The Church of St. Nicholas and the Haxey Hood.
The Church of St. Nicholas
Church of St Nicholas Just a mile or two to the south of Epworth. The church had its chancel rebuilt 1853-4 and a general restoration was carried out 1895-1903.The east window contains stained glass by Cox and Sons 1874. In the north chapel is the monument to a priest of the 15th century.
Right: The church looking at the east end, Hood day, 6-Jan-1982.
Haxey is a pleasant village which goes mad on one day of the year, Epiphany or the sixth of January, when the youth of Haxey and Westwoodside battle it out on the fields and down the streets to get the haxey hood to their favourite pub. It starts out with one or two Bevies (drinks in the local) and moves to the cross base outside the east end of the churchyard at the side of the road when the fool is grabbed by the Boggans (game officials, it's not usually too painful ) and placed on the cross base. There he gives his instructions about rough play, avoiding damage, and injuring others. He then gives the fools traditional cry of:-
"Hoose agen hoose, toon agen toon, if tha meets a man nok im doon, but doant ot im"
Which translates as "House against House, Town against Town, if you meets a man (Opponent) Knock him over but dont hurt him."
The fool is then smoked over a fire of straw and leads the large group of men and boys and occasionally girls which makes the sway very interesting. The fool is accompanied by twelve referees or Boggans dressed in red jumpers and the chief boggan dressed in a Hunting pink (Red) coat and a top hat decorated with flowers and badges. Accompanying him is The Lord of the hood, who is also in Hunting pink, with a top hat and who carries the sway hood. This is a length of thick heavy rope encased and sewn into a leather tube and he also has his willow wand of office. This is twelve willow wands tied together with one more turned upside down in the center. These are then bound round with 13 more willow twigs and has at the top a red ribbon. This is said to represent the sword and the blood, from way back when this game was played with a bullocks head after it had been slaughtered. The willows in the center are to represent the twelve Apostles with the thirteenth in the center Judas.
It is always said that it is a magic wand and I have the magic wand from the 1983 Haxey hood game which was thrown to me to avoid the magic leaking out on passing from one to the other.
These are eagerly wanted each year and there is usually a waiting list. I was due to get the 1982 wand but it was explained to me that one of the old gentlemen on the field who had played the hood when he was a lad was well into his eighties and had expressed a wish to have a wand. His family knew he was terminally ill and would not see the next hood day so I waited another year as he was thrown that years wand much to his delight.
The fool walks to the middle of a field with the crowd and starts proceedings by throwing 12 "Running Hoods" These are rolled hessian sacks sewn up to prevent them unrolling and tied round with red ribbons. The youngsters in the crowd run for them when thrown and the first two or three are stopped by the boggans on the edge of the field and the hoods returned to the Lord. Especially if he is a big lad! Then a bit later the hoods are tipped the wink and the running hoods are allowed to get off the field in which case they can be returned the next day for a cash reward. There are usually some foreigners and others on the field who will give them far more than the reward though just to take one home with them, some as far as New Zealand.
After this bit of fun to warm up the crowd the sway hood is thrown up by someone invited to do so. The rugby scrum then converges on the hood and the sway starts in earnest. The general idea is to get the sway hood into one of the Public house Bars in Haxey or West Woodside when the hood is then hung over the bar till the following year. It has beer poured over it before it is hung up.
Despite it being a very rough game for the best part of three to four hours there are very few injuries and little damage. Any damage is repaired the next day and most hurts that there are come from too much beer before or after the game whether it be the winners celebrating or the losers commiserating and exhaustion or bruises from the sway which is what the scrum is officially called.
In all it is a lot of fun.
This site is a work in progress.