An app on the phone told me that today was “Whitmonday.” It seemed an odd word from the past. Is there anywhere that still celebrates the day after Whitsunday as a holiday?
Whitmonday was the sort of day that allowed celebration in rural communities. I remember the excitement of what we called “club day arriving.” The sun shone and there was a mood of happiness in the heart of a small boy. The club members, my uncle among them, wore dark suits and rosettes and were led by a silver band. The members of the club called for refreshments at various farms in the neighbourhood before gathering for lunch at the manor farm in the village.
It is three years since a man, then in his nineties, told me about the bits that I had forgotten.
“Townsends would bring their fair up from Weymouth. They were not allowed to set up on the village green until after the evening service at the church on the Sunday evening. On Monday morning, the club members would all meet at the church for a service and would then be led by the Kingsbury Episcopi Silver Band. It was Whitmonday, but must of the men were farm workers, so didn’t get bank holidays off work, club day was accepted as a day they did get off. The walk would visit the farms where one or other of them worked and the farmer would provide them all with a glass of beer or cider. There would be a good lunch at the end – and then a whip round to pay for it. Then there would be the fair in the evening.”
“The club was a friendly society?” I had asked him. (Who was I to challenge him with the suggestion that I had heard that the day was a week later and was actually on Trinity Monday? Such a detail seemed immaterial).
“It was, they would all pay in a small amount each week, literally pennies, and if someone had problems, or died, they would do what they could to help. Club day was a great day.”
Given the propensity for church festivals to move around, the date of club day could shift by as much as a month. Times have changed and a more sensible way of fixing the date now pertains. It is held on a Saturday now. Perhaps there are other local communities where similar events still take place.
The friendly society in Long Sutton, a small Somerset village, was aptly named, it was the embodiment of friendliness. The paucity of financial rewards from farm work was counterbalanced by a rich sense of community. Club day cemented the day in the thoughts of members throughout the year.