old Oxfordshire omen had it that if a dark man crossed the threshold
of a house on February 14, he would marry one of the daughters living
there in the coming year.
one of the engaging facts on local Valentine's traditions in Christine
Bloxham's book on Oxfordshire folklore, May Day to Mummers.
tells how many poor people couldn't afford to send romantic cards
when the tradition developed from the 17th Century.
they smade their own - often rude, rather than romantic.
Blenheim: Henry II's lover, fair Rosamund Clifford, may have
swum in this well.
quoted in the book, was a shrivelled pig's tail with a note to it
saying "You are the end".
the 19th Century, farm workers lived in severe poverty and had no
money to spare for their children, so a tradition of Valentine's
rhymes grew up.
would go round towns and villages reciting their rhymes in the hope
of being rewarded with coins.
children of the Baldons called out:
Rose is red, the violet's blue,
The carnation's sweet, and so are you.
And so are they that sent you this,
And when we meet we'll have a kiss.
Bodicote, near Banbury, the rhyme went:
The rose is red, the violet's blue
Carnation's sweet and so be you,
So please to give us a Wolentine.
they got no gift, they shouted:
Devil's black and so be you!
Charlbury, the following rhyme was recorded:
I'll be yours if you'll be mine,
Good morrow, Valentine.
in Lower Heyford had a similar rhyme, but in 1867 the rector made
it clear he objected to begging, and asked farmers to send nuts
or cakes to the new village school to be given to the children instead.
later years, dough cakes were given.
was evidently a common gift, according to Christine Bloxham's book.
quotes the following rhyme from Milton:
choose you if it's not too late.
If 'tis too late what shall I do?
I hope it's not too late, for I've come to have an egg or two.
in Shipton were given chocolates rather than money.
Norton had a Valentine's custom of its own.
would run from shop to shop before school, chanting:
be yours if you'll be mine
Please to give me your Valentine.
would respond by throwing halfpennies - except at Pettifers bakery,
where the children were given stale buns.
information said that the pennies were heated up to stop the children
grabbing too many.
custom is said to have died about in the early 1950s, when a local
headmaster voiced his disapproval.