Randwick Wap, GloucestershireWhen the Americans say our customs are strange they have in mind such events as the Randwick Wap, taking place on the second Saturday in May in the Gloucestershire village of Randwick near Stroud .
Reputedly dating back to medieval times, the Wap was discontinued in sternly religious late- Victorian days, somewhat perversely (but happily) revived by the then local vicar in 1972.
Serious folklorists doubtless try to discern a purpose in the event, but it may simply be something around which villagers based a day of fun in May, or conversely a custom that arose in a general revel. In March the villagers elect a suitably qualified mock-mayor, who should be local, or a local landowner, or Randwick-born or educated; and aged 18 or over. On the day of the Randwick Wap he proceeds ceremoniously from the war memorial to a pool, with a mop-man clearing the way before him, heralded by a flag-bearer, and carried high on the shoulders of his attendants. There is much wearing of costumes, some from past centuries, others rustic or even sporting. Once at the pool the mayor suffers the traditional indignity of being dunked.
The good time had by all is continued with Morris Dancing, festive activities various, and interestingly the Randwick version of cheese rolling . Here the Double Gloucester cheeses are rolled down a steep slope, as they are at Cooper’s Hill ; but in Randwick nobody races after them.
What ‘wap’ signifies, by the way, is far from clear – perhaps the sound of the ceremonial dunking or the mop-man’s assaults?
More British Folk Customs?