Miss Keary on doorstep luck in North Staffordshire

The North Staffordshire folklore and folksong collector of the mid 1890s, Miss Alice Annie Keary of Oakhill, Stoke-on-Trent, on riding her white horse in Penkhull…

“Not long ago [c.1894] I was told of a person (not quite an uneducated person either) who excused herself for having adopted,, without much enquiry, a black kitten which had strayed from another house, on the ground that “she had always understood it was very lucky to have a black cat come to your house.” A similar belief in the luckiness attending white horses must have been inculcated in the minds of a party of children in no more remote a village than Penkhull, who one day about fourteen or fifteen years ago [meaning circa 1880], saluted me, as I rode past them on a whitish grey steed, with the rhyme,

“Good luck to you, good luck to me,
Good luck to every white horse I see.”

[The association of black/luck with the doorway of a home, evident with the black kitten mentioned above, was evidently also present in New Years Eve traditions … ]

“Another old-world notion [in North Staffordshire] is impressed on the mind of the householder who is roused from his bed at midnight on New Year’s Eve by a thundering knock at the door; and on asking who is there, is informed that So-and-so “just thought he’d like to have the New Year let in for him.” Possibly in some cases the hope of a “tip,” or at all events of a glass of beer is mingled with a neighbourly regard for the householder’s welfare during the ensuing year, but there are many people even now-a-days who would feel that such an offer should not be lightly rejected, at least if it came from a man with black or very dark hair. For it is well-known that it is very unlucky to “let the New Year in” by being the first person to cross your own threshold on January 1st and also that it is very important that this office should be performed by a dark-haired man. An old woman of our acquaintance who lived for the greater part of her married life in Trent Vale, told my sister that her husband, being a very dark man, was quite in request among his neighbours, at that season.”

Miss Keary was the sister of Charles Francis Keary. Also the very good friend of the famous folklorist Miss Charlotte Sophia Burne, who until circa 1894 resided at Pyebirch, Eccleshall.


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