The Mock Mayor of St. John's
There was formerly a custom in Cornwall of electing a Mock Mayor. Many years ago the late Mr. A.H. Hawke, the well known Helston Photographer, produced a photograph of a poster announcing a procession into the town by the Mock Mayor of St. John's.
The late Dr. H. Spencer Toy M.A. B.Sc. in his monumental work, `The History of Helston' gave a description of the event:
`The revel known as the Mock Mayor of St. John's is probably of comparatively recent origin and it is doubtful if it has any place in the traditional celebrations on Furry Day. It was, however, a popular carnival in the middle of the nineteenth century. Bills were printed and displayed at various points in the town, one of these used in 1858 came into the hands of a journalist and was published in a local newspaper twenty-two years later, in the column entitled `Old Cornwall',` it reads:
HELSTON FURRY DAY
A Grand PROCESSION
will parade the town
On Monday, the 10th of May, 1858, in the following order:
Outrider of Horseback,
A Company of Sharp - shooters
from the Seat of War in full uniform.
A strong Body of Police.
AUNT MARY MOSES,
on a White Palfrey, with her Squires and Attendants.
Constables with their Staffs at Office.
A REAL BLACK TURK,
dressed in the full uniform of a Turkish Warrior, armed with a Turkish blunderbuss, with which he killed 15 Russians in one engagement.
HIS WORSHIP THE MAYOR OF ST. JOHN'S
, drawn by six Jerusalem Ponies, attended by his
Secretary and Groom, Coachman and two Postillions, in gorgeous liveries.
City Crier in a Carriage and
THE COUNCIL-MEN TWO-AND-TWO
The Procession will enter the Town Hall at 9 o'clock precisely. Dated 4th May 1858.
Dated 4th May 1858
Canyon, Printer, Bookbinder, Stationer &c., Helston.
The revel created considerable amusement, for the Mock Mayor scattered jests and banter over the heads of the large crowd which witnessed it. The late A. K. Hamilton Jenkin in his book `Cornwall and its people' and recently reprinted in a cheaper binding quoted:
`Writing in 1890 Miss Courtney in Cornish facts and folklore speaks of similar customs still existing at St. John's, Helston. It would appear from Hamilton Jenkin's findings that in 1880 `The election of Mock Mayors was at one time more general than perhaps Miss Courtney herself realized.'
Robert Hunt F.R.S. in `Popular Romances of the West of England' in his index under `Old Usages' refers to Sham Mayors but only lists three places.
Unfortunately, St. John's is not one of them.
Copyright Graham G Matthews 2003