Bunhill: Wakey wakey

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The Independent Online
THIS WEEK Blackpool is overrun with Scots, mostly from Glasgow. For 'wakes weeks' are alive and well. The tradition that a town shuts up shop and decants for the seaside has been a long time a'dying.

But Mike Chadwick of Blackpool's tourist office admits: 'They're nowhere near as popular as they used to be, what with much more flexible holiday periods.' That, says Chadwick, representing a town that didn't need the Grade family to teach it about showbiz, 'is why we invented the short break and lengthened the season till 6 November with the illuminations'.

Today, he says: 'The main wakes weeks we get are the Scottish weeks and weekends. But older people from Lancashire come in wakes weeks. Even though they could come any time, they stick by the Oldham or the Blackburn weeks.'

Despite the decline, the Chamber of Commerce in Manchester ('we're a real metropolis, we never close') still publishes a list of 58 towns with their separate weeks, from Accrington to Worsley. Some have three - one at Easter, another in June or July and then a short break in September.

And your two questions answered: no, the Glaswegians are not noticeably drunker than other visitors and, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word 'wakes' derives from 'the local annual festival of an English parish. . . an occasion for making a holiday'. The OED's first reference dates back to 1225. 'Heo hefde ileaned one wummone to one wake on of hore weaden,' it says. Sounds dead sexy to me.

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