Whilst trawling through some nineteenth century newspapers I can across a headline which read – A Dartmoor Wayzgoose,’ what an evocative word. But the big question being what was/is a wayzgoose? Well, it transpired that a Wayzgoose was originally an event provided by a master printer for his employees or if you like a form of ‘work’s bash’. It was normally held on or around the 24th of August as this was St. Bartholomew’s Day who was the patron saint of book binders. The other important association with this particular day was that it also marked the time of year when the nights began to draw in. As a good source of light was needed for such work it normally signalled the start of the use candles which presumably was not one to be relished. In later years the practice of providing a ‘Wayzgoose’ for employees was adopted by newspaper and book printers. It has been suggested that the origin of the word ‘wayzgoose’ come from the Dutch word ‘Weghuis‘ which, amongst other translations meant ‘banquet’. As most newspaper employees worked over the weekend the day of the wayzgoose meant that there would be no papers printed that morning much to the annoyance of its readings. On the 20th of July, 1912, The Exeter & Plymouth Gazette printed the following; “The late special edition of the Gazette containing extracts from the London morning papers, will not be published this morning. Our readers will, we are sure, excuse the omission, as the Gazette staff are having their annual wayzgoose. The office will be closed.”
During the late 1800s and early 1900s there were two major Devonshire newspapers – The Western Morning News and The Exeter & Plymouth Gazette along with some smaller local newspapers. All would participate in the annual Wayzgoose in one form or another. Initially their choice of destinations was fairly limited as large members of staff could only be conveyed in horse-drawn charabancs. One of the favoured places for a visit was Dartmoor, not only was it convenient but it also provided picturesque scenery and the chance for city and town dwellers to get some of its bracing air. On the arrival of the railway network the wayzgoose trips could venture further afield to locations such as Cornwall and Exmoor and even as far as London. The coming of the motor coach also had a similar effect.
Naturally as those on a wayzgoose were employees of newspapers reports of their day’s experiences were often printed and what follows are several reports of wayzgoose days spent on Dartmoor. One of the earliest printed reports appeared in the Western Times on August 23rd, 1864 which read – “THE WESTERN TIMES ‘WAYZGOOSE’ – The staff of this journal took their annual excursion on Saturday, when they were favoured with splendid weather. The Party numbering 30 left ‘The Western Times’ Office shortly after eight o’clock in a coach drawn by four handsome bays, with postillions, and a carriage and pair, both vehicles from the establishment of Mr. Pedrick. After a delightful drive of two hours they reached their destination – Drewsteignton – and with the excellent catering of host Hole and with the perambulations of the magnificent scenery of the district they spent a most agreeable day. We have to acknowledge the kindness of Mr. Window, in presenting the staff with a hamper of his refreshing serated water.”
On the 2nd of August 1884 employees of The Exeter & Plymouth Gazette were treated to a wayzgoose on Dartmoor; “The employees of the Exeter & Plymouth Gazette and Daily Telegraph held their annual wayzgoose on Saturday, the route chosen for the outing being by way of Fingle Bridge and Drewsteignton to Chagford. The weather was pleasant, being fine, but not too sunny, and the country in its full summer glory looked at its very best. The party, numbering altogether about 75, left the Gazette Office about 9 a.m. in four well appointed brakes and fours and wagonette and pair, supplied by Mr. J. H. Strong, of the Bampfylde Mews. The party was accompanied by the full City and Provincial Band, under the direction of Mr. J. Castaldini, who enlivened the proceedings with a variety of musical selections, which were higly appreciated by the company and by the large crowd of inhabitants who assembled around the instrumentalists outside the hotel. After leaving the city the route lay through Taphouse, Cheriton Cross, and Crockernwell, where the brakes met the chestnut battery of Artillery on their homeward march from the camp on Dartmoor. From Crockerwell the holiday makers turned off to Fingle Bridge, getting out of the brakes at the top of the hill and scrambling on foot to the Teign below through furze and heather, encountering many amusing incidents on the way (what happened on tour evidently stayed on that tour?). The men at length all reached the famous bridge in safety, and were able to realise to the full the beauties of this celebrated locality, which surpassed anything hitherto seen on the road, although the scenery passed through during most of the drive presented some form of the finest landscapes in Devonshire. Leaving Fingle Bridge, the party had to climb up the hill on the other side of the valley up to the romantic little village of Drewsteignton where a substantial lunch was awaiting the hungry travellers at the new Inn, near the Parish Church. This journey was resumed soon after one o’clock, Chagford being reached about two o’clock. The visitors alighted at Mr. Western’s Moor Park Hotel while the band played a selection, and then they disappeared in different directions to see the lions of the place. Some were glad of a stroll to the Moor, while others inspected the spacious church so handsomely restored a few years ago. At 3.30 the staff reassembled at the Moor Park Hotel, where they were joined by Mr. John Drew and Mr. Willis, who had travelled by rail to Moretonhampstead. An excellent dinner was provided by host Western in his very best stile.”
