Juanita wanted hot pennies banned

PUBLISHED: 11:44 22 July 2009 | UPDATED: 23:51 15 June 2010

Juanita Maxwell Phillips.

Juanita Maxwell Phillips.

AS Honiton celebrated its annual hot pennies day yesterday (Tuesday) a remarkable new fact about the late former mayor Juanita Maxwell Phillips emerged - she once described the ritual as barbarous and believed it should be banned.

AS Honiton celebrated its annual hot pennies day yesterday (Tuesday) a remarkable new fact about the late former mayor Juanita Maxwell Phillips emerged - she once described the ritual as "barbarous" and believed it should be banned.

This and many other facts about the 11 times civic leader came to light from documents offered to Honiton Senior Council secretary Tony Simpson, who is researching Mrs Phillips' life for a series of talks.

"I was looking at pictures of Councillor Phillips throwing down hot pennies from the Dolphin Hotel in 1937 when a cutting from the Daily Telegraph, dated July 21, fell out," he said.

"The Telegraph ran a photo story on the ancient ceremony featuring Juanita and showing children scrabbling for money and another child being ducked in the leat.

"Juanita had written underneath it: 'It is time this medieval (barbarous) custom of throwing red hot pennies was stopped by the police'.

"As mayor, she had to officiate at many events, which she carried off with dignity, even if she did not approve or enjoy them.

"There was a lot of poverty in the depression years. She was involved with the Unemployment Assistance Board and the Women's Institute, and she may have disliked seeing the poorer children scrabbling for money in the gutters."

Mr Simpson believes Juanita was very fond of children, even though she did not have any of her own.

Although she disapproved of hot pennies, she did enjoy watching children having fun at the annual fair that the ceremony heralds. She paid for the first hour of their rides.

Mr Simpson will be telling the story of Juanita in words and pictures at a Celebrating Seniors event in the town September. Watch this space for more details.

n For pictures and video footage of yesterday's hot pennies ceremony, visit the Herald's website.

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