Historical Jack-in-the-Green – January
Each month I publish a newspaper article that featured the traditional Jack-in-the-Green along with a picture or photograph from the archive. Each of these articles is a fascinating 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 1864: GOING A-MAYING.
The boughs and flowers were used to decorate the doors and windows of the houses, and were often associated with superstitious ceremonies, including protection against witchcraft and securing a good milking season. Indeed, the milkmaids appear always to have had a special interest in May Day festivities ; and even within living memory a number of them would assemble, in a street near Moorfields, on the first day of the month, there to perform a sort of grotesque dance around a figure which was evidently the original “Jack in the Green.” This was a man who bore upon his head a pyramid of May flowers and green boughs, all hung round, with mugs and silver tankards ; and it not frequently happened that the party was afterwards joined by a number of sweeps’ climbing-boys who were decked out with ribbons and accompanied the milkmaid’s fiddle and tabor with a brush and shovel obbligato. These sweeps, who by a popular fiction were supposed to have their holiday in virtue of its being the anniversary of the recovery of young Montagu, who had been stolen for a climbing-boy, soon had May Day to themselves; and now the “Ramoneur” – which recent Parliamentary disclosures prove has not superseded climbing-boys, enactments notwithstanding – has nearly abolished May Day, even amongst the sweeps…
The Illustrated Times, 7 May 1864, page 302.
The picture featured this month is “Jack in the Green a May Day scene sixty years ago” by Charles Green (1830)
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