26 May 1995

Discourse on corn dollies

I ARRIVED early at Gloucester Farmers Club for a meeting of the FWC but soon members started arriving as well as the speaker for the evening.

This was Peter Oakley who gave us an interesting talk on the history and making of corn dollies. Mr Oakley originated from Essex and told stories of time past when whole families were out in the fields at harvest time and he recited their working rhymes. While he was talking, he plaited a figure of eight which is used in many of the dollies and told us that these were used as hiring symbols at the old country fairs.

Couples getting married would have had straw rope woven around them as part of the wedding ceremony hence the expressions "getting hitched, tying the knot or getting spliced".

He showed us different types of wheat used, explaining that corn dollies always have ears of wheat incorporated into the design to signify the infinity of seeds being preserved.

There were many corn dollies on display, each having been painstakingly made by Mr and Mrs Oakley. Some were of a practical nature like the babys rattle, others purely decorative and often used on thatched roofs to show who the thatcher was.

Jean Howells

Members of Gloucester FWC get to grips with the art of corn dolly making.