British Popular Customs Present And Past - online book

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

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380                                      MICHAELMAS DAY,                        [SEPT. 2<J.
In Brand's Pop. Antiq. (1849, vol, i. p. 372) is the follow­ing account of a curious septennial custom observed at Bishop Stortford and in the adjacent neighbourhood on old Michaelmas Day, taken from a London newspaper of the 18th of October, 1787 :—
On the morning of this day, called Gauging Day, a great number of young men assemble in the fields where a very active fellow is nominated the leader. This person they are bound to follow, who, for the sake of diversion, generally chooses the route through ponds, ditches, and places of diffi­cult passage. Every person they meet is bumped, male or female, which is performed by two other persons taking them up by their arms, and swinging them against each other. The women in general keep at home at this period, except those of less scrupulous character, who, for the sake of partaking of a gallon of ale and a plumcake, which every landlord or publican is obliged to furnish the revellers with, generally spend the best part of the night in the fields if the weather is fair, it being strictly according to ancient usage not to partake of the cheer anywhere else.
A correspondent of Book oj Days (vol ii. p. 393) gives the following account of the ceremonies formerly connected with the election of the mayor at Nottingham. On the day the new mayor assumed office (September 29), he, the old mayor, the aldermen, and councillors, all marched in procession to St. Mary's Church, where divine service was said. After service the whole body went into the vestry, where the old mayor seated himself in an elbow chair, at a table covered with black cloth, in the middle of which lay the mace covered with rosemary and sprigs of bay. This was termed " the burying of the mace," doubtless a symbolical act, denoting the official decease of its late holder. A form of electing the new mayor was then gone through, after which the one retiring from office took up the mace, kissed it, and delivered
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