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Pearly Kings and Queens

The London tradition of the Pearly Kings and Queens began in 1875, by a small boy named Henry Croft. Henry was born in 1862 and raised in an orphanage in Somers Town, London. At the age of 13 he left the orphanage to become a Municipal Road Sweeper and Rat Catcher in the market of Somers Town. Henry worked hard in the market and soon made many friends. He was particularly drawn to the market traders who wore 'Flash Boy Outfits' to distinguish themselves from the other market traders. This involved decorating their trousers and waistcoats with a row of pearl buttons down the seams. Henry was fascinated by this way of life and decided he would like to help the unfortunate and also the children back at the orphanage. He knew that in order to collect a lot of money he needed to draw attention to himself. So, he decided to go one step further and totally cover a suit with pearl buttons. He spent many long nights preparing his suit but eventually emerged, at a local carnival, wearing a suit covered in tiny pearly buttons. He became an instant attraction and was approached by many hospitals and churches to help raise money for the poor, deaf, dumb and blind. Eventually there was Pearly Family for every London Borough and thus the ‘Pearly monarchy’ began. One of the great traditions at the Epsom horseracing course, on the southern outskirts of London, on Derby Day is the arrival of the Pearly King and Queen in their decorated donkey-cart. Their magnificent suits, hats and dresses, handed down together with hereditary titles, are sewn with mystic symbols, like stars, moons, suns, flowers, diamonds, Trees of Life, Eyes of God and fertility designs. Each outfit can have as many as 30,000 buttons on it and can weigh as much as 30 kilograms or more. These suits are worn at charity events, christenings, weddings and funerals. In 1975 the Original Pearly Kings and Queens Association was reformed and now meets every month in the crypt in St. Martins in the Field, Trafalgar Square. The Pearlies are dedicated to helping the Church of St. Martins and all attend the Harvest Festival Service held on the first Sunday in October. They also hold a Memorial Service for past pearlies on the third Sunday in May. (They choose this date as it is the nearest to Henrys Croft's birthday, May 24th) Both of these services are spectacular events as all Pearlies are requested to attend and there are often 40 or more Pearlies dressed in their distinguished buttoned suits. This is also a chance to see Pearly children, known as Pearly Princes and Princesses.

Task 3. Read the text and discuss the possible origins of the following traditions.




Scotland’s symbols include KILT, as the main element of Highland Dress; BAGPIPES musical instrument; THISTLE; TAM O’SHANTER, a beret made of TARTAN. Like other parts of UK Scotland has a lot of traditions.


The Night of Hogmanay

Nowhere else in Britain is the arrival of the New Year celebrated so wholeheartedly as in Scotland. New Year, or Hogmanay, celebrations in Scotland rival Christmas for their gaiety.

Hogmanay is the survival of the festivities, which, in medieval times, centred on the Twelfth Night (January 6th), which the Scottish people called Uphalieday. Throughout Scotland, the preparations for greeting the New Year start with a minor «spring-cleaning». Brass and silver must be glittering, and fresh linen must be put on the beds. No routine work may be left unfinished: stockings must be darned, tears mended, clocks wound up, musical instruments tuned, and pictures hung straight. In addition, all outstanding bills are paid, overdue letters written and borrowed books returned. At least, that is the idea!

Most important of all, there must be plenty of good things to eat. In the cities and burghs, the New Year receives a communal welcome, in the traditional gathering-place. In Edinburgh, as the night advances, Prince's Street becomes as thronged as it normally is at noon, and there is growing excitement in the air. Towards midnight, all steps turn to Tron Kirk with its four-faced clock, where a lively, swaying crowd awaits «the Chapplin o'the Twal» (the striking of 12 o'clock). As the hands of the clock in the tower approach the hour, a hush falls on the waiting throng, the atmosphere grows tense, and then suddenly there comes a roar from a myriad throats. The bells peal forth, the sirens scream -the New Year is born!

As midnight strikes on Hogmany in, Comrie a strange, time-honoured ceremony takes place - the lighting of the Flambeaux, to herald in the New Year. It is a ceremony that goes back far beyond the memory of folk and when questioned about its origin, they say "There have aye been flambeaux, in my father's time and my granfather's". The flambeaux are great tall torches, some ten feet in length. The poles are usually smallish birch trees which are cut around October. The swathing is of canvas firmly bound to the shaft with wire, and is subjected to being soaked in a large barrel of paraffin for several weeks. On Hogmany night they are brought out and laid against the dyke at the northeast corner of the Auld Kirkyaird, and when the clock strikes at midnight they are set alight. The torches are then seized by the strongest young men and hoisted shoulder high. Preceded by the Comrie Pipe band followed by a procession of people gathered in the village square they are paraded and finally return to the Square.

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