TEN mums came to the starting line aiming to win Oxford’s premier pancake race.

They were all hoping to run with their frying pans to the finish at Blackbird Leys, with their pancakes still intact.

They are pictured at the start having a practice toss before the race began.

In the event, Marlene Whitehouse’s hot pants proved decisive – she streaked home ahead of the field.

The mums gathered outside the community centre in brilliant sunshine in February 1971 and seconds after this picture was taken, they were off, tossing their pancakes as they ran.

Scores of children from the estate followed them and a big cheer went up when Mrs Whitehouse, of Kestrel Crescent, third from the right in the picture, crossed the line.

The secret of her success? “My hot pants – they’re good for running in,” she said as she celebrated her victory.

The other picture was taken at the village school at Bletchingdon, near Bicester – we’re not sure of the date.

It shows Chad Hendron, left, winning the final of the Year 3 race, as fellow pupils and a group of visitors to the school look on.

They were all following the old age tradition of tossing pancakes on Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday, which falls tomorrow. Oxfordshire has seen plenty of madcap pancake races over the years.

The pancake tradition was born out of the religious fasting period of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday, when the eating of fat and meat was forbidden.

The day before the fast, housewives would use what was left in their larders to make pancakes and then, with their families, go to church to confess or ‘shrive’ their sins, hence the name Shrove Tuesday.

According to legend, the church bell would ring just before noon to mark the end of the ‘shriving’ period.

Housewives eager to reach the church in time would run through the streets still clutching their half-cooked pancakes.