Safe return of the “Nashwauk” anchor.

The anchor is safe !!! – a phone call to the City of Onkaparinga and
I was assured that the “Nashwauk” anchor has been returned
to South Australia and that a safe, secure, prominent and
well lit site is being prepared for its final resting place …
now I’m smiling…
~~~~~~~~~  

 The “Nashwauk”, a three masted wooden sailing ship built in 1853 at River John, Province of Novia Scotia, with a tonnage of 762, measuring 144.1ft in length, 29.ft in breadth at the widest part, with a midships depth of 2.7ft and a lower deck of 140ft, left Liverpool on 13 Feb 1855 under the command of Captain Archibald McIntyre, bound for South Australia. Aboard were over 300 “assisted emigrants, mostly from Ireland.

My Great Great Grand-mother Susan Kelleher and her sister Bridget, from County Clare, Ireland, were amongst the 207 single Irish girls aboard this “bride ship” when, three months later, it made its way up the Gulf St Vincent toward its final destination, Port Adelaide.  It had been an uneventful voyage and was a dark, but clear, moonlit night when at 4am the watch changed, clouds obscured the coast and the “Nashwauk” was wrecked adjacent to Harriott’s Creek (Pedler’s Creek) at the mouth of the Onkaparinga River, some 40 miles short of it’s destination.

It remains a mystery as to why, having successfully navigated the dreaded Troubridge Shoal, it foundered so close to the coast, at what is now suburban Moana.  There are many tales of smuggling, of the ship being lured by strange lights from Mr Harriott’s farmhouse, of the misbehaviour of the girls and crew but it’s all speculation and can be seen as newspapers, and reporters, simply trying to outdo each other with the more sensational stories. As N. F. Goss reports in “Drama of Moana Wreck: The End of the  Hoodoo Ship” (The Advertiser, Saturday 13 May 1933, page 9),

“There was obviously some rumor current at the time, but as there is
no later reference to it, and as the two sources disagree, it is
possible that nothing happened that cannot be explained
by the confusion natural to
the occasion and
overwrought condition of the women.”

My Susan spoke of cutting her sister’s hair when the ship struck and being carried ashore on the back of a sailor with ony the scissors in her hand and the clothes on her back. The beautiful painstakingly embroidered linen, of her trousseau, went down with the ship. All made it safely to shore but sadly two later died of exposure – the Captain and the single Irish girl Catherine Stanley, aged 23.

Horseshoe Inn 1865

The passengers assembled on the beach and walked, or were taken by dray, to the nearest township of Noarlunga where they were accommo-dated at the Horseshoe Inn.  In her book, “What Really Happened to the Nashwauk?”, Jean Callen writes,

“The residents of Noarunga had killed and roasted eight sheep,
brewed bucketsful of hot tea and baked many loaves of
bread to feed the distressed victims.” 

The following morning the Government Schooner “Yatala” and the Mail Steamer “Thomas Melbourne” arrived and ancored near the wreck, preparing to take the passengers to Port Adeaide.  However, the sea was so rough that boarding was impossible and Jean Callan confirms my Grandmother’s story of having to trudge miles back along the cliff tops.  Many of the girls were too terrified to take to the sea again and drays were finally brought to convey them to Adelaide.

