Collop Monday

Collop Monday — also known as Shrove Monday, Ash Monday or Clean Monday — is the name given to the day prior to Shrove Tuesday. Traditionally, it marked the last day that meat could be eaten prior to the forty-day period of Lent.

History

A collop is a slice or chunk of meat, often referring to a slice of bacon. Traditionally, Collop Monday would often be begin with a breakfast of fried bacon and eggs, then any unused meat would be cut and salted to ensure it would be preserved during Lent. A recorded ancient custom amongst children was to visit nearby houses and say "pray dame a collop", for which they would receive a piece of meat.

By the mid-1800s, the custom had reportedly died out in most parts of the country and, where it persisted, a copper coin would sometimes be given in lieu of meat.

Meltham

In 1881, Edward Brook of Meltham began a custom of distributing "new pennies" to local children on Collop Monday. A similar practise of disturbing small gifts took place in Meltham on other days of year, including Whit Monday. Reportedly the coins would be handed out from a leather pouch, then any that remained would be thrown into the street and a "scramble" would take place to retrieve them. The children would then often use the money to buy sweets.

This soon became a formal annual event and was continued firstly by Edward's son Charles Brook and then by his grandson, Edward William Brook. The last recorded "penny scramble" appears to have taken place in 1938.

Around the time of the Second World War, local shopkeepers began handing out free sweets to children[1] and this was reportedly continued until at least the 1980s by Mrs. Annie Woodhead who ran a newsagents in the Market Place.[2]

Extracts

Derby Mercury (31/Jan/1788)

Shrove Tuesday is in the North called Fastern's E'n, because the following Day is the commencement of Lent. The preceding Monday is also termed Collop Monday ; in the North Collops and Eggs being on this Day a constant Dish, as on this Day the Papists take leave of their Flesh.

Huddersfield Chronicle (25/Feb/1871)

The Fire Brigade. — On Monday afternoon a large number of people congregated in and near the Pack Horse-yard, in a state of excitement, believing, upon seeing the engine of the Liverpool and London and Globe Insurance Company, and the brigade harnessed and accoutred, that a fire was raging somewhere. After a short suspense it was found that the brigade had turned out for an excursion and practice, according to their annual custom on Shrove Monday, or as it is locally called, "Collop Monday."

The History of Honley and its Hamlets from the Earliest Time to the Present (1914) by Mary A. Jagger

When sides of home-cured bacon and hams hanging from house-beams were considered the best pictures in a dwelling, Collop-Monday was set apart to test their quality. It was general for boys and girls, and often adult people, to go around the village on that day, calling at houses where these “pictures” were known to be hung with the smiling request of “Pray dame a collop.” A large slice of bacon was generally given to each caller. Often sufficient bacon was collected which served a family in poor circumstances for a considerable length of time.

Huddersfield Daily Examiner (11/Feb/1918)

This mysterious title, said to come from a late Latin word meaning "cut" or "carve", is due to a former popular practice of eating "collops". These are small pieces of meat of any kind, including beefstakes. But the term is specially applied to fried bacon and eggs, which before the war was considered in many places the appropriate dish for the day.

Yorkshire Evening Post (03/Mar/1919)

To-day is Collop Monday, so called because our forefathers on the last flesh-eating day before Lent cut their meat into collops, or small pieces, for hanging and salting during the season of fasting.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (12/Feb/1929)

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.

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. 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.

Leeds Mercury (12/Feb/1929)

“COLLOP MONDAY” AT MELTHAM.

Joyful Event for Children.

SCRAMBLING FOR NEW PENNIES.

“Collop Monday” passes the average man by leaving him cold and unresponsive.

In Meltham “Collop Monday” is the brightest day in the juvenile year. By a stroke of luck and a display of more than average energy the chance of obtaining fourpence, sixpence, or even ninepence in one fell swoop, comes the way of the youthful and impecunious.

