by Ellen Castelow
Pace-Egging is an ancient Lancashire custom once widespread, and is still to be found in parts of the county today.
Pace-Eggs are eggs specially decorated for a festival at Easter-time, and is a centuries old tradition.
The eggs are first wrapped in onion skins and boiled, giving the shells a golden, mottled effect. This is the traditional way of decorating the eggs, though today they are often painted.
Pace-egging was taken seriously…for example in the household accounts of King Edward I there is an item of ‘one shilling and sixpence for the decoration and distribution of 450 Pace-eggs!’
At Grasmere, Cumbria, in the Wordsworth Museum there can be seen a collection of highly decorated eggs originally made for the poet’s children.
Usually Pace-eggs were either eaten on Easter Sunday or handed out to the Pace-Eggers.
These Pace-Eggers were once a common sight in Lancashire villages. They were groups of fantastically dressed ‘mummers’ complete with blackened faces, wearing animal skins and festooned with ribbons and streamers.
Bury Pace-Eggers 2001 – © John Frearson
They processed through the streets singing the traditional Pace-egger’s song and collecting money as a tribute.
At Burscough near Ormskirk the Pace-egger’s procession survived until quite recently, and was quite an occasion!
The procession included various characters… the Noble Youth, the Lady Gay, the Soldier Brave and the Old Toss-Pot! The Old Toss-Pot was a drunken buffoon who wore a long straw tail stuffed with pins. It was not wise to grab the Old Toss-Pots tail.
In Avenham Park in Preston the crowds still gather today to watch the old traditional egg-rolling contest down the grassy slopes.
The eggs are hard boiled and then decorated, and hundreds of children today compete to see whose egg can roll the furthest without cracking.
A warning to all… empty Pace-egg shells must be crushed for they are popular with Lancashire witches who use them as boats.
You have been warned!!
Thumbnail image © John Frearson