Monday, 12 November 2007

The Oasby Morris Baboon Dancers

To celebrate my last week of work in mid Lincolnshire, I was going to post loads of charming pictures of Hubbard's Hills and blue plaques showing where Tennyson invented swing tennis. But then I got the call of the weird. Lincolnshire is well known for its strange past-times like the Haxey Hood (kicking a hood violently between villages for a flagoon of ale) and regular ploughing matches (no more boring Sundays!) but this newsy item is just bizarre. Pagan, a tad dodgy and invented by a mad publican. The mentals.

An annual highlight in the Sleaford area is held in Oasby where villagers commemorate the death of Viscount Conningsby, first son of Sir Michael Newton (cousin of Sir Issac Newton) in 1723. The Viscount was only six months old when he was killed by an ape, reportedly a baboon, which was kept as a pet. The family home was Culverthorpe Hall where the child was laid to rest in the family chapel, while the baboon was said to have been buried somewhere on the estate. Several years ago the villagers decided to remember this dreadful occurrence with a now annual event in memory of the Viscount by marching around the village with flaming torches and making a huge row with drums, pots and pans and whistles while herding the baboon (a villager in a costume) towards the Houblon Inn.
At the pub they are denied admission by the landlord until an effigy of the ape is hurled over the roof, only then can they enter to hear the famous poem written for the occasion by Sleaford resident Jeff Challoner. The Oasby Morris Baboon Dancers will perform and there will be music and verse, along with a collection for Children In Need. Paul Kennedy of Oasby said: “There is quite a lot going on in the pub after the march and it is a cracking night for a very good cause.”

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