Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/61

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May-Day in Cheltenham.

dressed up in woman's clothes, who personated the Clown's wife; and the whole thing wound up with a feast. He recollects no maypole nor bonfires in this district.

He gives the following account of the origin of the custom, which is an interesting example of the modern myth-making faculty. It is obviously made up to account for the fact that the sweeps get up the May-Day revels.

"It was a lady as gave 'em those dresses, sir; that's how it was they began to goo about May-Day. Her son was stoole from her, as they say; and she was a tellin of it to a sweep, as his boy was a climbin in the chimney; that's how they had a used to do it, you know. An' she was a lookin at the lad, an, says he—the sweep, that is sir—'Here's a lad o mine up the chimney as was found'; and down a come, an she knawed'n be a mark or sum mat on 'em, sir. An so she give 'em the dresses, and got up the band; an 'twas o the ist o May, as they say, sir; an that 's how it come so as the sweeps done it."

"And do you remember it?"

"Ah noo, sir, nor my father neyther; but that's how it was, a long time agoo."

It used to be the custom in London for the sweeps to get up the May-Day dances. Companies of these would make a pyramid of wicker-work, of a sugar-loaf shape, covered with flowers and leaves, and topped with a crown of flowers and ribbons.[1] The chimney-sweeps appear again in Bavaria.[2] That the same used to be true of Cambridge, is shewn by the rhyme which the children still sing about the streets. They carry a female doll, hung in the midst of a hoop, which is wreathed with flowers, and they sing withal the following ditty:


The first of May is garland day,
And chimney-sweeper's dancing day.
Curl your hair as I do mine,
One before and one behind.

  1. Mannhardt, Baumhultus, p. 332, who cites authorities.
  2. Id., ib., p. 352.