DOLE (from Old Eng. dal, cf. mod. "deal"), a portion, a distribution of gifts, especially of food and money given in charity. The derivation from O. Fr. doel, Late Lat. dolium, "grief," suggested by the custom of funeral doles, is wrong. In early Christian days, St Chrysostom says: "doles were used at funerals to procure the rest of the soul of the deceased, that he might find his judge propitious." The distribution of alms to the local poor at funerals was a universal custom in the middle ages. The amount of doles was usually stated in the will. Thus in 1399 Eleanor, duchess of Gloucester, ordered that fifteen poor men should carry torches at her funeral, "each having a gown and hood lined with white, breeches of blue cloth, shoes and a shirt, and twenty pounds amongst them." Later doles usually took the form of bequests of land or money, the interest or rent of which was to be annually employed in charity. Often the distribution took place at the grave of the donor. Thus one William Robinson of Hull at his death in 1708 left money to buy annually a dozen loaves, costing a shilling each, to be given to twelve poor widows at his grave every Christmas. Lenten doles were also formerly common. A will of 1537 bade a barrel of white herrings and a case of red herrings be given yearly to the poor of Clavering, Essex, to help them tide over the fast. One or two London doles are still distributed, e.g. that of St Peter's, Walworth, where a Christmas dinner is each year served to 300 parish poor in the crypt. No one under sixty is eligible, and the dinner is unique in that it is cooked in the church. A pilgrim's dole of bread and ale can be claimed by all wayfarers at the Hospital of St Cross, Winchester. This is said to have been founded by William of Wykeham. Emerson, when visiting Winchester, claimed and received the dole. What were known as Scrambling Doles, so called because the meat and bread distributed were thrown among the poor to be scrambled for, were not uncommon in England. Such a dole existed at St Briavel's, Gloucestershire, baskets of bread and cheese cut into small squares being thrown by the churchwardens from the gallery into the body of the church on Whit Sunday. At Wath near Ripon a testator in 1810 ordered that forty pennyloaves should be thrown from the church leads at midnight on every Christmas eve. The best known dole in the United States is the "Leake Dole of Bread." John Leake, a millionaire dying in 1792, left £1000 to Trinity Church, New York, the income to be laid out in wheaten loaves and distributed every Sabbath morning after service. The dole still survives, though the day has been altered to Saturday, each week sixty-seven loaves being given away.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)