The 2nd December was the date of the annual Boar's Head Ceremony in the City. It is one of those wonderful ancient traditions that are maintained in the City of London, which probably look completely bonkers to onlookers but which reflect the history and customs of the City. It is what makes the City so utterly wonderful in my book.
The Worshipful Company of Butchers is one of the City's ancient livery companies, which have evolved from the medieval trade guilds. The Butchers are one of the oldest ones, having been around since at the very least the 12th century. In 1343 they got into a spot of bother when there were complaints about the waste from their trade and they were granted land to dispose of the er, detritus. This was conveniently situated so that said detritus could be thrown into the river Fleet, no longer current practice I am glad to report! The annual rent payable to the City? You've guessed it: a boar's head to be delivered to the Lord Mayor. And hence every year, to the accompaniment of beating drums the officers of the company process through the streets of the city to the Mansion House to pay the rent. Nowadays the head is not, alas, a real one. Our old friend Health and Safety now dictates that it must be a pretend one. It just makes it even more wonderful in my view. Where else would you have a procession of upright citizens marching in their finery, accompanied by military drummers, carrying a pretend boar's head?
This year we marched along at the back and I have to say it felt GOOD! There's a lot to be said for tradition. People waved to us and took pictures and it was just great to be part of something that has been going on for centuries.
When we arrived at Mansion House the Lord Mayor was there to receive the rent. Of course he doesn't really want the pretend head, so with echoes of Blue Peter (for those of you of a vintage to remember this) inside is a real one that was made earlier. The Lord Mayor dons his pinnie and carves it up. (I wonder if he gets training for this?) You can see pictures of him on the Butchers' website. www.butchershall.com
It is really good to see that the Master of the Company is, in fact, a woman.
This is just one of the lovely traditions of the City that are kept alive and vibrant and I intend to report on more throughout the year.