Abbotsbury Garland-Day Procession stopped. Chief Constable's Apology to Parish Council.
The Daily Express of May 14, 1954, reported that the village constable of Abbotsbury had stopped the children's Garland-Day Procession as it danced its way through the fishing village to the sea, on the ground that it was "begging" and was against the law. He also confiscated the collection amounting to £1 1s. 7 1/2d. The uproar reached Mr. John Fox-Strangways, Chairman of the parish council and son of the Earl of Ilchester, lord of the manor. He rang up a solicitor and said that the village would take steps to preserve its ancient and picturesque custom. The Thanksgiving Garland is blessed annually and thrown into the sea from whence comes their livelihood. In the evening the children put the Garland on its pole and again danced down to the sea, while the police were busy preparing a legal action.
The Times of May 20 announced that the Chief Constable of Dorset had expressed his sincere apologies for the "unfortunate occurrence" to the Abbotsbury parish council and said that the constable had acted on his own initiative, without the knowledge of the divisional superintendent. "It is no part of my policy to interfere with old village customs," he stated. Mr. Fox-Strangways was authorised to take any necessary action to establish the legality of the Garland Day custom.
Proof that the Express has been complaining about Political Correctness for decades. p175 in Folk Life and Traditions
E. F. Coote Lake
Folklore, Vol. 65, No. 3/4. (Dec., 1954), pp. 172-175.
Do we offer floral tributes to Neptune in England to-day? Yes, at Abbotsbury on the 13th May every year the children go round the village with large garlands, asking for gifts from the inhabitants. When the round has been completed, a start is made for the beach, the flowers are placed in boats, and put out to sea--not for Neptune to do as he likes with--for they are brought back again, taken to the church, where a service is gone through. Here then is an excellent instance of a Christianised pagan superstition, for the floral tributes, if Neptune is to be worshipped, should be committed to the waves. The idea was to propitiate the god and bring luck in fishing. In all probability the custom will linger for some years to come, but it is already robbed of its original significance, and shows some signs of decay in consequence. Maybe some modern pagan, interested in old customs, will induce the inhabitants to return to the old rite of trusting the floral gifts to Father Neptune.
People who know me often wonder why I travel the length and breadth of this great country of ours looking at ‘old stones’ – in all their forms. More to the point they often ask Karen how on earth she puts up with me and the travelling. To be fair, she usually defends our exploits on the grounds that we often go to very nice places and see wonderful scenery – Abbotsbury is a point in case.
Had it not been for the fact that I am trying to visit every E.H. site (Abbotsbury has two!) in all probability I would have never come here. But it does – and I did. And what a delightful place Abbotsbury is – very picturesque and charming. In addition to the cottages with thatched roofs, traditional country pub, village church etc it also has a Tithe Barn – something I have a ‘thing’ for. Not only that but also a swannery.
The view from the top of St Catherine’s hill is fabulous.
(Particularly on a gloriously sunny day like today with blue skies and white fluffy clouds)
You get to look over the village / church / Tithe Barn and great coastal views.
In short, if any of those who doubted why we do what we do were able to see what I was looking at while stood on the hill, perhaps they would then understand.
Abbotsbury is a great place to visit. The fact it has so many ‘old stones’ to look at in the area is a bonus. It is at times like this that you get a reminder of what a great hobby of ours this is and how fortunate we are to be ‘in the know’.