Traditions, customs and habits of Great Britain

The description of English, Scottish and Welsh traditions, associated with historical facts, parliamentary, court and state ceremonies, university life, popular holidays. Analyze of pageantry and other colorful ceremonies, that are part of everyday life.

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Boyarskikh Darya

Perm 2002


I choose this topic because it's very interesting and urgent for me now. This subject is closely connected with my feature profession. People of different countries have their own traditions. And I think, it is very important to know customs and traditions of that country, which you are going to visit. The national traditions absorb, accumulate and reflect the historic experience of the part generations.

The aim of my work is to describe in details customs and habits of English. And I should say, that English life is full of traditions. Some of them are very beautiful, colorful and picturesque, and seem to be quite reasonable; others are curious, sometimes funny, and they often are maintained simply as a tourist attraction.

In additions, many English traditions have long outlived themselves and became burdensome. Moreover, they make no sense in the present day like and only complicate things. But they are preserved and kept alive because of the well-known traditional English conservatism.

There are many traditions associated with some historical facts, parliamentary, court and state ceremonies, university life, and popular holidays. Others are connected with the mode of everyday life. They deal with customs, manners of behaviour, and habits of the people. Studying them will help us to understand better the English way of life.

pageantry parliamentary traditions ceremony


Very often when speaking of English traditions we think first of some curious theatrical ceremonies of the court* or parliament procedure. There come to our mind the medieval uniforms of the guards, the solemn cloaks and wigs of the judges or the top hats (bowlers) and the invariable umbrellas of the clerks of the London City.

But the word tradition does not mean only that. First and foremost tradition is the generally accepted made or way of living, acting, behaving of just doing things. There are many very good traditions of this kind in the everyday life of the English.

1. Everything is the Other Way Round

In England everything is the other way round. On Sunday on the Continent even the poorest person puts on his best suit, tries to look respectable, and at the same time the life of the country becomes gay and cheerful; in England even the richest peer or motor-car manufacturer dresses in some peculiar rags, does not shave, and the country becomes dull and dreary.

On the Continent there is one topic, which should be avoided - the weather; in England, if you do not repeat the phrase Lovely day, isn't it? at least two hundred times a day, you are considered a bit dull. On the Continent Sunday papers appear on Monday; in England - a country of exotic oddities - they appear on Sunday.

On a continental bus approaching a request stop the conductor rings the bell if he wants his bus to go on without stopping; in England you ring the bell if you want the bus to stop. On the Continent people have good food; in England people have good table manners.

On the Continent public orators try to learn to speak fluently and smoothly; in England they take a special course in Oxonian stuttering.

On the Continent learned person love to quote Aristotle, Horace, Montaigne and show off their knowledge; in England only uneducated people show off their knowledge, nobody quotes Latin or Greek authors in the course of a conversation, unless he has never read them.

Continental people are sensitive and touchy; the English take everything with an exquisite sense of humour - they are only offended if you tell them that they have no sense of humour.

People on the Continent either tell you the truth or lie; in England they hardly ever lie, but they would not - dream of telling you the truth.

Many continentals think life is a game; the English think cricket is a game.

2. Lunch at 1 o'clock

Many foreigners are sometimes taken aback when they are faced with this typically English custom for the first time.

Whatever one is doing, no matter how important it is, or seems to be - a parliamentary debate or any kind of business routine - as soon as the clock strikes one everybody breaks for lunch.

The time from one to two o'clock is a sacred hour in England. And it appears to be not only good for health - having meals at regular times is certainly healthy - but it is very convenient socially as well. Everybody knows that there is no use trying to get in touch with some official, business executive or firm representative at this time. They won't be in. it is no use no waste your time going from one shop to another at one o'clock sharp they will open. For punctuality is also one of the English traditions.

3. English Sunday

The so called Sunday Observance laws* prohibiting all kind of public entertainment on Sunday date back to the 17-18 century. The idea was to encourage people to go church and not to allow them to profane the Lord's Day by amusing themselves.

Three hundred years have passed since then. Church services are attended by fewer people now than some decades ago. But the old custom of having a quiet Sunday is still alive. This is another English tradition preserved by law.

On Sunday you may visit a museum or go to a concert but all shops, theatres, dance and music halls are closed. This is rather illogical when compared with the unrestricted variety programs on radio and television or the fact that one can always go to the bingo-club to enjoy himself or to the cinema to see a thriller or the latest American hit.

Pubs* and restaurants are open only from 12 to 2, and from 5 to 10 p.m. The police are very strict and do not hesitate to withdraw the license from the proprietors who disregard closing time.

All professional football and cricket matches, as well as horse and dog racing are banned, though you can play tennis or go any excursions would have been considered to be improper. Now there is a great number of people who like to go to the country or to the sea-side and spend their week-ends fishing, camping or hiking.

But still many Englishmen prefer a quiet Sunday at home. They get up late, go to church in the morning, have a big dinner, sleep afterwards, work in their garden until tea, read books and listen to the wireless.

After three centuries the Puritan influence is still to be felt.

