Pennine Waterways News

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Moon Rescued from Canal

The moon has been rescued from drowning in the waters of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal at Slaithwaite this weekend!

But there was nothing to be concerned about, as this was part of the annual Moonraking Festival that takes place in Slaithwaite.

The tradition is based on a legend that some villagers had hidden a supply of "moonshine" alcohol in the canal. As they were about to retrieve their booty with a rake, an official from Customs and Excise is supposed to have arrived. It is said that the enterprising locals feigned stupidity and told the official that the moon had fallen into the canal and that they were trying to rescue it. It is said that the gullible Excise man walked away shaking his head at the daftness of the locals.

Similar legends are to be found in other parts of the country, but it nevertheless makes a good tale. It is also a good excuse for a bit of a celebration at a chilly time of the year.

A group of "moonrakers" dressed as spacemen pull an illuminated "moon" along the canal in Slaithwaite, watched by thousands of people filling Carr Lane. The moon is hoisted out of the canal by a cherry-picker, before being carried around the town, followed by a procession of hundreds of people carrying home-made lanterns.

When the procession arrives back at the canal the evening ends with a firework display.

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