I cannot claim to be one of the privileged few
who attended the inaugural meeting of the Mexborough Heritage Society (as it was
then known)which was held on Monday 23rd November 1987 at Doncaster Road Junior
School with Mr. Watson as Chairman and Marion Broadhurst as the Secretary
(information from Mr. N. Watson). To celebrate our first decade we are to have a
large exhibition which is to take place between Thursday 16th October and
Saturday 18th October 1997 at Mexborough Branch Library in the Meeting Room. We
desperately need your assistance with the loan of photographs or artefacts which
are connected in some way to our history, it doesn't matter how recent. We also
need people to help man it, if you could give us just one hour of your time it
would be greatly welcomed, and don't forget you do not need to have a great
knowledge of our history to do this in fact I have manned exhibitions on
previous occasions with people who have no knowledge of our history at all, just
a willingness to help is all that is required. For more details could you please
get in contact with me.
WHY DO YORKSHIRE PEOPLE CALL LICORICE SPANISH?
Being interested in anything associated with Yorkshire, and in particular our accents and dialects this is a question I have asked many a learned person but none have been able to give me a satisfactory answer. One suggested was that it was imported from Spain, but on investigation I found it to be imported from Russia and Poland. Maybe it was brought to Yorkshire by Spaniards was another suggestion. Then quite by accident while looking through a book entitled "Folk Stories from the Yorkshire Dales" my eyes alighted upon an article under the heading "The Origin of the Pontefract Cakes" and I began to read:- "The word licorice comes from the Greek `glycerhiza' which means sweet root and is a native of Southern Europe which grows mainly around the Mediterranean and was used in ancient times for medical purposes and was mentioned on the clay tablets of Babylon". So how does this plant come to be growing in Yorkshire when it originates around the Mediterranean? Well there are two theories both including schoolmasters and the involvement of Spain.
The first of these stories tells of a schoolmaster who went to Spain in the 16th Century and brought licorice back with him initially to be used as canes to beat children with.
The second is very similar and tells of a schoolmaster who,walking on the Yorkshire coast following the Spanish Armada of 1588, noticed some curious plans growing which had washed ashore from a wrecked Spanish galleon. Thinking that they would be useful for hitting naughty children with he took them home. One day when hitting a boy the child seized a stick and bit it hard and found the stick tasted sweet. Soon a queue occurred in order to sample this new cane as bits broke off and it wasn't long before the schoolmaster realised there was something special about this particular stick so he decided to plant it and some of the cuttings survived and sprouted and so came the first real crop of licorice.
Whether there is any truth in the stories or not we cannot say, but certainly the first time we find any real reference to licorice and its uses is to be found in a book written by the famous herbalist Nicholas Culpepper in his book "The Complete Herbal" which was published in 1649.
From the time of the schoolteacher licorice flourished in the fertile ground around Pontefract and soon the familiar small round "cakes" were made followed shortly after by novelty items made in Sheffield, which I feel many of us will remember such as boot laces, pipes, etc. Every single item made made in Pontefract bore the stamp of a bird standing on the gate of Pontefract Castle, this bird was an owl which features in the coat - of - arms of the Savile family, a branch of which became the Earls of Mexborough.
So that's why Yorkshire people call licorice Spanish. Now why do Yorkshire people call sweets spice?
REVIEW OF 1996
JANUARY Mr. Colin Howes gave us an illustrated talk this month on the Natural History of the District, the information of which came from church records and other historical documents including Acts of Parliament.
Items of Interest
19th Jan. 1996. The airliner Concord was twenty years old.
FEBRUARY This was an eventful month in the history of both this country and our society.
It was the 90th birthday of our Honorary President Mr. Norman Watson for which many of the members sent cards and a group made and presented him with a cake
Joyce Thompson our Chairperson introduced the speakers Brenda Mitchell and Ena Walker who gave the second of their audio visual talks. This time it was to included some fascinating and humorous subjects, which displayed a high.degree of professional photography. The topics of local history covered were Hooton Pagnell and Elsecar Heritage Museum. A very enjoyable evening was enjoyed by the 60 or so members and friends present.
Newsletter. This covered The Sale of Land in Mexborough owned by the Montagu Estates and also the sale of the title of "Lord of the Manor of Mexborough"
Items of Interest
3rd. February 1996. Gene Kelly died.
9th February. The I.R.A. declared their ceasefire to be at an end at 6p.m. and blew
up offices on Canary Wharf, London causing 100 people to be hurt.
16th February. Strange happenings were seen in the skies over Northern England which resembled the Northern Lights. It was said by Meteorologists later to be ice droplets reflecting the light of the setting sun.
