Saturday October 1st sees the return of one of Penryn’s most famous and interesting traditions, the election of the town’s Mock Mayor. Mock Mayor’s are “sham” leaders chosen to satirise the powerful and society. Mock Mayor’s were also considered the “King of the feast” almost like a medieval Lord of Misrule. These customs were very common in Cornwall and can be found in scores of communities Bodmin, Penzance, Helston, Polperro and Lanner are just a small examples of the places where these customs prospered. Penzance and Polperro both have revived Mock Mayors based on there own ancient ,anarchic customs. These Mayor’s were often named after areas that were considered a bit low brow, in Penzance it was the “Mayor of the Quay” in Helston “The Mayor of St Johns” and in Penryn “The Mayor of Mylor”. The most famous of these customs was at Penryn were the Mock Mayor was provided with regalia and his own set of “Mock Officers” including 2 mace bearers carrying large cabbages instead of maces. One of the best descriptions of the event is from MA Courtney’s book “Cornish Feasts and Folklore” ;
“The ceremony of choosing a mock mayor was also observed at Penryn (near Falmouth), but it took place in the autumn, on a day in September or October, when hazel-nuts were ripe, and ” nuttingday” was kept by the children and poor people. The journeymen tailors went from Penryn and Falmouth to Mylor parish, on the opposite side of the river Fal. There they made choice of the wittiest among them to fill that office. His title was the ” Mayor
of Mylor.” When chosen, he was borne in a chair upon the shoulders of four strong men from his ” goode towne of Mylor” to his “anciente borough of Penryn.” He was preceded by torch-
bearers and two town-sergeants, in gowns and cocked hats, with cabbages instead of maces, and surrounded by a guard armed with staves. Just outside Penryn he was met with a band of music,which played him into the town. The procession halted at the town-hall, where the mayor made a burlesque speech, often a clever imitation of the phrases and manners of their then sitting parliamentary representative. This speech was repeated with variations before the different inns, the landlords of which were expected to provide the mayor and his numerous attendants liberally with beer. The day’s proceedings finished with a dinner at one of the public-
houses in Penryn. Bonfires, &c., were lighted, and fireworks let off soon after dusk. It was popularly believed that this choosing of a mock mayor was permitted by a clause in the town charter”
Sometimes the Mock Mayor met with fierce resistance from the real Mayor of the Borough. Cornish historian, Mike Sagar-Fenton, records an incident where the real Mayor of Penryn sent the constables to confront the Mock Mayor who promptly ordered the real Mayor and his followers to be imprisoned overnight which was duly done by the mass of Penryn folk looking for a laugh and generally a good time.
The events of the historic revival on October 1st will look like this.
11.00(ish)am – Election of the Mock Mayor from among the “nutters” of the borough by the town mob. Stuart Stephen memorial hall. Nominations open at 11am all are welcome to stand. Each candidate has 2 mins to present his manifesto.
12pm – Mock Mayor procession. Led by his Worship the Mock Mayor dressed in regalia and riding his chair of office held aloft by his supporters. Joined by his officers of state including 2 mace bearers holding cabbages, the Penryn nutters, and large band of musicians and followers. ALL WELCOME
Around 12.30pm – Meeting of the Mayor of Penryn at the Market House for the handing over of the town to the MOCK MAYOR as is the ancient custom.
1.30pm – 2.30pm Entertainment
2.30pm – Grand Procession featuring the community of Penryn led by the Mock Mayor. ALL WELCOME
3.30pm – Mock Mayoral proclamtions in the various taverns and public places of the town, THE ALE SHALL BE TESTED BY THE ANCIENT CUSTOM by the Alconners.
Organised by the Cornish Culture Association in conjunction with Penryn Town Council as pary of Penryn 800. The Penryn 800 event Son et Luminiere occurs after the festivities at 8pm
We hope to see you all there!