Why “Collop Monday” should be the day chosen for the free distribution of bright new pennies I do not know. Being Lancashire-born I have little knowledge of collops, but I gather that they are succulent slices of potato fried in fat. They form a delightful prelude to the still more dyspeptic joys of the Shrove Tuesday that follows.

Now in the old days in the village of Meltham — still moderately remote from the big town, and respecting the things that are venerable — it was the custom of the young people to go from door to door with the quaintly worded request, “Pray dame, a collop or else a halfpenny. Gradually the house-to-house visitation has been dropped, but the “collop pennies,” shiny and newly minted, still exist.

In 1881 the late Mr. Edward Brook began the practice of distributing them at the entrance gate of the great mill of Messrs. Jonas Brook and Bros., Ltd., at Meltham Mills. This pleasant custom has been continued since Mr. Brook s death in 1904 by his son, Lieut.-Col. Charles Brook, of Kinmount, Annan.

To-day in the absence from home of Col. Brook, his son, Capt. Edward Wm. Brook, — who was equerry to the Duke of Gloucester on his recent big game hunting expedition — came to perform the duty, and very entertaining was the scattering of coins to several hundred youngsters who assembled in the street.

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.

“What’s to bahn woam fur? Theer’s th scramboll yet,” said one true son of Meltham within my hearing to a less pugnacious spirit.

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.

Yorkshire Evening Post (03/Mar/1930)

Collop Monday was observed at Meltham, near Huddersfield, to-day by a distribution of bright new pennies among the school children.

In the old days, on the Monday before Shrove Tuesday, as the last day for flesh eating before Lent, “collops” of bacon and ham were cut for salting and hanging up until Lent was over, and children went from door to door with the request “Pray, dame, a collop or else a halfpenny.”

In 1881, the late Mr. Edward Brook started to give “collops” in the form of bright pennies to the children in the Meltham Mills district, and also to have coins thrown in the road for older persons to scramble for. The custom has been maintained to this day, and 400 schoolchildren each received a penny at the mill gates when school “released” at noon to-day, after which coppers were thrown, from a point of vantage near the mill, into the roadway, where there was much jolly scrambling.

Afterwards, the children rushed across to Meltham Hall where, in accordance with an old custom established by Mrs. Hirst, they passed in front of the hall, and each received a new penny from the butler.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (04/Mar/1930)

The village of Meltham Mills, near Huddersfield, yesterday celebrated - Collop Monday ” in a manner which has become traditional locally.

“Collops” — rashers of ham, well salted — are no longer obtainable, and bright new pennies taking their place yesterday, 300 school children assembled in a queue to receive their pennies. A substantial balance remained in the bag, and these coins were scrambled for in the roadway.

When the supply was exhausted the children went to Meltham Hall, where they each received a second new penny, the distribution being made by the butler and the gardener.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (17/Feb/1931)

At six o'clock yesterday morning a little boy rushed excitedly down a street in Holmfirth. “Collop!” he yelled as he turned into the main street; Pray, dame, a collop!” as he snecked open the door of a grocer’s shop; “Collop!” again, as he ran out of the shop and waved a tiny bundle at a second little boy. And that was the way he carried on — the way almost every little boy in Holmfirth carried on — until nine o’clock. For the day was “Collop Monday.”

Old customs die hard in the Holme Valley — especially such a pleasant custom whereby, for the lusty shouting of ‘Pray, dame, a collop!’ you can get a packet of sweetmeats or buns from all the shopkeepers. The only change from bygone days is that the children used to be given liberal rashers of bacon. A change, the children will imagine, for the better...

Meanwhile — or, rather, a little later — “Collop Monday” pennies were being given out at Meltham Mills, near Huddersfield. Directly the children were let out of school at midday they trotted to the mills, where each was given a penny.

Not content with that, they went on to Meltham Hall, where Mrs. Hirst gave them each another penny. They picked up other pennies from passers-by; and then, I think, they returned home.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer (09/Feb/1932)

COLLOP MONDAY

Pennies Distributed to Children at Meltham Mills

“Collop Monday” was celebrated at Meltham Mills, Huddersfield, yesterday, by the distribution to the school children of bright new pennies.

