“HERE’S two or three Jolly Boys all in one mind, we’ve come a pace egging, we hope you’ll prove kind.” So ran part of an Eastertide chorus sung by local youths, known as the Jolly Boys, as they performed a rough drama in return for pace eggs. These were hens’ eggs and not the overwrapped, chocolate confections of today.

Traditionally the first spring time, or ‘Easter’, eggs were greeted joyfully and, indeed, a hen from Killington that, in 1957, laid 16 eggs in nine days, earned a reference on Wainwright’s map of Westmorland!

Eggs also symbolised the Christian belief of new life springing from the Resurrection celebrated on Easter Sunday and the name pace derived from pasque or pasche, corruptions of the Latin word for the festival.

Usually pace eggs were dyed by being hard boiled with onion skins to which, at Heversham, daffodil flowers and, at Sedbergh, pignut leaves could be added to produce a mottled tortoise-shell effect. But they were also dyed with bright cloths or just painted. At Dove Cottage, Grasmere, there is a collection of coloured pace eggs decorated by William Wordsworth’s children. In the 1940s, girls from Levens used pace eggs as bodies for crinoline lady dolls.

Though, as nowadays, children collected eggs as early as possible, they could not be consumed until Easter day and then only after they had been rolled to represent the rolling of the stone from across the risen Christ’s tomb.

Rolling generally took place on Easter Monday, when boys and girls competed to become the ‘conqueror’ by cracking the most eggs.

At Burton-in-Kendal, ‘pace egging’ was in the Vicarage field. In Kendal, it was on Castle Hill.

Mulled ‘Easter ale’ was a sickly mixture of warmed beer, milk and, of course, eggs, drunk by older lads and their dads as they concluded the festivity by singing the last verse of the Jolly Boys chorus: ‘We hope you’ll prove kind with your eggs and strong beer, We’ll come no more nigh you until next year.’