Monday 19 December 2011


This Diary Entry was first published on the 19th December 2011

by Dave Roberts

Sixty seven years ago today, in the last full year of World War II, the parishioners of St Mary's Catholic Church, Middlewich, were preparing to find out which of them had won prizes in their Christmas raffle, or draw, or, as this evocative ticket from the Carole Hughes collection rather primly puts it, the Award of Xmas Gifts. Our ticket is no 966. I wonder if we won anything?
The prizes on offer are surprisingly luxurious for a wartime raffle, with the usual bottles of sherry and whisky  and packs of cigarettes augmented by a goose, a duck and a chicken. No turkey, though. In 1944 turkey wasn't the almost universal choice for Christmas dinner it is today.
Most of the prizes for this draw would have been sourced locally, particularly as the war was on, and turkeys were difficult to rear in the north of England as they preferred a warmer climate.
People would have been quite content with a chicken, and whoever won the goose would have been well pleased.
A modern raffle would more than likely have bottles of wine as prizes, but there are none on offer here (unless you count the sherry). The wine-drinking habit for most Britons only caught on quite a few years later, in the sixties.
Quite possibly the box of apples would have come from Derbyshire's orchards and wouldn't have been too highly prized, as a popular Middlewich pastime, still fondly recalled by many people, was 'scrumping' apples from there. Did anyone ever actually buy any apples in those days?
And what is a Number Ten Cocktail? Google the term, and you get all kinds of contradictory answers. 
Probably one of them sophisticated drinks that people in that London drink, though.
And there were a couple of surprises  - or sur-prizes - the English have always loved their puns.
Wouldn't it have been great to win one of those free passes to the cinema - in all likelihood the Alhambra - twice weekly for a month?
I wonder if they were showing that great 1944 hit movie Meet Me In St Louis, starring Judy Garland?Probably not, and that's a shame because it would give us a chance to borrow a wonderful old joke for the occasion:

'How did Meet me In St Louis go in Middlewich?'
'About as well as Meet Me In Middlewich would go in St Louis.'

I heard recently that Judy Garland insisted on changing the words of that evergreen classic Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, which features in the film, because the original first line ran:

'Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it could be your last...'

- hardly the thing to boost wartime morale.

(This story was confirmed in a BBC Radio 4 programme on Christmas Eve 2013)

Finally, you'll note that in the raffle ticket the word 'Xmas' is used throughout.This is sometimes frowned on these days as 'disrespectful' but, in fact, the Christian Church has used an X in that form as a symbol for Christ for centuries.

So there we are. Sorry we didn't win anything.There's always next Christmas.

Facebook feedback:

Geraldine Williams Whoa! Where did they get those prizes from? Didn't they know there was a war on?!! I thought everything would have been ersatz by then! St Mary's Xmas Draw has always been a great feature for as long as I can remember. If any of my children are reading this they will be recalling, in horror, the HOURS spent folding the draw tickets when I became secretary to the St Mary's Christmas Fair (which also incorporated the Draw) Committee. Each ticket had to be folded in a specific way to ensure uniformity (don't ask!) - fold once, fold twice, fold three times, then twist.......!

Published 19th December 2011
Updated 24th December 2013

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant! I remember that as a child, chicken was only very rarely on the menu, it being much dearer than beef,lamb, pork. Still, at least then it was 'real' chicken that was served up on Christmas Day.


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