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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Play Information

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TitleMummers' play
Alternative Title
WordsWilliams, Alfred
Collected FromIles, Elijah
Source Primary
Source SecondaryWilliams, Alfred: Round about the Upper Thames Duckworth 1922 p 307 – 311
The Play
Characters -

A Tanner
Robin Hood
Little John
A Doctor
Jack Vinney

[Enter a Tanner]


Give room, give room, you gallants all,
And give me room to rhyme,
I'll show you an activity,
This merry Christmas time,
An activity of youth,
An activity of age,
And such an activity you never saw before
Nor acted on a stage.
I am a tanner from Nottingham
My name is Arthur O'Bran,
There's not a squire in Hampshire,
That dares bid me to stand.
With my long pikestaff on my shoulder so high,
As I go I clear the way,
By one, by two, by three,
I make them to flee,
And give them no leave to stay.

As I walked forth one summer's morning
To see the forest of merry Sherwood,
To view the red deer
That run here and there,
It was there I espied Robin Hood.
As soon as bold Robin gave me the spy
He thought fine sport to make,
He pulled out a wand
And bid me to stand,
And thus unto me he did speak.

[Enter Robin Hood]

Robin Hood

Hold! Who art thou, bold fellow,
That reigns so boldly here?
I swear by my brief
Thou look'st like a thief
Thou art come to steal our king's deer.
I am the keeper of this forest,
The king he has put me in trust,
To look after the deer
That run here and there,
And stop thee, bold fellow, I must.


Speak clear, my good fellow,
And give better terms to me,
For thee I correct,
And thy neglect
Will make thee more manly.
And if thou art the keeper of this forest
And hast such a great command,
Thou must have more
For taking of store
Before thou can'st make me stand.

Robin Hood

I have no more
For taking of store,
Nor any have I need,
For here is my staff
From another oaken graff,
And I'm sure he'll do his deed.

[They fight: the Tanner yields]


Hold your hand! Hold your hand!
And let our quarrel fall,
Or we may get our bones to smash
And get no coin at all.
What little proud fellow is this coming down the hill?

Robin Hood

That's Little John, my man, who shall fight with thee thy fill.

[Enter Little John, who goes to Robin Hood.]

Little John

What's the matter then, master?
I pray unto me tell.
To see you stand
Your staff in hand,
I fear all is not well.

Robin Hood

This is a tanner that stands by my side,
He is a bonny blade,
Even now he swore he'd tan my hide,
Like a master of his trade.

Little John

He is to be commended
If he the deed can do,
And if he is so stout
He and I will have a bout
And then he can tan my hide, too.

[They fight for some time. Each alternately cries 'Bout' [rest] and then pause for breath. At last Little John strikes the Tanner's knee. The Tanner falls on one knee. Little John cries out:]

Little John

Doctor! Doctor! Where bist thee?
The Tanner's wounded in his knee.
Doctor! Doctor! Play thy part,
The Tanner's wounded in the heart.
Four guineas or five pound
If this noble doctor can be found!

[Enter Doctor with a tin box containing marbles.]


See! Sir, comes this noble Doctor.
I travel much at home,
I carry good pills
To cure all ills,
Past remedy and time to come.
I am this noble Doctor,
With my courageous hand
I can quickly purge the blood.

I can cure this man or any other man if he's not quite dead. If you were to bring me an old woman seven years dead, seven years laid in her grave, if she can rise up and crack one of these golden pills

In the bond I'll be bound
Of fifty pound
Her life to quickly save.

You must not think I go about as rag-shag quack doctors do, rather to cure than to kill.
I go about for the good of my country, rather to kill than to cure.

I can cure the itch, the pitch, the molly grubs and the pimple pomples,
All pains within and without,
Mend a bee's broken sting,
Or a gnat fly's wing,
And charm away shingles and gout.
Break your neck and set it again,
I charge you nothing for the pain.
Horses I cure, bulls, poultry or pigs,
The give me the name of Mr Cleverlegs.
I've travelled through Ireland, Scotland and France.
Rise up, bold Tanner, and let's have a dance!

[They dance a three handed jig]


They tell me there's the grandest man goes tramping about, by name Jack Vinney.

[Enter Jack Vinney, clown]

Jack Vinney

My name's not Jack Vinney. My name's Mr Vinney, A man of great respect and property; could do more for you than any other man.


I wonder what you can do, then?

Jack Vinney

I can cure the magpie of the toothache.


Very clever bit, John, but I never knew a magpie with the toothache yet.

Jack Vinney

First I wrist off his head and throw his body in the ditch; he never has the toothache again. As I was walking down the street this morning I hitched my toe in a whimble-straw, fell over a barn, and saw a pigsty thatched with candle sticks. I knocked at the maid and the door came out, and she asked me if I could drink a crust of bread and cheese and eat a cup of ale, and I said, 'No thank you, if you please, Miss.' After that I fell in love with her and I said:

Suppose that I should marry you, my pretty, fair maid,
With your red rosy cheeks and your coal black hair?'
'Please yourself, and that you may, kind sir,' she quickly said,
It's rolling in the dew makes the milkmaids so fair.

What should you do for wedding clothes, my pretty, fair maid,
With your red rosy cheeks and your coal black hair?'
I'll cut my Holland milking smock, and that will make a pretty frock -
It's rolling in the dew makes the milkmaids so fair.

Suppose that I should run away, my pretty, fair maid,
With your red rosy cheeks and your coal black hair?'
Of curds and cream I should not lack, my sand red cow would call you back -
It's rolling in the dew makes the milkmaids so fair.

Suppose I shouldn't marry you, my pretty, fair maid,
With your red rosy cheeks and your coal black hair?'
You can wait until you're asked, kind sir, this maiden said -
It's rolling in the dew makes the milkmaids so fair.
Print Play Verse
Chris Wildridge - 'The piece is unattributed in the manuscript but it is Elijah Iles who is alluded to in the source.'

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2008.



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