vol II date / index
Holiday at the Exchequer.
St. Blase. St. Anscharius, A.D. 865. St, Wereburge, Patroness of Chester. St. Margaret, of England.
This saint has the honour of a place in the church of England calendar, on what account it is difficult to say. All the facts that Butler has collected of him is, that he was bishop of Sebaste in Armenia, receiver of the relics of St. Eustratius, and executor of his last will; that he is venerated for the cure of sore throats; principal patron of Ragusa, titular patron of the wool-combers; and that he was tormented with iron combs, and martyred under Licinius, in 316.
Ribadeneira is more diffuse. He relates, that St. Blase lived in a cave, whither wild beasts came daily to visit him, and be cured by him; "and if it happened that they came while he was at prayer, they did not interrupt him, but waited till he had ended, and never departed without his benediction. He was discovered in his retirement, imprisoned, and cured a youth who had a fish-bone stuck in his throat by praying." Ribadeneira further says that Ætius, an ancient Greek physician, gave the following
Receipt for a stoppage in the throat:
"Hold the diseased party by the throat, and pronounce these words:—BLASE, the martyr and servant of Jesus Christ, commands thee to pass up or down!"
The same Jesuit relates, that St. Blase was scourged, and seven holy women anointed themselves with his blood; whereupon their flesh was combed with iron combs, their wounds ran nothing but milk, their flesh was whiter than snow, angels came visibly and healed their wounds as fast as they were made; and they were put into the fire, which would not consume them; wherefore they were ordered to be beheaded, and beheaded accordingly. Then St. Blase was ordered to be drowned in the lake; but he walked on the water, sat down on it in the middle, and invited the infidels to a sitting; whereupon threescore and eight, who tried the experiment, were drowned, and St. Blase walked back to be beheaded.
The "Golden Legend" says, that a wolf having run away with a woman's swine, she prayed St. Blase that she might have her swine again, and St. Blase promised her, with a smile, she should, and the wolf brought the swine back; then she slew it, and offered the head and the feet, with some bread and a candle, to St. Blase. "And he thanked God, and ete thereof; and he sayd to her, that every yere she sholde offre in his chirche a candell. And she dyd all her lyf, and she had moche grete prosperyte. And knowe thou that to the, and to all them that so shal do, shal well happen to them."
It is observed in a note on Brand, that the candles offered to St. Blase were said to be good for the tooth-ache, and for diseased cattle.
"Then followeth good sir Blase, who doth
a waxen Candell give,
And holy water to his men,
whereby they safely live.
I divers Barrels oft have seene,
drawne out of water cleare,
Through one small blessed bone
of this same holy Martyr heare:
And caryed thence to other townes
and cities farre away,
Ech superstition doth require
such earnest kinde of play."
The origin of St. Blase's fame has baffled the inquiry of antiquaries; it seems to have rolled off with the darkness of former ages, never to be known again. To the wool-combers this saint is indebted for the maintenance of his reputation in England, for no other trade or persons have any interest in remembering his existence; and this popularity with a body of so much consequence may possibly have been the reason, and the only reason, for the retention of his name in the church calendar at the Reformation. That it is not in the wane with them, is clear from a report in the Leeds Mercury, of the 5th of February, 1825. The article furnishes the very interesting particulars in the subjoined account:—
Bishop Blase's Festival,
AT BRADFORD, 3d FEBRUARY, 1825.
The septennial festival, held in honour of bishop Blase, and of the invention of wool-combing attributed to that personage, was on this day celebrated at Bradford with great gaiety and rejoicing.
There is no place in the kingdom where the bishop is so splendidly commemorated as at Bradford. In 1811, 1818, and at previous septennial periods, the occasion was celebrated with great pomp and festivity, each celebration surpassing the preceding ones in numbers and brilliance. The celebration of 1825 eclipsed all hitherto seen, and it is most gratifying to know, that this is owing to the high prosperity of the worsted and woollen manufactures, which are constantly adding fresh streets and suburban villages to the town.
The different trades began to assemble at eight o'clock in the morning, but it was near ten o'clock before they all were arranged in marching order in Westgate. The arrangements were actively superintended by Matthew Thompson, Esq. The morning was brilliantly beautiful. As early as seven o'clock, strangers poured into Bradford from the surrounding towns and villages, in such numbers as to line the roads in every direction; and almost all the vehicles within twenty miles were in requisition. Bradford was never before known to be so crowded with strangers. Many thousands of individuals must have come to witness the scene. About ten o'clock the procession was drawn up in the following order:—
Herald bearing a flag.
Woolstaplers on horseback, each horse capa-
risoned with a fleece.
