All things Green Man & Jack-in-the-Green

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Historical Jack-in-the-Green – September

May Day by George Cruikshank from Charles Dickens the First of May 1836

May Day by George Cruikshank from Charles Dickens the First of May 1836

Each month we publish a random newspaper article that featured the traditional Jack-in-the-Green. Each of these articles is a magical window into a bygone era. For more information about the Jack in the Green both current and historical visit our main website at: www.thecompanyofthegreenman.co.uk

1st May 1835 MAY-DAY.

There was but a very limited show of sable masqueraders on the 1st instant. The sweeps, in fact, have become too enlightened for such wulgar exhibitions. Jack Scroggins, who is “up and down to every move,” did not let the chance go by, and was out as “grand Serag,” to a tolerably decent set of Carnivalists. He displayed a cocked-hat, bag wig, nankeen decencies, silk stockings, and a dress-coat, with brick-dust varnish to his mug. Mrs. Scroggins was, of course, with him, carrying the ladle, and wore a complete full dress suit of the “good old days of Queen Bess.” Her carroty locks induced many persons to believe she meant to assume the appearance of the virgin Queen. Josh Hudson was “Jack in the Green,” but was little seen save when he poked his sooty bill through the wentilator to receive his reglars of heavy wet. All three complained that their pumps were out of order from the disorderly state of the pavement ; but they forgot all their troubles when seated at the Half Moon in the evening, where there was the customary May-day ball and trimmings. Scroggins on this occasion played his celebrated solo on the salt-box ; and Mrs. Scroggins sung “Had I a heart for falsehood framed,” with a degree of pathos that made poor Josh, who has naturally a feeling heart, blubber like a bull in convulsions. All the elite of Leadenhall were present, and continued to “foot it merrily,” till summoned by the calls of the carcase butchers to their customary duties on market morning. Lord Winchester, although invited, did not attend. It is clear there is “a screw loose” between him and Josh. Old Frank Hobler, his chief secretary, was, however, as usual, among the happiest of the happy, and, as “Billy Waters,” stumped it right jollily upon his timber toe. Being incog., he was only known to the marshalmen who were observable in the maizy throng. Frank being a musical genus [sic], acted as cat-gut scraper for the night, and it was clear had “enough of it,” for he did not mount his perch at the Mansion till one o’clock, and then could scarcely see a hole through London bridge without his glass.

Bell’s Life in London, and Sporting Chronicle, 3 May 1835, page 3.

Book of the Month – September

The Green Man

 

Our book of the month for September is  “The Green Man” by Richard Hayman

It is available via  The Company of the Green Man’s shiny new Amazon bookshop using  THIS LINK

If you buy your green man books via our Amazon links you pay nothing extra but a small referral fee may go towards the Company of the Green Man. This helps us to keep our website and membership free for all our members. In fact anything you purchase from Amazon after going through one of the links may be eligible to earn us a small referral fee so please consider doing so whenever you are planning to shop at Amazon.

Green Man Book

Canterbury old post office 1c of 7

Nina Lyon is writing a book on The Green Man and has asked for some help from our members and readers of this blog:

“I’m writing a book, due to be published next year, about the Green Man in contemporary society and what it means about our relationship with nature and religion. I’m not trying to write an established history, but to find out how this ancient image has developed into its use today, and that depends entirely on the people who use it. I’m looking for people who identify with the Green Man, personally or politically or spritiually, to find out what their relationship is with it as an image or idea. I would be extremely grateful if you could drop me a line for a very brief chat by phone or email: nina_lyon@fastmail.fm – thank you!”

Jack-in-the-Green Archive – Bristol 1996

Bristol Jack-in-the-Green 1996 Copyright Pixyledpublications

My thanks to Ross Parish for some great pictures of the 1996 Bristol Jack-in-the-Green. It’s always fascinating to be able to see how the revivals have changed over the years. You can see more of these pictures in our Flickr Archive Here

I am hoping that the archive will eventually contain pictures of every Jack from every year, so if you have some old pictures of any Jack-in-the-Green on your laptop, phone, in your dusty photo album or even on negatives in the little boots envelope (remember those)  please do get in touch.

Bristol Jack-in-the-Green 1996 Copyright Pixyledpublications

Green Man Book Shop Open

Bookshop

I’m very pleased to announce the opening of The Company of the Green Man’s very own Amazon Bookshop.

Just click on THIS LINK or on the bookshop page above and you will be instantly transported to our bespoke bookshop packed with books related to the Green Man, the Traditional Jack-in-the-Green and other related titles.

