9 Jun: The Man With The Idolatrous Maypole

Orgies, drinking songs, and – perhaps most damagingly of all – Paganism were rumoured tools of the colonist Thomas Morton when he established Merrymount, New England. It wasn’t long before he was deported back to Britain by the Puritans on 9th June, 1628.

It was his sympathy for the locals which had really done for him. But the headline-grabbing moment was his erection of a Westcountry-stye maypole, around which locals and settlers had danced and drank, and generally cavorted in ways that colonists aren’t usually disposed to do.

In this episode Rebecca, Arion and Olly consider why Morton’s story is so rarely taught in schools; interrogate Encyclopedia Britannica’s description of him as ‘picturesque’; and ask just how different Massachusetts really was from 17th century Devon…

Further Reading:

• Bob Neufeld reads Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The May-Pole of Merry Mount’ (1836):

• ‘The Maypole That Infuriated the Puritans’, from The New England Historical Society: https://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/maypole-infuriated-puritans/

• ‘The two men who almost derailed New England’s first colonies’ at The Conversation (2016): https://theconversation.com/the-two-men-who-almost-derailed-new-englands-first-colonies-68213