British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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351                                    HUNTING THE RAM.                          [AlTO. 2.
partake of their diversions. Boundaries were immediately appointed, and a proclamation made, that all who intended to compete in the race should appear. A bonnet ornamented with ribbons was displayed upon a pole as a prize to the victor; and sometimes five or six started for it, and ran with as great eagerness as if they had been to gain a kingdom; the prize of the second race was a pair of garters, and the third a knife. They then amused themselves for some time with such rural sports as suited their taste, and dispersed quietly to their respective homes before sunset.
When two parties met, and one of them yielded to the other, they marched together for some time in two separate bodies, the subjected body behind the other, and then they parted good friends, each performing their races at their own appointed place. Next day, after the ceremony was over, the ribbons and napkin that formed the colours were care­fully returned to their respective owners, the tower was no longer a matter of consequence, and the country returned to its usual state of tranquillity.—Trans. Soc* Antiq. of Scotland, vol. i. p. 194.
Aug. 2.]                       Buckinghamshire.
Hunting the ram was a very ancient custom observed at Eton, but is now abolished. Lipscomb, in his History o Buckinghamshire (1847, vol. iv. p. 467), thus describes it:—
The college had an ancient claim upon its butcher to provide a ram on the Election Saturday, to be hunted by the scholars; but the animal having upon one occasion been so pressed as to swim across the Thames, it ran into Windsor Market, with the boys after it, and much mischief was caused by this unexpected accident. The health of the scholars had also occasionally suffered from the length of the chase, or the heat of the season. The character of the sport was therefore changed about 1740, when the ram was ham-strung, and. after the speech, was knocked on the head with large twisted clubs, which are reported to have been considered as Etonian curiosities. But the barbarity of the amusement caused it to be altogether laid aside at the election in 1747, and the flesh of the ram was given to be prepared in pasties. The
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