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Mrs Finnegan’s Almanac – the Protective Powers of Hot Cross Buns

Welcome to the SECOND edition of my Almanac. I am MOST encouraged by the response so far and, as Master Peregrine (my husband) said over breakfast, only another 50 weeks to go. And he sounded so very cheerful at the prospect.

A Sovereign Remedy for Burns and Scalds

As Easter is a time for roasting, broiling and baking I thought I should start with a proven remedy to heal burns that is FREELY AVAILABLE to prince and pauper.

Take a live snail and rub its slime against the burn and it will soon be better

That’s it. It’s so simple a man can do it.

What Goes on in Hove…

I think most who know Hove would agree that it is very small, very quiet and very DULL. I’m not saying the village is a pimple on the East Sussex landscape, it’s not that big. You could speed by on a cantering horse and miss it. However, it has its moments, not all of them to its credit.

On Good Friday it is the custom to play kiss-in-the-ring. I have not witnessed it myself but I assume it REQUIRES a highly excitable circle of young Hove people to gather together. Never a good idea. A dropped handkerchief may or may not be present but by some means the “kisser” nominates the person to be kissed and then goes and does precisely that.

All I will say on the matter is that just because something is traditional does not make it right.

Actually, I do have something else to say because the ditty sung on such occasions is peculiar to Hove.

Hey diddle-derry

Let’s dance on the Bury.

I’m told that the Bury is a mound or barrow (as in ancient BURYing site) immediately to the west of Brunswick Square and up a bit in Coney Burrow Field (no prizes for guessing what currently lives there, although I suppose the recent building works might have uprooted the local rabbit population). You will get a better idea of the location from this corner I have cut out from the very latest 1836 map of Brighton and Hove.

The barrow is somewhere in the large field with the pond. A human ring is formed around it by linking hands and sometime afterwards the kissing begins.

I can’t be more precise as I am not a native and still learning my way around. I shall continue my education and take a stroll up there on Friday morning to see what’s going on.

Good Friday is also the day for skipping!
Why I do not know, but it’s a very communal thing with fishermen lending a rope and everyone joining in, mothers and fathers as well as children but not, I hasten to add, housekeepers.

Of course, Good Friday is also Hot Cross Bun day to celebrate the end of fasting for Lent (for those of us who HAVE kept to the respectable traditions).

Most cooks insist on saving one to hang in the kitchen until next Easter, as a protection against fire. Sussex fisherman like to have a hot cross bun on board their boat as a safeguard against drowning. I wonder if they require a fresh one each trip over Easter or if they also keep it all the year round. At least the kitchen one is blackened by soot and dried by the heat from the range, I imagine the fisherman’s bun is soon mouldy.

I don’t think Hock Tide is a big event here but it may be where you live. The general rule is that the men of the parish bind the women on Easter Monday and demand a kiss for their release. (Kissing again!) On the Tuesday the women tie up the men and demand a payment before setting them free. Proof of the innate wisdom of women, if proof were needed.

If a cow stands with its tail to the west
the weather is at its best
If a cow stands with its tail to the east
the weather becomes a bit of a beast

Saint of the Week
St Ebba the Younger – feast day April 2nd

A weighty, leather-bound book I consulted states quite categorially that the phrase Cutting Your Nose Off to Spite Your Face comes from St. Ebba, but I’m not so sure. Judge for yourself after reading her story most of which, of course, has been mislaid in the spiralling mists of time, but we do know she was the abbess of Coldingham Monastery on the coast of the Scottish borders, and we also know it was not a safe place to be in the 9th century.

PICTURE the scene. A steady wind is blowing from the east and the sun is shining. Then something small appears on the horizon where the sea meets the sky. And the small thing gets bigger and bigger until the cry goes up:

“long boats!”

The Vikings are coming and everyone knows what that means, especially the Abbess and her nuns. There’s no one to protect them and no where to run.

So St Ebba takes out a razor and and slices off her nose and upper lip. The other nuns follow her example. They die of course – the monastery is burnt to the ground – but they saved their honour.

I didn’t expect to find a picture of the event, but here it is.

When a cow tries to scratch its ear
a shower is very near

Bear Grease

I spied this advert in a recent edition of The Brighton Patriot and, as we approach a holiday weekend when you may want to look your best, readers might want to know that a freshy supply of bear grease is available in the centre of town.

The ink is not of the best so I copied out some salient points at the bottom less the small print tires your eyes.

Bear Grease is excellent for hair because it:

  • stops it falling out
  • stops it going grey
  • eradicates dandruff
  • bestows a natural gloss
  • strengthens weak hair
  • promotes growth in bald patches
  • promotes the growth of whiskers, eyebrows and mustachios
  • protects from the effects of the sea /vigorous exercise/hot climates

It can also cure deafness.

Tubs cost from 1s 6d to 7s 6d and I would be grateful if you mention my name if you make a purchase.

When a cow lies down on grass, I maintain
it will come on to rain again

A New Neighbour

A new gentleman has moved into Number 2 Brunswick Square. Nothing strange about that you may suppose as we have more than our fair share of comings and goings, especially at the fashionable time of year. But Admiral Sir George Augustus Westphal says he fully intends to stay as long as the good Lord spares him.

