Crying the Neck and Guldize – The Cornish Harvest Festival

Crying the Neck, St Columb 2008Crying the neck and Guldize are Cornish harvest traditions.

A regular Guldize event is held in Penzance every year in late September organised by Celebrate Kernow who also operate this site.

Crying the neck is described AK Hamilton Jenkin in his book Cornwall and the Cornish:

In those days the whole of the reaping had to be done either with the hook or scythe The harvest, in consequence, often lasted for many weeks. When the time came to cut the last handful of standing corn, one of the reapers would lift up the bunch high above his head and call out in a loud voice…..

“We have it! We have it! We have it!”

The rest would then shout,

“What ‘ave ‘ee? What ‘ave ‘ee? What ‘ave ‘ee?”

and the reply would be:

“A neck! A neck! A neck!”

Everyone then joined in shouting:

“Hurrah! Hurrah for the neck! Hurrah for Mr. So-and-So”

(calling the farmer by name.)

It is believed that this ceremony has ancient origins and may represent the cutting of the symbolic corn spirit. Members of Old Cornwall Societies and others celebrate the Crying of the Neck in September each year, the above picture is of the 2008 celebrations in St Columb.

The neck itself was quickly woven into a “shock” or Corn Dolly which was then carried to oversee the Harvest feast known in Cornish as Guldize (Sometimes Goel Dheys, Goldize or Nickly Dize). The dollies being burned at Christmas or fed to the “best cattle” on Christmas eve as a symbol of good luck. Each community had its own Corn dolly patterns.

AK Hamilton Jenkin describes Guldize:

On the evening of the day on which the neck was cut the harvesters would repair to the farmhouse kitchen. Here numerous company in addition to farmers own family would sit down to a substantial meal of broiled pork and potatoes, the second course consisted of Apple pie, cream and ‘fuggans’ the whole being washed down with cider and spirits

Guldize procession, Penzance

The Neck being taken to the Guldize feast in Penzance

The playing of music and communal singing followed sometimes throughout the night.. A number of songs in particular have been recorded as being sung on these occasions, including “Green Brooms”, “Here’s a health to the barley mow”, and “Harvest Home”.

The earliest reference to Guldize was in 1602 by Carew in his survey of Cornwall, since 2008 a Guldize feast has been organised in Penzance.


Crying the Neck at Madron

Guldize at Penzance