The Origins of Moonraking
Early in the 19th Century, the Huddersfield Narrow Canal was built through the middle of Slaithwaite. For a while, lots of canal boats plied their trade, and it was not long before some slightly dishonest citizens of the village started a profitable smuggling trade.
One day, Fred and his friends were off loading their barrels of booze when an excise man appeared over the lock at the far end of the stretch, so they quickly dumped the booze in the reeds.
Later that evening under a fitful sky with a strong wind and lots of clouds, they returned to retrieve their goods.
Just as they were raking out the barrels, two excise men saw them and asked "Nah then - wots tha dooin?" in the broad Yorkshire talk of the next village up the canal.
Our Fred was a quick witted man, and saw that the Moon had just come out from behind a cloud, and was reflected in the water. "Canst tha nooan see that t' mooin 's fell in't watter, and we'er rekin 'er aat?"
The two officers departed for home, laughing at the idiots from Slawit, and later built a fence round a tree to stop the cuckoo escaping at the end of spring - but that's another story.
So every ODD year (as opposed to EVEN), we celebrate Fred's small victory, usually in the last week of February half term.
We build lots of lanterns from paper, withy and glue, and light them with candles. We make a giant Moon, sit him in a boat and float him down the canal, where in an atmosphere of street theatre, he is raked out by the Moon Maidens, to the accompaniment of fireworks and street theatre. Our Gnomes carry him round the village with three or four bands of musicians, folk in fancy dress and all the children of the village, young and old, carrying their lanterns.
But there is a lot more to Moonraking than just the final parade. Click HERE to read more.