Souling Day: Saints and Soul Cakes

In the past, Halloween was preceded by an earlier tradition, which was known as Souling.

Souling cake
Souling cake

A visiting custom carried out in the 19th and 20th centuries mainly by children, but previously by adults, in the Shropshire, north Staffordshire, Cheshire, and Lancashire area, on All Saints Day (1 November) and All Souls Day (2 November).

The Soulers visited houses, sang a song, and collected money, food, drink, or whatever was given to them. The songs vary somewhat from place to place, but they all follow the same basic pattern:

Soul, soul for a souling cake
I pray you, missis, for a souling cake
Apple or pear, plum or cherry
Anything good to make us merry
Up with your kettles and down with your pans
Give us an answer and we'll be gone
Little Jack, Jack sat on his gate
Crying for butter to butter his cake
One for St. Peter, two for St. Paul
Three for the man that made us all

Shropshire: By-Gones Relating to Wales & the Border Country (1889-1890, 25.3)

You can hear a longer version of this song below, which was recorded in 1965 by The Watersons.

I don't know what you think, but I'd welcome a return of this celebration instead of the highly commercialised Halloween of today.

I'm also pleased to report that there is still an example of the tradition kept alive at The Antrobus Arms, Cheshire.

They write:

The old English custom of souling or  soulcaking dates back to the 10th Century.

A traditional Cheshire Souling play performed on All Soul’s Eve and the following 2 weekends.


The Antrobus Gang are well established with continuity a distinguishing feature.  They are thought to have performed continuously for hundreds of years.

Soulcakers would go from house to house singing a begging song or a plea for prayers for the dead.  They would put on a play for residents.

The plays were performed out of necessity when farm work was in short supply. Plays usually consist of a fight between St George and his adversaries resulting in one of the characters being killed and brought back to life by a ‘quack’ doctor.  The Hooden Horse accompanies the soulcakers with its groom and a whip.

The Hooden Horse is a man covered with a blanket holding a horses head.

Soulcakes were small spiced fruit cakes similar to Hot Cross Buns and were given to performers as well as drink or money, helping to keep their families fed during lean times.  It could be quite lucrative as 3 nights of mumming (acting out the play) often raised as much as month’s wages.

The tradition continues at the Antrobus Arms where money raised now goes to charity.


Are there any local Pubs prepared to consider starting a Formby equivalent event?.





Formby beach event to mark Armistice Day

Film-maker Danny Boyle invites you to join with him in marking 100 years since Armistice and the end of the First World War.

On 11 November 2018, communities will gather on beaches across the UK to say goodbye and thank you, to the millions of men and women who left their shores during the war, many never to return.

On selected beaches around the UK, over the course of several hours, a portrait of an individual from the First World War will emerge from the sand. And then, as the tide rises, be washed away as we take a moment to say a collective goodbye.

Poet Carol Ann Duffy has written a poem, especially for the event, to be read by individuals, families and communities on the day. The poem will be available from this website and in the press. You can also get involved in creating artwork in the sand using stencils of portraits at the beaches.



  Armistice Day 100 years on

Sefton's New Castle (Part 2)

I recently posted a story about an exciting forthcoming event which involves building a cardboard replica of Miller's castle in Bootle.

The work is inspired by the French artist Olivier Grossetête, he writes:

“The work is never perfect or finished, people find their place within it. Perfection is something that’s dead. It’s something that’s not living, it’s not real,”
(Grossetête quote from interview on Mashable).

To gain an insight into the proposed event here's a short video from a previous event held at the Terni Festival 2015.


Looks very exciting, what do you think?

Cardboard Castle


Who Will Win at Formby?

Ever wondered why Golf is such a favourite game? It always defeated me when I was younger, but this video has reintroduced me to the joys of the game.

Four players go 'head to head' in a pairs competition on Formby Golf Course.

The sun is shining, and it's a close game, the final three holes will decide the outcome. Who are you going to support?


I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, played in the right spirit, by skilled players, and a story, skilfully told, I can understand now why golfers play the game.

To learn more about the game and the people involved select: