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Electronic ERD - Gainford, County Durham, Sword-Dance Play

Compiled by E.C.Cawte, A.Helm & N.Peacock. Online ed.: P.T.Millington

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Ordish Collection: MS Alice Edieston, Gainford Vicarage, 1893. Last acted about 1860.

Costumes:

Clown: Short jacket and trousers covered with carpet thrums, which moved up and down as he danced. Tall black hat like some soldiers wear, of pasteboard, feathers in front, and bits of looking-glass, beads and bright things stuck on.

Dancers: Short jacket like workmen wear, of blue or pink calico, with a collar, and covered with bows of all different ribbons. Hats of the calico, covered with bright things.

King: Much the same, only smarter, and feathers in front of his hat.

Doctor: Black suit, with old-fashioned tall hat, leather rimmed spectacles and a large pill box.

Fiddler: Decorated with ribbons, tall hat similarly decorated.

The dancers never had a horse with them.

The Dance

No particular dance something like a hornpipe in step and very quick. Sometimes they all danced round the clown pointing the swords upwards over his head. Then two stood opposite each other holding out their swords, and the others jumped over them. Gainford not so noted for dancing as Piercebridge 2½ miles off. and Eppleby and Aldborough in Yorkshire.

Words not always the same, popular songs were added and personal remarks by the clown. King's part was sung, calling up the dancers. Their answers and the clown's song, all the same tune. (Children's tune of 'Nuts and May'. Words made to fit.)

Performers: King, 6 Dancers, 2 Clowns, Doctor.

Clown:

Crack a bottle that fellow has got no supper this morning
nor breakfast last night.

King:

Spectators, silence keep, our dancers will appear
We're six as clever lads as ever danced here
We're six dancers young, never danced much before
We'll do the best we can, the best can do no more.
So be of courage bold and young men each and old
Let nothing here you daunt when on you I do call.
The first that I call on he is a spark from France
He's the first man on the list but the second in the dance.

1st Dancer:

God bless you honest fame and all your young men too
I've come to act my part as well as I can do.

King:

If thou will act thy part and never from me flee
I'll call our young men in one by one, by two, by three.
The next that I call on his name is Mr. Bold
As good a swordman he as ever sword did hold.

2nd Dancer:

My valour has been tried in city, town and field
I ne'er could find the man that once could make me yield

King:

The next that I call in his name is Mr. Wild
I fear the worst of all those maids he does beguile

3rd Dancer:

I've travelled many a mile 'tis not for my gain
It is for my true love and I'll travel it over again.

Clown:

Red rum for dancers and give us room to ring
I'll show the most curious sport that was ever acted on this King's reign, actors young, actors aged I'll show you the most curious sport that was ever acted on the stage
If you don't believe the words I say
I will call the real King of Macedonia

King:

Here comes the great King of Macedonia
And here I do advance

Clown:

And I'm the ragged clown come to see the dance

King:

Dance, dance, wert thou ever admitted to see a King dance

Clown:

Hark canny fellow, was not thou driving the swine the other day
Or stealing the swine as I should say.

King:

Hold thy tongue thou saucy rascal
Thou will be hanged I fear.
I am a King and a conqueror, and a King of high renown
Have I to be offended at thou a silly ragged clown.

Clown:

If thou wert hanged I'd me a better King than thou
Thou need not be so much offended nor make such an ugly face

King:

Thy impudence doth protect thee, but I both swear and vow
I've been the death of many a man, and I'll be the death of thou,
And now the next he is a Prince of noble fame
Has spent a large estate and the wars he will maintain.

4th Dancer:

{answers} Although I be a Prince, my name I'll not deny
Although I be a Prince, my valour here I'll try.

King:

The last that I call on he is a squire's son
He's like to lose his love, because he is too young.

5th Dancer:

Although I be too young, I've money for to roam
I'll freely spend it all, before my love I'll lose.

Clown:

Now I'm the last myself, my name is Captain Tom
All the lasses know me well with going to court them
You sent me before, to knock at your door
To see if you'd let us come in
My waistcoat and coat are made of mohair
My breeches are made of standoff
My stockings and shoes are made of refuse
And my sword cries come if you dare

Then all dance round the clown and when their swords are round his neck he sings:

Just now I'm going to die as you may plainly see
These six glittering swords will soon put an end to me

They then draw their swords and he falls down.

King:

Now since our Hector's dead and on the ground is laid
We'll have to suffer for it, young men I'm sore afraid

1st Dancer:

I'm sure it's none of me, I'm clear of the crime
It's he who followed me which drew his sword so fine.

2nd Dancer:

Don't lay the blame on me, I'm clear of the fact
It's he that followed me, that did this wicked act.

3rd Dancer:

Don't lay the blame on me you villains all
I'm sure my eyes were shut when the first sword was drawn.

4th Dancer:

How could your eyes be shut, when you were looking on
I'm sure vou were with us when the very first sword was drawn.

5th Dancer:

Now since I am the last, the blame I'll have to take
So on my bended knees for pardon I do crave.

King:

Now since you've told the truth and told it unto me
We'll do the best we can to bury him privately

2nd Clown:

Bury him, bury him, the devil bury him
I've heard of a doctor far and near one in France and one in Spain
Either of these men would bring him to life again

King:

A doctor, a doctor, ten pounds for a doctor.

Doctor:

Here am I

King:

Well Doctor what is thy fee

Doctor:

Ten pounds is my fee,
but £9.19.11¾ I'll take of thee

King:

Pooh, Pooh, 'tis far too much, I'll not give it thee

Doctor:

One bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
So I'm off home again.

King:

Stay, Doctor, stay and try thy skill

Doctor:

Yes indeed that I will

King:

How far have you travelled Doctor

Doctor:

Oh ! all over England France and Spain
And now I've come to cure this man whom you have slain
So ladies and gentlemen my business to complete
You shall see this dead man rise to his feet
Arise young man arise

Clown, getting up sings:

Good morrow gentlemen, a-sleeping I have been
I've had such a sleep as the like was never seen
But now I am awake, and here I am this day
So we'll have a dance and the doctor shall have his pay

They sing:

When first King Henry ruled this land
He was a gracious king
He bought six pecks of barley meal
To make a large pudding

Then they dance, and afterwards sang any popular songs.

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Notes on the above::

[another version is appended to this script.]

[The notes on this play appear under the Gainford Children's Play, where the two texts are discussed together.]

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© 2007, E.C.Cawte, N.Peacock & P.Millington (peter.millington@mastermummers.org). Rev. 22-Nov-2007