British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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336                                      may day,                              [May i.
without any would have been voted an utter failure ; never­theless the coppers of commutation were very acceptable, as the great two-day fair of the town was held towards the close of the week, when cash was generally in demand. Hence when any one flung pence among them, they were wont to chant during the scramble—
" The First of May is dipping-day, The Sixth of May is Looe's fair day."
On the 1st of May a species of festivity, Hitchins tells us, was observed in his time at Pad stow : called the Hobby-horse, from the figure of a horse being carried through the streets. Men, women, and children flocked round it, when they proceeded to a place called Traitor Pool, about a quarter of a mile distant, in which the hobby-horse was always supposed to drink. The head after being dipped into the water, was instantly taken out, and the mud and water were sprinkled on the spectators, to the no small diversion of all. On returning home a particular song was sung, which was supposed to commemorate the event that gave the hobby­horse birth. According to tradition the French once upon a time effected a landing at a small cove in the vicinity, but seeing at a distance a number of women dressed in red cloaks, whom they mistook for soldiers, they fled to their ships and put to sea. The day generally ended in riot and dissipation.—Hitchins, History of Cornwall, 1824, vol. i. p. 720.
On the first Sunday after May-day it is a custom with families at Penzance to visit Rose-hill, Poltier, and other .adjacent villages, by way of recreation. These pleasure-parties generally consist of two or three families together. 'They carry flour and other materials with them to make the " heavy cake "* at the farm-dairies, which are always open for their reception. Nor do they forget to take tea, sugar, rum, and other comfortable things for their refreshment, which, by paying a trifle for baking and for the niceties awaiting their consumption, content the farmers for the house-room and pleasure they afford their welcome visitants.- -Every Day JBooJc, vol. i. p 561.
* See May-eve, Penzance, p. 216,
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