A rallying cry has been issued for people to come out and support this year’s Haxey Hood – despite only one of four pubs normally involved in the game being open for business.
A post on Facebook urging people to come out and support this Saturday’s annual game has gone viral after it was announced that all of Haxey’s pubs – the Kings Arms, Duke William and The Loco will be closed – leaving just Westwoodside’s Carpenters Arms open on the day.
The traditional game, which dates from 1359, sees drinkers from pubs in the two villages attempt to win the Hood – a tube of leather – by ‘swaying’ it to their favoured watering hole in a muddy and bruising encounter which can take hours.
There were fears that the closure of the pubs would impact on the annual game – but a post from Haxey Hood enthusiast Simon Banks-Cooper has urged supporters to gather in force for this weekend’s clash.
He wrote: “With less than a week to go before the Fool stands smouldering on Lady de Mowbray’s mounting stone to welcome Boggins, players and spectators alike there is evidence of discord, uncertainty and frustration to be found.
“There is no doubt that the simultaneous absence of Haxey’s public houses is, in recent history at least, an unprecedented event that will have some impact on the day, but let’s stand back and put this into some proper context.
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“The Haxey Hood has been played on the hill that separates Haxey and Westwoodside for over 700 years.
“So whether those hostelries open or not on Saturday, and irrespective of the reason or motive that drives their closure, the impact and consequence on the tradition and history of Haxey Hood as a whole will be an inconsequential irrelevance.
“That is because a year, or even five years, is a fraction of time in the context of the Hoods great history, which will be lost on future participants.
“This is not just because in years to come the Kings and the Duke will once again be open, as I have no doubt they will, but more importantly because the Haxey Hood is not a tangible asset owned by any one person or group. As a tradition and custom it is much much bigger than that.
“However, this does mean that those that currently contribute, be it as the Lord of the Hood, Boggin, sack hood carrying schoolchild, player in the sway or onlooker, are the custodians of their time on who it is incumbent to ensure that the tradition is passed on to future generations.
“So in short, put the absence of the public houses aside and turn up to sing, participate or spectate regardless. It will be a great day.”
The closure of the pubs comes after a strained twelve months in Haxey.
Shortly after last year’s contest, won by the Carpenters Arms, a planning application was submitted by Duke William landlord Paul Chapman to demolish the pub and replace it with houses.
But in November, the scheme was unanimously rejected by North Lincolnshire Council to the delight of villagers and Haxey Hood enthusiasts.
It is not understood if that decision is behind the Duke William or The Loco being closed on Saturday.
The Kings Arms meanwhile is currently closed due to licensing issues.
A spokesman for the Haxey Hood said that the game would still go ahead as planned this Saturday between Haxey and Westwoodside.
Normally, victory is declared when the landlord of the winning pub takes delivery of the Hood on the pub doorstep but in the event of a Haxey win this year, a win will be claimed when the Hood reaches a pre-detemined point near the Kings Arms.