And what has the Admiral done? you may ask. Well, he was a midshipman aboard HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. More than that, he was wounded and put on the deck near Nelson who was dying at the time. Westphal’s head was propped on Nelson’s rolled-up coat.

He told his housekeeper (who told me) that:

“When the battle was over several of the bullions of Admiral Nelson’s epaulet were found to be so firmly glued, unto my hair, by the coagulated blood from my wound, that the bullions four or five of them, were cut off and left in my hair…”

And he still has one.

I fancy he might be the poor fellow at the bottom of the stairs.


A few readers have written to enquire about certain aspects of my life that do not naturally FIT into an almanac category so I shall endeavour to answer all queries here.

Misses Jenny and Gilly from Patcham
Yes, my husband is well, thank you for asking.
Yes, we are still married.
Yes, he does know what I do all day long.
This correspondence is now closed

Mrs H.F.G
No, there’s no particular reason why I singled out dressmakers from East Kilbride in last week’s edition and it certainly wasn’t to imply that reading my almanac was the most they could aspire to. I don’t know what gave you that idea.

Eliza from Steyning
In the circumstances, I wouldn’t know what to do with the second-best four poster either.

Inquisitive Irene
Yes, Mrs Hankey is still the Mistress.
Yes, she still is.

Happy Easter to all Readers and Subscribers

Never miss another edition of Mrs Finnegan’s Almanac. Sign up to her subscription service and you will be alerted as SOON as the ink is dry on her latest MISSIVE
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The cost? Not one farthing.

13 comments on “Mrs Finnegan’s Almanac – the Protective Powers of Hot Cross Buns

  1. beth
    April 4, 2023

    brilliant. I’m going to get right on the hot cross bun and bear grease train.

  2. Sarah Waldock
    April 4, 2023

    No, he isn’t the poor fellow at the bottom of the stairs, that’s a marine. A midshipman would have had a blue coat without tails.
    No hotcross bun would last long enough here to be hung up. If it didn’t disappear into the hubby, it would vanish into one of my cats who, for some reason, likes bread and cake.
    I am told by someone who had smelled it that bear grease stinks….

    • bridget whelan
      April 4, 2023

      Could he be the tall young man standing behind him (moments before being wounded himself)? But the cut of his jacket suggests tails…

      • Sarah Waldock
        April 4, 2023

        I think if he’s anyone in shot, he’s the lad sitting precariously on the broken spar helping to bring the red ensign down; if the ship heeled he might well have fallen from there, accounting for the head wound. He’s in what looks like a midi’s ‘bumfreezer’ with nominally white nether garments; hard to see if they are breeches not trousers but he’s a plausible candidate.

  3. bridget whelan
    April 4, 2023

    I’m rather pleased to learn that bear grease stinks. I’m imagining a fine head of beautifully coiffured hair, glowing in the candle light…and everyone standing three feet back.

    • Sarah Waldock
      April 4, 2023

      coconut oil in a pomade would smell better and be as efficacious, perhaps having washed the hair and washed it in a mix of nettle tea and beer before rinsing.

      • bridget whelan
        April 4, 2023

        That’s a heady mixture and no animals involved…

  4. bridget whelan
    April 4, 2023

    Re the midshipman-cum-admiral, I think you could be right. He loses his grip on the broken spar (perhaps because he was shot or missed his footing), the scream as he fell, the crash onto the lower deck, the blood… Yes, it all works.

  5. Anna Hopkins
    April 5, 2023

    Dear Mrs Finnegan (or is it Peregrine?) – it is good to read you are in good health, although I see that marriage has robbed you of your CAPITALISATION – or am I behind the times and unaware it is no longer DE RIGEUR? I’m not sure I can remember all the advice on cows and weather, I tend to go by the maxim that if they are lying down it will rain. I had not thought of the hot cross bun rhyme in some time: growing up we would terrorise my brother by pointing out that with 3 daughters, my parents were unlikely to give him any. They certainly didn’t last long enough to hang up. I thank my fellow correspondents for advising on the olfactory risks of using bear grease to lustre my locks, I think I shall forego the remedy. I wish you and yours a blessed Easter – Mrs H

  6. bridget whelan
    April 5, 2023

    It is Mrs Peregrine Hildenbrace but for professional purposes Mrs Finnegan’s husband agreed she should use her old name.
    Capitalisation? I asked Mrs Finnegan and she looked aghast. I think she may have forgotten or was in such a rush her quill skipped across the page in lower case

  7. Shan Lancaster
    April 8, 2023

    How sensible you are Mrs Finnegan. Every lady should reserve the most fitting of all the names at her disposal for her personal use whenever necessary – maiden name, name of any previous spouse with a particularly suitable surname and of course religious name if one happens to have had a spell in a nunnery….

    • bridget whelan
      April 8, 2023

      Thank you for your kind comment Shan, and the useful advice you offer readers. But it does rather suggest your own past may have been even more colourful than Mrs Finnegan’s.

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This entry was posted on April 4, 2023 by in Almanac and tagged , , , , , , .


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