It would seem that there was great chaos at the site of the wreck.  Strong winds had strewn debris for a mile along the shore.  The Captain desperately tried to recover whatever baggage he could, for the passengers, and the accessible cargo, unloaded by the crew, was closely guarded by police and customs officers.  Some three weeks later, on 29 May, the cargo was advertised for sale and all was purchased by Mr Harriott for £65 and the hull for £70.  With a shortage of material in the Colony, it was said that Mr Harriott made a tidy profit from the wreck which fuelled even more rumours of him being involved in a smuggling ring, although there is no official evidence of this.

The two official enquiries into the wreck, one by the Trinity Board and one by the Immigration Board, could not investigate fully because of the death of Captain Archibald McIntyre on 3 Jun 1855.  However, with the evidence already suppied it was concluded that complaints of the surgeon being drunk were to be dismissed and that there was no foundation for any complaint against the captain.  Sadly, dying from the effects of anxiety and exposure whilst attending to his duties after the wreck, Captain McIntre left a wife and 4 children in Glasgow, Scotland. He was 38 years old.

The “Nashwauk” was considered an unlucky ship as she had been driven ashore once before, badly dismasted and on fire four times.  A North West gale finally broke up the remains on 26 May 1855.

For 72 years the ship’s achor lay 200 yards off shore and, in 1927, the Noarlunga Council offerred £20 for its recovery. A local resident, Mr W. C. Robinson, who owned and worked a farm close to the place where the “Nashwauk” met her fate and set about the recovery task with the help of his son and brother.  They used 3 horses and, with the anchor being 11ft long and weighing several tons, it took 5-6 hours of strenuous work to haul it in. It was duly erected majesticaly on a plinth on the foreshore, next to the “roundhouse” kiosk where the memory of that fateful day, 13 May 1855, was kept alive.

Copyright(c)2012.Catherine Crout-Habel

I well remember our first family trip to Moana, in about 1954, to see “the anchor”. Cherished photographs were taken of it with mum, my three brothers and myself. The story of the wreck of the “Nashwauk” and the recovery of the anchor is where my fascination with Family History started, my sense of “Irishness” took root and the “search for Susan” began.

Some 20 years ago, on a nostalgic trip back to “the anchor”, I was horrified to discover it had disappeared.  Questioning the locals we found it standing rather forlornly, at ground level, at the entrance to the Moana Caravan Park.  Gone was the majesty … gone was the sense of reverence and nobody could tell me why it had been removed from the foreshore.  However it was comforting to know that, at least, it was safe and hadn’t been destroyed.

Then, a couple of years ago the “Nashwauk Anchor” did another disappearing act.  This time it was taken to Canberra by the National Museum of Australia, restored and put on display (17Mar-31Jul 2011) as part of the “Not Just Ned – A true History of the Irish in Australia” Exhibition. Pauline wrote about this Exhibition, and the “Nashwauk Anchor” in her blog “Family history across the seas”.  It’s wonderful that this precious relic has been cleaned, restored and has taken pride of place in such and important Exhibition but the the fear has been that it would never come back to its rightful home in South Australia.

Many expressed concern – both local residents and descendants of the “Nashwauk” passengers. Some lobbied to prevent it being sent interstate and others wrote letters to the local paper. The last I heard was that it had come back to South Australia, was in the care of the City of Onkaparinga (Council) but the decision was yet to be made as to where it would be placed.  Apparently the owners of the Moana Caravan Park wanted it back but others were saying that it did not belong to them and should be honourable placed on public display and easily accessible to all.

