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  • Inscribed Egg from Lancashire May 29, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback


    What is the most popular page on this blog? Beach would have expected his work on the last cavalry charge or on the Fairy Investigation Society (happy days) or possibly some of his writing on capital punishment. But not a bit of it. The most popular post picked up by Google and its users is an obscure thing on an egg from Leeds which came out of the chicken with Christ’s name on it in 1806. The strategy in this money making scheme was, in fact, quite simple. ‘CHRIST’ was written on an egg with corrosive ink. Then, the egg was ‘cruelly forced up again into the bird’s body’. Beach is not a big fan of chickens but even he was reaching for his gun when he read that: he can hear the worried clucking as the poor animal’s legs are splayed.

    When Beach first came across the egg story he assumed that it was a random bit of early nineteenth-century Yorkshire shysterism. However, he has since run across another example that has got him thinking that this we may have a northern tradition here. Note that the following instance is dated to ‘the middle of the reign of George the Third’, i.e. c. 1790: In other words it likely came before our example from Leeds.  Checking this externally, it seems that there was a tradition of national fasts in England that began in 1793, with a particularly important one in 1798, so our author’s memory apparently held up quite well. Now the obvious question: are there are any other instances from earlier in history? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    Many years before this, somewhere about the middle of the reign of George the Third, a Fast-day was appointed to be observed throughout the kingdom — for what cause I forget. Some gentlemen who lived near, wishing to amuse themselves at the expense of their superstitious neighbours, wrote on an egg in a greasy substance these words from Isaiah: ‘This is not the fast that I have chosen, saith the Lord.’ By placing the egg in a strong acid, the part left exposed was eaten away, leaving the writing in relief; it was then deposited in the hen-house of a little farm close by. The mysterious egg was found; the consternation was fearful; some looked upon it as a voice from Providence, some as a machination of the devil; the fame of it spread far and wide. What ought to be done with it? At length, one old, very old man, examined it attentively, and broke forth — ‘I’d set it, I’d set it; it’ll haply hatch a witch; and if hoo spit fire a field’s breadth, I’d pin her to the cop wi’ a pikel.’

    The sentence at the end is pure Lanky, for, yes, we are over near Rochdale on the wrong side of the Pennines. Having said that at least the Lancastrian pranksters (i) did it for fun rather than for money; and (ii) ‘no chicken was harmed in the making of this post’.