Election of the Mayor of Ock Street

Election of the Mayor of Ock Street

Saturday nearest June 19
The town of Abingdon, England, has long been famous for its Morris dancers, who rank among the best in England. During the 18th century, it was customary for the people of Abingdon to kill and roast a black ox on St. Edmund of Abingdon's Feast Day, or another day nearby. The feast day is June 19, the day before St. Edmund's Fair. The meat would be distributed among the town's needy folk.
In 1700 an argument arose during the ox roast over who would get the horns. It was decided that the only fair way to settle the argument was to have a real fight, so the town was divided into two opposing teams by drawing an imaginary line along Ock Street. Using torches, sticks, stones, and bare fists, the western part of Abingdon, led by a man by the name of Hemmings—one of the town's Morris dancers—took possession of the horns. The crowd hailed him as the "Mayor of Ock Street."
Today, only people who live on Ock Street may vote for the mayor, which they do by placing paper ballots into a soapbox. The winner is usually a member of the Hemmings family, and he toasts his election by drinking from a special applewood chalice, or bowl, with a silver rim, which is believed to be more than 200 years old. He is carried through the streets in a flower-decorated chair by the Abingdon Morris dancers, who follow behind the "hornbearer," a man holding a pole on which is mounted a black-horned ox head. They stop at each of Ock Street's many pubs, where all the dancers have a drink and join in the celebration.
CONTACTS:
Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancers
19 Spring Gardens
Abingdon, Berkshire OX14 1AZ United Kingdom
44-12-3552-7064
www.abingdonmorris.org.uk
SOURCES:
YrbookEngFest-1954, p. 83
YrFest-1972, p. 47