Another such wayzgoose took place on the 7th of July 1888 for the employees of The Totnes Times and Devon News who had an hectic day on Dartmoor: “In these days of great mental and physical strain (today that’s stress) seasons of recreation are absolutely necessary to enable the mind and body to recoup their exhausted energies. With this object in view many firms have added to the number of their regular holidays an annual wayzgoose. For some years past the employees of the ‘Totnes Times’ and ‘Western Gazette’ established an outing of this description, and on Saturday last one of the most enjoyable in connection with the firm took place. The bracing air and romantic scenes of Dartmoor were again selected for the occasion and Messrs S. Heard and Son, of Leechwell Mews, Totnes, were entrusted to convey the party, which numbered just 30. A start was made a few minutes before seven in the morning, and the well appointed four horse break, and wagonette and pair, were quickly traversing the well-trodden roads, which in rapid succession unfolded to the company senses unsurpassed in beauty and variety, and now sought after by visitors from all parts of the world. Buckfastleigh was reached just before 8 a. m., and after a short stay the party were spanking on towards Holne. The hill leading to Holne village being ascended, and Holne Gate reached, the scenery became truly enchanting. A retrospective glance disclosed the far-famed Buckland Drives and Holne Chase, the woods being now clothed with foliage of luxuriant growth, whilst the Dart, which was swollen considerably with the recent heavy rains, surged and foamed below through crag and rock for miles away. The notable tors were duly observed in the distance, and the run of a few miles through open country, bedecked with rocks, tors and valleys of surpassing grandeur, brought the party to Hexworthy, where a halt was made for luncheon. The weather up to this time had been beautifully fine, but rain now began to descend, and in quick succession a tremendous peal of thunder rolled forth, accompanied by livid lightening. The elements, however, soon cleared and the party pushed on to Two Bridges, and thence to Princetown, which was reached just after one o’clock, dinner being partaken of at the Duchy Hotel, Mr. T. C. Mortimer occupying the chair, and Mr. A. E. Mortimer the vice. After ample justice had been done to the good things provided, a few complimentary toasts were given and suitably replied to. Through the Secretary of State a few members of the staff were privileged to go over the prisons, whilst others amused themselves in viewing the lovely scenery. On the return journey tea was partaken of at Dartmeet, a grand spot, after which the journey was resumed, many of the party enjoying a delightful ramble over some of the tors. The weather now was beautiful, the sun shining brightly, and under these favourable circumstances the homeward journey was made through the Buckland Drives, by ‘Lover’s Leap,’ and Ashburton. A halt being made at the latter place. Totnes was reached just after eleven o’clock. The day’s proceedings were enlivened by Mr. Doble (cornet), and others, some of whom proved themselves to be good vocalists. Everyone of the party thoroughly enjoyed the day’s outing.”
Sadly in 1924 things were not quite as enjoyable for staff of the Western Evening Herald; “Once a year staff who produce the ‘Herald’ with such unfailing regularity 300 times a year takes a holiday together and calls the outing a ‘Wayzgoose’. A variety of explanations have been found for the word at different times; but no reason is available for the fact that on that one day the Clerk of the Weather should turn on the wet tap.
Yesterday it was a case of ‘never mind the weather’; It may be true that everybody got wet, some more than others; that one member sprained his ankle above Dartmeet; that another woke from a doze on the homeward journey to find his hat blown into the night; that another had to search Liara with matches for some lost treasure. But these things were trifles set aginats the good fellowship and good temper which prevailed over all and made the day enjoyable.”
As it is today, tourism plays a vital part in the local Dartmoor economy and so it did in the days of the wayzgoose. Firstly there would be income to be gained for the owners of the carriages and charabancs. It seems that these trips made for hungry trippers and food and drink was provided at various stops along the route of the excursion. This meant welcomed income for the proprietors of the various inn and hotels along the way. In some cases the route included stops at various villages (as did the one above) which again meant possible customers for any local shops or businesses.
As with any company ‘do’ once dinner has finished there then followed the obligatory round of lengthy speeches and toasts with thanks to the organisers for the kind generosity shown towards the employers. I would imagine that after a strenuous day on the moor, the copious amount of food consumed many of the folk found it hard to stay awake during the ‘riveting?’ speeches. In many cases these reports payed more attention to the speeches with who said what than the actual day itself which is why I have omitted them.
These are but a few examples of a Dartmoor wayzgoose, the last one being reported in 1932 when 60 staff members of the Western Evening Herald had a busy day touring Devon. Along the route they had an early morning drive across Dartmoor from where they moved down to Exmouth before finally ending up at Paignton and its zoo. Clearly the advent of motor coaches had vastly widened the scope of what could be accomplished in a single day’s wayzgoose. The striking thing about these reports is how people appeared to appreciate a day trip on the moor. I suppose for many city and town dwellers it would be akin to modern-day trips abroad and an annual treat to look forward to. It is also amazing the number of meals eaten in one day and must have cost the employers a pretty penny or two. I think we should bring the term ‘wayzgoose’ back into fashion, it sounds much grander that the ‘Company Conference’ or Company Leisure Day’. What I can’t establish is that if two or more wayzgoose in a year were they ‘wayzgeese’?