Whilst I’ve published links to many green man and Jack-in-the-Green related books on our websites bookshop page over the years it was always a bit clunky and difficult to navigate (and update). Our shiny new bookshop makes browsing the shelves and purchasing your books pure joy. For the full experience I recommend that  you brew yourself a fresh cup of coffee, sit in a comfy chair and pull up your laptop/Ipad/IPhone/Android Phone/ (delete as appropriate)  and browse the virtual bookshelves at your leisure

If you buy your green man books via our Amazon Book Shop  you pay nothing extra but a small referral fee may go towards the Company of the Green Man. This helps us to keep our website and membership free for all our members. In fact anything you purchase from Amazon after going through one of the links may be eligible to earn us a small referral fee so please consider doing so whenever you are planning to shop at Amazon.

And if you know of a title you would like added to our bookshelves please don’t hesitate to get in touch using the “contact us” link above.

 

New Sighting – Chantry, Somerset

Somerset Chantry Holy Trinity 2

My Thanks to David Rawlins for adding two previously unreported green men to the gazetteer.  The Green Men are on misericords in the choir stalls of Holy Trinity Church, Chantry in Somerset (BA11 3LJ).

 Chantry Church was built in 1846 and designed by Gilbert Scott. The carvings are of very high quality, as is all the work in the Church. Holy Trinity Church has eight misericords all told.

Somerset Chantry Holy Trinity 1

Newsletter Archive

20140518_185452

I am extremely pleased to announce that many hours and one burnt out scanner later, The Company of the Green Man newsletter archive is now well and truly live!

As well as downloadable copies of all the e-newsletters produced by myself over the last five years (our e-newsletters are archived after six months) it contains downloadable pdf copies of the original Company of the Green Man newsletters published by my predecessor, the wonderful Ronald Miller between 1998 and 2005.

If you are already a member just click on the “How to access the Newsletter Archive” tab at the top of this page and you can purchase unlimited access to our Newsletter Archive for just £15.95.

If you are not yet a member then you can join up quickly and easily using the “join us” tab above (membership is completely free)

Green Man’s Life Cycle – by Phil Townsend

greenman greenson Greenman greenfather

My thanks to Phil Townsend for allowing us to reproduce this extract from a larger article that was published in ‘Woodcarving’, issue 39, 1998. For those who would like to visit this wonderful sculpture it is still in good condition and can be found close to the main drive through Hamsterley Forest, nr. Barnard Castle, Co Durham.

From childhood I recall a fascination with storybook illustrations where semi-human features seemed to appear in tree trunks, knotty eyes where branches had been shed, noses from stubby cut-off limbs, mouths within wrinkled folds of bark. These tree faces were often old and knobbly but appeared friendly and helpful to the travellers beneath their leaves. Often you had to look hard for the faces. Sometimes you just imagined an odd combination of knots, bark and branches looked something like a face.

In real life trees that seem capable of expression are found mainly among the broad-leaved species. Conifers are mainly straight up and down and rather boringly regular, especially when seen in ranks in forestry plantations. Such mystery and imaginings are found among plantations of spruce and fir come not from individual specimens but from the density of the planting, the maze-like quality of losing your bearings with it all looking much the same in any direction. Walking through the ranks you glimpse along an aisle of trees which then closes to become a solid wall before opening into the next aisle. It’s “now you see it, now you don’t”. These memories and observations were drawn on as a basis for a sculpture which was to have echoes of these elements. When it was first proposed to create a Green Man sculpture in Hamsterley Forest, part of the Great North Forest in County Durham, a suggestion was made to carve a single detailed image in the traditional form onto as large a butt of a tree as could be found.

But such a carving, though large in most contexts, would lack the presence required of this archetypal figure when set in his natural habitat, the forest. Also the traditional depiction of the Green Man as a gloomy and rather forbidding figure did not seem conducive to promoting a love and understanding of nature, but rather generating fear and lack of regard for it. On a practical level the idea of creating a single united image across the faces of several spatially separate tree trunks had been shown to be feasible in the well known sculpture by Colin Wilbourn on the banks of the River Wear in Durham, called The Upper Room. It seemed possible to take the idea a step further by carving an image that was seen then lost as you moved, only to be replaced by another. Now you see the Green Man, now you don’t. A scale model of trees set in a triangular formation showed that at a given distance about one third of a trunks surface was visible, so it became possible to create three Green Men, each one registering only when looking towards the apex of the triangle. But what were these three to look like?