~~~~~~~~~ 
Hip, hip, hooray to the City of Onkaparing and three cheers for all those involved in the decision-making.  No doubt my Susan Kelleher is not the only passenger of the ill-fated ship who is smiling down on us today.

SOURCES:  The Ships List:
http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/australia/nashwauk1855.htm
“A Smuggler’s Home Claimed a Wreck” : Trove  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article43749058
“Moana Mystery Explained” : Trove
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58536914
“Drama of Moana Wreck” : Trove
http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article41485148
Family history across the seas: http://cassmob.wordpress.com
“Not Just Ned – a true History of the Irish in Australia” : http://www.irish_in_australia/home
“What Really Happened to the Nashwauk?”, © 2004 J. Callen, ISBN 0-9595356-2-4  Printed by Butterly Press, 225 Main Road, Blackwood, South Australia, Australia. 5051. Tel: 08 8278 2899

~~~~~~~~~

Copyright © 2012. Catherine Crout-Habel. Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family

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Fun with “The Purple People Eater”

Seems to me that after all the sadness of ANZAC Day, see:

Tribute to our ANZAC Diggers
The Solitary Battlefield
The ANZACS and the Vietnam War 

it’s time for some fun and laughter.

My three brothers and I enjoyed  many of the crazy songs of the 1950’s. Sharing one of my favourites and remembering that my brother John did a real cool drawing of “The Purple Peope Eater”. Until seeing John’s drawing I thought this crazy “people eater” only ate purple people so I was safe 🙂   Enjoy…

Copyright © 2012. Catherine Crout-Habel. Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family

The ANZACS and the Vietnam War

In the early 1960’s the South Vietnamese government was beset with problems.  It was under threat from a growing communist insurgency and sought assistance from the United States and her regional ally, Australia.  This support for Vietnam was in keeping with the policies of many other nations, to stem the spread of communism in Europe and Asia, with the fear that if one country “fell” to communism then others would swifty follow – referred to as “the Domino effect”.

Australia initially responded with 30 military advisers.  They arrived in South Vietnam during July and August 1962 and a proclamation, issued by the Governor-General on 11 Jan 1973, formally declared an end to Australia’s participation in the War.  Australia’s military involvement in the Vietnam War was the longest in duration of any war in Australia’s history.  From the time of the arrival of the first members of the Advisory Team almost 60,000 Australians, incuding ground troops and air force and navy personnel, served in Vietnam; 521 died as a result of the war and over 3,000 were wounded.

The war was the cause of the greatest social and political dissent in Australia since the conscription referendums of the First World War. In 1964, two years after entering Vietnam, compulsory National Service was introduced.  The scheme was based on a birthday ballot for 20-year-old- men who were to perform two years’ continuous full time service in the Regular Army Supplement, followed by three years’ part-time service in the Regular Army Reserve.  The full-time service requirement was reduced to eighteen months in 1971. 

 Protesters and those refusing to register, or refusing to serve if called up were jailed.  Public outrage intensified when, in May 1965, one year after the commencement of National Service the Australian Defence Act was amended to provide that National Servicemen could be obliged to serve overseas, a provision that had been applied only once before – during World War II.   Lobby groups were set up to fight for its repeal as well as the removal of Australian troops from Vietnam. Organisations, such as “Save Our Sons”, held protests across the country and handed out anti- conscription leaflets.  A major rally involving “Save Our Sons”, and other anti-war groups, was held when US President Lyndon B. Johnston visited Australia in 1966 with crowds of protestors chanting,

“LBJ, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”

During that rally a now famous line was uttered when the driver of the car carrying Johnston and New South Wales Premier Askin asked what he should do as the crowd was blocking the road.

“Run over the bastards” was Askin’s response.

Australian Defence Medal

Conscription ended as one of the first acts of the newly elected Whitlam Labor Government in late 1972. About 63,735 National Servicemen served in the military from 1964-1972.  Of that number, 19,450 served in Vietnam, all with the Army.

 

 

Anniversary of National Service Medal

In 2002 National Servicemen, or “NASHOS” as they came to be known, were eventually recognised for their service with the “Australian Defence Medal”and the “Anniversary of National Service 1951-1972 Medal”. 

     

 

 

I was a teenager throughout this turbulent period in Australia’s history. Furthermore, it was my brothers, their friends, their friends’ brothers, my schoolfriends, cousins, etc., who were threatened by the infamous “lottery” – of having their names “drawn” and being sent off to the horror that was the Vietnam War when little more than children. Some managed to dodge it, some were unlucky, some didn’t come back and some came back maimed in body, mind and spirit.  
~~~~~~~~~

SOURCES:  http://www.vietnam-war.commemoration.gov.au
                     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription_in_Australia
                     http://www.awm.gov.au/atwar/vietnam.asp

Copyright (c) 2012 Catherine Crout-Habel. Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family                      

The Silent Battlefield

“THE Australian soldier returned, he made it home to me:
Beyond the joy, the twinkling in his eyes I could not see;
His eyes were full of darkness, twinkling there was no more;
The man I loved had not returned, it was only the soldier that I saw;
So confident and so brave, but something had gone wrong;
He left himself behind in that battlefield all alone;
 Where is the man that I adore, for it is he I need;
Silent prayers have gone unanswered, please return to me;
I hold my breath and make a wish, for I know that he is trying;
Trying to leave his battlefield, a battlefield for the dying;
Waiting is what I will do, for eternity if need be,
Waiting for my love to return, return once more to me.”

