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go back to the last page you were on Cures, Customs and Sayings

Dawn Griffis


In the early 40s before NHS the Doctor was only seen in rare emergencies. Generally cures were passed down from generation to generation. For example the so called simple nettle stings - not so simple when it is your skin that is affected. I remember the worst time for me was when I was scantily dressed in pink gingham shorts with a matching top that had a square neck and sleeveless. I jumped off a large fallen log into a patch of stinging nettles that was higher than the top of my head. The only place that wasn't stung was under my hair and where the shorts and top touched my skin. Very large white welts with bright red surrounds came up very quickly. Gran told me to lay down not to run around because that would make it worse. Then she picked a large quantity of dock leaves. These she & I spit on them she rubbed each leaf rigorously onto itself - she said to break the juices in the leaves then stuck them all over my skin where the welts were. It had a cool soothing affect! - stopped the burning and itching. In about an hour the redness and welts went away. She said that wherever stinging nettles are there will be dock leaves - that god planned it that way.

George and Ada PARRISH, 1958

Gramp: George PARRISH, May 1958

As was mentioned earlier by another reader chilblains were a winters trial for all of us during those years with limited heating in the houses and adequate clothing to keep us warm. Chilblains made ones feet so painful and itchy - there seemed to be no cure and they were at their worse each night as one finally got warm in our beds. One time when my chilblains were particularly bad Gran said she had a cure for them but I had to not think about what it was. She said I had to pooh (urinate) into a bowl. She said that pooh was very clean because of where it comes from in our bodies. (She was right urine is actually sterile). Then we needed to open up a newspaper - several thicknesses - place the bowl on it, crumble up some block salt on the paper and to slice in half a large Spanish onion. The cure was to dip the cut side of the onion into the urine then rub it into the salt so that some of the newsprint also adhered to the onion. With that completed to rub it over your feet until all affected areas were covered. I was desperate enough to do it - it worked.

Years later I found an old medical manual that listed the cure for chilblains and what it incorporated was all of the components that was in Gran,s ingredients though not as expensive as those bought in the chemist shop!

I am sure those of us in Aynhoe were not the only children who - on the hot summer days - loved to find the squishy spots of tar on the edges of the roads. This is where the tar ran & didn't get any gravel in it. The tar would be very smooth with a black skin like film over it. If you touched it very gently you could make it ripple underneath. Such simple things fascinated us! Of course the softer the tar got and the thinner the skin over the tar became inevitably the skin broke, resulting in tar all over our hands, arms, legs & face, sometimes even into our hair. Of course we never went home until we were a real mess. If it was Mum or Gran to deal with it they were angry with us but we didn't get spankings because the risk was too great to make the mess worse by doing that. I remember us being sat on top of the scrubbed white wooden top all purpose table, that was spread with newspapers so we wouldn't get tar onto the table. Our exposed skin with tar on it was rubbed with butter then cleaned off with a piece of rag that would be thrown away after all was cleaned. When all was cleaned then our clothes were removed - I do not know how the tar was removed from those. We were finally washed down with soap and water. The process was time consuming and we were usually sent to bed afterwards without supper. I don't ever remember getting spanked for it - probably by the time we were finally cleaned the anger had subsided. Or maybe it was just history repeating itself!

All the bangs and scrapes we got were usually cleansed and a cold wet wash cloth applied but not before it was kissed to "make it all better".


There was one custom I really did not like. It was when it was a friend's birthday and we had been invited to tea or to a party to celebrate the birthday. We had to pick out our own most favourite toy to give to the friend. Bearing in mind this "toy" may not be one to your friends liking. And in a few days or weeks you could just as likely find it broken or even worse discarded in a muddy back garden. I have to admit after my first experience of that I did the selfish thing of not giving my most favourite toy rather the one I liked the least. Of course this needed to be planned out because if Mum suspected what I was doing she would pick which she thought I should give. So I would make a fuss of all my toys so she couldn't tell which was which. I am sure this was being deceitful or maybe just protecting what was mine - probably a bit of both!

There was one custom I liked & part of it I still do today. That is the making of individual mince pies at Christmas time and passing them out to the carol singers when they came caroling to the house. We also took plates of mince pies to friends and family at Christmas time as a gift. That is what I still do - I would give to the carolers as well but we have never had any come to our house in the States.

I also liked the seasonal customs such as May Day the May Queen and Maypole Dancing. Not that I was ever accomplished enough to be able to do any of it or the looks to be picked for anything like that but it was fun to watch.

There was all the "Ings" type customs that I have written about before. Village life had many customs that were just about life itself in a small well knit community - yes everybody knew every bodies business but when trouble really hit anyone or their family the villagers would all rally to help, that was the best custom of all.


Sayings were a large part of village life a lot of them probably stemmed from superstition and or as a means to make one do something - maybe laced with a little guilt trip.

My Gran had many sayings most of hers were work related. Such as - "Some people turn up their sleeves to work & others turn up their noses" "If you do something right the first time you won't have to do it again". "Never ask a lazy person to do something - they never have time; ask a busy person to do something they will always find to do it ". "If a job is worth doing it is worth doing it well". "Don't spoil a road for a Ha'penneth of tar". "A stitch in time saves a yard of work".

If we had fallen or had hurt ourselves Gran would say "That's alright you will die after it"! It took me awhile to figure that one out & that I wasn't going to die right away. Gran and Gramp could not stand regimented gardens where all the flowers were planted in straight lines. They would say "Clothes clash flowers don't". Gramp used to say "If at first you don't succeed suck eggs". I never understood that one. My Uncle Denis used to say "If you can't say something good about someone don't say anything at all".

You may also enjoy reading "The Ings"

Written by Dawn Griffis