The custom takes the place of an older one. On the day before Shrove Tuesday it was once the recognised practice of youngsters to go round the villages in the West Riding asking for the gift of a collop. This form of comestible not being always available resulted in the housewives of the districts substituting a copper coin.

Leeds Mercury (09/Feb/1932)

"Collop Monday" was celebrated at Meltham Mills, Huddersfield, yesterday, by the distribution to the school children of new pennies. They wore the gift of Captain Edward William Brook, of Kinmount, Annan, whose father and grandfather carried out the practice. Following the distribution pennies were scattered on the road for the children to scramble for. Mrs. T.J. Hirst, Meltham Hall, provided a further supply of coins.

Yorkshire Evening Post (24/Feb/1936)

To-day is Collop Monday, when children in some parts of Yorkshire scramble for new pennies.

Traditionally, of course, you should eat up your stocks of meat in preparation for Lenten abstinence, and poor folk used to come to the help of their richer neighbours by begging collops of bacon from them, sometimes, however, only getting slices of fried bread.

The custom of scrambling for new pennies makes a stronger appeal to children than begging collops. There is usually a distribution at Meltham. Youngsters gather in a mill yard at the appointed hour and handfuls of new coins are tossed in the air. There are exciting little "scrums" for possession, and to many children Collop Monday is a much more important event than Pancake Day.

Yorkshire Evening Post (28/Feb/1938)

COLLOP MONDAY "SCRAMBLING

Meltham Bairns Pick Up Many New Pennies

The Collop Monday custom of scrambling for pennies by children at Meltham, near Huddersfield, was again observed to-day. Almost 300 children scrambled for hundreds of new pennies thrown into Meltham Mills Road by Mrs. Ernest Taylor.

Collop Monday, it is said, is a relic of the days when West Riding children used to go round the villages asking at each house for a collop (a rasher of bacon) or other gift. The custom has practically died out, but since 1881 new pennies have been scrambled for every year at Meltham.

The pennies are given by Captain E.W. Brook, of Annan, whose father and grandfather carried on the custom before him. Captain Brook was not present to-day, and Mr. Taylor, a member of the staff of the United Thread Mills, Meltham, was unable to attend.

For the first time the pennies were thrown by Mrs. Taylor, from her garden, into the road.

On leaving school (writes our Huddersfield reporter) the children raced madly to the mill, where they assembled in the yard. As they filed out a few minutes later Mrs. Taylor gave each a new penny out of the leather bag which has been used on every occasion since the inauguration of the custom. The remaining pennies were then scrambled.

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.

Another ceremony took place at Meltham Hall, were a number of pennies were given to the children. In this instance the donor was Mrs. T.J. Hirst.

It required only a few minutes for Mrs. Taylor to empty her large leather bag, and the shopkeepers of Meltham do not expect to wait long for the new pennies to come into circulation.

Leeds Mercury (01/Mar/1938)

Three hundred Meltham children scrambled outside Meltham Mills, to-day, for new pennies thrown into the roadway by Mrs. E. Taylor, wife of a member of the Mills staff.

The custom of scrambling pennies on Collop Monday has been observed at Meltham since 1881. It is made possible through the generosity of Captain Edward W. Brook, of Kinmount, Annan, whose father and grandfather carried out the custom before him.

On leaving school at noon, most of the boys and girls of the village raced along to the mills, where they assembled in the yard. After each child had received a penny, the remaining coins were thrown into the roadway.

For ten minutes the thoroughfare was at struggling mass of boys and girls, but there were no casualties.

At Meltham Hall other pennies were distributed, not scrambled, to the children, the coins in this instance having been provided, by Mrs. T. J. Hirst.

Notes and References

  1. "Family history: Village in wartime inspires author" in Huddersfield Daily Examiner (18/Nov/2009).
  2. BBC Domesday Reloaded: Meltham Traditions.

Collop Monday

This page was last modified on 24 June 2017 and has been edited by Dave Pattern.

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