Another summer/winter battle?

 

From “Celtic culture: a historical encyclopedia, Volumes 1-5” by John T. Koch, under Beltaine:

“Until 1858 ‘muntlings’ or May battles took place at two neighbourhoods reminiscent of Welsh  cnapan and Irish HURLING games.”

 

A quote from “Jack o' Kent and the Devil: stories of a Welsh border hero” by William Henry Greene, page 5:

“I made a mantle, and made it thick; A big birch besom, well tied with string; Inside I tied the half of a brick, To make the bones of the town-chaps ring. I guarded the bridge with the lusty boys, The Cat-a-Thumpings, from Cappers' Town; We fought the 'Up-Town' hobbledehoys, Who dared to the foot of the tower come down. There were hard knocks, though only in fun; All must relish what Fortune sends; And when the battle at last was done, We drank together like bosom friends. Last year, when the new Mayor was made, Through the borough he rode so grand, While bright flags flared and music played; But at Monnow-Bridge he was forced to stand. This reverend arch you'll not come through ! ' The Chief of the Cat-a-Thumpings said; 'I am a Mayor as well as you; If you would pass, you must bow your head ! ' Then the Up-Town Mayor took off his hat, The Mayor of the Cappers' Town replied; Then side by side in the same coach sat, Like brothers they round the town did ride. And there was such jolly carouse; Bonfires were on the causeways made; Every inn was an 'open-house', We drank what we liked and nothing paid. There'll be better frolic to-day, you know, Beer to drink, and the girls to kiss; Do mind the birdies, and let me go; For Monmouth Mop I never could miss. And I will bring you a pocket-knife, The best that.

 

 

Page 7:

* The battles with besoms between the "Cat-a-Thumpings" and the "Up-in-Town-Boys" on Monnow Bridge, took place on the 1st. of May and the 29th. of May : and this custom of "muntling," as it was called, was suppressed in 1858. Jack o' Kent and the Devil”

 
Another entry in Koch book under Beltaine is that “May Day was an important day for legal contracts. Agricultural and domestic workers would hire themselves out ‘from May Day to May Day’ (Old irish ‘o belltaini co belltaini’, a phrase used in the Book of Aicill [Binchy, Corpus Iuris Hibernici 1.260.15]”.
 
So why Beltaine to Beltaine? Is there a break in the agricultural year at this time?

 

 


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