A real election for a Mock Mayor
The Election of the Mayor of Ock Street, an annual tradition in Abingdon-on-Thames, is held on the closest Saturday to the midsummer solstice, which suggests ancient roots.
As well as being a Morris Dancing marathon lasting from midday into the evening, taking in pubs up and down the street, the day includes a real election, conducted according to strict rules, for the town’s ‘mock’ mayor.
Abingdon holds a proud tradition of standing up for the rights of the common man. Ock Street used to be the area where the poorer townsfolk lived in previous centuries and this was their way of appointing a leader and spokesman who could call the real Mayor to account when he forgot about the ordinary townspeople.
You still have to live on or near Ock Street to be able to exercise a vote in this election. Once elected, the new mayor is carried shoulder-high on a litter of flowers back to the market place where the final dance of the day takes place as the sun sets. Onlookers join in and the dancing sometimes spills out in to the surrounding streets.
The Horns of Ock Street
This is one of the occasions when you can see the Horns of Ock Street because the Abingdon Traditional Morris side will not dance without it. The Horns of Ock Street are the regalia of the Abingdon Traditional Morris side, and the symbol of what must be one of the longest standing neighbourhood grudges in history. In 1700, at a town celebration which included the roasting of an ox on the market place, there was a fight over who would keep the animal’s horns between the lads of Ock Street and the boys from the Vineyard on the northern side of the town. The Ock Street boys won and they continue to flaunt their victory to this day with a cow’s head and horns cast in iron and supported on a pole, decorated and proudly standing over every dance of the Abingdon Traditional Morris.