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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Play Information

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TitleMummers' play
Alternative Title
WordsOliver, Edith
Collected FromUnknown
Occupation
Age
Date
LocationQuidhampton
CountyWiltshire
Source Primary
Source SecondaryOliver, Edith: Moonrakings – a little book of Wiltshire stories Coates and Parker n.d. p 94 – 98
Recording
 
The Play
Characters

Bold Soldier - wears an old military tunic
Father Christmas - Traditional dress. Carries a broomstick with a bunch of holly and mistletoe on it
King George - domed hat
Turkish Knight - a little smoking cap with tassel
The Doctor - black clothes; dress coat, cocked hat with feathers
Little Johnny Jack - seven dolls hung across his back

All the characters have their clothes sewn all over with different coloured cambric slashed into ribands.

[Enter Bold Soldier]

Bold Soldier

Ah ha! The doors are open and we're now in.
We beg your favour for to win.
For whether we rise or whether we fall
We'll do our best endeavour to please you all.
We're none of the ragged tribe, ladies and gentlemen,
We've come here to shew you a little fight and pastime.
And if you don't believe the words I say,
Walk in Father Christmas and clear the way.

[Retires. Enter Father Christmas]

Father Christmas

In comes I, Father Christmas.
Christmas or Christmas not,
I hope old Father Christmas will never be forgot.
And now I pray you, Ladies and Gentlemen,
To give us room to render.
For we're come here to shew you fight,
To pass away the winter.
A fight you've never seen before.
I'm the man that leads King George in the door.
Walk in King George, act thy way, and show thy part,
And shew the beloved company of thy wondrous art.

[King George enters]

King George

In comes I, King George, lately come from town to town,
To shew the greatness of my strength,
To shew the feat of valour.
Dun cow and dun,
Likewise men's chastity.
To see two dragons fight,
And to kill an ugly creature
Is all my delight.
Ask for Bold Soldier. Oft of him I've been told.
I wish his ugly face I could now behold.

Father Christmas

Walk in Bold Soldier, cut thy way, and act thy part,
And shew the beloved company of thy wondrous art.

[Enter Bold Soldier]

In comes I, Bold Soldier, Bold Slasher is my name,
'Tis I that fought the fiery dragon
And brought him to his slaughter,
And by that means I won the King of Egypt's daughter.
My head is bound with iron, and my body bound with steel.
And with my arms up to my knuckle bones
I'll fight King George to win his throne.
Pull out thy purse and pay;
Pull out thy sword and slay.
Satisfaction will I have of thee before I go away.

King George

No purse will I pull out,
No money will I pay.
Neither shall thee give me satisfaction
Before thee'st go away.

[They fight. Bold Soldier drops wounded.]

Father Christmas

O King, O King, what hast thou done?
See, one of my soldiers lies bleeding on the ground.

King George

You gave me the first offer, Daddy, how could I refuse it?
Have you got another of your soldiers for me to conquer or to kill?

Father Christmas

Yes, I've another of my soldiers for thee to conquer or to kill.
Walk in, the Turkish Knight,
Go thy way and act thy part,
And shew the beloved company of thy wondrous art.

[Enter the Turkish Knight]

Turkish Knight

I comes in, the Turkish Knight,
Come from a foreign land to fight.
I'll fight this English champion bold,
If his blood runs hot, I'll quickly draw it cold.

King George

O Turk! O Turk! Thou talkest bold.
Thou talkest as other Turks, as I've been told.
Pull out thy purse and pay,
Pull out thy sword and slay.
Satisfaction will I have of thee before thee'st go away.

Turkish Knight

No purse will I pull out,
No money will I pay.
Neither shall I give thee satisfaction
Before I go away.

[They fight. Turkish Knight drops wounded.]

Father Christmas

O King, O King, what hast thou done?
See, one of my soldiers lies bleeding on the ground.

King George

You gave me the first offer, Daddy, how could I refuse it?
Have you got another of your soldiers for me to conquer or to kill?

