mock mayors

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The annual election of a mock mayor was previously a common custom and while the details vary from place to place, the broad picture is similar. As the name suggests, the point of a mock mayor is to parody the real thing, to make fun of civic pomp and ceremony and corporate complacency, or the pretensions of politicians and parliamentary candidates. Thus, regular features of the mock mayor ceremony are ridiculous rules for who can vote, the speeches before and after the election promising impossible or silly things, and grotesque clothing or regalia (a cabbage stalk as a mace was common). The new mayor is almost always paraded on a chair carried on the shoulders of his supporters amidst noisy scenes of celebration and joy. He naturally hands out favours and punishments as he sees fit. The whole affair, could, and often did, degenerate into a loud, drunken brawl, and it is this aspect which prompted local authorities to take steps to suppress the custom, although the pride-pricking parody may have been just as strong an incentive in many cases. The sarcasm was made more pointed by the fact that the mock elections often took place at the same time as the real ones, in periods when most of the population were denied a vote.

The most famous mock mayor celebration was the Mayor of Garratt at Wandsworth, and other places which had the custom include Newbury (Berkshire) the ‘Mayor of the City’, Bideford (Devon) ‘Mayor of Shamickshire’, Oswaldkirk (Yorkshire), and Lostwithiel (Cornwall). Two surviving examples are the Mayor of Ock Street and the Lord Mayor of Kilburn, and a revived version at Randwick, Gloucestershire. Other places also had analogous mock corporations and courts, such as the Court of Halgavor reported by Richard Carew's Survey of Cornwall (1602).

Wright and Lones, 1936–1940: numerous references;Gutch, 1901: 325–31.

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