Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tossing the Pancake

George Cruikshank illustrated the custom of tossing the pancake on Pancake Day/Shrove Tuesday, in the 1837 edition of Comic Almanac.
A description from 1867 school -


Tossing The Pancake, verb. phr.(Westminster)1867. Collins, The Public School.

The old Shrove-Tuesday custom of Tossing Tub Pancake, though now peculiar to Westminster, is said to have been also formerly in use at Eton. The ceremony as at present performed is this.

The cook, preceded by the verger, enters the large school, in full official costume, with the hot cake in the pan. He tosses it—or tries to toss it, for it is no easy feat —over the iron bar, which has been already mentioned as having once held a curtain screening off the upper school from the lower. If he succeeds he claims a fee of two guineas.

There is a scramble among the boys, who stand on the other side of the bar, for the Pancake, and if any boy can secure it whole, which seldom happens, he carries it up to the dean, who presents him with a sovereign. They also claim a right to "book" the performer (i.e. hurl a shower of books at him) if he fails more than once. This right was liberally exercised in 1865, when the wrath of tha school had culminated owing to repeated failures in that and the previous year. The exasperated cook replied to the attack with his only available missile—the frying-pan—and a serious row was the consequence. The battle is celebrated in a clever mock-heroic poem, in Greek Homeric verse, attributed to a high Westminster authority.

The Public School Word-book, by Farmer, John Stephen. 1900

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