KRYSTI NEALE, Kapooka, New South Wales, Australia
(born and raised in Semaphore, South Australia)

~~~~~~~~~

Published in:  “The (Adelaide) Advertiser“, Remembrance Day, 11 Nov 2011

Copyright © 2012 Catherine Crout-Habel  Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family

Tribute to our ANZAC Diggers

The First ANZAC Day – 15 Apr 1915

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall to weary them, nor the years condemn:
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
WE WILL REMEMBER THEM

~~~~~~~~~~

 
“Ode of Remembrance” –  “From the Fallen” (1914) by Laurence Binyon

For further information on the ANZAC Tradition see: “The one day of the year” 

Copyright © 2012 Catherine Crout-Habel.
Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family

25 April 1912 – Same message…different century

IN ADDRESSING the members of the Fruitgrowers and Market Gardeners Association on Wednesday, the Minister of Agriculture (Hon T. Pascoe) remarked that the scientists stated that Australian people ate too much animal food.  He thought the association would be conferring a great benefit on the community if it could encourage a more liberal consumption of wholesome ripe fruit.  If the public increased their expenditure on fruit, he believed they would effect a reduction in the doctors’ bills. In the matter of public health the fruit industry was of great vaue to the community.

SOURCE: “The Way We Were”,  Compiled by Chris Brice. “The (Adelaide) Advertiser”:  http://www.adelaidenow.com.au

Seeking Susan’s family …

Susan Kelleher, my Great Great Grandmother, emigrated on the ill-fated “Nashwauk” in 1855 with her sister Bridget and has always been my inspiration for researching family history (see here). It’s a joy to have managed to piece together her life from the moment the ship was wrecked off the coast of South Australia, until she was buried in the Broken Hill Cemetery, New South Wales, after a long and productive life. 

However, I’ve had no luck at all in locating Susan’s birth family in County Clare, Ireland.  A visit to the   “Clare Heritage Centre” Corofin, Co Clare, in 1994 resulted in the discovery of a family which may be my Ancestors as they had a daughter, Susan Kelleher born 1835. However there is no record of her having a sister named Bridget, but it was pointed out that this does not necessarily mean this couple didn’t have a daughter of this name because,

“…like most other Parish Registers they are riddled with gaps and omissions in fact there were no baptisms recorded in the Parish of Ennistymon between July 1836 and March 1842 with their being many gaps and omissions in the intervening period. “ 

This couple, who may be my Great Great Great Grandparents, are Hannah and Patrick Kelleher from the Parish of Ennistymon, County Clare. We know from the Ship’s Passenger List that the name of Susan and Bridget’s father is Patrick but there’s no mention of their mother.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the Immigration Papers for all aboard the “Nashwauk” are  missing from the South Australian State Records. I say it’s not surprising because many of these immigrants complained they had no applied, nor had been approved, to come to South Australia.  I’m guessing that some clerk neglected to re-file the papers appropriately.

The Irish “Griffiths Valuation” has been of little help because, although there are a couple of “Patrick Kelleher’s” listed, there is nothing to connect either to my Susan.

Susan was married twice but her mother’s name does not appear on either certificates.  Her death certificate has her mother’s name as the same as hers, “Susan”, but we know that these can often be unreliable as those providing the information are not always fully aware of all details. Susan’s Grandson, with whom she was living, was the informant.

The Clare Heritage Centre confirmed that the name “Susan” may be “Susannah” or shortened to “Hannah” but that’s just a “maybe” and not good enough.

