A local council has issued a warning over this year’s historic Haxey Hood – with the annual contest set to be one of the muddiest on record.
The ancient rugby-scrum style game, which dates from 1359, will be contested again on Monday – and the local parish council has been forced to issue a disclaimer ahead of the contest which sees villagers from Haxey and Westwoodside go head to head to claim victory in the muddy fields between the two villages.
Pictures have emerged showing the traditional Hood field covered with thick mud and Haxey Parish Council, which owns the field, says it will not be responsible or accountable for injuries – or even deaths – as a result of the contest.
In a statement on its website, copies of which have been pasted around the village, a spokesman said: “Haxey Parish Council has no involvement in the Haxey Hood; it has not and does not authorise the event to be held on nor to cross any land owned by it.
“Any persons attending or taking part in the event do so entirely at their own risk.
“Haxey Parish Council has no responsibility for any injury, death, damage or loss directly or indirectly incurred or caused whilst participating in, observing or attending the Haxey Hood.
“Except only where specifically advertised, Haxey Parish Council has not and does not authorise any public event to be held on nor to cross any land owned by it - any persons attending or taking part in any public event do so
entirely at their own risk.
“Haxey Parish Council has no responsibility for any injury, death, damage or loss directly or indirectly incurred or caused whilst participating in, observing or attending any Public Event.”
This year’s game will take place on Monday and will see a key new character leading the proceedings.
James Chatwin will take over the colourfully costumed role of Fool at the annual New Year game after previous holder Dale Smith stepped down after last year’s game after 25 years.
The game sees villagers from Haxey and Westwoodside attempt to wrestle the famed Hood to their village and the Fool is one of the main characters in the centuries old tradition.
His painted face and colourful costume have helped to make him the most enduring image of the game which historcially sees regulars from four pubs attempt to push the Hood to their pub.
The Fool is based on one of the characters from the original staging of the contest more than 700 years ago.
The game's origins are said to stem from an incident when while riding over hill which separates Haxey from Westwoodside, Lady De Mowbray, the wife of a local landowner, lost her riding hood to the wind.
A group of farmworkers gave chase but the man who picked it up was too shy to hand it back, passing it to another man.
She said the man who handed it over had acted like a Lord, while the one who chose not to had acted like a Fool, helping to create the tale behind the ancient game.
The Fool leads proceedings and leads the traditional speech from the mounting stone in front of Haxey Church before the Smoking The Fool ceremony where damp straw is set on fire behind him.
He also leads the Hood's popular chant, “oose agen hoose, toon agen toon, if a man meets a man, knock '˜im doon, but don't '’ot ‘im,' which translates as '˜house against house, town against town, if a man meets a man, knock him down but don't hurt him.'
Last year's contest was won by the Carpenters Arms at Westwoodside for the second year in a row.