Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 16, 1905.djvu/81

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Collectanea. 59

Padstow " Hobby Hoss."

Padstow " Hobby Horse," or, as it is always locally termed, " Hobby Hoss," is a time-honoured custom of great antiquity. The history of its origin is buried in oblivion, and at the present time there is nothing but tradition upon which it may be founded. This tradition says that at the time when fierce wars were raged between the English and French (probably about the latter part of the eighteenth century), Padstow was threatened with in- vasion by a French fleet, and that the " Hobby Hoss " stood guard over the port on Stepper Point with such good effect that the Frenchman fled in terror from what they supposed must be the Evil One. Certainly the reference in the May songs to French dogs eating the goose feathers may lend colour to this tradition.^ Further, it is a very remarkable coincidence that in the year 1902, when the old oaken "snappers" of the " Hobby Hoss " were being scraped of the accumulated paint of many years, the date 1802 was found deeply carved in the oak, which was itself black with age. But this fact, though interesting, is no conclusive proof of the age of this quaint custom, since it has been necessary from time to time to renew various parts of the dress of the "Hobby Hoss," and 1802 may have been the date of the new " snappers " only.

However, from time immemorial, the custom has been cele- brated in Padstow on May ist of each year.

When shipbuilding was a thriving industry of the port, the shipwrights of Padstow would erect a large pole at the top of Cross Street, in the centre of a cross inlaid with stone, which is a prominent feature of the street. This pole was gaily decorated with spring flowers, etc., and used as a maypole, but through the objections of a former tenant of a house near by, the " Maypole " has long since been abandoned.

On the night preceding May Day, the " Hobby Hoss Pairs " or the party of men who were to accompany the " Hobby Hoss " on the morrow, and lead the merry-making, used to assemble at the " Golden Lion " Inn to a substantial supper. Afterwards,

i[At Helston, it is "those gallant Spaniards" who are to "eat the grey goose-feather." In any case, the allusion to arrows does not fit the 1 8th century. — Ed.]