I am extremely pleased to announce that the Bradford-on-Avon Jack-in-the-Green was spotted today and I know this to be true because I ventured out and saw it for myself. “Jack in the Green’s Tour of Bradford on Avon” started from The Lock Inn at 11am this morning and took in the town centre, the Tithe Barn and of course as tradition dictates…a number of Public Houses where liquid refreshments were had and Jack and his covid compliant entourage was able to get out of the hot sun for a bit.
Jack was joined by his Ganderflankers’ musicians and two wonderful beasts. My thanks to everyone for allowing me to get some wonderful pictures.
The Hammersmith Jack in the Green put in a wonderful solo appearance this year. I am extremely grateful to his guardians The World Famous Hammersmith Morris Men for keeping me informed or Jacks perambulations and allowing me to reproduce these wonderful pictures of him here.
The History of The Hammersmith Jack in the Green
In 2009 Members of Hammersmith Morris created the Hammersmith Jack. This Jack is unique amongst the modern revivals in that it is largely covered with artificial foliage and is therefore relatively lightweight and portable. Each leaf is made from a variety of materials, all of it re-used and recycled. The leaves were created by many different people including local schools and community organisations that Jack has visited as part of its May Day perambulations over the years. As well as leaves made of paper, fabric and plastic, the Jack has other items attached that have some significance to either Hammersmith, the team, or the person who attached it. These can be almost anything, as long as they are small and easily attached to the bamboo and net frame and include jig competition medals, badges, train tickets, melodeon bellows and an iPod! A crown of fresh flowers and foliage is used to top the Jack each year on May 1st.
The Jack is paraded through Hammersmith on May 1st, regardless of which day of the week this falls, and wherever else the Jack visits on this day. This included 2016 when The Hammersmith Jack travelled west by train to appear at dawn in Sherborne, Dorset on May 1st. Jack was back home parading through Hammersmith by lunchtime. When May 1st is a normal weekday then Jack and the team will visit schools and care homes in the local area, as well as local pubs. The Hammersmith Jack in the Green is very much a free spirited urban Jack, having no attendants other than the Morris Dancers and musicians and mostly being left to his own devices. As such the Jack can at times be spotted parading the streets of Hammersmith completely on its own, creating a special kind of gentle mayhem unique to The Hammersmith Jack.
People have reported an earlier incarnation of a Hammersmith Jack but this is uncorroborated by current team members. On May Day in 1984 the Earls of Essex Morris, with Mick Skrzypiec in their Jack, met at dawn on Wanstead Flats to see the sun rise. After breakfast they travelled by commuter train into Liverpool Street and started the first City of London Jack-in-the-Green procession. They were joined at the Magog’s pub in Milk Street by the Deptford (Fowler’s Troop) Jack and one other Jack which a member of Fowler’s Troop recalls as being carried by Mike Mullen. Mike danced with Hammersmith Morris but this Jack appears to have been an individual effort by him rather than the work of the team.
The World Famous Hammersmith Morris Men or Smiffs were formed in 1959. Kitted out in blue and gold they continue to entertain audiences around the country with their lively and engaging style.
It was a wonderful virtual May weekend and as far as I can tell five of the main Jack-in-the-Greens put in appearances this weekend.
The Jacks sighted so far this year are:
- The Hammersmith Jack-in-the-Green
- The Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green
- The Boss Morris Jacky-in-the-Green
- The Whitstable Jack-in-the-Green
- The Winchcombe Jack-in-the-Green
The Oxford Jack was reproduced in collage form again this year.
The Evercreech Jacks head was decorated by the local community and displayed for all to see.
There were also many mini Jacks who appeared this year include ones from
- The Deptford Fowler’s Troop Jack-in-the-Green
- The Dead Horse Morris Jack-in-the-Green
I will post more details about each of the Jacks and as always would be very grateful for any pictures to add to our annual archive of Jacks. I would also really appreciate pictures of your mini-Jacks from around the world to add to the archive this year.
