|MECHELEN: The Op-signoorke Doll|
Info on Belgium
is an ancient doll, known for ages in the Low Countries, which, carried
along in special feasts in Mechelen, is tossed in the air. Documents in the
city records tell us that OP-SIGNOORKE was carved in wood by Valentyn van
Lanscroon in 1647.
It was named "Sotscop" (which means fool), but later that changed into "Vuilen Bras", "Vuilen Bruid" and "Vuilen Bruidegom" (unfaithful drunkard, disloyal Bride and Bridegoom). Yet since 1775 it has invariably been called OP-SIGNOORKE.
The festivities in Mechelen brought many
people to the former capital of the Netherlands. That often resulted in
riots, too. The most interesting incident in the Story of OP-SIGNOORKE
occurred on the 4th of July 1775. On that day OP-SIGNOORKE was taken for a
walk at the tail-end of a cortege, and as it entered the
St.-Katelijnestreet, OP-SIGNOORKE fell amongst the spectators. One of them,
named Jacobus de Leeuw (from Antwerp), stretched out his arms, to avoid
being hurt by the fall of the doll, and was accused by the people of trying
to steal it. The Mechliners seized the supposed delinquent, beat him, took
him before the Magistrates of the City, and afterwards put him in jail. He
nevertheless managed to escape, and returned to his home in Woolstreet,
Antwerp, covered with blood.
By this adventure the doll's name was changed into Signor or OP-SIGNOORKE (derived from the Spanish name "Señor", nickname of the Antwerp people) and so remains to this day. From that time on, the Mechliners took precautions to prevent any revenge from Antwerp and OP-SIGNOORKE was put away in a big trunk with strong locks. The original doll is kept in the Communal Museum (Fred. de Merodestraat) where one can have a look at it.
On December 7, 1949, however, Mechelen was in commotion. OP-SIGNOORKE had been kidnapped. Indeed, Antwerp students, acting to be American tourists, had managed to get into the Municipal Museum and were on the run with the doll as well as the trunk. On January 7, 1950, OP-SIGNOORKE was brought back to Mechelen, to the great joy of the Moon Extinguishers.
The kidnappers were summoned, but heard
themselves ..... acquitted.