Father Christmas

Yes: I've another of my soldiers for thee to conquer or to kill.
Walk in, Cut-the-Dash.
Go thy way and act thy part,
And show the beloved company of thy wondrous art.

[Enter Cut-the-Dash]

Cut-the-Dash

In comes I, Cut-the-Dash.
With my broad sword and my fine sash.
Although my king is not here to take his part,
I'll take it with all my heart.
Now I've almost end my ditty,

I hope on me you'll all have pity.
Now I've almost end my story,
I hope the battle will end in glory.

[They fight. He goes on his knees, not altogether beaten]

Cut-the-Dash

I'll have no more of thy high words nor none of thy diddley dumps.
For now that thou'st cut my legs off, I'll fight thee on my stumps.

[They fight again. King George wins. The three lie on the floor. King George walks round them.]

King George

Behold and see the wonders I have done!
I've cut down my enemies like the morning sun.

[To Father Christmas]

Call for a doctor as quick as you please!
Perhaps one of his pills will give a little ease.

Father Christmas

Is there a doctor to be found
To cure my three sons which lie bleeding on the ground?

[Enter Doctor]

Doctor

Yes, there is a doctor to be found
To cure thy three sons which lie bleeding on the ground

Father Christmas

Are you he?

Doctor

I am that.

Father Christmas

What's thy fee, doctor?

Doctor

Ten pound is my fee.
But full fifty will I have of thee
Before I set thy three sons free.

Father Christmas

Tut, tut, Doctor; none of thee foreign off talk.

Doctor

Yes, Father Christmas; I am a foreign off man
I've travelled India, South India, and Bendigo,
And now I've returned to England again.

Father Christmas

Well; give us a sample of thee work.

Doctor

I carry a little bottle by my side
Which is called the Opliss Popliss Drops,
Which I touch one to the heart and one to the head.

[He does so]

Doctor

I heal thee of thy wounds once more,
So please get up I pray.

[They all get up and mingle together fighting again, their swords mingled in a bunch. Father Christmas, with his holly bough, forces himself in among them]

Father Christmas

I'll have no more of that fighting here.

[Enter Johnny Jack]

Johnny Jack

Here comes I, little Johnny Jack,
With my wife and family at my back.
Out of eleven, I have but seven,
And three of then are gone Heaven.
One to the Workhouse he is gone,
And the rest will go when I get home.
Although I am but short, and small,
I think I am the best man among you all.
What say you, Daddy?

Father Christmas

Yes, yes my son.

Johnny Jack

Christmas comes but once a year,
And when it comes it brings good cheer.
Roast beef, plum pudding and mince pie.
Who likes that better than Father Christmas and I?
Each one of them is a very good thing,
And a pot of your Christmas ale
Will make our voices sing.

Right wheel! Quick march!

[They march in a circle with tambourine and concertina]

All sing

Christmas is the time for merriment,
Time for merriment, Time for merriment
Christmas is the time for merriment,
Christmas is the time.

[They stand in a circle and sing]

All

Britannia long expected news from the Fleet,
Commanded by Lord Nelson the French to defeat.
But when the news came over, to England it was layed,
The French were defeated, but Lord Nelson he was slayed.

[They vary their songs ending with God save the King]
 
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Notes
Edith Oliver - 'This version of the Christmas Mumming Play was passed down verbally through generations of Quidhampton Mummers, and was last performed in 1913. It is now written down for the first time, at the actual dictation of some of the last of the Mummers. Each man had only learnt his own part, and none of them had a scrap of paper with which to refresh his memory after all these years. The Mummers were most careful to recite the words as they had heard them, without any attempt to alter them if they were incomprehensible. Mr Cousins of Quidhampton [who as a boy, used to go about with the Mummers, helping them to carry their properties] was able in most cases to piece the parts together, and so to recall the shape of this very ancient play.

By email from Joy Wagstaff, "This play was resurrected by Steve Dunford and friends in the early 1970's and has been performed every year since up to the present day, 2009."

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2008.

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