4. English Tea

The trouble with the tea is that originally is was quite a good drink. So a group of the most eminent British scientists put their heads together, and made complicated biological experiments to find a way of spoiling it. To eternal glory of British science their labor bore fruit. They suggested that if you do not drink it clear, or with lemon or rum and sugar, but pour a few drops of cold milk into it, and no sugar at all, the desired object is achieved. Once this refreshing, aromatic, oriental beverage was successfully transformed into colorless and tasteless gargling-water*, it suddenly became the national drink of Great Britain and Ireland - still retaining, indeed usurping, the high-sounding title of tea.

There are some occasions when you must not refuse a cup of tea, otherwise you are judged an exotic and barbarous bird without any hope of ever being able to take your place in civilized society.

If you are invited to an English home, at five o'clock in the morning you get a cup of tea. It is either brought in by a heartily smiling hostess or an almost malevolently silent maid. When you are disturbed in your sweetest morning sleep you must not say: Madame (or Mabel), I think you are a cruel, spiteful and malignant person who deserved to be shot. On the contrary, you have to declare with your best five o'clock smile: Thank you so much. I do adore a cup of early morning tea, especially early in the morning. If they live you alone with the liquid, you may pour it down the washbasin.

Then you have tea for breakfast; then you have tea at eleven o'clock in the morning; then after lunch; then you have tea for tea; then for supper; and again at eleven o'clock at night. You must not refuse any additional cups of tea under the following circumstances: is it is hot; if it is cold; if you are tired; if anybody thinks that you might be tired; if you are nervous; if you are gay; before you go out; if you have just returned home; if you feel like it; if you do not feel like it; if you have had no tea for some time; if you have just had a cup

5. Fireplaces

In English homes, the fireplace has always been, until recent times, the natural center of interest in a room. People may like to sit at a window on a summer day, but for many months of the year prefer to sit round the fire and watch the dancing flames.

In the Middle Ages the fireplaces in the halls of large castles were very wide. Only wood was burnt, and large logs were carted in from the forests, and supported as they burnt, on metal bars. Such wide fireplaces may still be seen in old inns, and in some of them there are even seats inside the fireplace.

Elizabethan fireplaces often had carved stone or woodwork over the fireplace, reaching to the ceiling. There were sometimes columns on each side of the fireplace. In the 18th century, place was often provided over the fireplace for a painting or mirror.

When coal fires became common, fireplaces became much smaller. Grates were used to hold the coal. Above the fireplace there was usually a shelf on which there was often a clock, and perhaps framed photographs.

6. Pubs

Do you know what a pub is? The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines it as a public house or building where people go to drink and to meet their friends. English men like to get together in the pub in the evening. The usual opening hours for pubs are on weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. On Sundays pubs may remain open for not more than 5 and a half hours.

Pubs usually have two drinking rooms called bars - the public and the saloon bar, which is more comfortable but more expensive. "Bar" also means the counter at which drinks are served.

Pubs serve alcoholic and other drinks and often light meals. The main drink served in pubs, is, of course, beer, light or dark. Light beer is usually called bitter. As for other kinds of alcohol, most pubs serve whisky, gin and wine. Beer is always sold in pint or half-pint glasses. A pint is equivalent to 0.57 liter No alcoholic drinks may be served to young people under eighteen under British law.

In Great Britain today there are some 80,000 pubs situated in different cities, country towns, villages, and so on. Of London's 5.000 pubs some of the most interesting are right by the River Thames, downstream as well as up. Every English pub has its own sign and name. Some people refer to pub signs as a great open-air portrait gallery, which covers the whole country. But actually this gallery includes far more than portraits.

Some pub signs present different types of transport such as coaches, trams, ships, airplanes and even flying boards. There are signboards depicting animals, birds, fish as well as kings and queens, dukes and lords, sailors, soldiers, fat men and giants. A first class example of an heraldic pub sign is found near Leeds in

Yorkshire at Burley. The Butcher's Arms can be seen in Gloucestershire on a small typical English country pub near Sheepscombe.

At Cheltenham also in the same county you will see a sign showing the head of a horse, the name of the pub being Nags Head. At the village of Slad, also in Gloucestershire you can have a pint of lager in Woolpack and this pub sign shows a horse with two heavy packs of wool slung over it.

In Wales the most attractive sign in a number of pubs share the name of Market Tavern because all of them are on the pubs adjoining the market place.

In London the famous Sherlock Holmes pub with the big portrait of the famous detective smoking his favorite pipe attracts thousands of visitors to Northumberland Avenue.

History, geography, fairytales are kept alive by the name or sign of the "local" (the neighborhood pub). As history is being made, so the owners of the pubs - usually the brewery companies - and individual publicans are quick to record it by new signs. Typical example is the "Sir Francis Chichester" named after the first man to sail alone around the world.

Not all British pubs have individual signboards, but a considerable effort is being made now to retain old signs. Jerome K. Jerome, the creator of the internationally known book "Three Men In a Boat" over a hundred years ago revealed himself at probably his most authoritative intro matter or pubs. He clearly was a pub man and you can consider his famous book not only a guidebook to the Thames but as the first of those now familiar surveys of recommended places where to sleep, eat and enjoy beer. But in many pubs one can also enjoy some traditional pub games. There are darts, cards, skittles, coin games and various table games, of which playing darts is the oldest one.

