British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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MAY 29.]                     RIDING THE MARCHES.                                 307
May-day one, is taken about on the 29th of May.—N. & Q. 1st S. voLx. p. 92.
At Upton-upon- Severn oak-apple day is anxiously looked forward to by old and young. Early in the morning ropes are stretched across the street, upon which are hung garlands, composed of all such flowers as are in bloom. The garlands are also ornamented with coloured ribbons and handkerchiefs, and all the tea-spoons which can be collected are hung in the middle. Maypoles, though less common, and large boughs of oak are pressed into service. Many are the penn'orths of gold-leaf sold the day before, with which to gild the oak-apple for the button-hole. A benefit club meets on this day, and walks in procession with band and flags to church, after which they make a progress through the town, with music playing and colours flying, finishing up with a dinner. —Illustrated London News, May 30th, 1857, p. 515.
Riding the Marches.—The practice of Riding the Marches, eays a writer in the Stat* Ace. of Scotland (1845, vol. iii. p. 399), is observed in the parish of Hawick, Roxburghshire. This ancient ceremonial takes place on the last Friday of May (old style), and is considered one of the most important days of the year. The honour of carrying the standard of the town devolves upon the cornet, a young man previously elected for the purpose; and he and the magistrates of the town on horseback, and a large body of the inhabitants and the burgesses, set out in procession for the purpose of riding round the property of the town, and making formal demonstration of their legal rights.
The following are a few stanzas from an ancient song, which is sung by the cornet and his attendants from the roof of an old tenement belonging to the town, and loudly joined in by the surrounding multitudes :—
" We'll a' hie to the muir a riding, Drumlanrig gave it for providing Our ancestors of martial order. To drive the English off our border.
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