Let’s bring back the Horkey

PUBLISHED: 12:51 08 September 2006 | UPDATED: 22:12 28 May 2010

IN all the years I ve lived in East Anglia, I ve rarely heard of a village holding a Horkey Supper – yet all the local history books say it is the best event of the year. And just in case you re wondering, horkey is an old word for harvest. Plenty of pari

IN all the years I've lived in East Anglia, I've rarely heard of a village holding a Horkey Supper - yet all the local history books say it is the best event of the year. And just in case you're wondering, horkey is an old word for harvest.

Plenty of parishes still hold harvest suppers. Sometimes they're jolly occasions when the vicar gets tiddly on a second glass of cider.

Others simply celebrate local feuds. I know two neighbouring Norfolk villages which share the same vicar, the same village hall and where every agricultural worker is employed by the same corn baron.

They still have separate harvest suppers.

A traditional Horkey Supper was rather more than baked potatoes provided by the WI followed by an embarrassing local 'entertainment'.

It began with the last load of corn, the Horkey Load, being pulled on a wagon through the village with the 'Lord' and his 'Queen' seated on top - the Lord being an elected farm worker.

As the wagon rolled along the street, the locals would pelt it with buckets of water. This was a sign that, since harvest was now over, it didn't matter if it rained.

Then came the meal itself: mountains of roast beef, vegetables and plum puddings - washed down with locally brewed strong ale. All paid for by the farmer.

Then, in some Cambridgeshire villages, the revellers performed a dance in which they wore stiff straw hats on which they balanced tankards of ale.

I'm perfectly aware that nowadays the one person a farmer wants to thank at this time of the year is the mechanic who turned out and fixed his combine or his baler when it broke down. The farm engineer is the modern Horkey Lord.

And I'm also aware that farmers aren't getting as much money out of Brussels as they once did and that growers are being screwed by the supermarkets who seem to think that a misshapen carrot or an apple with a skin blemish should be chucked.

But farmers could do quite a bit more to make us like them.

They could use their toxic pesticides more thoughtfully.

They could instruct their tractor drivers to pull into laybys more often - especially in the rush hour. And they might even subsidise the occasional Horkey

Supper.

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