Some of these games are difficult to find, as pubs have updated their amenities by offering TV and video games, such as two-men tennis, fruit machines, pinball machines, and so on. There are also other pub entertainments, such as piano playing, folk-singing, jazz performances and even theatres. However, if such table games as billiards or table football which are played with two or four players as well as cards, dominoes and coin games are known in this country, skittles and darts are less familiar.

Skittles is one of the oldest pub games and dates back to medieval England, the object of the game being to knock down as many skittles as possible with a wooden ball. This pub game has lots of variations all over Britain. Darts is also an old game, ' which was played by the Pilgrims in 1620 when they sailed, from England to the New World. That is why it is well known in the USA, too. To play this game one must first of all have a standard dartboard with numbers marked on it to indicate score. The outer ring counts double, the middle one treble while at the very centre is the bull (50) with its own outer circle (25). Dart players should stand at least eight feet away from the board. The aim of the game is to score as quickly as possible with the least number, of throws. The actual score a player must get depends on the variety of game he is playing. Many pubs in Great Britain have their own darts teams. So, if you come to Britain drop in a pub, enjoy a pint of bitter and a "tongue sandwich, which speaks for itself.

It sounds funny to foreigners but when it is closing time, the pub barman calls "Time!" or "Time, gentlemen, pleaser!

7. English Habits of Politeness

Some greetings in England are very informal: a simple good morning or a wave of the hand across the street is quite enough. Handshakes are only exchanged on a first introduction or as a token of agreement or congratulation. Sorry takes the place of no when you cannot do something for a person or give a positive answer in situation like May I use your pen?, Do you know the time? or Have you any size seven shoes?. Pardon is the polite way of asking somebody to repeat what he has said.

English people do not readily ask each other to do anything, they prefer to wait for a service to be offered before asking for it. If they do ask, then they say something like I don't really like asking you, but

It is considered polite to give up one's seat a woman who is standing, to open door for her, carry things for her, and so on.

8. Manners in Public

Our manners in public, like our manners in our homes, are based on self-respect and consideration for other people.

It is really surprising how stingy we are with our Please when we ask anyone to do something for us. We unwillingly part with our Thank you, as if it were the most difficult and costly thing in the world. We don't stand aside for others to pass us in the trams, buses or the underground. We don't rice to let people pass us to their seats in the theatres or movies.

Not to make yourself conspicuous, not to attract unfavorable attention to yourself or others, here are some of the rules for correct behavior in a public place.

1. Not to be conspicuous, don't wear conspicuous clothes.

2. One should not talk loud or laugh loud.

3. No matter how trying the circumstance, do not give way to anger or uncontrolled emotion.

4. Never eat anything in the street, or in a public place (restaurants, buffets and cafes excluded).

5. Do not rudely push your way through crowds.

6. Never stare at people or point at them.

7. Do not ridicule or comment on anyone in public.

8. Reserve affectionate demonstration (kissing, embracing, etc.) for appropriate places.

9. Don't monopolies the sidewalk, by walking 3 or 4 abreast, or by stopping in the centre to speak with someone.

10. When in the street keep to the right.


Like so many English institutions Parliament has been born of accident, expediency, economy and tradition.

The first Parliament met in Westminster Hall in 1265, as an immediate result of Magna Carta*. Many of the ceremonies carried out in the Parliament are very old.

1. Procedure in the House of Commons

The sitting of the House of Commons each day is opened by the Procession of the Speaker. Wearing his wig and gown, he is accompanied by the Chaplain, his Secretary and the Sergeant-at-Arms*, carrying the Mace*.

(The Sergeant-at-Arms is responsible for seeing that strangers do not misconduct themselves in the House, and for arresting members as directed by the Speaker).

On arrival at the Chamber, the Mace is set on the Table, players are read by the Chaplain, and provided a quorum of forty members is present, the Speaker takes the Chair, the Chaplains withdraw, and the business of the day is taken.

Except on Friday the first hour in the House of Commons is set aside for questions, the Speaker calling in turn the Members whose names appear in the notice paper.

After question time new Members, if any, are introduced, and then the Speaker directs the Clerk at the Table to read the Order of the Day, and the regular business is begun. This may entail debating a particular stage of a Public Bill*, going into Committee to discuss the business of supply, considering Lord's amendments to a Bill, or any other item of business.

No Member may speak in a debate unless he has received permission from the Speaker and this he obtains by what is known as catching the Speaker's eye. In effect what happens is that those members desirous of speaking rise to their feet and the Speaker calls upon one of them whereupon the remainder resume their seats.

Speeches are addressed to the Speaker and may not be read, this however is a rule that has lately been subjected to exceptions.

There is another curious in the Parliament. In front of the Members' benches in the House of Commons you will see a strip of carpet. When a Member speaking in the House puts his foot beyond that strip there is a shout Order. This dates back to the time when the Members had swords on them and during a heated discussion might want to start fighting. The word order remind the hotheads that no fighting was allowed in the House. The carpet became the limit, a sort of a frontier.

