Balsham to celebrate Plough Monday

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Cries of ‘Gee up!’ and ‘Pity the poor old plough boy!’ will be heard through Balsham as the Ploughmen take to the streets on Monday (January 13).

Plough Monday, held annually on the first Monday after Twelfth Night (Epiphany), sees the Ploughmen joined by Morris dancers to celebrate the ancient tradition that now raises cash for good causes.

Balsham Plough Monday 2014 will be celebrated tonight (Monday, January 13).

Balsham Plough Monday 2014 will be celebrated tonight (Monday, January 13).

The event starts at 5.30pm at Fox Road where the plough will be blessed by Revd Dr Julie Norris, before heading to the High Street (6.30pm), Woodhall Lane (7.15pm), The Cedars in West Wratting Road (8pm), Princes Close (9pm), The Bell (9.45pm) and finally The Bull (10.15pm).

Beneficiaries are the church parish nurse scheme, now crockery for the church institute, the 1617-2017 400th anniversary map project and replacing the Ploughmens’ bench at Mays Avenue Green.

Raffle tickets available at the Yole Farm Butchers Shoppe, The Bell and the Black Bull.

Tickets will also be on sale outside the Butchers Shoppe on the morning of Saturday (January 11)

The main task of the evening is to raise money for the good causes.

There will be pre-arranged stops with welcoming refreshments and a chance to meet friends, old and new, a street collection and a raffle with £100 cash prize.

There are several theories as to the origin of Plough Monday, one being that following invasion in the ninth century it was introduced by the Danes as a form of tax.

However another theory, and one that bears comparison with the modern celebration, is that the custom was held to signify the return to work of the ploughmen after the Christmas break, thus beginning a new agricultural year.

On the preceding Sunday the plough would be taken to church and blessed, in the hope that the coming year would be fertile and prosperous.

Any monies collected on the following night would then be put to the cost of the plough light, a candle or rush light placed at the alter thus ensuring a blessing for all agricultural workers and their crops.

The Reformation put a stop to the lights but the custom continued with monies being spent by the ploughmen on food and drink.

Balsham’s association with this custom has been interrupted a few times, notably by war, but revivals have always followed, the latest 1972 revival being the most successful.

For all the latest news see tomorrow’s (Thursday, January 9) Echo.