ANNUAL OUTING: Teesdale Mercury printers paddling in the sea on one of their annual trips
ANNUAL OUTING: Teesdale Mercury printers paddling in the sea on one of their annual trips

Ever been on a Wayzgoose? Unless you work in the printing trade the chances are that you haven’t. David Croom has been looking into the meaning of this ancient and unusual term.

Back in the mists of time when I started my career in the print room at the Teesdale Mercury I remember being asked if I wanted to go on a wayzgoose.

Fearful I might be falling for the age old practice of sending gullible apprentices on fools’ errands like being sent to buy a tin of tartan paint, I cautiously agreed.

It turned out I had nothing to worry about, I later found out that I was being invited to go on a night out in town with my new colleagues in the print room.

Since then I have been on many wayzgooses or wayzgeese (not sure of the plural) all of which have involved some form of excursion from work usually partaking of alcohol and occasionally food.

Following the closure of the Teesdale Mercury print works in 2015 there have been fewer occasions to enjoy a night out with my colleagues however when we do meet up we still refer to the occasion as a wayzgoose.

Recently I have been pondering the meaning and origins of this unusual word.

The dictionary definition of a wayzgoose is “an annual summer dinner or outing held by a printing house for its employees.”

Although its derivation is still unclear it is thought that it dates back to the 17th century when, by the third week in August, candles were needed to light the final hours of the long working day and to mark this shift to winter working it was usual for the master printer to give his journeymen a feast around St. Bartholomew’s Day (August 24). The term evolved to mean an annual summer dinner or outing held for the printers in a publishing house or newspaper office.

Once the old connection with winter time working had been lost through advances in lighting methods and reductions in working hours, the event was often held in July instead.

The earliest recorded use of the word is in 1683 in the book Mechanick Exercises, by Joseph Moxon, who was a printer and also a maker of globes and mathematical instruments.

He wrote: “The Master Printer gives them a way-goose; that is, he makes them a good feast, and not only entertains them at his own house, but besides gives them money to spend at the ale-house or tavern at night. These way-gooses are always kept about Bartholomew-tide, and till the Master Printer has given this way-goose, the journeymen do not work by candlelight.”

The word wayzgoose may come from the middle English word ‘wase’ meaning sheaf and then goose meaning harvest goose or a goose eaten at harvest time although there is no evidence to suggest a goose was a staple on the menu at the printers’ feast.

Another possible derivation is from the Dutch word ‘Weg(s)huis’ which literally means ‘way house’ but also could be used for an English inn or banquet.

So did my predecessors in the Mercury print room enjoy an annual wayzgoose?

Looking back through the paper’s online archives it would appear that they did, particularly in the 1920s, 30s and 40s when the events were recorded in the newspaper’s columns.

The earliest recorded mention of a Teesdale Mercury wayzgoose is in 1925 when the printing staff went on a weekend trip to London.

An abridged version of the report goes as follows: Leaving on the last train from Barnard Castle on Friday night they arrived in King’s Cross at 6.30 on Saturday morning refreshing themselves with breakfast in Covent Garden.

The afternoon was spent visiting the sights, later in the day they proceeded to Islington where an excellent repast awaited them at the Star and Garter.

From the Star and Garter there were only a few paces to the Agricultural Hall where the Great International Printing, Stationery and Allied Trades Exhibition was in progress.

From Islington they continued to the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley where the remainder of the long day was spent, the amusement park claiming no small amount of attention. The party then returned to King’s Cross where they caught the train back to Darlington arriving at 4.30am on Sunday. An hour later they were back in Barnard Castle thanks to Mr George Maude’s motor char-a-banc.

There followed in 1927 an outing to Ullswater and in 1928 one to Seaton Carew, although neither were reported in the paper.

The next published report of a Teesdale Mercury wayzgoose was four years later in 1929 when it was reported the office staff held their annual outing to the North East Coast Exhibition at Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

They joined with the Barnard Castle Co-operative Society’s staff having luncheon at the Co-operative’s Wholesale Headquarters. After a tour across the new Tyne Bridge the party proceeded to the exhibition with its almost endless variety of wonderful machinery, scientific instruments and inventions.

One year later in 1930 the destination of the wayzgoose was the Lake District. The party stopped at Burneside to visit the paper-making works of Messrs. James Cropper Ltd.

From Burneside the party proceeded to Windermere where the coach pulled up at the lake at Bowness-on-Windermere where they had luncheon at the Royal Hotel. In the afternoon the guests boarded a lake steamer to Ambleside where they enjoyed further sights. Tea was served at the Glebe Cafe and by six ‘o clock the party was back on the motor coach for the homeward journey.

In 1932 the choice of destination was Edinburgh. The party travelled by train, leaving Barnard Castle on Saturday morning. On arrival they admired the magnificent buildings and monuments of Princes Street and made a visit to the Zoological Park.

After lunch the castle was the centre of great interest, this was followed by a visit to the Forth Bridge. A short climb on Calton Hill ended what proved to be all too short a stay in the romantic city of Edinburgh.

In 1933 a visit was made to Whitby. On arrival the party visited the fish quay where the most recent catch was being sold. After a lunch at The Plough Hotel they explored the terraced streets and climbed the 199 steps to Whitby Abbey. On the way home there was a stop off at Saltburn and Redcar where tea was had at Longstaff’s Cafe, beloved by all Teesdalians, and then the holiday attractions of Redcar were explored before setting off for home.

In 1934 the outing was to Lake Ullswater. The party caught the 7.30 a.m. train from Barnard Castle to Penrith where the castle was explored before a visit to the offices of the Penrith Observer. After partaking of a sumptuous meal the party proceeded to Patterdale and Ullswater. After tea the return journey was made and Barnard Castle was reached at 9.30pm.

In 1936 the Mercury staff made a return journey to London. Arriving at 5.30am the party went to Covent Garden Market, and thence along the Embankment to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Afterwards other sights of London were visited and part of the time was spent at White City watching the athletes who took part in the Olympic Games. Madame Tussaud’s and the Zoological Gardens were also visited.

In 1938 the Mercury staff visited Redcar. Leaving at 8.00am by bus, they arrived at 10am. Some of the party went for a dip in the sea while others went boating and visiting the amusement palace. Luncheon was enjoyed at the Swan Hotel and then the party went their separate ways, some going to the beach and others hiking down the coast to Saltburn. After returning to Redcar the party started for home arriving about 11.30pm.

In 1940 the staff outing stayed closer to home due to the ongoing war. They travelled to Richmond on Mr. Maude’s bus where a tour was made of the ancient castle and grounds. Afterwards an excellent luncheon was partaken in Greyfriars Café where the usual toasts were given. The party then went sightseeing by the river and then boarded the bus for home having spent an enjoyable day.

The next three outings throughout the 1940s were all to the Lake District where the party enjoyed the delights of Lake Windermere, Bowness and Keswick.

These are the last of the published wayzgooses. It is not known if they stopped after this or if the paper just didn’t record them.

One thing that stands out in all the reports is that all the staff had an enjoyable time and they always seemed to have good weather.

This was confirmed by two very long serving members of the Teesdale Mercury print works, Jos Audas and Tom Harwood who when interviewed by the Mercury many years after retiring both recalled that their favourite memories were of the annual wayzgoose.