Custom demised: Holly Bussing on Easter Tuesday

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Here is a singularly unique custom which may have older roots but it is sadly demised. It was done only in Netherwitton.

Thistleton Dwyer in his In British Popular Customs Present And Past note that a writer in the Newcastle Express (April 16th, 1857), stated it was a

“vernacular expression for a very ancient custom celebrated at Netherwitton, the origin of which is unknown.”

This was done on Easter Tuesday and the account continues:

“the lads and lasses of the village and vicinity meet, and, accompanied by the parish clerk, who plays an excellent fiddle, the inspiring strains of which put mirth and mettle in their heels, pro­ceed to the wood to get holly.”

Once they have collected enough holly they then go back to the village to the stone cross and using the holly the author notes that

“with which some deco­rate a stone cross that stands in the village while others are “bobbing around” to “Speed the Plough” or “Birnie Bouzle.””

The custom would appear to perhaps remember a pre-Christian custom of dressing a stone for the spring equinox but of course equally it could be a left over of some wider dressing the village for Easter. Interesting Halsway Manor do a revival of this custom it would appear some 360 odd miles transposed with a nod and wink to its origin no doubt!

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