The day in the Parliament ends with the Speaker leaving the Chamber through the door behind his Chair to the cries of Who goes home? and Usual time tomorrow. These crimes are relict of the days when the streets were unsafe and the members went together for safety and when there were no fixed hours for meetings.

In the House of Commons there are only 437 seats for 625 Members. The admittance of the sittings is not obligatory. And if more than 437 Members turn up for some important debate they to stand.

When the Members of Parliament vote, they divide, those voting yes file out to the lobby on the Speaker's right; and no's go through to the lobby to his left. In each lobby they are counted by 2 Members called tellers*.

2. The Chamber of the House of Lords

At the end of the Chamber stands the Throne. In front of it is the Woolsack* where the Lord Chancellor wearing a full - bottomed wig, court dress and a grown, sits as Speaker of the House of Lords.

The Woolsack is traditionally held to have been placed in the House in the reign of Edward the Third. Records of the House of Lords how that the Judges shall sit on woolsack - emblematic of England's one time the woolsack came to be stuffed with hair. But in 1938 it was reshuffled with wool. It is a big square divan with a kind of back in the middle, upholstered in red leather.

3. The State Opening of Parliament

The opening of Parliament at the beginning of a session is preceded by a ceremony that is steeped in ancient tradition and dressed in the full panoply of a royal and state occasion. It is the most colorful, as well as the most important ceremony of the year.

Her Majesty* the Queen, attended by a sovereign's escort of the Household Cavalry*, drives in state from Buckingham Palace to the Sovereign's Entrance beneath the Victoria Tower at the south end of the Palace of Westminster. The route is lined regiments of Footguards* wearing the black bearskins* which have for so long been a symbol of courage and loyal service.

At the foot of the Royal Staircase which is lined by Household Cavalry, her Majesty is received by the great officers of the State.

The Procession heard by the four Pursuivants* wearing their taburds* embroidered with the royal arms passes through the Royal Gallery and between lines of Beefeaters* and Gentlemen-at-Arms* in uniforms of scarlet, black and gold. The Queen magnificently appareled in robes of state, crowned, and wearing many of the finest crown jewels, enters the House of Lords. The assembly rises to its feet. The peers are in their scarlet robes; the archbishops and judges in scarlet; the Diplomatic corps is blasing with gold and decorations.

Her Majesty occupies the throne and says: My Lords, pray be seated. At the Queen's request the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod* precedes to the House of Commons to command the presence of its members at the Bar of the House of Lords*. The door of the Commons Chamber is slammed in his face by the Sergeant-at-Arms. Thus do the Commons maintain their ancient right to deny royal access* to their Chamber.

(King Charles I (1625-1649) was he last English King ever to enter the House of Commons).

Black Rod knocks three times with his rod of office, and the door is opened. He advances towards the Speaker and delivers his message, whereupon the Commons, proceeded by the Speaker and the chief ministers, repair to the Bar of the House of Lords.

When the Commons are assembled at the Bar, the Lord Chancellor kneels before the Queen and hands her a copy of the royal speech, which has been prepared by the policy which the Government intends to follow and the measures which it proposes to adopt during the session about to be open. At the conclusion of the Queen's speech the Commons return to their Chamber. The Queen is escorted to her coach and returns to Buckingham Palace.

4. Search the Parliamentary Cellars

Before the opening of Parliament half a dozen Beefeaters do the searching of the cellars underneath the Houses of Parliament, in memory of Guy Fawkes and the Gun Powder Plot* in 1605.

Guy Fawkes was the chief instrument in the Gun Powder which was intended to blow up James I and his anti-Roman Catholic Government at the opening of Parliament on the 5th of November, 1605. the plot miscarried owing to an anonymous warning sent to Lord Monteagle. Fawkes was arrested among the barrels of gunpowder that he had stacked beneath the House of Lords. He was tortured by order of James I and signer confessions. These confessions were used as evidence at the trial in Westminster Hall of Fawkes and his fellow-conspirators, who were sentenced to be hanged, drown and quartered.

The 5th of November is marked in England as Guy Fawkes Day. In the evening bonfires are lit on high hills and fireworks are let off in the streets.


Pageantry* and other colorful ceremonies are part of everyday life in Britain.

1. Royal Ceremonies*

The Changing of the Guard

The Changing of the Guard* at Buckingham and St. James's Palaces era ceremonies of great interest. Each new guard mounts sentries* for 24 hours, though sometimes the guard remains on duty for 48 hours.

The ceremony at Buckingham Palace takes place daily 11.30 a.m. By tradition the duty of mounting the Queen's Guard is undertaken by one occasionally the honor is given to a Regiment of the Line* or to one of other Services*. The ceremony is attended by one of the Regimental bands.

At the Horse Guards* in the Whitehalf the Changing of the Queen's Life Guard Of Household Cavalry* takes place at 11 a.m. on weekdays and at 10 a.m. on Sundays.

Trooping the Colour*

It is annual ceremony which blends two ancient military custom-guard mounting and lodging the colours. It recalls the day when each company of soldiers had its own colors clearly visible as rallying points in dust and confusion of battle. Each evening the colours were ceremonially carried down the ranks and escorted to a billet be lodged for the night.

