Posted: April 18th, 2019
On this Maundy Thursday, Revel Barker sends a reminder about the Wayzgoose
From Gentlemen Ranters, Good Friday, 2008
Yesterday – and there’s a fiver here says that you forgot it – was Wayzgoose. I didn’t forget it, so please excuse the shaky writing.
Time was when everybody in The Street, and on provincial mornings and weeklies (but not the poor bloody infantry on the evenings, who would have to wait a whole day) would have been aware and, likely, out celebrating.
It was the one guaranteed day off in the year, all down to a tradition dating from – oh, I don’t know, since time immoral.
It was the day that everybody in The Print took off.
The Queen called it Maundy Thursday and distributed money to the public; the lads called it Wayzgoose and distributed money to the publicans.
To the seaside, they went, in hired charas, or out into the country in search of pubs beyond the ken of licensing authorities.
We went on a mystery tour sometimes and somebody had the bright idea that we’d all guess our ultimate destination, and write it on a pound note that we’d put in hat. My guesses were usually quite close, but the bus driver won it, two years running, so we stopped letting him play after that.
Trust me: there’s a boatman where I live who advertises ‘Mystery trips to the Blue Lagoon’.
The secret (not about the bus driver – we never solved that one – but about the day off) was that Wayzgoose was the day before Good Friday which was a non-printing day.
We needed nominal cover in the office and the Daily Mirror wisely employed its own rabbi in the newsroom, for the same reason that it employed Jocks so that the natives could be off at Christmas in return for allowing the Scots time off to celebrate their own pagan festival the following week.
So, you are wondering, why Wayzgoose.
I’m glad you asked, because nobody knows.
The best sources say origin obscure, or even origin unknown.
Certainly by the 17th century the master printer – usually the owner, of course – in a print shop would treat his staff to an annual dinner on August 24, which was seen as the day when summer stopped and the nights started drawing in. The date also marked the issuing of candles for late-afternoon working (although no connection between goose and candle has actually been established).
The date was later switched to Maundy Thursday because, there being no publishing on Good Friday, it was a guaranteed day off (the only other one being Christmas Eve) for everybody in the print.
Because it was now a full day, it came to involve an excursion, usually a trip to the seaside, or to a country pub.
Of course, Murdoch and Maxwell then abolished Good Friday.
But it is as good an excuse for a piss-up as any.
And one that should be perpetuated, I think. If for no other reason than that it is such a wonderful word.
Maybe we should restore it by organising an outing incorporating a pub crawl, but instead of going out of Fleet Street, go back into it for an afternoon.
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