28th February. Princess Diana agreed to a divorce from Prince Charles.
MARCH The talk this month was given by Tony and June Greathead on the subject of Conisbrough and the old village of Denaby Main.
Newsletter. Covered why we were not to have a Local History festival that year, and told us about when "The Telephone first came to Mexborough".
Items of Interest.
1st March. One of the outstanding businessmen of Mexborough died, his name was Thomas Bourne and will be well know to many of us as part owner of Bourne and Swann Insurance Agents, Allied Travel, etc.
4th March. C.S. (Tear gas) canisters were issued to police forces in the West Yorkshire region for the first time.
5th March. It was on this date that 60 years ago the first Spitfire flew and it was to commemorate this that one of the last survivors was flown over the factory which made them in Southampton.
6th March. The famous American Comic George Burns died aged 100 years.
13th March. This day can never ever be forgotten by anyone who witnessed it, even by those who saw the tragic events gradually unravel on their T.V. screens.
The name of Dunblane resounded around the world as early on the
morning of this day a madman entered the gym of their small primary school and shot fifteen children and a teacher dead and left behind thirteen injured children before finally killing himself.
14th March. Another child from the Dunblane Tragedy died during the night.
21st March. The Kiplingcoate Derby which is the oldest horse race in the world was won by a distant relative of mine Sheila Ashby.
22nd March. The last Decoy Dog was retired. He was used at Slimbridge Wildlife Trust to attract birds into a Decoy and therefore enable the staff to take a yearly check of the birds. At certain times of the year when wildfowl shed their feathers they cannot fly, and it was at this time that in years gone by they would be lured into a Decoy by a dog and there some would be killed to provide meat for hungry people.
30th March. The Royal Armories, Clarence Docks, Leeds was opened by the Queen.
APRIL. This month was our annual A.G.M. followed by a talk given by Frank Morley on Highgate Cemetery, London.
Newsletter. This month it covered "A Study of the 1851 Census of Mexborough".
Items of Interest
1st April. The county of Humberside was disbanded and became the East Riding of Yorkshire again after 20 years.
3rd. April. An Eclipse of the Moon.
20th April. The first Swallow of Summer was seen at my mother's home "The Old Farm".
21st April. The Queen's 70th birthday.
22nd April. Christopher Robin Milne immortalised as the child in the stories of "Winnie the Pooh" died aged 73 years.
27th April. Doncaster Road Junior School celebrated its centenary with a Victorian Fare and we were asked to put on an exhibition in the library of the school. I
also wrote a book on the history of the school, copies are available from Mexborough Branch Library.
MAY. This month was the first of our visits which was to see The Local History Centre, Wakefield, which is both run and owned by John Goodchild. The gentleman who so kindly has travelled over from Wakefield on a few occasions to give us some very interesting talks, the last being on the enclosure of Mexborough.
Newsletter. This month I was asked for the first time not to do one because of distribution difficulties during visits.
Items of Interest
5th May. The 60th anniversary of the Spitfire was celebrated in Southport where the planes were originally made and the last remaining 13 flying aircraft few over the factory there.
8th May. The Flamborough Lighthouse was automated and the lighthouse's last keeper Bob Wilkinson was made redundant.
18th May. We were asked for the first time to stage an exhibition in Mexborough Indoor Market.
20th May. Jon Pertwee who took part in "The Navy Lark", was one of the first Dr. Who's, and was known to many children as Worzel Gummidge died aged 73 years. One item he did not make public and did not like to talk about was the fact that he was one of the only survivors of the "Hood".
25th May. Our first excursion of the year to Stratford and Warwick.
26th May. The International Festival of the Sea was held in Bristol. On the 2nd May 1497 Cabot left Bristol in a ship named The Matthew for China and discovered Newfoundland in America. On this date this year a replica of the Matthew is hoped to be leaving Bristol to cover Cabot's original route to Newfoundland via Greenland and Iceland.
JUNE This month we were taken on a very delightful tour of Sprotbrough Church and village.
Newsletter. No newsletter this month for the same reason as May.
Items of Interest.
5th June. Over the summer months many old pieces of sculpture, sandstone paths, and other large garden furniture was stolen from this area, and on this date my mother had a Saddle Stone stolen which baffled us as it weighed in at roughly 3cwt.
5th June. The New Severn Bridge was opened by The Prince of Wales
6th June. Beryl Burton was buried in Harrogate. She had been the Ladies World Cycling Champion seven times. She was 58 years old.
