Weighing the Mayor, BuckinghamshireIn a ceremony that says much for British regard for political office holders, and surely deserves to be more widespread, the good people of High Wycombe are able to keep an eye on the performance of their Mayor, the town’s Honorary Burgesses, and the Charter Trustees.
At the Guildhall, with the macebearer and his assistants present in their tricorne hats and white gloves, the aforesaid dignitaries are weighed in public view. The balance is a rather magnificent construction, a shiny brass tripod beneath which a seat is suspended from the tell-tale dial. The nervous (and sometimes embarrassed) mayor and cohort when new to office have their weights recorded by the macebearer, who also announces the figure to the townspeople waiting for the information.
The following year the same figures are re-weighed, and the results again broadcast to the crowd, but in a very special way. The previous year’s figure is spoken, followed by the words ‘and no more’ if the weight has remained the same or decreased; or ‘and some more’ if the person has gained weight. ‘And some more’ is greeted with catcalls and derision; ‘and no more’ by rather less hearty approval, the reasoning being of course that any political figure who has put weight on has done so at the expense of the town and its residents.
The whole ceremony is a mix of dignity – the macebearer and his assistants are dressed in uniforms that would not have looked amiss in Nelson ’s navy – and pantomime, any official unlucky enough to have put on a pound or two instantly – and it is hoped temporarily - becoming a stage villain. It also serves a serious purpose, symbolically reminding the Mayor, Burgesses and Trustees that the townsfolk are watching over them.
High Wycombe claims the ceremony can be traced back to medieval times, and the tolling of the bell to signal the old Mayor out and the new one in is at least a revival of a 17th century tradition in the town.
More British Folk Customs?