The public face of the historic Haxey Hood game has stood down from his role after 25 years of playing the ‘fool.’
Dale Smith led proceedings for Saturday’s game but has chosen to hand over the job to a new face in time for next year’s contest, which sees villagers from Haxey and Westwoodside attempt to wrestle the famed Hood to their village.
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His painted face and colourful costume have made him the most enduring image of the game which originates from 1359.
The Fool is based on one of the characters from the original staging of the contest more than 700 years ago.
The game’s origins are said to stem from an incident when while riding over hill which separates Haxey from Westwoodside, Lady De Mowbray, the wife of a local landowner, lost her riding hood to the wind.
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A group of farmworkers gave chase but the man who picked it up was too shy to hand it back – passing it to another man.
She said the man who handed it over had acted like a Lord, while the one who chose not to had acted like a Fool, helping to create the tale behind the ancient game.
The Fool leads proceedings and leads the traditional speech from the mounting stone in front of Haxey Church before the Smoking The Fool ceremony where damp straw is set on fire behind him.
Before launching into the Hood’s popular chant, he said: “This is the last time I’m gonna say this….so it’s ‘oose agen hoose, toon agen toon, if a man meets a man, knock ‘im doon, but don’t ‘ot ‘im,” which translates as ‘house against house, town against town, if a man meets a man, knock him down but don’t hurt him.”
This year’s contest was won by the Carpenters Arms at Westwoodside for the second year in a row. It was the only pub of four traditionally competing for the Hood with The Loco, Duke William and Kings Arms in Haxey all closed.