Monday, 31 October 2016



It's Hallowe'en tonight and the mood hangs heavy in the air, so that's all the excuse I need to republish this pertinent post (again).  Back On October 25th, 1969, the third issue of WHIZZER & CHIPS went on sale, with a GUY FAWKES mask as a free gift.  It looks like the artwork of TOM KERR to me, but regardless, I remember rushing over to the newsagent's across the road from my house to buy it, the minute the shop opened in the early hours of that Autumn morning a whopping 47 years ago.  (The comic bears the date of November 1st, but British comics were traditionally dated up to a week ahead to give them a longer shelf-life.)

Handy how both Hallowe'en and Guy Fawkes Night were covered by this issue coming out in advance of the two occasions. I wonder if the mask was used by 'guisers' on October 31st, and then 'recycled' for use on their 'guys' on November 5th?  If so, quite a few of them probably perished on top of a bonfire in parks and gardens the length and breadth of the U.K.  It's a wonder any survived.

As this was the last Hallowe'en of my primary school days, it was most likely the very last time I went out 'guising' (or 'trick or treating' as they call it now), but I didn't wear this mask and have no solid recollection of what I actually dressed up as that particular year.  However, one glance at the above cardboard mask brings back the sights, sounds and scents of that Autumn evening in my old neighbourhood, so very long ago.

Makes me wish that I was ten years old again.  Did anyone else have this W&C mask? What are your memories of this day in 1969?  (Or any childhood Hallowe'en night if you don't go back that far.)  Spill all in the comments section.


Anonymous said...

When I was a kid the only Halloween tradition I can remember was bobbing for apples - I'm pretty sure there was no Trick or Treat at all and I've never heard of guising before. As you know, my late father was Scottish and he always got a bit irritated at the suggestion that Halloween was an imported American tradition because he insisted that Halloween was Scottish and was taken to the U.S. by Scottish immigrants. But I've also heard that Halloween was originally Irish so I'm confused...anyway, my father said that he used to go Trick or treating when he was a boy in the 1930's but he never called it "guising".

Kid said...

'Guising' is the traditional way Scots refer to the practice of kids dressing up and going out for Hallowe'en, CJ. See? Once again you've learned something from reading this blog - I really should start charging you a fee for all the knowledge I've imparted to you. As far as I know, your father was right, in that Scots took the traditional with them when they emigrated to America, and as Scots and Irish are very similar, it doesn't surprise me that they both had many of the same customs. And it's unlikely that your father would have called Hallowe'en 'trick or treating' back in the '30s; that particular 'Americanism' has really only gathered steam in Britain over the last two or three decades.

Phil S said...

Of course Halloween is a Celtic tradition. Why it fell out of favor in the UK I don't know. But the jack o lantern was made from gourds in the old country. America invented the pumpkin carving and we sort of assumed that's how it always was now.
As a wee lad I lived in NYC. We rang a door bell and it was Paul Simon the singer. I had an Aquaman costume!

Kid said...

In Scotland, a 'neep' (turnip) was traditionally used for the lantern, PS, although the pumpkin now seems to have supplanted it. I note that a 'gourd' is defined as a hard-skinned fruit, although a turnip is a root vegetable - as are pumpkins.) Hallowe'en hasn't really fallen out of favour in the U.K., it's just been renamed 'trick or treat'. (Or, at least, the act of 'guising' has.)

TwoHeadedBoy said...

Well this has been an education for me, certainly - if I was to go by what my dad tells me we've only had Hallowe'en here since just before I was born (so that'd be the early eighties). Just shows you should always have more than one source for your information!

Always loved Hallowe'en as a kid... Making masks and cobwebs in school, loads of free sweets, my very first act of mischief (a stink bomb through the letterbox after a resident of the house told us to go away). My costume of choice was usually Quasimodo, a cushion up the back of my top and either a mask or a big plastic monster head that I had (still have, obviously).

Last few (well, at LEAST the last ten) have been quiet affairs (me, indoors, a few films), but it's still nice to know that people are enjoying this most odd of "special occasions".

Kid said...

I remember, back when 'Lois & Clark' was on TV, some kid writing in to a newspaper's query page and saying something like: "My dad says that Superman was around when he was a boy - surely he can't be right?" I can only imagine his surprise to learn, in answer to his enquiry, that ol' Supes had first appeared back in the '30s. The point being that each generation seems to suppose that everything they encounter for the first time is new, not only to them, but to everyone. I guess it's the same with your dad's impression of Hallowe'en, THB, although I find it hard to believe he could have been unaware of it in his own childhood. I think the last time any kids came to my door for Hallowe'en was back in the late '80s, or early or mid '90s. I gave them some monkey nuts, but excused them from having to recite a poem or song and got the door closed as quickly as possible, trying not to appear rude. Now I just wouldn't answer the door, but, thankfully, no one chaps it any more. Just as well, 'cos I don't bother getting anything in for them. What an old misery guts, eh?