Worsted Spinners and Manufacturers on
horseback, in white stuff waistcoats, with
each a sliver over the shoulder, and
a white stuff sash; the horses'
necks covered with nets
made of thick yarn.
Merchants on horseback, with coloured
Three Guards, Masters' Colours, Three Guards.
Apprentices and Masters' Sons, on horse-
back, with ornamented caps, scarlet stuff
coats, white stuff waistcoats, and
Bradford and Keighley Bands.
Mace-bearer, on foot.
Six Guards. KING. QUEEN. Six Guards.
Guards. JASON. PRINCESS MEDEA. Guards.
Shepherd and Shepherdess.
Woolsorters, on horseback, with ornamented
caps, and various coloured slivers.
Woolcombers, with wool wigs, &c.
Dyers, with red cockades, blue aprons, and
crossed slivers of red and blue.
The following were the numbers of the different bodies, as nearly as could be estimated:&mdash 24 woolstaplers, 38 spinners and manufacturers, 6 merchants, 56 apprentices and masters' sons, 160 woolsorters, 30 combmakers, 470 wool-combers, and 40 dyers. The KING, on this occasion, was an old man, named Wm. Clough, of Darlington, who had filled the regal station at four previous celebrations. JASON (the celebrated legend of the Golden Fleece of Colchis, is interwoven with the commemoration of the bishop,) was personated by John Smith; and the fair MEDEA, to whom he was indebted for his spoils, rode by his side.—BISHOP BLASE was a personage of very be coming gravity, also named John Smith; and he had enjoyed his pontificate several previous commemorations; his chaplain was James Beethom. The ornaments of the spinners and manufacturers had a neat and even elegant appearance, from the delicate and glossy whiteness of the finely combed wool which they wore. The apprentices and masters' sons, however, formed the most showy part of the procession, their caps being richly adorned with ostrich feathers, flowers, and knots of various coloured yarn, and their stuff garments being of the gayest colours; some of these dresses, we understand, were very costly, from the profusion of their decorations. The shepherd, shepherdess, and swains, were attired in light green. The wool-sorters, from their number and the height of their plumes of feathers, which were, for the most part, of different colours, and formed in the shape of fleur-de-lis, had a dashing appearance. The combmakers carried before them the instruments here so much celebrated, raised on standards, together with golden fleeces, rams' heads with gilded horns, and other emblems. The combers looked both neat and comfortable in their flowing wigs of well-combed wool; and the garb of the dyers was quite professional. Several well-painted flags were displayed, one of which represented on one side the venerable BISHOP in full robes, and on the other a shepherd and shepherdess under a tree. Another had a painting of MEDEA giving up the golden fleece to JASON: a third had a portrait of the KING: and a fourth appeared to belong to some association in the trade. The whole procession was from half a mile to a mile in length.
When the procession was ready to move, Richard Fawcett, Esq. who was on horseback at the head of the spinners, pronounced, uncovered, and with great animation, the following lines, which it had long been customary to repeat on these occasions, and which, if they have not much poetical elegance, have the merit of expressing true sentiments in simple language:—
Hail to the day, whose kind auspicious rays
Deign'd first to smile on famous bishop Blase!
To the great author of our combing trade,
This day's devoted, and due honour's paid;
To him whose fame thro' Britain's isle resounds,
To him whose goodness to the poor abounds;
Long shall his name in British annals shine,
And grateful ages offer at his shrine!
By this our trade are thousands daily fed,
By it supplied with means to earn their bread.
In various forms our trade its work imparts,
In different methods, and by different arts,
Preserves from starving, indigents distress'd,
As combers, spinners, weavers, and the rest.
We boast no gems, or costly garments vain,
Borrow'd from India, or the coast of Spain;
Our native soil with wool our trade supplies,
While foreign countries envy us the prize.
No foreign broil our common good annoys,
Our country's product all our art employs;
Our fleecy flocks abound in every vale,
Our bleating lambs proclaim the joyful tale.
So let not Spain with us attempt to vie,
Nor India's wealth pretend to soar so high;
Nor Jason pride him in his Colchian spoil,
By hardships gain'd, and enterprising toil,
Since Britons all with ease attain the prize,
And every hill resounds with golden cries.
To celebrate our founder's great renown
Our shepherd and our shepherdess we crown;
For England's commerce, and for George's sway,
Each loyal subject give a loud HUZZA.
These lines were afterwards several times repeated, in the principal streets and roads through which the cavalcade passed. About five o'clock they dispersed.
Great water moss. Fontinalis Antepyretica.
Dedicated to St. Blase.