I mentioned a while back about my love of photography’s ability to transport us back through time… You look at an old photograph, and you are looking at a real moment, from some time before now…it’s a window back through time.
Before photography came along, the past was conveyed to the present by stories passed down by word of mouth, or written down, or by paintings or drawings. And then some time around 160 years ago photographs were able to record those moments, for us people from the future!
Here’s one such moment from 1917;
(Photo; Museum of Lincolnshire Life)
The picture shows something called a ‘Ran Tan Tan’ (which meant ‘rough music’) taking place in Washingborough in 1917. I’ve been reading up about Ran Tanning, in a book called “We Didn’t Know Owt”, by the wonderful Maureen Sutton (a resident of Waddington) who is a published poet, and writer on local folklore. In the book, she describes the practice of Ran Tanning in some detail; it was a form of social justice, meted out by the community to those guilty of committing socially unacceptable crimes such as wife beating. The practice varied from village to village, but the principal was the same; the community would come together, march through the village and gather outside the guilty persons house to make a right old racket by banging pots and pans, or anything that could make a loud noise, and singing songs about the wrongdoer. Sometimes it would go on for a couple of hours until they ran out of steam, and sometimes it would go on for 3 nights in a row! There would often be some kind of mock court, in which the offender would have to promise not to repeat the behaviour, and sometimes he’d be taken to the horse pond and put in the water on a ducking stool. A case in Waddington recorded that, after ducking the offender, an effigy of him was taken to the Gambles top field, an set alight.
The practice was apparently outlawed in the late 1900’s, but was still going on at least until the 1930’s. It’s a kind of vigilanteism I guess… And I’m not advocating it, but I confess to finding it an interesting yard stick on how communities worked then, and how they operate today… If we did that today half the village would end up in court! It’s interesting to speculate that the practice was probably just as much about coming together as a community and having a little mischief. As Maureen says in her book;
“This custom is probably due less to the moral indignation of the self-constituted champions of the beaten wife than to the love of excitement and mischief, and the delight in mere noise and action which characterise young folk, especially boys.” (Sutton, 2012:202)
If you’re interested in local folklore I thoroughly recommend Maureens book (“We Didn’t Know Owt”, published by Shaun Tyas) it’s a great read.
So, time travelling with photography….This coming Sunday, 21st June (fathers day) I’m going to attempt to take us back in time, and recreate a Ran Tan Tan! By the wonders of technology; studio photography, costumes and props, and composite imaging, I’m hoping to get as many volunteers as possible to come along, dress up, and let me take their picture, which will then become part of a composite image depicting a Ran Tan in Waddington.
Also, on a slightly different note, I have a couple of genuine WW2 RAF bomber pilot uniforms, complete with flying helmet and goggles, and Mae West life jacket, which I’m hoping to get someone wearing, so I can do a little composite image about that part of Waddingtons heritage too…
When; Sunday 21st June, anytime between 11-4pm,
Where; Waddington Youth Club building, High Street, Waddington, LN5 9RF
Who; Anyone, all ages.
What should I bring; Costumes will be provided, but if you can wear brown or black leather shoes, a plain shirt or blouse, and plain trousers or skirt, that would be really helpful.
And if you want me to do a free family portrait while you’re there, then bring the whole family!
Go on, you know you want to….everyone loves dressing up, right?