Competition gets serious for historic Abingdon mock mayor election

The Oxford Times: From left, Roger Cox, 65, and Harry Knight, 63, prepare to battle it out for the Mayor of Ock Street’s official cup of office at The Brewery Tap for this month’s annual election scheduled to take place on Saturday, June 21 Picture: OX67752 David Flemi Buy this photo From left, Roger Cox, 65, and Harry Knight, 63, prepare to battle it out for the Mayor of Ock Street’s official cup of office at The Brewery Tap for this month’s annual election scheduled to take place on Saturday, June 21 Picture: OX67752 David Flemi

TWO Morris men are squaring up to fight for the right to mock the Mayor of Abingdon.

The election for this year’s Mayor of Ock Street will be held on Midsummer’s Day.

In the red corner is Abingdon’s current mock mayor, Roger Cox, who has held the title for seven years.

But hotly tipped to topple the reigning champ is newcomer Harry Knight, 64, from Peachcroft.

The battle for the centuries-old title will be fought on Saturday, June 21, when ballot papers are delivered to every resident in Ock Street and surrounding roads.

They will have one afternoon to cast votes at Ock Street’s Brewery Tap pub, with the new mayor crowned that night.

The mock mayor is chosen from amongst the ranks of Abingdon Traditional Morris dancers and also becomes the side Squire, or leader.

Mr Cox, 65, a retired gardner, said: “It’s down to the people of Ock Street.

“If they like you, it’s just a personality contest.

“Harry is a good man, and if I lose I’ll just stand again next year.”

Mr Cox’s great-great uncle Charles Cox held the title in 1896, so for him it is a matter of family pride.

Last year, he saw off three competitors for the title, but, he said, he has never taken advantage of his nominal right to mock the real mayor.

Rival Mr Knight, a monumental mason who works in Hampshire, has been a member of Abingdon Traditional Morris since the 1970s. This will be the fifth year he has stood for Mayor, but he has yet to be elected.

He said: “It is quite a prestigious title within the side, we take it very seriously. You become the Squire of the side, and with that goes a bit of dignity.”

Originally from Aberdeen, Mr Knight came to Abingdon 40 years ago, and used to run a funeral directors in Ock Street.

He said: “Abingdon is a very special place. I can’t put my finger on it but Abingdon becomes a part of you.”

The ballot on Saturday, June 21 will close at 4pm, and after the votes are in, Abingdon’s real mayor, Angela Lawrence, will be invited to announce the winner.

He will then be hauled into the ceremonial chair and carried by his fellow morris men down Ock Street.

Centuries of tradition

  • THE Mayor of Ock Street title traces its origins to the 1700s, when Abingdon was the county capital of Berkshire – a status it lost in local government reorganisation in the 1970s.
  • People of Ock Street clashed with the powerful borough council and decided to elect their own mayor as a way of mocking the authority.
  • A mock mayor’s theoretical job is to act as a check and balance for the civic mayor.
  • They are allowed to be as rude as they like with the aim of making sure the mayor understands people’s views.
  • The Ock Street election is organised by the morris side and is used as an excuse for inviting other sides to Abingdon for a day-long festival of dance.
  • Last year, more than 100 Ock Street residents voted in the election.
  • In January, tributes flooded in for former Mock Mayor of 15 years, Les Argyle, who passed away after dancing with Abingdon Traditional Morris for 60 years.




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