Ramsey dancers hit the street for Plough Monday

THE ANCIENT tradition of the Plough Monday procession and dance was revived in Ramsey for the third and potentially final year.

THE ANCIENT tradition of the Plough Monday procession and dance was revived in Ramsey for the third and potentially final year.

Funding for the event is due to finish this summer, but villagers have vowed to carry on the unusual custom which sees participants black up their faces and dress up in colourful clothing, while one man is covered head to toe in straw as the Straw Bear.

On Monday around 1,000 people watched and took part in the procession through the village, including 500 children from Ramsey Junior School, Ashbeach Primary, St German’s and Magdalen schools from Norfolk and St. Peter’s Junior School in Wisbech.

It was followed by performances of local dances by pupils.

Gordon Phillips of Norfolk Our World Festivals Ltd, who organised the event, said: “This year was twice as big as last year, and last year was twice as big as the year before, which shows there is real momentum.

“We had a lot of people come up to us yesterday wanting to keep it going after the funding runs out in the summer.”

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Plough Monday was celebrated in various guises across the country and came about as a means for agricultural workers to earn money during the bleak mid-winter, when they had little work.

Many villages abandoned the custom in the 1930s, but in Ramsey, Ramsey Heights and Ramsey St Mary it continued until the 1950s.

The day-long event 60 years ago involved appearances by the Straw Bear, performances by Molly dancers and plays. Participants were called Plough Witches locally, while in other parts of the country they are referred to as Plough Boys or Plough Bullocks.

Their faces are blacked up in order to protect their identities.

Mr Phillips said: “Originally the Plough Witches went round with their ploughs and they would plough up the front gardens of anyone who did not give them money. It was a disguise so you did not get discovered. Obviously now we use make-up but in the past they used soot.”

INFORMATION: See www.ploughmonday.co.uk for more information.

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