From this derives the magnificent display of the marching and wheeling by the Regiments of the brigade of Guards, which marks the Sovereign's Birthday (in June). At different traditional ceremonies you will see bright and very picturesque uniforms worn by the guards, troopers and sentries of her Majesty's own Royal Guards Regiments. The troopers of the horse Guards regiment which has existed since the 12th century, have bright red gold uniforms, shining top-boots, golden helmets with features.

The Gurkha soldiers* wear high Gurkha fur hats.

Drums are drumming, banners are flying, the drummer' sticks and flying up in the air.

2. Lord Mayor's Day

Lord Mayor* of London lives in the City - in the Mansion House* - a big, impressive house with a classic front very much like a Greek temple.

The Lord Mayor is the first citizen of the City and the first Magistrate*. He has the Keys of the City. No troops are allowed to cross the limits of the City, neither King or Queen are allowed to come here without his permission.

The Lord Mayor is elected every year by the Aldermen and every year on the second Saturday in November there is a great ceremony - The Lord Mayor's Show.

The streets are packed with people, nobody wants to miss the great event. The Lord Mayor is dressed in a traditional medieval red velvet robe with fur, and a golden chain, and a fantastic hat. He has flowers in his hands . the escort clad in picturesque 17th century uniform according to tradition, the Household Cavalry, the State Trumpeters and several military bands all lend additional splendour to the scene.

The Lord Mayor drives slowly through the cheering crowded streets from the Guildhall* to the High Court of Justice* to receive from the magistrates the key of the City. The gilded historic carriage (300 years old) is drawn by six horses in red and gold harness. After the election the Lord Mayor holds his Grand Banquet in the Guildhall of the Corporation of the City.

3. The Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower

Every night at 9.53 p.m. the Chief Warder of the Tower carries out the time-honored routine of locking up the Tower. Known as the Ceremony of the Keys, this has taken place almost without a break for 700 years. The Chief Warder and his escort of four approach the gates. The sentry calls out:

Halt, who comes there?

The Keys.

Whose Keys?

Queen Elisabeth's Keys.

Advance, Queen Elisabeth's Keys. All is well.

The custodians of the Tower are the Yeomen Warders*, known as Beefeaters*. They wear a state dress uniform dating from Tudor times. It consists of funny flat hats, trousers bound at the knee, and the Royal monogram on their breast. These traditional medieval clothes make the old castle look still more fantastic and theatrical. Nowadays these Yeomen-Warders act as guides taking tourists around the Tower and telling them numerous histories and legends associated with place. Usually they are veterans of the Second World War. Often you will see war medals on their traditional uniforms.

A number of ravens have their home at the Tower, and they are officially on the strength of the garrison. There is a superstition that when the ravens fly away the Tower will be the sign of the downfall of the British Empire. Because of this superstition the wings of the ravens are regularly clipped.

The Tower is one of the oldest historical monuments of London. It dates from the 11th century. In 1088 William the Conqueror, selected this place for election of the White Tower and in later years various kings extended the defenses of the fortress.

In its long history the Tower has served as fortress, Royal palace and prison. Sir Thomas More, Author of the famous Utopia, Sir Walter Releigh, navigator explorer and historian, Henri the Eight's, queens Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey, Guy Fawkes, to mention but a few were among the numerous privileged people beheaded in the Tower. Perhaps the blackest of the many crimes committed in the Tower in those troubled time was the murder by the tyrannical Richard the Third of the two boy princes.

Now the Tower is a museum. You can see there a great collection of weapons of different times, tools of torture, knights' armour, numerous Royal Regalia-swords, scepters, crowns. Tourists are usually attracted by the famous and priceless Crown Jewels. The imperial State Crown, for example contains 2.783 diamonds, 277 pearls, 14 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 5 rubies.


1. Cambridge

Cambridge is situated at a distance of 70 miles from London; the greater part of the town lies on the left bank of the river Cam crossed by several bridges.

Cambridge is one of the loveliest towns of England. It is very green presenting to a visitor a series of beautiful groupings of architecture, trees, gardens, lawns and bridges. The main building material is stone having a pinkish color which adds life and warms to the picture at all seasons of the year.

The dominating factor in Cambridge is University, a center of education and learning. Newton, Byron, Darwin, Rutherford and many other scientists and writers were educated at Cambridge. In Cambridge everything centers on the university and its Colleges, the eldest of which was founded in 1284. They are 27 in number. The college is a group of buildings forming a square with a green lawn in the center. An old tradition does not allow the students to walk on the grass, this is the privilege of professors and head-students only. There is another tradition which the students are to follow: after sunset they are not allowed to go out without wearing a black cap and a black cloak.

The University trains about 7.000 students. They study for 4 years, 3 teams a year. The long vacation lasts 3 months. They are trained by a tutor; each tutor has 10-12 students reading under his guidance. There is a close connection between the University and colleges, through they era separate in theory and practice.

