British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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240                                      may day.                             [May 1
saw to-day, which remained in Bancroft for more than an* hour, was composed as follows:—First came two men with their faces blacked, olie of them with a birch broom in his hand, and a large artificial hump on his back; the other dressed as a woman, all in rags and tatters, with a large straw bonnet on, and carrying a ladle; these are called ' Mad Moll and her husband;" next came two men, one most fantas­tically dressed with ribbons, and a great variety of gaudy-coloured silk handkerchiefs tied round his arms, from the shoulders to the wrists, and down his thighs and legs to the ancles; he carried a drawn sword in his hand; leaning upou his arm was a youth dressed as a fine lady in white muslin, and profusely bedecked from top to toe with gay ribbons— these were called the " Lord and Lady" of the company; after these followed six or seven couples more, attired much in the same style as the lord and lady, only the men were without the swords. When this group received a satisfactory contribution at any house the music struck up from a violin, clarionet, and fife, accompanied by the long drum, and they began the merry dance. While the dancers were merrily footing it the principal amusement to the populace was caused by the grimaces and clownish tricks of Mad Moll and her husband. When the circle of spec­tators became so contracted as to interrupt the dancers, then Mad Moll's husband went to work with his broom, and swept the road-dust, all round the circle, into the faces of the crowd, and when any pretended affronts were offered to his wife, he pursued the offenders, broom in hand; if be could not overtake them, whether they were males or females, he flung his broom at them. These flights and pursuits caused an abundance of merriment.
The Mayer's Song is a composition, or rather a medley of great antiquity, and is as follows:—
" Remember us poor mayers all. And thus do we begin To lead our lives in righteousness, Or else we die in sin.
We have been rambling all this night,
And almost all this day, And now returned back again
We have brought you a branch of May.
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