St John's Eve

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St John's Eve, 23 June, used to be celebrated in an usual way, both in the parish of St John and elsewhere in the Island.

The customs is described by John Stead, writing in 1809:

"In the Parish, and indeed in most parts of the Island, a Custom prevails of which the origin is unknown; on the eve of St John's Day several persons in different parts of the several parishes assemble their respective neighbours; a large brass boiler (in ordinary use as a kitchen utensil) is taken into the yard and partly filled with water, in which spoons, drinking utensils, candlesticks, etc of metal are immersed; a strong species of rush is then attached to the rim of the boiler, to which other rushes are tied, having been thoroughly wetted. Persons of both sexes then lay hold of each rush, and drawing their hands quickly upwards and often repeating the application, cause a vibration of the boiler and other articles that produces a most dolorous and terrific sound, which is encreased by the blowing of cows' horns: the exercise forms altogether a discordant noise, almost as loud as a Chinese Gong. This uncommon amusement is continued for several hours, 'till the performers are weary and deafened with their sport5. It is called faire braire les poêles; the same custom prevails in the neighbouring province of Normandy"

Another description is given by William Plees, in his 1817 Account of the Island of Jersey

"In various parts of Jersey a singular4 custom has long prevailed; so long that its origin cannot now be traced. At Midsummer eve, a number of persons meet together, and procure a large brass boiler: ths is partly filled with water, and sometimes metallic utensils of different kinds are thrown in. The rim is then encircled with a strong species of rush, to which strings of the same substance are attached. When these strings are sufficiently moistened, the persons assembled take hold of them, and drawing them quickly through their hands, a tremulous vibration is excited in the boiler, and a most barbarous, uncouth and melancholy sound produced. To render this grating concert still more dissonant, others blow with cows' horns and conchs. This singular species of amusement continues for several hours.
"How extraordinary soever this recreation may be, it would be well if it ended in the innocent though discordant manner just described; but, unhappily, it has introduced another custom, which is of an injurious nature. After the sport is over, parties of men and boys go about the country, and from all the cows they can find take the milk, for sillabubs, puddings etc for the following day. They also make depredations in the gardens. This conclusive amusement is, however, now much restrained, and by magisterial vigilance will, probably, in a few years be entirely suppressed
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