Pauline, from “Family history across the seas”, made a great suggestion, that I follow up on  Susan’s sister, which is something I’d not thought of.  Unfortunately Bridget disappeared from the South Australian records on 13 Jan 1856, after witnessing Susan’s Marriage and there are no “family stories” of her whereabouts.  I suspect she may have travelled on to Sydney, for it’s recorded in the book, “What Really Happened to the Nashwauk?”,  that Bridget was one of the immigrants who complained that she had applied to go to Sydney, New South Wales not Adelaide, South Australia.

As the South Australian Genealogy & Heraldry Society has just set up an online Index of BD&M’s I decided to give this a go.  All that came up was a marriage for a Bridget Kellery to a Thomas Smith. It was a “longshot” but I did hope that this may be my Bridget with an incorrectly spelt Surname. Finally the Transcript came through and it’s not my Bridget –  Drat! – even if it was there is little information about the Bride.

Well, I have “another iron in the fire” and am waiting… waiting… waiting… for Susan’s Will & Probate Records to arrive.  Maybe she mentions her mother’s name in her last “Will & Testament”?  One can but hope.

~~~~~~~~~

Sources:  Genealogy SA – http://www.genealogysa.org.au
                 “What Really Happened to the Nashwauk?” ©2004. J.Callen. ISBN 0-9595356-2-4. Printed by Butterfly Press, 225 Main Road, Blackwood, South Australia, 5051. Tel: 08 8278 2899

Copyright © 2012. Catherine Crout-Habel. “Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family 

Happy Times at the Habel Homestead

The smiles on the faces of the newlyweds beam from the local newspaper, “The Advertiser“, Monday 9 Apr 2012, but it’s the caption which grabs my attention;

“Tracy Walker married Tony Roberts at the Habel Homestead, Loxton”

The “Habel Homestead” is the birthplace and childhood home of my children’s paternal Grandfather, Waldermar Louis Habel (see here) and I was immediately flipped back to another wedding at this same venue, on the banks of the River Murray, Loxton, South Australia, over 100 years ago.

Wally Habel

Grandfather, Wally Habel was just 4 years old when his father, Wilhelm Emil Habel, threw a celebration which was certainly the talk of the town, if not the entire district.  The Loxton Tourism Centre reports;

“Mr Habel marked the occasion of his daughter’s marriage in a manner which caused a great flutter in riverside society as he specially built a pine hall capable of seating 80 people for the wedding.  The steamer, Gem, had 20 of Mr Habel’s guests on board, all the way from Dutton town near Kapunda.  Loxton was the centre of much rejoicing and merry making in celebration of the marriage.”

"Gem" Paddle Steamer - State Library of Victoria

Our Family History records show that on 7 Feb 1907, Lina (Martha) Habel, third daughter of Wilhelm Emil Habel and his first wife, Marie (Martha) Emilie Fielke, married Arnold Friedrich Stanitzki at St Petri’s Church, Loxton Hut.  It is believed to have been the first wedding in the newly built church.

Martha Habel & Arnold Stanitzki's Wedding Day

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Loxton was first organised by E.J.P. Kaesler, in 1897, before the town of Loxton was formally planned.  It began as a House Church with parishioners meeting for worship in various homes. Pastor L.Kuss from the Mannum congregation was sent up river, by the Synod, four to six times a year to minister to the spiritual needs of the people.

Wilhelm Emil Habel, one of the original pioneers, established his homestead in 1895.  The country proved to be most fertile and many settlers, largely from Sedan, Mannum and Dutton, began moving into the district.  In 1904 the congregation decided to build a stone church measuring 40ft x 20ft x 14ft (12.2m x 6.1m x 4.27m) at a cost of 189 pounds ($360) with a seating capacity of 150. 

Arriving for Church at Habel Homestead

 As early as 1911 the St Petri Congregation began talking about the possibility of building a more spacious church.  The Foundation Stone was finally laid in January 1925 and 14 months later, on Sunday, 7 Mar 1926, some 2000 people came from near and far for the opening of the new church, the size and scale of which was remarkable, showing the vision of the people at that time. 

St Peters Lutheran Church, Loxton

How exciting that my children’s Great Aunt Martha was the first to be married in the original church which, unfortunately, is no longer standing.  Clearly her father was indeed “one of the most successful farmers in the district”  to be able to put on a celebration of this magnitude and it’s wonderful to think that young couples are still “pledging their troth” at the Habel Homestead, Loxton.  However it is unclear as to whether this is the same building for the original homestead, built close to the River and affected by floods, was rebuilt on higher land.

