British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

Home Main Menu Order Support About Search

Share page  

Previous Contents Next

244                                      may day.                              [May i.
who shall produce the most gorgeous exhibition. A few years ago the Corporation of Liverpool exhibited no fewer than one hundred and sixty-six horses in the procession, the first cart containing all the implements used by the scavenging department, most artistically arranged. The railway com­panies, the brewers, the spirit-merchants, and all the prin­cipal dock-carriers, &c, send their teams with samples of pro­duce to swell the procession. After parading the principal streets, headed by bands of music and banners, the horses are taken home to their respective stables, and public drinks are given to the carters by the Corporation, the railway com­panies, and other extensive firms. The Mayor and other members of the Corporation attend these annual feasts, and after the repasts are ended the carters are usually addressed by some popular speaker, and much good advice is fre­quently given them.—Harland and Wilkinson, Legends and Traditions of Lancashire, 1873, p. 96.
In the Life of Mrs. Pilkington {Gent. Mag. 1754, vol. xxiv. p. 354) allusion seems made to this custom. The writer says, They took places in the waggon, and quitted London early on May-morning; and it being the custom in this month for the passengers to give the waggoner at every inn a ribbon to adorn his team, she soon discovered the origin of the proverb, " as fine as a horse ;" for before they got to the end of their journey the poor beasts were almost blinded by the tawdry party-coloured flowing honours of their heads.
In connection with this custom may be mentioned one practised at Gilmerton, in the parish of Liberton, county of Edinburgh. The carters have friendly societies for the purpose of supporting each other in old age or during ill-health, and with the view partly of securing a day's recrea­tion, and partly of recruiting their numbers and funds, they have an annual procession. Every man decorates his cart, horse, and ribbons, and a regular procession is made, accom­panied by a band of music. To crown all there is an uncouth uproarious race with cart-horses on the public road, which draws forth a crowd of Edinburgh idlers, and all ends in a dinner, for which a fixed sum is paid.—Stat. Ace. of Scotlandy 1845, vol. i. p. 12.
The maypole of Lostock, a village near Bolton, in Lanca-
Previous Contents Next