British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

A calendar of the traditional customs, practices & rituals of the British Isles.

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42                                        PLOUGH MONDAY.                              [JAN, 7.
about the stinginess of the giver afterwards amongst them­selves, more especially if the party was what they called " well off in the world." We are not aware that the plough­men were ever summoned to answer for such a breach of the law, for they believe, to use their own expressivo language, " they can stand by it, and no law in the world can touch 'em, 'cause it's an old charter;" and we are sure it would spoil their w folly to be wise."
One of the mummers generally wears a fox's skin in the form of a hood ; but beyond the laughter the tail that hangs down his back awakens by its motion as he dances, we are at a loss to find a meaning. Bessy formerly wore a bullock's tail behind, under his gown, and which he held in his hand while dancing, but that appendage has not been worn of late.
Hone's Tear Boole, p. 29, gives a quotation from a Briefe Relation, &c, 1646, wherein the writer says, that the Monday after Twelfth Day is called "Plowlick Monday" by the husbandmen in Norfolk, " because on that day they doe first begin to plough."
In the northern and eastern parts of the county Plough Monday is more noticed than in the neighbourhood of Northampton. The pageant varies in different places; sometimes five persons precede the plough, which is drawn by a number of boys with their faces blackened and reddled. Formerly, when the pageant was of a more important cha­racter than now, the plough was drawn by oxen decorated with ribbons. The one who walks first in the procession is styled the Master, and is grotesquely attired, having on a large wig ; two are gaily bedizened in women's clothes ; and two others have large hunches on their backs, on which is sewed the knave of hearts. These two arc called Ked Jacks,. or fools. Each of the five carries a besom, and one of them a box, which he rattles assiduously among the spectators to* obtain their donations, which are spent at night in con­viviality and jollification. In some instances they plough up
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