Wednesday 18 December 2019

Eton Wick Remembered - Events and Treats

After the First World War a five-a-side football competition became a regular Easter Monday attraction. Originally it was only for sons of discharged soldiers and sailors, but as the years went by it was opened to all boys aged eight to fifteen from Boveney and Eton Wick. A silver trophy was and still is presented to the winning side. May Day was also known as Garland Day and doubly celebrated by the girls of the village. The day before they collected bunches of wild flowers and put them in water to keep fresh overnight. They were then used to decorate their hoops and to fill posy baskets. If possible, each girl dressed in white and before school, carrying their hoops and baskets, they would tour the village, knocking on doors and singing:

First of May is Garland Day
Give me a penny and I'll run away
I won't come back no more today'

At school there was dancing round the maypole set up on the playground and the choosing of the May Queen. She and her attendants were dressed in all their finery with veil, long dresses and daisy chains. Each year the queen received a silver heart-shaped brooch as keepsake.

In summer both church and chapel had their Sunday School treats to Burnham  Beeches
- it seemed so far away to the children, and indeed the journey took quite a while, for it was made in coal carts scrubbed clean for the occasion. Trestle tables, a tea urn and plenty of food were carried in one of the carts; school forms were screwed to the floor of the cart to make seats. The older children preferred to walk   beside the carts exploring the countryside as they went. It was a grand day, with opportunity to play in the woods, organize races, a scrumptious tea and singing all the way home. There were hay teas and cherry parties, Whitsun teas at the chapel and concerts most years at the school.  Autumn often brought the pleasure of a shopping trip into Windsor when the Provident Club paid out through one of the clothing shops.

November brought Guy Fawkes and carol singing round the village at Christmas completed the year's enjoyment. The village was much smaller - everyone seemed to take part - lanterns made from swedes or simply candles in jam-jars helped make the evening more memorable. Christmas presents may have been simpler and fewer, but the excitements and pleasures of Christmas were not.

Many of the people living in the Wick were poor because of low wages, spells of unemployment large families.  Yet memories of this period are not full of bitterness and dire poverty, as are those of some parts of the country. The reasons are probably to be found in the abundance of allotments and the close links with Eton College. Almost every family had at least one member working at the College, and many a bowl of dripping or bag of left-over food found its way to the village. There were gifts too of unwanted treasures from the boys, some of these would be stored away to help fill out Christmas stockings; and where else was the boys' cricket team so well dressed, albeit with cast-off caps and bats and cut down trousers? Memories of the connections between the village and Eton abound, but others tell of the pride of the village in itself, and neighbourliness. Families helped each other and at times of illness or confinement it was taken for granted that one neighbour would do the washing, and others the cleaning, cooking and minding the children. It was not at all  unusual for a neighbour to sit up all night at times of crisis and it is still remembered how Scotty Hood was willing to take a half hundredweight of coal to a family on a Sunday so that they would not be without a fire. Such memories as these do not make Eton Wick a special village though its laundries, lammassing and proximity to Eton College gave it some distinctive characteristics.

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