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The Minehead Hobby Horse, Minehead, Somerset, May 1st, 1971
1971, 1 May
Gelatin silver print
Provided by the artist - Homer Sykes
© Homer Sykes
This young man has woken up at dawn to see the Sailors Horse return from Whitecross a mile or so west of the town on May Day morning, where as part of the traditional celebration the Sailors Horse accompanied by three musicians play the "Hobby Horse" tune, or "Sailors Joy". At Whitecross the hobby horse bows three times to the morning sun, and then makes its way back into town. During the 19th century this was much grander, with the vicar blessing the Hobby Horse and a May Queen being crowned. In 1971 after the morningis excursion, the Hobby Horse then reappears that evening, carried by van to Dunster where it is danced in front of the castle. The following two evenings it appears in Periton and Cher giving some credence that these celebrations combine traditional May Day festivities with the "beating the bounds" ceremony. More boat than horse shaped, it is made of a wooden frame built up inside so as to be carried on the shoulders of the hobby horse man. Covered in sacking and decorated in coloured cloth ribbons the hobby horse rushes to and fro chasing children, and flicking them with its tail. It‘s considered good luck to touch the "Oss".
This photograph was included in the book by Homer Sykes "Once a Year: Some Traditional British Customs" (Gordon Faser, 1977)