~~~~~~~~~

© Copyright 2012. Catherine Crout-Habel. Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family

Happy Birthday Jarren…

 Remembering Jarren Vaughan Habel

A Birthday Memorium for my beautiful baby boy Jarren Vaughan Habel.

Jarren Vaughan Habel, 3 days old

Born 13 Apr 1970 at Midland Hospital, Midland, Western Australia. Much loved second child of Catherine Ann (Crout) Habel and Stephen Louis Andrew Habel and adored by his big brother, Cullen Andrew. 

At the age of 6 weeks, Jarren contracted “measles“, passed on by the un-vaccinated child of one of his father’s work colleagues. Anti-biotics were administered immediately and he was soon back to his old self. However,

Jarren Vaughan & Cullen Andrew Habel - May 1970

within a week, or so, he developed a persistent “cold” which the doctor diagnosed as a “teething cold”. The doctor kept prescribing anti-biotics and one morning I was shocked to find Jarren dead in his cot.  As the cause of death was unknown an autopsy was held which showed my beautiful baby boy died of  “complications” from the measles. One entire lung had been destroyed and he had lived for all those months on ony half a lung.  We were told that it was only the anti-biotics which kept him alive and that, even if his persistent colds had been correctly diagnosed, he would have died anyway. Cold comfort indeed.

Jarren died at home, 16 Caladenia Way, Koongamia, Western Australia on 16 Sep 1970 at the age of 5 months and 3 days. His father had left for work and only his 3 year old brother, and I, were home.  Jarren seemed to be sleeping very late and as the time passed I began getting rather nervous so popped a piece of chocolate into my mouth to give some courage. Some wondered why I suddenly didn’t like the taste of chocolate any more.

Jarren was buried in a tiny little white coffin, decorated with golden angels, at Midland Cemetery, Midland, Western Australia.  All the way to the cemetery I kept looking for the hearse and was horrified when the “boot” of the car we were travelling in was opened and there he was.  Yes, the inside of the “boot” was decorated with velvet etc., but I was still horrified.

It rained continuously the morning of Jarren’s funeral and  the wildflowers,

Jarren, six weeks old, with mummy

lining the narrow country road, glistened with raindrops as though the world was crying with me as we drew closer and closer to the burial ground and the moment of final separation from my beautiful baby boy.  They lowered his tiny body in the tiny white coffin into the tiny hole in the ground and, consumed with grief, I turned my eyes to the heavens, the rain stopped, the clouds parted and the sun shone through with a blinding intensity that was other worldly – my life changed forever.

It’s been said that the death of a beloved child brings to the parents a pain which is indescribable.  It has been so for me.

My only consolation is to tell Jarren’s story and urge all who hear it to pass on the message that a parent choosing not to vaccinate against so-called “childhood illnesses” put the lives of the very young, who are unable to be vaccinated, at great risk.

May you always RIP, my darling.

~~~~~~~~~ 

© Copyright 2012. Catherine Crout-Habel. Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family  

The History of the Hot Cross Bun

 I’m enjoying tucking into my Favourite Festive Food … Hot Cross Buns … and musing over the confusion surrounding this yeasty, spicy treat.

