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Riding the Stang

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A New Year's Day custom, apparently unique to the Cumberland, Westmorland, Yorkshire area. A band of people, armed with stangs (poles) and baskets took to the streets and accosted any stranger they met and subjected him to be mounted across the pole, or, if a women, in a basket, and thus carried, shoulder height, to the nearest pub where he/she was expected to buy a drink. The only way to avoid this treatment was to pay a fine straightaway (Gentleman's Magazine (1791), quoted in Gomme, 1884: 14–15). This is one of a range of customs in which the working classes claim the right to ‘manhandle’ their superiors (compare Lifting). Riding the Stang is also the name for a local form of rough music in many other parts of the country, and, in other contexts, a form of ‘riding the stang’ could be used as a punishment at any time of year. Compare also Corby Pole Fair.

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