Plough Monday

6 01 2009

Jobsworth is back from its short Festive break, feeling slightly less stressed,  albeit somewhat lighter following a nasty gastric bug.  The New Year stretches interminably away into the future and the current economic climate doesn’t look like improving anytime soon.  Whilst I’m getting back to speed, it is a good chance to remember the long-forgotten ritual of Plough Monday, which was celebrated from pre-industrial until Victorian times on the first Monday after Epiphany – which is January 5th this year.


In its earliest Pagan form it involved farm labourers going from door to door pulling a plough behind them and demanding gifts (usually food or ale) from the householder in order to bring good luck to the crops.  If they were refused they would plough up the front path, so it was really an early form of “Trick or Treating”. As industrialisation gathered pace it transformed itself from an agricultural ritual into a primarily urban one and the plough was replaced by gangs of youths knocking on doors in cities demanding beer. Local newspapers in this period often contain stories of disturbances, some quite serious.   Inevitably the newly developing police forces soon stamped down on such unruly behaviour and the whole tradition died out. 


What’s this got to do with Employment Law?  Absolutely nothing.  Normal service will be resumed shortly.


A version of this article will appear in the “Docklands” and “Peninsula” newspapers week commencing 6th January 2009




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