British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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202                                 st. mark's day.                   [April 25.
before each door, as the signal for their friends to assemble and make merry with them. About eight o'clock the candi­dates for the franchise, being mounted on horseback and armed with swords, assemble in the market place, where they are joined by the chamberlain and bailiff of the Duke of Northumberland, attended by two men armed with halberds. The young freemen arranged in order, with music playing before them and accompanied by a numerous cavalcade, march to the west end of the town, where they deliver their swords. They then proceed under the guidance of the moorgrieves through a part of their extensive domain, till they reach the ceremonial well. The sons of the oldest freemen have the honour of taking the first leap. On the signal being given they pass through the bog, each being allowed to use the method and pace which to him shall seem best, some running, some going slow, and some attempting to jump over suspected places, but all in their turns tumbling and wallowing like porpoises at sea, to the great amusement of the populace, who usually assemble in vast numbers on this occasion. After this aquatic excursion, they remount their horses and proceed to perambulate the remainder of their large common, of which they are to become free by their achievement. In passing the open part of the common the young freemen are obliged to alight at intervals, and plaoe a stone on a cairn as a mark of their boundary, till they come near a high hill called the Twinlaw or Toun-law Cairns, when they set off at full speed, and contest the honour of arriving first on the hill, where the names of the freemen of Alnwick are called over. When arrived about two miles from the town they generally arrange themselves in order and, to prove their equestrian abilities, set off with great speed and spirit over bogs, ditches, rocks, and rugged declivities till they arrive at Kottenrow Tower on the confines of the town, the foremost claiming the honour of what is termed " winning the boundaries," and of being entitled to the temporary triumphs of the day. Having completed the circuits the young freemen, with sword in hand, enter the town in triumph,* preceded by music, and
* It appears by a traditionary account that at one time they were met by women dressed up witu ribboua bells, and garlands of gum-
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