“I became a hoodener just after the First World War – probably 1919. … My uncle Walter Trice was then the jockey, but after the war my father dropped out, my uncle who was three years older than me became the wagoner, and I took his place as the jockey. … I remember the horse throwing me into a pile of biscuit tins at the bakery. He also threw me over the counter at the King’s Head. (We didn’t really enjoy it.) We did it because we needed the money for Christmas. … it used to be worse Christmases then than they are now – used to be snow on the ground and that. And walking back from Minster or Monkton wasn’t a joke, really.”
- quotes from 1980s interviews with Tom West, St Nicholas-at-Wade
(from "Discordant Comicals")
This is not the first book to be written about hoodening. In 1909, Percy Maylam, a solicitor and folklore enthusiast from Canterbury published a small but important book on what appeared to him to be a dying tradition. Early 20th century modes of travel and communication made research on rural customs difficult, and the hooden horses were still a little more active than Maylam realised. Nevertheless, his book “The Hooden Horse: An East Kent Christmas Custom” preserved much information that would have otherwise been lost. Copies were much sought after during the folk revival of the 1950s and beyond, until in 2009 a new edition of Maylem’s original book was published by The History Press, making it available again.
Both instances of the publication of Maylam’s book helped to keep the tradition alive, and to enable revivals, but much material has surfaced about 19th century hoodeners since 1909. George Frampton’s new book “Discordant Comicals” fill in gaps in Maylam’s work and follows the progress of the tradition through the 20th century, and up to the present. As you can imagine, this is no small feat.
“Discordant Comicals” re-hashes Maylam’s work extensively, quoting long passages. Maylam’s writing was clear, and not overly florid, but otherwise all you would expect of an English solicitor writing in 1907. I’m not sure whether it’s intentional, but Frampton’s own writing style has a similar voice, so I found it useful that all the quotes are set off with indentations and coloured type, otherwise I think I would have had to constantly ask myself whether I was reading a quote or the author’s narrative.
As in many books on calendar customs, Frampton chooses to organise the material geographically, working his way around the area of east Kent that is hoodening’s natural home. Some maps would have been useful here, because I’m sure I’m not the only reader whose Kentish geography is sketchy, and I’m sure there will be interest in this book outside of Kent, because it is rich in new material.
“Hoodening in Thanet isn’t quite what it used to be though. Or, at least, so it would seem from the comments of one hardened old enthusiast from St Nicholas. He is one-time hoodening wagoner Walter Trice, 65, brother of the owner of the St Nicholas horse. … he said the people who had revived the custom last month were different from those who went hoodening when he was a boy. ‘They’re a better class of people now,’ he said, ‘but they’re also more inhibited. … In those days it was a good excuse for a beer up.’ “
My ears are keen, my breath is warm
A chapbook collection containing the short story The Wild Mare, plus four poems which share the theme of horses.
Size 8.5" x 5.5"