(Oops! Typed 'traditional' when I meant 'tradition' in one of my previous responses up above.)

TC said...

My impression was that Halloween was not celebrated in Great Britain (or, at least, in England) for many years. Roger Moore's James Bond Diary recorded his experiences filming Live and Let Die, which was partly filmed in the US. He said something about seeing Americans celebrating, trick-or-treating, etc., and said that it was not observed in England.

There was also an episode of the 1990's sitcom Mad About You (set in New York), where the yuppie couple (Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt) took their visiting nephew trick-or-treating, and their British neighbor (Judy Geeson) didn't seem familiar with the custom. "Oh...yes. That American pumpkin holiday." When her husband asked who was at the door, she said, "It's the neighbours from 11D, dear. They seem to be begging for food."

Of course, it has roots in the Celtic celebration of Samhain, and got combined with some Roman customs from the feast of Pomona, then got co-opted into the Christian All Saints' Eve. Maybe it "fell out of favor" when England moved from Catholicism to Protestantism. Or maybe it got suppressed during the Victorian era. And maybe it spread back to the UK in relatively recent times.

Puritans in New England had no use for either pagan or Catholic holidays, but it had some popularity in Maryland and some Southern states. It became widely popular in America in the mid-1800's and later, when Irish and Scottish immigrants brought its customs over.

Pumpkins replaced turnips as Jack O' Lanterns in America, either because turnips were too expensive, or simply because pumpkins were easier to carve.

Kid said...

Here's Roger's very words, TC: "It is Halloween and my children are going Trick or Treating tonight, a custom not shared by England. The children dress up in witches' costumes and funny make-up and go from door to door demanding, 'Trick or Treat?' and if they don't get a treat, a handful of sweets or something, they play a trick. Smearing your windows with soap is a favourite."

The custom in Britain was for kids to dress up, go from door to door, recite a poem or sing a song (or even tell a few jokes) and, in return, they were given an apple, an orange, some monkey nuts, sweets, and sometimes even money (small change). There was no threat of 'tricks' - they earned their treats, they didn't threaten retribution if they didn't get them. (Tsk, tsk - you Americans.)

So, when Roger says that Trick or Treating is a custom not shared by England (by which he probably meant Britain - yes, even some Englishmen view England and Britain as being synonymous), he's undoubtedly talking about the practice of 'demanding' treats under 'threat of menace' (if I may be allowed a bit of hyperbole).

One of the popular poems recited in Scotland (and no doubt other parts of the U.K.) was this one:

"Hallowe'en, Hallowe'en,
Three wee witches on the green.
One is yellow, one is white,
one leapt right o'er the dyke.
The sky is blue, the grass is green,
Please may we have our Hallowe'en."

So what have we learned from this, TC? Simply that American kids are all gangsters, while British kids politely ask for their treats after performing a poem or song. (And, as we all know, fair exchange is no robbery.) As for the show 'Mad About You', that probably reflects nothing more than an American writer's popular misconception of Hallowe'en being an unknown custom in the U.K. I went out guising as a kid in the '60s and, if anything, more kids did it then than they do now.

Incidentally, although British kids now use the American name (Trick or Treat), as far as I know, they still recite poems and songs, and don't threaten retribution unless they get a 'treat'. I think the U.S, name has simply crept into the language through being heard in American movies and TV shows.

TwoHeadedBoy said...

Poems and songs on Hallowe'en?!? Another new thing to me! It's always been a case of knocking on the door, and then just standing there in all your grotesque finery whilst waiting for your sweets. Seems Scotland and England are far more different than I initially thought (obviously).

Kid said...

One of the 'songs' that kids sometimes used to sing at Hallowe'en ('though it wasn't particularly a Hallowe'en one) was...

My mammy said I was to go
for my daddy's dinnero.
Beef an' tatties, mince an' steak,
an' a wee bit currant cake.
Came to the river, couldnae get across,
paid ten bob for an old scabby horse.
Jumped on its back, its bones came a-crack,
had to wait 'til the boat came back.
The boat came back, we a' jumped in,
the boat capsized an' we a' fell in...
singin' "Don't be weary, try an' be cheery,
don't be weary 'cos we're a' goin' home!"

Yup, makes no sense at all.

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