~~~~~~~~~ 

The origin of this English custom, brought to Australia by the first settlers and embraced by following generations, is not entirely clear.  In many historically Christian countries, the buns are traditionally eaten hot or toasted on Good Friday, with the cross seen as a symbol for the Crucifixion.

Some, however, believe the Christian church adopted Hot Cross Buns during their early missionary efforts to pagan cultures and re-interpreted the “cross”, which adorns the bun, to the cross on which Jesus sacrificed His life, as they have done with many other Easter activities.

It is said that buns marked with a cross were eaten by Saxons in honour of the goddess “Eostre“, with the cross thought to symbolise the four quarters of the moon. “Eostre” is believed to be the origin of the name “Easter”.  Still others claim that the Greeks marked cakes with a cross, much earlier, and possibly to make it easier to break apart.  To the ancient Aztects and Incas buns were considered the sacred food of the gods, and the Romans believed the cross represented the horns of a sacred ox.  The word “bun” is derived from the ancient word “boun”, used to describe this revered animal.

Some historians date the origin of Hot Cross Buns back to the 12th century when an Anglican monk was said to haves placed the sign of the cross on the buns to honour Good Friday, known at that time as the “Day of the Cross”.  Yet another more recent theory ties the tradition of the buns to a monk in 14th century St Albans who is said to have distributed spiced cakes to the needy on Good Friday.  Still further references tie them only into the Easter tradition from the Elizabethan era.  It is said that during the reign of Elizabeth I, when Roman Catholicism was banned, making the sign of the cross on the buns was regarded as popery.  It was also believed that they were baked from the dough used in making the communion wafer, so Elizabeth I passed a law permitting bakeries to sell them but only at Easter and Christmas.

Whatever their origins, there were certainly ideas associated with these buns which could be regarded as superstitions.  In the Middle Ages, they were believed to have powers of protection and healing.  People would hang a Hot Cross Bun from the rafters of their homes for protection throughout the coming year.  If hung in the kitchen, they were said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turned out perfectly.  The hanging bun was replaced each year.

It was also believed that buns baked, and served, on Good Friday would not spoil or become mouldy throughout the coming year and such a bun would be kept for medicinal purposes. If someone was sick some of the dried bun would be ground into powder, mixed in water, and administered. A person was said to often recover quickly simply by eating a small piece of the bun.

Sharing a Hot Cross Bun with another was believed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if,

“Half for you and half for me, Between us two shall goodwill be” 

was said at the time.  Because of the cross on the buns, some said they should be kissed before eaten.  If taken of a sea voyage, Hot Cross Buns were believed to protect against shipwreck.

Tansy Leaves

Other old Easter customs, like the tansy (a bitter herb flavoured cake) and fig porridge have died out. “In the hot cross bun, you do have a surviving fossil of these customs,” says food historian Ivan Day who runs the “Historic Food Website”.  “It can not be proven, but the provenance of the buns may be more connected to Jewish passover – with its sharing of unleavened bread as part of a wider ritual – than Roman, Saxon or pagan customs”.

The Oxford English Dictionary’s first reference to Hot Cross Buns is in 1733.  It’s in the form of the ditty:

“Good Friday comes this Month,
The old woman runs,
With one or two a Penny hot cross Bunns”

It does seem clear, however, that the terms was around long before 1776. In the words of Mr Day,

“The trouble with any folk food, any traditional food, is that no-one tended to write about them in the very early period”

This simple piece of spiced bread decorated with a cross, whilst not an extravagant treat, is a global food tradition which stretches way back in history.  A thought which gives a little tingle of pleasure, every Good Friday, as I wipe the butter from my chin and reach for another Hot Cross Bun.

~~~~~~~~~

SOURCES:  http://en.wikipedia.org/Wiki/Hot_cross_bun
http://www.ferguson.com.au/History/Hot-Cross-Buns.html
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/8598312
http://www.historicfood.com

© Copyright 2012. Catherine Crout-Habel. Seeking Susan ~ Meeting Marie ~ Finding Family