“Hoose agen hoose, toon agen toon, if a man meets a man nok ‘im doon, but doant ‘ot ‘im”

Smoking The Fool

Today, donning my thermals and a pair of wellies I headed east into Lincolnshire to cover The Haxey Hood, said to be the oldest local tradition in England.
It is described as a kind of rugby game with unlimited participants and few rules, not sure if the St Johns Ambulance people arrived today, where a leather tube is ‘battled’ over and walked by a large unorganised scrum (known as the Sway) to 1 of 4 pubs in Haxey and neighbouring village Westwoodside.

The Haxey Hood is a traditional event held in the village of Haxey in North Lincolnshire on the Twelfth Day of Christmas and dates back to the 14th Century.
The official story is that Lady de Mowbray, wife of a local landowner, John De Mowbray, was out riding towards Westwoodside when her silk riding hood was blown away by the wind. Thirteen farm workers in the field rushed to help and chased the hood all over the field. It was finally caught by one worker, but being too shy to hand it back to the lady gave it to one of the others to hand back. She thanked the worker who retuned the hood and said that he had acted like a Lord, wheras the worker who actually caught the hood was a Fool. So amused was she by this act of chivalry and the resulting chase, that she donated 13 acres of land on condition that the chase for the hood would be re-enacted each year. This re-enactment over the centuries has become known as “The Haxey Hood”

Lord of the Hood

The event, including a drink or two, involves The Fool leading a procession through Haxey Village to the church. Once there the Fool makes his traditional speech of welcome from the old mounting block known as the Mowbray Stone. During his speech a fire is lit with damp straw behind him. The smoke rises up and around him and this is known as ‘Smoking the Fool’.

The main proceedings start with the ‘Hood’ being tossed into the crowd from where it is ‘Swayed’ to one of the four pubs in the ‘rugby style scrum’. The game ends when the Hood arrives at one of the pubs and is touched by the landlord from his front steps.

Having last covered the event in 1998 I’d forgotten just how quick the Sway can turn! Shooting with a wide angle lens mean’t getting close to the action whilst being aware of the direction of the Sway. It was very easy to slip or trip on the mud which could have meant something a little more serious than a broken piece of kit!

As I left the event and the sun had set hundred’s of people, participants and spectators were still cheering on the teams………..I wonder if they made last orders?

The Sway

Check out the image gallery.


Twitter:     @sfpix

About flannpress
Shaun Flannery is a leading Yorkshire based freelance photographer with over 15 years in the industry. His creative flare and perceptive eye has established him as a highly experienced national freelance photographer with regular featured images in tabloids, broadsheets, regional press and trade titles. Used by press agencies, marketing managers and PR companies, Shaun’s notable persona ensures his ability to interact with each of his subjects making sure his corporate and PR images are given that, ever-so-required, edge! Shaun’s gallery includes remarkable front page coverage of news events; action shots from some of the most famous sporting venues across the country; fantastic shots of those tricky subjects – animals and children, as well as some outstanding images of members of the Royal Family. Knowing the importance of his client’s requirements and being able to interpret a brief well, ensures the service offered by Shaun is second-to-none. Coupled with his understanding of the media and his technological capabilities, Shaun appreciates the need for instant visual communications and is therefore able to meet his client’s strict deadlines every time. Anyone looking for a reliable photographer with the ability to consistently produce eye-catching images should contact Shaun Flannery, based in Doncaster, on 07778 315553

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