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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Play Information

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TitleMummers' play
Alternative Title
WordsKennedy, Peter
Collected FromPerrior, Joseph Frederick
OccupationUnknown
Age
Date
LocationShrewton
CountyWiltshire
Source PrimaryKennedy, Peter: Wiltshire village songs and customs Folktrax 406
Source SecondaryUnpublished
Recording
 
The Play
Characters

Father Christmas
Prince Albert
Valiant Soldier
Turkish Knight
Saint George
Doctor
Johnny Jack
Beelzebub

Father Christmas

[Old Father Christmas goes up to the door and he says]

Ladies and gentlemen, would you like the Wiltshire Mummers?

[They marches in singing a song, singing a carol, O come all ye faithful. Before the last verse, Johnny Jack races forward with a tambourine, they all stand in a line, the characters, and he says,]

Johnny Jack

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you Father Christmas with his mummers.

[Enter Father Christmas]

Father Christmas

Christmas comes but once a year,
And when it comes it brings good cheer,
In comes I, poor old Father Christmas,
Christmas or Christmas not,
I hope poor old Father Christmas'll never be forgot.
Roast Beef, Plum pudd'n,:
Gi'e I lots of pudd'n! pudd'n.
Wild duck, roast duck,
Mince pies, who likes them better than
Prince Albert and I
I've acted old, I've acted young,
I've acted captivity all over
So ladies and gentlemen,
If you don't believe what I say,
Walk in here Prince Albert and clear the way.

[Enter Prince Albert]

Prince Albert

In comes I Prince Albert,
The valiant man,
With golden sword and spear in hand
I fought the fiery dragon,
Or brought it to it's slaughter,
And for this won the King of Egypt's daughter.
What mortal man who dares to stand
Before me sword in hand.
I'll cut him small as many flies
And send him to Jamaica to make mince pies!
So, room, room, I say,
Let the Turkish Knight walk this way,
Walk in here the Turkish Knight - act thy part,
Show the Ladies and Gentlemen thy valiant art.

[Enter the Turkish Knight]

Turkish Knight

In comes I the Turkish Knight,
Just come from my Turkish land to fight
I'll fight thee, Prince Albert, with all my might
Although thou guards thou army men.
Army men, merchant men, men o' war -
Many a battle have I been through
Since Prince Albert reigned our King,
So let thee and I this battle try,
See which on the ground shall lie:
Life for life, sword in hand,
If thou art ready, I'm the man.
In comes I the Turkish Knight,
Just come from my Turkish land to fight
I'll fight thee, Prince Albert,
Although thou guards thou army men.
Army men, merchant men, men o' war,
Many a battle have I been through,
I've just come from my Turkish land to fight thee.

Prince Albert

Come on thou Turkish villain,
And I fight thee dead
Before we'll have it out.

[They fight with the sword, Prince Albert falls]

Pardon sir!

Turkish Knight

No pardon will I give thee,
No money will I pay
Rise up off thy hands and knees
And have a cut as thou's had before.

[They fight, Prince Albert falls wounded]

[Father Christmas comes round]

Father Christmas

Walk in here thou valiant soldier of old England,
Act thy part.
Show the ladies and gentlemen thy valiant art.

[In comes the Valiant Soldier of Old England and the boys sing - 'Tis the Soldiers of the Queen, my lads]

Valiant Soldier

In comes I the Valiant Soldier,
Bold and brave:
Cut and Dice is my name:
Swords and bucklers by my side,
I hope to win this game.
My head is made of iron,
My body is made of steel,
I'll fight thee with hand and knuckle bone
Before thou quickly feel.
In comes I, all rags and jags,
Taking dead men and chopping off legs,
In comes I and seven more,
Come on thou blood and thirsty villain,
I'll fight thee dead before thou have it out.

Father Christmas

Go on my boy,
Give him some Christmas pudd'n
That's all he wants
See this Knight off.

[The Valiant Soldier of Old England falls. Poor old Father Christmas falls down crying]

All sing

So he whispered goodbye to his comrade so dear
His head on his knapsack gently lay
And when you get home you can tell 'em I am gone
And laying in a British Soldier's grave.

Father Christmas

Oh dear, oh dear, what hast thou done -
Thou hast killed and slain my only son
Not to have more to do -
Chuck'n out the door,
Go back to thy own Turkish land,
You dirty villain.
But I'll have it out with you
Before we part tonight.
Is there a noble doctor to be found
To rise these two men lie bleeding on the ground?

Doctor

Oh yes, Oh yes,
There is a noble doctor to be found

Father Christmas

How comest thou a Doctor?

Doctor

By my travels.

Father Christmas

Where'st thou travelled?

Doctor

Hippity, Skippity, Scotland, Ireland, Spain -
Twice over that and back to old England again.

Father Christmas

Ha ha, ha ha,
All dressed up and nowhere to go
The boy from Petticoat Lane.
How comest thou a doctor?

Doctor

By my travels

Father Christmas

What dost thee cure then Doctor?

Doctor

I can cure the hitch, the stitch, the palsy and the gout,
The old devil in - I can get'n out.

Father Christmas

Not all the devil's in Hell can get 'un out of thee,
Oh no, they won't, Oh no, no, no.
What else dost do?

Doctor

Oh, I can cut off my head and stick it on again.

