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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
An ancient and peculiar Rutherglen custom: The Making of St. Luke's Cakes


THE baking of sour cakes on St. Luke’s Eve is an ancient custom peculiar to the burgh, and is supposed to have had an origin anterior to Christianity itself, but if so, it must have borne some other name, as the present one is decidedly post-Christian. Mr. Hugh Macdonald, author of Rambles Round Glasgow, who witnessed this curious spectacle fully forty years ago in the Thistle Inn of Ruthergien, describes it as follows:-

"This mystic baking requires for its proper execution the services of some six or eight elderly ladies. These, with each a small bake-board on her knee, are seated in a semicircle on the floor of the apartment devoted to the purpose, and pass the cakes, which are formed of a kind of fermented dough, in succession from one to the other, until the requisite degree of tenacity is attained, when they are dexterously transferred to an individual called the queen, who with certain ceremonies performs the operation of toasting. These cakes, which we have often tasted, are generally given to strangers visiting St Luke’s Fair. They are somewhat like a wafer in thickness, of an agreeable, acidulous taste, and lend an additional relish to the drams usually in extra demand at such times—the more’s the pity. The lover of old customs would regret the discontinuance of this curious ceremony, the observance of which forms an interesting link between the present age and an impenetrable antiquity."

St.. Luke’s Fair in November, and the Beltane in May, are the two principal of the seven fairs which are held on the main street of the burgh annually, and which generally attract considerable crowds of buyers and sellers from all parts of the country. They are famed for the display of horse and cattle. The Clydesdale breed of horses, which has attained such a well-deserved celebrity for its excellent qualities, may be seen exposed in greater numbers and in greater perfection at the Rutherglen fairs than at any other market.


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