Video: Balsham Ploughmen raise more than £2,000

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Balsham’s ploughmen took to the streets to celebrate the village’s annual tradition on Monday (January 13) and raise more than £2,000 for good causes.

Plough Monday is celebrated in Balsham every year on the first Monday after Twelfth Night (Epiphany), with cries of ‘Pity the poor old plough boy!’ and ‘Gee up!’ ringing through the streets.

Instead of raising cash to see the ploughmen through the winter months as they did centuries ago, the modern ploughmen, accompanied by Morris dancers, now raise money for good causes.

The event was revived in Balsham in 1972 and has carried on annually ever since, with ploughmen carrying buckets to raise the cash and also holding a raffle.

Jam Ellam, who organises the event, said: “It went really well and was really nice.”

The £2,045 raised will be split between the church parish nurse scheme, new crockery for the church institute, the 1607-2017 400th Anniversary Map Project and replacing the ploughmen’s bench in Mays Avenue Green.

James Kiddy, 47, acted as squire for the ploughmen on the night.

“I’ve been doing this for about 15 years now and my father did it before me,” he said.

“We’re the only farming family left in the village.
“It’s important to keep up the tradition, though we don’t get as many people following us as we used to and it gets harder to find stops, but we do want to keep it alive.”

The event alternates which end of Balsham it starts at, and this year began at Fox Road before heading down the High Street to Woodhall Lane.

West Wratting Road was next before Princes Close and then The Bell before finishing at The Bull.

Mike West, 52, hosted the beginning of the event at his home.

“We’ve done this a few times now as we’ve found it a good way to meet new people since moving to the village in 1997.

“It’s always a good evening and at each stop everyone gets a little merrier.

“It’s very important to keep these traditions alive especially as we’re so near to Cambridge not a lot of people mix so without this sort of things the village becomes a bit of a dormitory.”

The Rev Julie Norris has been in Balsham for four years and begins Plough Monday by blessing the plough.

“It’s great to see all the goodwill that there is in the village and to be part of a fun activity as well.

“It’s a wonderful tradition that brings the whole village out together and people have a lot of fun meeting each other as well as making money for good causes.

“It’s a delight to be able to do the blessing upon something that will make such a difference.”

Graham Cox, 64, from Cambridge, and Mike Jones, 62, from Norwich, are members of the Cambridge Morris Men that have performed at the event for more than 30 years.

“If we didn’t enjoy it we wouldn’t come back and each year we see people who are so sociable and friendly,” said Mike.

“It’s vital we keep these traditions alive otherwise people won’t understand and appreciate what’s gone before and without it idiots like us would have nothing to do.”

Graham added: “It’s a good social event with lots of tradition to it and the whole village is very welcoming.”

Theories as to how the event started range from the Danes introducing it as a tax to a celebration of a return to the work for the Ploughmen and even the agricultural workers demanding money from residents while they was no work and threatening to plough up their lawn if they did not give. For all the latest news see today’s (Thursday, January 16) Echo.




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