December 25, 1965

THE D&S’ seasonal editorial said: “We celebrate once again the great family festival, and the joy it brings will be a sufficient reward for all the bustle of preparation. Even those who miss the happiness of the deepest level by forgetting what Christmas is all about have been stirred to a generosity which is badly needed in an increasingly materialistic world, and have done much to make it a happier time for those less fortunate.”

Barnard Castle Urban Council passed a motion supporting Richmond MP Tim Kitson’s bid to reopen the railway line from Darlington to Middleton-in-Teesdale. The line had been a victim of the Beeching Axe, and had closed to passengers on November 30, 1964, and to goods on April 5, 1965, and had then become a holding line for condemned wagons waiting to be scrapped.

“Councillor Roy Watson said British Rail had not tried to build up revenue on branch lines and during the last few months the line was open they had even done their best to destroy what goodwill they had and the income from traffic,” said the D&S.

Cllr Watson spoke of the possibility of running a rail bus on the line, and said: "It would not altogether break the Bank of England to subsidise the branchline."

County Cllr AG Taylor “remarked that the railway was a public service and profit should be only a secondary consideration”.

The track was lifted soon after the council passed its motion.

December 25, 1915

WITH the war uppermost in people’s thoughts, the D&S’ editorial on Christmas Day had no mention of the festive season. Instead, it assailed the Prime Minister, HH Asquith, for not bringing in compulsory call-ups to the army. It raged: “The public demands to know whether the young unmarried men who have shirked their obvious duty are to be allowed to escape while Mr Asquith and others pay their nauseating compliments to a voluntary system which is voluntary only in so far as it serves as the last refuge of the shirker...

“Everybody is agreed that the war must be won at any and every sacrifice. But the opinion is becoming general that the government is gravely jeopardising its own position by its persistent lack of candour in dealing with the hard facts of war.”

Meanwhile, a correspondent from Northallerton wrote that in that town, Christmas “is still celebrated in many households with a supper of frumenty, made of steeped wheat boiled with milk, together with cheese, Yule cake etc. This frumenty – some say furmety – is generally just taken this once in the year, and it has therefore all the solemnity of a rare sacrament. It used to be counted very unlucky to cut cheese before supper!”

Has frumenty died everywhere in the last 50 years?

December 23, 1865

The Darlington and Richmond Chronicle – the D&S’ twin paper – told of “a sharp dodge in the market”, when Mrs Elgie of Scorton was “exhibiting her fine geese for sale in the market on Monday” (presumably in Darlington, although the report doesn’t say).

“A man went up to her and enquired of the price of one of them, and on being told 7s asked to be allowed to take it to a stall near and get it weighed.”

He, of course, never returned, and the police were unable to track the rascal down.

The paper’s season editorial said: “It is, we think, a happy sign that the old festivals of England, far from losing their authority and influence, appear to be taking a deeper hold on the national heart, while we may trace a more practical form of observance of them.

“Thus we see the age of steam, far from robbing us of the picturesqueness of life, really lends and additional charm to it. Why indeed should it not? Cannot our imagination form the iron horse into the good fairy of legendary story who brings the members of a family once again under the old roof; who scatters her presents and remembrances of home with no niggard hand, who annihilates distances, and for the time transforms the town into the country, and the country into the town.

“Why should we not then, decorate the murky front of the steam engine with holly, and use it as an emblem of modern Christmas?”

WHAT, or indeed who, is a scrogg? That was the burning question Looking Back left readers with on December 4 after discovering that at least part of the B6268 between Masham and Bedale is called “Scroggs Lane” on the Ordnance Survey map.

“A scrogg is a very small wood or copse – at least, that's what it means in the Dallowgill, Laverton, Grantley, Kirkby Malzeard area,” said Graham Chandler.

Jane Ritchie said: “I understand 'scroggs' refers to crab apples. Albert Calvert, who lives down Scroggs Lane in Castle Bolton, told me that Fred Lawson had told him that that was the origin of the name.”

There is also a Scrogg Road in Newcastle, and the D&S’ colleagues on the Westmoreland Gazette seem to have several Scroggs Woods and Scroggs Farms in their patch.

The Oxford English Dictionary may provide an answer that proves both of our correspondents right. It spells “scrog” with one g (as our map suggests that the lane in Castle Bolton is properly spelled), which it says is a word chiefly found in Scotland and the north. When used generally, a “scrog” is “a stunted bush” or “brushwood”. However, it can be used specifically to mean either “blackthorn” or, indeed, the “crab-apple tree” – and when it means crab-apple tree, the fruit is referred to a scrog-apple which grows on a scrog-branch on the scrog-bush.

Any other theories, or perhaps you’ve been left feeling a little scroggy by the whole affair?

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