There is much the Green Man could condemn his human cousins for (the felling of six trees in their prime for mere sculpture, perhaps?). But in a place like Hamsterley Forest where growing numbers of people come to appreciate the beauty and bounty of the woodland, this is where the Green Man would be most at peace and might cast a benign eye on the passer-by. Folklore and tradition would have it that the Green Man is always young and vital, but we know in all nature there has to be a process of growth, maturing, and decay so regeneration can take place. The cyclical manner of all life should not, I felt, bypass an image so central to its core, and so was formed this sculpture of the Green Man’s Life Cycle, Greenson, Greenman and Greenfather. 

The grand fir (Abies grandis) logs used in the sculpture were felled in Hamsterley forest, having achieved a great height by the roadside on the hill above The Grove. Apart from its size, grand fir has other desirable properties: it is straight and cylindrical in growth, has a much lower resin content than most other conifers, and has few branch knots on its lower trunk. Eight logs, all from trees about 50 years old, were delivered to the site where I selected the six best and debarked them. I decided to sink the logs into the ground to a depth of 4ft to ensure stability. Each log weighed around a ton and a half, which, combined with their 16ft length made the business tricky, especially as their position in relation to one another had to be accurate to within 1 inch or so for the carving of the work.

One of the best aspects of sculpting in public is you get to meet all sorts of people, a refreshing change from the isolation of studio work. A lot of passers-by were understandably confused by the disjointed appearance of the sculpture, which was also partially obscured by the scaffolding, and I heard the words “totem poles” offered as an explanation many times. Whenever someone showed real interest I took the opportunity to explain, but was not always understood. I heard one teenager, to whom I had described the three stages of the life cycle, calling to his father, to come and see the “mid-life crisis face”! There were some visitors not so welcome at the sculpture site: Hamsterley forest plays host to myriad insects and at different times I was plagued by flies, midges 2inch long wood wasps, and flying ants which would spend a whole day swarming over two thirds of the carving. Last year was also a bumper year for butterflies and literally hundreds converged on the clearing.

The term unveiling was accurate as we had a large green Great Forest banner slung just below the eyes of our Green Man which was released by a famous resident of Teesdale, Miss Hannah Hauxwell. There was quite a turnout. I was especially pleased to see children from four local primary schools who had been involved in the early stages of the project. They were entertained by a professional story-teller with his own version of the legend of the Green Man. This was followed a couple of days later with an enjoyable story-telling walk on the theme of The Magic of the Trees, culminating at the sculpture site with a talk from that contemporary ‘green’ man, David Bellamy, who linked legend to current environmental problems in his own inimitable way. Everyone agreed this was a fitting climax

Phil Townsend is a professional sculptor who lives in County Durham. Primarily he designs and makes outdoor sculpture, mostly in native hardwoods and a wide variety of stone – materials that sit easily with both the natural environment and the man-made.

You can see more of Phil’s wonderful work on his website at: http://www.sculptedart.co.uk/

Keith (Bogie) Leech Awarded MBE

Keith Leech MBE

Our congratulations to Keith Leech of the Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green who was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours, for services to Heritage in East Sussex.

Keith was born ‘in the sound of Bow Bells” in 1954 and was brought up in East London. After teaching in London and Africa he settled in Hastings and reintroduced the Jack-in-the-Green, the Hastings Borough Bonfire celebrations and the Hollington Mummers play back into the community. He is an acknowledged expert on May Day, the traditional Jack-in-the-Green and Bonfire customs. He was awarded Hastings highest honour the “Order of 1066″ in 1999 for his work in reintroducing customs to the town. He has adopted Hastings as his home and despite his cockney roots considers himself to be a Sussex man. He is a member of the Hastings Winkle club.

Keith has been instrumental in keeping the tradition of the Jack-in-the-Green alive in this country.

Jack-in-the-Green 16mm Film

Picture1

My thanks to no-w-here for allowing us to add a link to the wonderful 16mm film that was created at the workshop they ran in May this year. You can view the film HERE

Experimental Folklore: Jack-in-the-Green was a 16mm workshop which centred around the possibilities of recording and representing folk traditions as live events on film. The workshop examined how the sensorial aspects of  live traditions might be captured on film through the mechanics and optics of the 16mm camera, examining conceptual and practical concerns of the use of film, and the role of the artist filmmaker in the exploration of such performances. This short edit comes from all the footage shot on the workshop by participants. Sound was recorded digitally and added in post production. For details of similar workshops please see no.w.here’s workshop page on their website

no-w-here.org.uk

Thanks to Fowler’s Troop and Sarah Crofts who organise the Deptford Jack-in-the-Green every May 1st. For more information please see: /deptford-jack.org.uk

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