Oh we got a good welcome at all the toffs’ houses, up Junction Lane and round about, because… even the gentry had a certain love for the Pace Egg.
Back in the 1970s I learned the Watersons’ version of the ‘Pace Egging Song’ from their seminal LP Frost and Fire (sorry but it’s a legal requirement to refer to it as a “seminal” LP; although you are permitted, as Mark Radcliffe did on Radio 2 this Wednesday, to call it “one of the most important folk albums ever made”).
Then in the late eighties Malcolm Taylor of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library put out an excellent cassette, The Leaves of Life, containing field recordings made by the collector Fred Hamer. May Bradley was of course one of the stars of the show, but the other was undoubtedly Mrs Emma Vickers of Burscough in Lancashire. I was really taken by her ‘Pace Egg Song’: it has a funny little kink in the rhythm in the chorus; a first verse with plenty of rhymes, but not necessarily where you’d expect them; and a splendid last line “if you give us a trifle you’ll never be no worse”. What’s not to like?
Mrs Vickers, who had taken part in the Easter Pace Egging custom as child, and revived it later in life, had two Pace Egg Songs – this is actually the junior song, for use by the children. On The Leaves of Life she gives a good description of the characters’ costumes, and of how and where the custom was performed. The quotation at the start of this page is taken from that interview.
If you are a member of a Further or Higher Education institution in the UK – and apologies to those of my readers who are not – you can hear a longer interview conducted by John Howson back in 1972:
Pace Egging Song