It is 05:32 on Saturday 1st May 2021 and the Sun has just risen.
A Merry May Day to you all
from The Company of the Green Man.
A Riddle – Phil Lister
I am born on May Morning by sticks, bells, and ribbons
I am the sap in the dark root
I am the dancer with his six fools
I am the tump behind the old church
I am the lost soul under the misericord
I am the oak against the stars
I am the face that peers through the leaves
I am the fear in a childs mind
I am the demon on the roof-boss
I am killed in October and laid on church altars
I am the guiser on the bright bonfire
I am the old grain sown with the seed
I am the flame in the pumpkins grin
I am the spirit in the kern-baby’s bosom
Green Man – William Anderson
Like antlers, like veins of the brain, the birches
Mark patterns of mind on the red winter sky;
‘I am thought of all plants’, says the Green Man,
‘I am thought of all plants’, says he.
The hungry birds harry the last berries of rowan
But white is her bark in the darkness of rain;
‘I rise with the sap’, says the Green Man,
‘I rise with the sap’, says he.
The ashes are clashing their bows like sword-dancers
Their black buds are tracing wild faces in the clouds;
‘I come with the wind’, says the Green Man.
‘I come with the wind’, says he.
The alders are rattling as though ready for battle
Guarding the grove where she waits for her lover;
‘I burn with desire’, says the Green Man,
‘I burn with desire’, says he.
In and out of the yellowing wands of the willow
The pollen-bright bees are plundering the catkins;
‘I am honey of love’, says the Green Man,
‘I am honey of love’, says he.
The hedges of quick are thick with May blossom
As the dancers advance on the leaf-covered King;
‘It’s off with my head’, says the Green Man,
‘It’s off with my head’, says he.
Green Man becomes grown man in flames of the oak
As its crown forms its mask and its leafage his features;
‘I speak through the oak’, says the Green Man,
‘I speak through the oak’, says he.
The holly is flowering as hay fields are rolling
Their gleaming long grasses like waves of the sea;
‘I shine with the sun’, says the Green Man,
‘I shine with the sun’, says he.
The hazels are rocking the cups of their nuts
As the harvesters shout when the last sheaf is cut;
‘I swim with the salmon’, says the Green Man,
‘I swim with the salmon’, says he.
The globes of the grapes are robing with bloom
Like the hazes of autumn, like the Milky Way’s stardust;
‘I am crushed for your drink’, says the Green Man,
‘I am crushed for your drink’, says he.
The aspen drops silver of leaves on earth’s salver
And the poplars shed gold on the young ivy flower heads;
‘I have paid for your pleasure’, says the Green Man,
‘I have paid for your pleasure’, says he.
The reedbeds are flanking in silence the islands
Where meditates Wisdom as she waits and waits;
‘I have kept her secret’, says the Green Man,
‘I have kept her secret’, says he.
The bark of the elder makes whistles for children
To call to the deer as they rove over the snow;
‘I am born in the dark’, says the Green Man,
‘I am born in the dark’, says he.
Whilst the majority of this years events have been cancelled there are still a few taking place, mostly online. I have included details and links below. Please support these events and help to keep this magical tradition alive. If you know of an event that I have missed please do get in touch.
The Hastings Traditional Jack-in-the-Green – Friday 30th April – Monday 3rd May 2021
The Hastings Jack in the Green will appear in 2021 as part of an incredible three day online event spanning Friday 30th April – Monday 3rd May – I highly recommend this, last years event was wonderful and gave a great insight into the Jack and his followers as well as all the hard work that goes into the events in Hastings each year. You can join in via the Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green Facebook page here:
Will be streaming some Jack in the Green goodness on May Monday at around 1pm on their Facebook page. Details are top secret but the Jack tradition will be maintained for another virtual year!)
A Mayday workshop is being run on 1st May to create flower crowns and Jacks head will be dressed.
Bradford on Avon Jack-in-the-Green
May still put in a low key appearance on Sunday 30th May