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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Play Information

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TitleMummers' play
Alternative Title
WordsWiltshire, F H
Collected FromUnknown
Occupation
Age
Date
LocationWootton Bassett
CountyWiltshire
Source Primary
Source SecondaryAntiquary 44 1908 p 469
Recording
 
The Play
Characters

St. George
Boney
Herald
Doctor
Humpty Jack

St. George

I am St. George of Merry England;
I offer defiance to all England's enemies.

Herald

A doctor! Ten pounds for a noble doctor.

[Enter Jack Finney, a doctor]

Jack Finney

My name's Jack Finney, a man of great power.
I can cure the itch, the pitch, the pox, the palsy and the gout,
All things within and without.
One, Jack Jenk's wife, had the rheumatics in one of her elbows.
I cured she, and she died;
And now I can cure this man,
Who shall rise up and fight St. George again.

[The doctor gives a pill to the wounded man, who instantly rises]

[Other champions, un-named, fight St. George, but all are slain.]

[To conclude, Enter Humpty Jack]

Humpty Jack

Here come I, old Humpty Jack,
With my wife and children on my back,
And out o' 'leven I got but seven,
And all the rest be gone to heaven.
 
Print Play Verse
 
Notes
Note 1

F H Wiltshire - 'Christmas play as acted in the old Borough Town of Wootton Bassett.

The following version [reproduced above] was used by a number of lads of the town some forty years ago [1868]. They were coached by an old shoemaker, who said he had learnt the play as a lad in 1795. The boys were attired in paper costumes, cardboard helmets, and carried wooden swords.

The play began with St. George, who stepped valiantly forth, ...

The challenge is taken up by 'Boney' presumably Napoleon Bonaparte, who after a somewhat noisy combat, falls by the sword of St. George.

Then a herald steps out ...

Other champions, un-named, fight St. George, but all are slain.

To conclude, old Humpty Jack comes forth ...

Occasionally the lads would finish with the old 'Wassail Song', but as they were out for pence, not the flowing bowl, they omitted it, especially when visiting the clergyman and the schoolmaster; but at the churchwardens' and farmers' 'Wassail' was usually sung.

On Christmas Eve the 'Wassailers', a mixed assemblage of some thirty men and lads - many old topers - visited practically all the persons of any note in the town; and as liquor of some sort was given at nearly all houses, and in the course of their wanderings they visited at least a dozen public houses, many of them had bad heads next morning.

Their version was as follows:

Wassail! Wassail!
All over the town!
Our bread is so musty
Our cheese is so brown!
God send our master a good crop of corn,
With the wassailing bowl we drink to thee!'

Note 2

Chris Wildridge - 'The text is fragmentary and is extracted from the body of the note.'

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2008.

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