus struck up this chant:—
I've bin to Plymouth, and I've bin to Dover, I have bin rambling, boys, all the wurld over—
Over and over and over and over, Drink up yur liquor and turn your cup over;
Over and over and over and over, The liquor's drink'd up and the cup is turned over.
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