Thursday, 2 November 2017

That old Scottish Tradition

Hallowe'en cards are not something sent by people in Australia today, and I don't know if they ever were fashionable in either Australia or New Zealand, but I thought I would look up a few newspaper articles published in the past about this old Scottish tradition.  Older Australians are often scathing of the way Halloween has become commercialized, primarily under American influence, but they may not know much about the Scottish origins of the celebration. 

My grandmother Mona Forbes was born in Christchurch New Zealand  and never traveled to Scotland, but both her father Charles Forbes and her mother's parents Charles Young and Jane Paterson were Scots emigrants from the district of Glenmuick in Aberdeenshire. I know that Charles Forbes was a member of the Scottish Society and no doubt Mona was well-versed in all things Scottish. Here is a report of the Halloween festival held in Christchurch in 1909, published in the Star on 1 November 1909, when Mona would have been 12 years old. You can see a photograph of young Mona here.

This and the other articles included here are courtesy of Papers Past, the excellent web site created by the National Library of New Zealand

  Next comes a transcription of  most of a report on the Scottish Society's Hallowe'en gathering in 1912, when Mona would have been aged 15 and was a pupil of Miss or Mrs Macdonald. It's very likely that she would have been one of the juveniles mentioned in the report.  

Star 1 November 1912

The Children's Day

 "There was a great gathering of children and young people at the Scottish Society's rooms last night to celebrate the Scottish festival of Hallowe'en.  The celebration was not this year in strict accordance with Scottish custom, but  an entertainment was provided perhaps more pleasing to the Colonial boy and girl than the old-fashioned way. Chief Mackintosh was "father of the house" for the night, and while he allowed fun to run riot, and the young people had plenty of it, never let go his hold on discipline and the command "Silence" was obeyed on the instant. In the course of the evening it was announced that 250 boxes of heather had been received from Scotland, one parcel especially from a school in Jedburgh had arrived that day. A parcel sent by the same school last year also reached Christchurch on Hallowe'en.  The sprigs in the Jedburgh parcel were distributed amongst the elder children, who are expected to write to the senders acknowledging the sprigs and exchanging greetings. The programme provided by the Hallowe'en Committee, comprised a grand march and reel o' Tulloch by the Society's juveniles, under Mrs Bessie Macdonald; a song, "Sound the Pibroch, " by Master Douglas Martin, a fine effort for the boy's years; an action song by the infant class of the East Christchurch School, under Miss Menzies, with Miss Walker at the piano; a topical song by the boys of St Albans School, under Mr R Malcolm; sailor' hornpipe by Miss Fairbairn  and the misses Pirrie (3); "The Hat Brigade", by the boys of East Christchurch School; ... and the "Flowers of Edinburgh" by the juvenile dancers. The children were given light refreshments and each received the customary bag of sweets."

It seems quite amazing that that boxes of heather had been sent all the way to New Zealand. They must have taken quite a while to arrive so it was certainly lucky that they arrived just in time for Hallowe'en,

Here is an announcement from the Star for the same event the following year:  
Star, 1 November 1913

I didn't find a report of the 1913 Halloween event after it took place, but here is another report just two weeks later, again from the Star newspaper, including a particular mention of Miss Mona Forbes' performance of  the Highland Fling in the last paragraph. The Scottish Society certainly seems to have been an active group!

Star, 14 November 1913

                            One more, this time  from the Star in 1918:

None of these old articles mention any dressing up or trick or treating, which seems to be the main feature of Halloween these days but it was clearly a fun event all the same, with the children receiving treats at the end of the evening. 

Here are a couple of photos of Mona's Australian great grandchildren dressed up for a school Halloween celebration in the early 1990s, followed by a very recent one of Mona's great great granddaughter Lucy all ready for her childcare party. 

Lucy, daughter of Wonderwoman above, looks a little bewildered about exactly why she is wearing this cat costume!

Another great great granddaughter, Eloise who lives in Canda, was a very cute turtle.

Finally just for fun, here is a photo of some very cute dolls all lined up and ready to welcome young  Halloween visitors. Their owner Rosie Saw is a very clever lady who makes and sells handmade dolls clothes and patterns. Anyone interested can check out her pattern web site here

Now for more blogs on Halloween fun, check out Sepia Saturday 


Susan Kelly said...

I love the formality of the write ups for the Halloween festivities.

Mollys Canopy said...

Interesting how the Halloween events covered in the news articles each featured a march as Halloween Parades with everyone in costume are still very common, at least in the U.S.

La Nightingail said...

The origin of costumes on Halloween is a pagan/celtic thing and goes way back when, on the night of All Hallows Eve, it was thought the worlds of the living and the dead intersected. In order not to be caught and taken into the world of the dead, folks dressed in ghostly costumes so as to be thought one of the dead & therefore would be ignored by them and left alone.

ScotSue said...

I had no idea of Scottish Halloween trsduitions, so it was fascinating to read about them in Australia in the early 20th century. The little dolls reminded me of ones my talented mother made - but it never occurred to her to mark Halloween in that wat. We don’t send greeting cards either, but in recent years there have been more organized events, particularly at the historic houses e. Walks through the woods with “ghostly happenings”. Great fun!

Wendy said...

I'm glad the Scottish Society made the news so often with their Halloween parties. I enjoyed noting the similarities and differences in traditions of the US and Australia.

Barbara Rogers said...

How wonderful to have newspaper accounts of entertainment a la Scotland. Much enjoyed!

Jo Featherston said...

Thanks but the articles are actually about the Scots Halloween traditions in New Zealand, not Australia.

Mike Brubaker said...

The accounts were wonderfully lively writing. One could hear the noise, see the fun, and experience the occasion just by reading the review.

diane b said...

I always thought that the tradition started in Ireland.

Jo Featherston said...

I think it is of Celtic origin so I guess that covers both Scotland and Ireland really.