Going Thomasing

It's Doleing Day - Gooding Day - Mumping Day! For Today (21st December) is the feast of St Thomas.  In some places in Lincolnshire on this day, small dole's of food or money were distributed to the poor of the parish by the clergy. In others, groups of older women, often accompanied by young children would go 'a-Thomasin' and they would visit slightly more affluent houses in the village or town, and ask for a little something to help tide them through the Christmas season. In Saxilby, it would only be widows who would go 'Mumping or a-Thomasing' today, wrapped up against the cold and carrying a basket. 

The pages of the Lincolnshire Echo of 1937, recall that on this day, a few of the older 'mumpers' in Kirton in Lindsey would sometimes be invited in from the cold to sit at the kitchen table and be given a small glass of beer. Others would be given a gift at the door. [1]

This was a right long established by tradition across many parts of the UK. And it being it 'a day by custom' hopefully removed some of the negative associations of being seen going around asking for alms. However in 1901, The Lincolnshire Echo noted that the practice, while once widespread in the county, now just lingers on in a few places. [2]

The same article repeats a song sung by those going Thomasing around Lincoln. They would assemble around the door of a house and begin...

" Wassail Wassail, though the town.
If you've got any apples, throw them down.
Up with the stocking, and down with the shoe.
If you've got no apples, Money will do.
The jug is white and the ale is brown.
This is the best house in the town. "

Over time, this memory of snowy days and small groups coming singing at the door has become a bit jumbled with Dickensian ideas of Christmas carol singers doing it simply for fun. When in fact, it reminds us of a time when for both urban & rural poor in Lincolnshire, this was a day when legitimate (and much needed charity) could be obtained with a little less shame attached.


Sources and further info:

[1] From:  Lincolnshire Echo, Tuesday 10th Aug 1937, ·Page 4.

[2] From: Lincolnshire Echo, Saturday 21st Dec 1901, ·Page 4


Popular Posts