A college is a place where you live no matter what profession you are trained for; so that students studying literature and those trained for physics belong to one and the same college. However the fact is that you are to be a member of a college in order to be a member of the University.

The students eat their meals in the college dining-hall. At some colleges there is a curious custom known as sooncing. If a should come late to dinner or not be correctly dressed or if he should break one of the little unwritten laws of behavior, then the senior student present may order him to be soonced. The Butler brings in a large silver cup, known as sconce cup, filled with offender, who must drink it in one attempt without taking the cup from his lips. (It holds two and half pints). If he succeeds then the senior student pays for it, if not, the cup is passed round the table at the expense of the student who has been sconced. Now the origin of this custom.

Until 1954, undergraduates (students studying for the first degree) had to wear cloaks, called gowns, after dark, but now they are only obliged to wear them for dinner and some lectures. This tradition is disappearing, but one which is still upheld is that of punting on the Cam. It is a favorite summer pastime for students to take food, drink, guitars (or, alas, transistor radios) and girl friends on to a punt (a long, slim boat, rather like a gondola) and sail down the river, trying very hard to forget about exams. Many students feel that they have not been christened into the University until they have fallen into the River Cam. This has almost become a tourist attraction.

Students also have an official excuse to let themselves loose once a year (usually in November) on Rag Day*.

On this day, hundreds of different schemes are thought up to collect money for charity, and it is not unusual to see students in the streets playing guitars, pianos, violins, singing, dancing, eating fire, fishing in drains for money, or even just lying in beds suspended over the street swinging a bucket for money to be thrown into.

Lilies and Roses

On May 21st every year, Eton College and King's College, Cambridge, honor the memory of their founder, Henry VI, who died very suddenly, and was almost certainly murdered, in the Tower of London on that day in 1471. he is generally supposed to have been killed whilst at prayer in the Oratory of the Wakefield Tower, and here, on the anniversary, the Ceremony of the lilies and Roses now takes place. Representatives of both colleges walk in procession with Beefeaters and the Chaplain of the Tower, and the short service is conducted by the latter, during which a player composed by Henry himself is said. A marble tablet in the in the Oratory marks the place where the King is believed to have died, and on each side of it flowers are laid - lilies from Eton bound with pale blue silk, and white roses from King's College, bound with purple ribbon. They are left there for twenty-four hours, and then they are burnt.


The thistle is the national emblem of Scotland. This is how, according to a curious legend, this plant came to be chosen as a badge, in preference to any other. Many years ago the Vikings once landed somewhere on the east coast of Scotland. The Scots assembled with their arms and took their stations behind the River Tay. As they arrived late in the day, weary and tired after a long march, they pitched their camp and rested, not expecting the enemy before the next day. The Vikings, however, were near: noticing that no guards were protecting the camp, they crossed the Tay, intending to take the Scots by surprise. For this purpose they took off their shoes so as to make the least possible noise. But one of them stepped on a thistle. The sudden and sharp pain he felt caused him to shriek. The alarm was given in the Scots' camp. The Vikings were put to fight, and as an acknowledgement for the timely and unexpected help from the thistle, the Scots took it as their national emblem.

The Scottish national costume (Highland dress) includes a kilt worn by men. For day wear, the kilt is worn with a tweed jacket, plain long socks, a beret and a leather sporran, that is, a pouch hanging from a narrow belt round the hips. The Scottish beret -- tam-o'-shanter -- is a woolen cap without a brim but with a pompon or a feather on top, traditionally worn pulled down at one side. It got its name after Tam o' Shanter, the hero of Burns's poem of that name.

The Clan

The Gaelic word "clan" means "children", and the central idea of a clan is kinship. Nowadays it refers, as a rule, only to Highland families, in Scotland. A clan is a family, and theoretically the chief is the father of it, although not every clansman can be a direct descendant of the founder.

Many people in Scotland today will be surprised to learn that those who founded the present clans were not themselves always Highlanders, but included Normans (Gordon, Eraser), Bretons (Stuart), Flemings (Murrey, Sutherland). Irish (MacNeil), and Norsemen (MacLeod), Mac meaning "son of". Concerning that early period of their settlement, which was between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, we must not be dogmatic on the subject of nationality; the important point is that all these were "incomers" to the Highlands.

When the incomers acquired their land they virtually took over a good many people who were living on it, and who, perhaps, were already formed into a family or clan unit. Gradually the old clan came to acknowledge the protection of their new leader, and at last built up a nominal kinship with him. In course of time intermarriage made it difficult to determine how far this kinship was nominal and how far real.

Under the patriarchal system of clanship, which reached its peak in the sixteenth century, order of precedence was strictly observed. First, after the chief himself, came members of his immediate family, his younger sons and grandsons, and then the clansmen. All of them, whether connected by blood or not, owned a common heritage of loyalty as clansmen. In return for the help and support of his clansmen, the chief was their leader in war and their arbiter in peace. Even in the early days the king was, in theory at least, the "chief of chiefs", and as the royal power spread through the Highlands the chiefs were made responsible for the good conduct of their clansmen. Among the most famous clans were: Campbell, Fraser, Munro, Cameron, Stewart, Murray, MacDonald, Maclean and Mackenzie.

