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Haxey Hood

On the 6th of this month, the museum director paid a visit to Haxey, historically in Lincolnshire but now in Humberside. Every year the village hosts one of the oldest and most vigorous customs in England known as the Haxey Hood.

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The events of the day culminate in a kind of game but before that are some interesting customs surrounding it. Starting off in the Carpenter's Arms in Westwoodside, supporters gathered, along with the Lord of the Hood, a Chief Boggin with ten other Boggins and a Fool. The Lord carried a 'wand' made from thirteen willow sticks which are tied together and finished with a piece of red ribbon at one end. The 'Hood' itself, is a tightly rolled piece of leather about 46cm long and 8cm in diameter and this later plays a major part in the game.

Inside the pub, the Fool had his face blackened and then three songs were sung in swift succession; John Barleycorn, Drink England Dry and The Farmer's Boy. These three songs were then repeated in each pub that was visited before the game. Before everyone moved off the museum's director was able to chat with Dale Smith who has played the Fool for some twenty odd years and he kindly agreed to donate his old Fool's costume to the museum's collection.

Simon also met up with Doc Rowe and his partner Jill Pidd who were there as usual to record the event. Once the teams moved into Haxey and visited several pubs, the Fool was seen to try and escape as he ran down the lane beside the church. The Boggins caught him and carried him aloft to a stone set before the church, known as the Mowbray Stone which is in fact the base of an old stone cross. Here the Fool delivered his speech and was 'smoked' by having damp straw set on fire behind him. Apparently in the past a real fire was lit and the Fool was unceremoniously swung over it and eventually dropped, having to scrabble out as quickly as he could. Having completed his speech the Fool finished with the traditional words:

Hoose agen hoose

Toon agen toon

If a man meets a man

Knock im doon

But do'ant 'ot 'im (But don't hurt him)

It seems the last line, asking to moderate any violence, was added in the 1920's. Everyone then processed up to Haxey Hill where the first part of the game started. A small crowd gathered around the Lord of the Hood, at whose feet were twelve Hood's made from sacking cloth. These were thrown, one at a time, into the field where mostly children and the younger members of the crowd, would try to run with the Hood to the edge of the field without being caught by one of the Boggins. Anyone who outran them was awarded £2. After the sacking Hoods were all thrown, the main game commenced. The Lord held his willow staff aloft as a sign for the crowd to gather. Before too long the leather Hood was thrown into the air and a sea of hands went up to catch it. What happened next was a little like a rugby scrum and is known as the 'sway'. The mass of bodies tried to get the Hood to either the Carpenter's Arms in Westwoodside or the Kings in Haxey. Doc said that this can take anything from half an hour to all night. There was no way of telling how many people were in which team and it didn't seem to much too much. Very soon everybody was covered in mud and as the light faded the temperature dropped. Steam poured off the heaving mass of bodies as they tried to make their way across the field. The aim is for the Hood to arrive at one of the named pubs and for the landlord to touch it from the front steps. The Hood then resides in that pub until the next year. This year it ended up at the Carpenter's Arms.

For more information you can visit this website.

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