In the diaries of William Rowbottom (covering 1787 – 1830) which were serialised in the Oldham Standard between 1887 and 1889, he refers to a group calling them Mayers.
‘May, 1789. – Last night one Bradley, of Hollinwood, being assaulted in his own house by a gang of Mayers, he fired a loaded gun and dangerously wounded one Whitehead “Mayers”.’
The diary was Edited by Samuel Andrew and published along with his comments. This is Andrews description of Mayers roughly 100 years after the eventful shooting and infers that the practice was still in evidence during his lifetime.
‘These were gangs of young fellows who went about on “May e’en” playing tricks on their neighbours. The night of 30th April was called “mischief neet”, and on this night it was the custom to visit quiet country places and carry away any loose property, and place it in some prominent position, so that it would meet the owner’s gaze on the following morning. Thus I have known all the mops, wheelbarrows, milk, cans, mugs, tubs, gates, or anything movable of this kind that could be found lying outside farmhouses or cottages, carried to the top of a neighbouring hill, and there piled up to be fetched away by the separate owners on the following morning. If the roof of a cottage was easily mounted the “Mayers” would decorate the chimney stalks with these articles. This was all done in fun, but many abuses were perpetrated in this way, and no doubt in the case named some trick was being played out of spite, hence the firing.’