MUSKETS will no longer be fired over the Christmas tree in Wimborne’s Square this year – because it scares the children.

Members of the town’s Militia, which re-enacts traditions dating back to the 17th century, have been told by the town council not to carry out the custom of “scouring” the tree at a ceremony to switch on the lights.

If you are having problems with this ballot please use the related links to the right of this story.

Councillors say the noise of the muskets scares young children. But the Militia says the historic ritual of scaring spirits from trees adds colour to the ceremony.

Town crier Chris Brown, a member of the Militia, said detailed safety warnings were given out before the muskets were fired.

“We understand that the loud reports can make people and children jump but we would suggest that we all need to get used to strange things happening and mollycoddling children will not help them cope with the unexpected.

“Between us we have eight children who have all grown up understanding the safety aspects of firing muskets and very quickly got used to the loud report they make,” said Mr Brown.

But deputy mayor, Cllr John Burden, the chairman of Wimborne Town Council’s Militia Management Committee, said he had been stopped in the street more than 15 times by concerned parents.

“I have had quite a few people stop me in the street and ask me if muskets will be fired at the switching on of the lights this year.

“They have told me if muskets are going to be fired they won’t be bringing their children along. To me, the switching on of the Christmas lights is an event for children.

“Last year, there were children who were very upset and crying for some time afterwards. It will stop a good number of people from coming to the town,” said Cllr Burden.