British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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302                                  ROYAL OAK DAY.                          [MAY 29
the common people to wear in their hats the leaves of the oak, which are sometimes covered with gold leaf.—Brand, Pop. Antiq., 1849, vol. i. p. 273.
At Looe, as well as in other districts of East Cornwall, the usage of wearing an oaken leaf on the 29th of May was enforced by spitting at, or " cobbing," the offender.—Once a Week, September 24th, 1870.
On the 29th of May branches of young oak are gathered and put up over the doors of many houses, and a small sprig of the same tree is commonly worn in the button-hole.— Jour, of Arch. Assoc, 1852, vol. viii. p. 206,
In the vicinity of Starcross the children celebrate this anniversary by carrying about what they call May babies, i.e., little dolls, carefully and neatly dressed, decked with flowers, and laid in boxes somewhat resembling coffins, though such resemblance is not, apparently, the intention of the artists.—N. & Q. 2nd S. vol. ii. p. 405.
In the Every Day Book (1826, vol. i. p. 718) occurs the following:—
At Tiverton, on the 29 th of May, it is customary for a number of young men, dressed in the style of the seventeenth century, and armed with swords, to parade the streets, and gather contributions from the inhabitants. At the head of the procession walks a man called "Oliver," dressed in black, with his face and hands smeared over with soot and grease, and his body bound by a strong cord, the end of which is held by one of the men to prevent his running too far. After these come another troop, dressed in the same style, each man bearing a large branch of oak; four others, carrying a kind of throne made of oaken boughs, on which a child is seated, bring up the rear. A great deal of merriment is excited among the boys at the pranks of " Master Oliver," who
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