Monday, November 10, 2008

A Dark Man to Bring them Luck (Greenwich 1938)

A late contribution to Black history month, this story comes from the Mercury in the summer of 1938 (sorry I didn't write down exact reference, it was in July or August):

Sister Brides Carried from Church: a 'Dark' man to bring them luck

'Three months ago, whilst visiting a public-house in Greenwich, Mr Charles Lawrie of 8 St Alfege Road, Charlton, became friendly with a man of colour who played the piano and sang in the saloon bar. Bearing in mind his marriage in the near future to Miss Annie Leach of 12 Finch House, Church Street, Deptford, whose sister, Miss Caroline, was also being married at the same church, and at the same time, to Mr Thomas Wentworth, of 100 Warwick Street, Deptford, Mr Lawrie cultivated his friendship with the musician, Mr George Williams, and asked him if he would play at the double wedding reception. This he agreed to do, and suggested, too, that as a token of 'good luck' he should carry the bride from the church to the waiting car.

And so, on Saturday, when the double wedding took place at St Alfege's Church, Greenwich, he fulfilled his promise, carrying the brides across a pavement crowded with cheering people...

Mr George Williams appeared in the recetn Drury Lane production of 'The Sun Never Sets'.

Interesting story, suggests a number of things - a superstition about 'dark' men bringing good luck (I have heard of this in relation to New Year's Eve, but not in relation to weddings); black people in South London being treated as something of an exotic novelty (otherwise why report this in the local paper?); an example of a local black musician making a living in the 1930s from a mixture of West End shows and playing in the pub (would love to know what pub, but the story doesn;t say). The original story does include a photograph, but my copy is too poor to reproduce.


Anonymous said...

It seems like an iteration of the lucky chimney sweep wedding folklore thing. It's apparently good luck to have a chimney sweep with a sooty face kiss the bride at a wedding, and I'd imagine this is where the "dark man to bring them luck" thing comes from. It's possibly also related to the New Year's Eve first footing traditions where a dark man should be the first to cross the threshold in the new year. I read a book on folklore once that claimed the chimney sweep thing is somehow related to wedding traditions around the Green Man, and that the leaves and foliage have been replaced by soot in an urban context. I'm not sure whether there's any truth to that or not, but it's interesting stuff.

David said...

I think it harks back to not just the tradition of sweep magic, but the wider ‘dark man’ blessing which some folklore experts relate to the explosion of ‘the Moor’ within the English superstition. Mummer’s would often include a character playing the Moor/dark man, who like the knight, when brought back to life by the Doctor character, would offer the audience a blessing in return for coins.