Father Christmas

Whoa, don't 'ee do that then Doctor, don't ee do that.
Look 'ee here, work thee will

Doctor

I've got a bottle of poison by my side -
A drop on the head, a drop on the forehead -
Arise you two men that lie bleeding on the ground!

[They don't get up]

Father Christmas

Ha, ha, ha, ha,
Doctor, all dressed up and nowhere to go
You can't do it,
All they want is number nine in the gymnasium.

[Father Christmas draws a pig's bladder and whacks them with a dry stick on a tree and whacks them on the backside]

Arise you two men that lie bleeding on the ground

[They don't get up. He turns round to the doctor]

Oh do 'ee get 'em up
We shall have the hangman's rope
Get 'em up off the ground

Doctor

Arise, drop thee head and drop thee forehead,
Glorious rat poison.

[They gets up. Father Christmas walks across to the doctor]

Father Christmas

Thee's been and dunnit then.

Doctor

I told thee I should. What I take in hand I can cure.

Father Christmas

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This terrible Turkish Knight has fought the Prince Albert
He fought the Valiant Soldier of old England.
I'm introducing you now a man that will quite take away his sword
And win the sword back for England for ever
I introduce you to St. George of old England.

[Enter St. George. They get back in their places]

All sing

Rule Britannia, rules the waves.

St. George

In comes I St. George the valiant knight
With shining armour bright
Famous warrior, also working knight
Seven long years in a closed cave was kept,

[They eventually fight, the Turkish Knight gets back]

Father Christmas

Come on my boy, come on, come on,
We like on the mark for you
We'll get the sword from Turkey for ever
You do it. We'll win the sword from Turkey.

[They fight, the Knight falls, St. George takes the sword away from him, the sword falls on the ground, he picks up the sword]

St. George

Gentlemen, the sword won for England for ever.

[Turkish Knights falls]

Turkish Knight

Pardon Sir!

St. George

Yes, Pardon I will give thee but no money will I pay
But I will keep this here sword from this Christmas Day

[St. George and the Turkish Knight comes up and they stand together. Father Christmas comes up between them, puts his hands on both of them's shoulders, he holds up the sword]

Father Christmas

Men shall beat their swords into pruning hooks,
And their spears into plough-shares,
The lion and the lamb shall lie down together
????
Shall blossom as the rose

[All throw swords down. All sing]

For old times sake, say you'll forget and forgive,
For old times sake, don't let your enmity live,
Life's too short to quarrel, hearts too precious to break,
Shake hands and let us be friends for old times sake.

Father Christmas

Walk in here little Johnny Jack, Act thy part,
Show the ladies and Gentlemen thy valiant art.

Johnny Jack

In comes I, little Johnny Jack,
With a wife and family at my back,
Out of nine I got but five,
And they're almost starved alive,
Some're dead, some're are gone to the workhouse,
And the rest shall go when I get home,
So Ladies and Gentlemen
If you have any pity on me and me wife,
Han' out your bread and cheese
And give us a knife
Our sport is all ended,
Our box is recommended.

[Father Christmas and the Mummers they all get round and sing]
 
Print Play Verse
 
Notes
Note 1

This is a transcription of part of the conversation between Fred Perrier and Peter Kennedy.

'Well, when I was a lad I first got my part from Woodford. And they told me when I was a boy that they was chartered, they went back, they told me they went back to the 11th century. They went back to the days of Beelzebub, was the first clown. They started round to the big farms and all the big houses. And then after they done that they made - they called themselves the Crusaders. 11th Century. That was the start of the first English theatre. They got on a little a few years later and called themselves Wiltshire Mummers. And er, they gradually improved and they got their selves up to what as they say the Wiltshire Mummers. This is today. And the parts changed. Some had the Turkish Knight's parts and some had the ??? And they went on and got to introduce St. George. When they had finished up, Father Christmas was blessed the reign of peace, that was taken from the Bible. Before Johnny Jack come in St. George walked on the stage and he wanted something for his valour. Father Christmas turned round and he said, 'My boy,' he said, 'the only woman that I can give you,' he said, 'was the woman you saved from the dragon, Neuka', and the lady come in. And the Father Christmas marries the St. George to the what you see on the old sovereign, or any 1914 metal, St George the dragon, that ends the play. That's an old book that's nearly forgot. But I do know this sir, that the police tried to stop me when they brought in about the singing, when they said that children go out singing, and I was out come up here to a concert and the police got in my way, and I told them, and I said, well I said, English Mummers can act in the streets of England from the 4th December to the 6th January, old Christmas Day. And they could take money without the police interfering so long as they give, every pound that they took, a shilling to charity. That is the charge.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is the old Wiltshire Mummers. The characters, Father Christmas, Prince Albert, Valiant Soldier, Turkish Knight, Saint George, the Doctor,
Johnny Jack and Beelzebub.

Now I can't give you the part of Saint, Prince George or Beelzebub but I'll try to give you all the parts of the old mummers. Their dress is ribbons, big hats and a kilt around the legs. And it starts out, and they knocks at the farmer's, the big houses of England. Knock at the door. People inside. Old Father Christmas goes up to the door and he says, 'Ladies and gentlemen, would you like the Wiltshire Mummers? They get the house ready, and they asks them in.'

Note 2

Some words are very difficult to decipher on the recording. Some words in the script are best attempts at transcription but in one place ???? it has not been possible to work out what was said.

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2008.

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