The great period of the clans declined by the beginning of the eighteenth century and the failure of the Jacobite Risings in 1715 and 1745 completed the destruction. But today clan societies flourish in Scotland and, perhaps more ' bravely, elsewhere in the world. These societies are acquiring land and property in their respective clan countries, financing magazines, establishing museums to preserve the relics, founding educational trusts, and -- perhaps above all -- keeping alive the family spirit.

The Tartan

Tartan is and has for centuries been the distinguishing mark of the Highlander. It has a long history. Evidence can be brought to show that as long as the thirteenth century, and probably earlier, Highlanders wore brightly coloured striped or checked tartan plaids, which they called "breacan". There is some controversy about clan tartans as such. Traditionalists state the Highlanders wore tartan as a badge so that they could recognize each other and distinguish friend from foe in battle. Like many theories, this looks well on paper, but in practice it seems to break down. Even though the old tartans were simpler than the modern ones, they could not easily be recognized at a distance.

On the other hand, various descriptions can be quoted to show that, in the Highlands, the patterns of the tartans were considered important. A district tartan is a very natural development in a country divided into small communities. By the sixteenth century the particular patterns of tartan worn in a district were connected with the predominant local clan. But the study of the portraits shows that there was no uniformity of tartan even in the early eighteenth century. Members of the same family are found wearing very different tartan and, what is more surprising, many of the men are seen to wear the kilt of one tartan and a Jacket of another. The history of development of tartan was sharply broken in 1747, when wearing of Highland dress was forbidden by law after the failure of 1745.

In the early years of the nineteenth century efforts were made to collect authentic patterns of each clan tartan, but this does not seem to have been very successful. The fashion for tartan was fostered by the amazing spectacle of a kilted King George IV at holyrood in 1822, and demands for clan tartan poured into the manufactures. The wave of enthusiasm for tartan outstripped the traditional knowledge of the Highlanders, and it was at this time and in response to popular demand that a great many of familiar present-day tartans became associated with their respective clans. Some of the patterns had previously been identified by numbers only, while some were invented on the spot, as variations of the old traditional patterns.

The term "Highland dress'' has not always meant the same thing. In the seventeenth century the kilt was not worn. Clansmen wrapped themselves in a generous length of tartan cloth some sixteen feet wide. The upper portion covered the wearer's shoulders, and it was belted at the waist, the lower portion hanging in rough folds to the knees. In the eighteenth century, this belted plaid was superseded by the kilt. Modern Highland dress consists of a day-time kilt of heavy material, sometimes in a darker tartan, worn with a tweed jacket, while for the evening finer material, possibly in a brighter "dress" tartan, can be matched with a variety of accessories.

Food and Drink

What sort of food has Scotland to offer the stranger? Scotland produces a number of dishes: Scots collops - a savoury dish popularly known as "mince", small mutton pies which must be served piping hot and the immortal haggis. And no country has a greater variety of puddings and pies, creams, jellies, and trifles.

The excellence of Scottish soups has been attributed to the early and long connection between Scotland and France, but there are some genuine soups, such as Barley Broth, Powsowdie or Sheep's Head Broth. Hotch Potch or Harvest Broth. Baud Bree (Hare Soup) is flavoured with toasted oatmeal and Cullen Skink is made with a smoked haddock.

Plenty of ingenuity is shown, too, in the preparation of both oatmeal and milk. Porridge, properly made with home-milled meal and fresh spring water, and served with thin cream or rick milk, is food for the gods. Lastly there is the national oatcake, which is described as a masterpiece by the French gastronomes.

As a nation the Scots are definitely better bakers than cooks. To beat the best Edinburgh bakers one must go, it is said, all the way to Vienna. There is an endless variety of bannocks and scones: soda scones, made with buttermilk, girdle scones, potato scones, without which no Glasgow Sunday breakfast is complete. Also the pancakes, the crumpets, the shortbread that melts in the mouth, buns of every size and shape! They are on offer in every bakery.

The Scottish housewife likes to buy her meat fresh and sees that she gets it. She likes the meat off the bone and rolled, as in France, and the Scottish butcher is an artist at his trade. Most of the cuts are different from England and have different names. Sirloin, one would understand, but what is Nine Holes? Steak is steak in any language, but what is Pope's eye?

And then the puddings! The black puddings, the white puddings, the mealy puddings. And king of puddings, the haggis! I once asked a Scot: "What's in a haggis?" His answer was: "I know. But I know no reason why you should. All you need to know is that it should be served with mashed potatoes and bashed neeps (turnips), and you must drink whisky with it. You will discover that the oatmeal in the haggis absorbs the whisky, and so you can drink more of it. What else do you need to know?" "A recipe of haggis", was my answer. "Hell, well, here you are", said my friend: B ounces of sheep's liver, 4 ounces of beef suet (fat), salt and pepper, 2 onions, 1 cup of oatmeal. Boil the liver and onions in water for 40 minutes. Drain, and keep the liquid. Mince the liver finely, and chop the onions with the suet. Lightly toast the oatmeal. Combine all the ingredients, and moisten the mixture with the liquid in which the liver and onions were boiled. Turn into a sheep's stomach, cover with grease-proof paper and steam for 2 hours.

