The Everyday Lore Project

3 May 2020 – Nick o’Thungs Day

3 May 2020 – Nick o’Thungs Day

Today I’ve been getting my tongue in a twist. It’s Nick o’ Thungs (or Thumbs) Day, aka Rood Day, aka Avoiding Day, aka Booting Day, aka Spaw Sunday, aka The Day of the Invention of the Holy Cross, aka Crossmas, aka Sting-Nettle Day, aka Petticoat Day, plus it’s the first of May’s six unlucky days when it’s said to be bad luck to try something new. Hmm.

Nick o’Thungs is a now defunct Lancashire celebration that used to take place on Pendle Hill on the first Sunday in May. In the beginning it was an invitation only boys club dinner with Vegas rules; what went on on Pendle Hill, stayed on Pendle Hill. But gradually the rules relaxed and it became a full on beano, with the final Nick o’Thungs Day being celebrated on 7 May 1939 with, according to the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times, over 225lbs worth of animal products eaten (and 30 dozen tea cakes). The pièce de résistance however was always an enormous nettle pudding made of freshly gathered nettles, oatmeal, other various bits and bobs, and a lot of eggs. The recipe was a closely guarded secret, known only to a vaunted few. 

Originally, in order to join the gang and potentially get mitts on this classified concoction, the prospective member had to repeat the following tongue twister without hesitation or deviation (repetition was a given) with a fine in the offing if they ballsed it up:

Thimblerig Thistlethwaite thievishly thought to thrive through thick and thin by throwing his thimbles about; but he was thwarted and thwacked, thumped and thrashed by 30,000 thistles and thorns for thievishly thinking to thrive through thick and thin by throwing his thimbles about.

So, I had a go. Or several:

But finally:

And then I wrote this:

Knackered naughty knotting Netty nutted nettled knitting Natty

for you to try, if you want to be in my gang. However, just like summoning Bloody Mary, you need to say it thirteen times while looking into a darkened mirror for it to work… Or you could just subscribe to my blog below.

Tatty Tracker
Swings and roundabouts on the spud front. The leaves are dying but the flowers are blooming. I’m hoping this is the natural order of things. All gardening tips welcome!

Speaking of gardening tips needed…

The Onion Update
I think my scallions might have shuffled off this mortal coil.

Quite unlike my chives in the…

Botanical Briefing
…as they seem to be positively perky. Still no mint though, but my witchy powers grow stronger as my parsley pullulates. 


Author unknown (1939) ‘”Nick O’ Thungs” Queer Feasting Festival On Pendleside, Humorous Ceremonial’, Clitheroe Advertiser and Times, 12 May, p.9

Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books

Valiente, D. (1994) An ABC of Witchcraft Past and Present, London, Robert Hale Ltd

Vickery, R. (2019) Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Walton, J. (2016) Pendle Forest Folk, Redditch, Read Books Ltd

Wrigley, E. (2016) ‘Nick O Thumbs’ Parish of St. Leonard, Downham & Twiston Newsletter, Issue 4, April, pp.2-3

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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