18th June. This was the month of Cable Television when all our roads seemed to
be dug up at the same time, and on this date they dug through a main telephone cable on Coniston Road and put all the telephones out of order in the Windhill, Clayfield areas of Mexborough.
20th June. "Dickie" Bird the world famous cricket umpire retired from Test Cricket after umpiring 66 test cricket matches
28th June. The final documents for the sale of Sooty, glove puppet and friend of our childhood, went through on this date and he was sold to a Japanese business consortium.
JULY. This month we were given a very enjoyable tour of Rotherham by Michael Clark who told us of the stone which went into the construction of the main buildings in the town centre including the church which was made of Mexborough Sandstone.
Items of Interest
1st July. It is 80 years since the Battle of the Somme where 21,000 men were killed A commemorative service was held in France as it has been ever year since the battle, but this may be the last as there were only 15 men left who were fit enough to attend.
6th July. Our excursion to Durham.
24th July. The ejector seat was invented 50 years ago on this date.
AUGUST. There was no meeting or newsletter this month
Items of Interest.
1st August. A single specimen of the largest flower in the world bloomed for the first time in many years at Kew Gardens in London, but it had an appalling smell which was of rotting fish or meat.
9th August. The last deep shaft coal mine in Wales closed.
9th August. Frank Whittle the inventor of the jet engine died aged 89 years.
19th August. Earlier on in the year Robert J. Broccoli who was the producer of all
the James Bond Films died and on this night there was a tribute to him on
21st August. C.S.(Tear Gas) gas canisters became standard issue for British Police. 21st August. For many years a group of people have been working on a replica of
Shakespeare's theatre, The Globe, in London. On this date it was opened to
the public for the first time. It has cost £30 million.
28th August. The Decree Absolute for the divorce of the Prince and Princess of Wales came through. A sad end to a fairy tale marriage.
SEPTEMBER. This month Eric Holder gave us a very interesting illustrated talk on
Plagues and Potions. He told us that illnesses were treated with such things
as honey,dried herbs, poppy extract, saffron, foxgloves, and licorice, with mandrake used for anaesthetics. He also told us of the Black Death and Bubonic Plague and how it wiped out half of the population and how the
Jews were massacred as scapegoats.
Newsletter. This told us how the American Civil War affected Mexborough. ITEMS OF INTEREST
7th September. Our Excursion to Worcester.
21st September. As our first exhibition in Mexborough Indoor Market had been such a success we were asked if we would stage another. This time the theme was Canals.
27th September. The second eclipse of the moon this year was seen at 2.00 a.m. 28th September. Leslie Crowther died aged 63 years.
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OCTOBER. The talk this month was a wonderful audio slide show given by Brenda Mitchell and Ena Walker. Subjects covered were:- Where Horses Reign, Levitt Hagg, Lakes and Water Lilies, Joseph's Dream Window, The Boat Inn, Steam Engines, and a Day Out in the Dales.
Newsletter. This covered the opening of St. John the Baptist's Church of England School in 1968.
ITEMS OF INTEREST
7th October. It was declared that Yorkshire Cricket is to be moved from Headingley to a new site which is to be built in Wakefield
14th October. Winnie the Pooh was published 70 years ago this week.
21st October. 30 years ago on this date a pit tip slipped in Aberfan, Wales and
killed 144 people in all. 116 of these were children. Only 3 children and 3
teachers survived from the village school.
24th October. Beryl Reid had died a few days previously and she was buried on this date.
NOVEMBER. The talk this month was on Levitt Hagg and was given by Hugh Parkin. It told of the village which grew up between the banks of the canal and the quarry.
Newsletter. This month it covered The Early History of Mexborough Co - Operative Society.
Items of Interest.
2nd November. The B.B.C. made its first T.V. broadcast 60 years ago on this date. 4th November. Thrust the fastest car in the world was waiting to attack the world
speed record in the desert. While here the world speed record for a bicycle
was broken at 210m.p.h. for a normal bicycle and 235m.p.h. for a tandem. 11th November. Marj Proops, the famous agony aunt, died.
14th November. The Stone of Destiny was removed from Scotland by Edward I 700 years ago and since then it has has lain beneath the Coronation Chair.
On this date it was taken back to Scotland where it was placed in Edinburgh Castle with the Scottish Crown Jewels.
18th November. On this date it became legal for women to train as boxers in a boxing gym.
19th November - Fire in the Channel Tunnel.
25th November. Michael Bentine, one of the Goons, died
If you wish a back copy of any of the newsletters mentioned please do not hesitate to get in contact with me.
J. R. Ashby