Although the Scots are not a nation of beer-drinkers in the sense that the English are, some of the best beers in the world are brewed in the Lowlands of Scotland. But however good Scots beer and ale are, it is universally known that the glory of the country is whisky. Scotch whisky was a by-product of traditional Scottish thrift. Frugal Scots farmers, rather than waste their surplus barley, mashed, fermented and distilled it, producing a drink at first called uisge beatha, Gaelic for "water of life", and now simply called whisky. No one knows when the Scots learnt the art of distilling, though it may have been before they arrived from Ireland in the fifth century AD, for in Irish legend St Patrick taught the art. The first mention in Scottish records of a spirit distilled from grain does not occur before 1494.

Today there are two kinds of Scotch whisky -- the original malt whisky, made by the centuries-old pot-still process from barley that has been "mailed" or soaked and left to germinate; and grain whisky, made from maize as well as matted and unmated barley. Most of the well-known brands of Scotch whisky are blends of many different grain and malt whiskies. The technique of blending was pioneered in Edinburgh in the 1860 s, and a taste for the new, milder blended whiskies quickly spread to England and then to the rest of the world.

Barley is the raw material of the malt whisky distiller. The first process in making whisky is mailing -- turning barley into malt. Mailing begins when the distiller takes delivery of the barley, usually in September or October, soon after it has been harvested. The barley is in grain form, and must be ripe and dry, otherwise it may turn moldy and make properly controlled mailing impossible. The barley is cleaned, weighed and soaked for two or three days in tanks of water. Then it is spread on the malting floor, where it germinates for 8-12 days, secreting an enzyme which makes the starch in barley soluble and prepares it turning into sugar. The barley is regularly turned over to control its temperature and rate of germination. The warm, damp, sweet-smelling barley is passed to the kiln for drying, which stops germination. It is spread on a base of perforated iron and dried in the heat of a peat fire. Distillery kilns have distinctive pagoda-shaped heads. An open ventilator at the top draws hot air from the peat fire through the barley. This gives it a smoky flavor, which is passed on to the whisky. The barley has now become malt -- dry, crisp, peat-flavored, different from the original barley in all but appearance. It is ready for the next stage in the process -- mashing. It is stored in bins and then it is weighed to ensure that the right amount of malt is passed to the mill below, where it is ground. The ground malt, called grist, is carried up to the grist hopper and fed in measured quantities into the mash tun. There the grist is mixed with hot water and left to infuse. This extracts the sugar content from the malt. The sugary water, called wort, is then drawn off through the bottom of the mash tun. This process is repeated three times, and each time the water is at a different temperature.

For centuries, Scotch whisky has been made from mailed barley mixed with yeast and water, then heated in pear-shaped containers called pot stills. The early Highland farmers who distilled their own whisky heated their pot stills in huge copper kettles over a peat fire. Smoke from the peat added to the whisky's flavour. Big modern distillers use basically the same technique. The vapour that rises in the still is condensed by cooling to make whisky. The shape of the still affects the vapour and so helps to give the whisky its taste. The most important single influence on the taste of Scotch whisky is probably the Scottish water. This is why distilleries are situated in narrow glens or in remote country near a tumbling stream.

The whisky comes colourless and fiery from the spirit receiver. In the spirit vat it is diluted to about 110 degrees proof before being run into oak casks to mature. Today, 100 degrees proof spirit by British standards is spirit with 37.1 per cent of alcohol by volume, and 42.9 per cent of water.

Scotch whisky cannot legally be sold for consumption until it has matured in casks for at least three years. The time a whisky takes to mature depends on the size of the casks used, the strength at which the spirit is stored and the temperature and humidity of the warehouse. A good malt whisky may have been left in the cask for 15 years, or even longer. Air enters the oak casks and evaporation takes place. Eventually, the whisky loses its coarseness and becomes smooth and mellow.

There are more than 100 distilleries in Scotland and the whisky made in each has its own distinctive character. Some distilleries bottle part of their spirit and sell it as a single whisky; but most whiskies go to a blender. As many as 40 different single whiskies may be blended to make up the whisky that is eventually sold.

Burns Night (25 January)

The anniversary of the poet's birth, is celebrated in every corner of Scotland, and indeed wherever a handful of Scots is to be found. There are hundreds of Burns Clubs scattered throughout the world, and they all endeavour to hold Burns Night celebrations to mark the birth of Scotland's greatest poet. The first club was founded at Greenock in 1802. The traditional menu at the suppers is cock-a-leekie soup (chicken broth), boiled salt herring, haggis with bashed neeps (turnips), and champit tatties (mashed potatoes) and dessert. The arrival of the haggis is usually heralded by the music of bagpipes. The haggis is carried into the dining room behind a piper wearing traditional dress. He then reads a poem written especially for the haggis! "The Immortal Memory" is toasted, and the company stand in silent remembrance. Then fellows dancing, pipe music, and selections from Burns's lyrics, the celebration concluding with the poet's famous Auld tang Syne.

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