Nottinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes (Comp.)
The Nottinghamshire Village Book: Compiled by the Nottinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes from notes and illustrations sent by Institutes in the County [Includes notes on Plough Monday, Bullguysers and other customs]
Newbury: Countryside Books, & Newark, NFWI, 1989, 1-85306-057-7, 191pp.
This book is compilation of short pieces on about 148 Notts., villages giving
descriptions, histories and reminiscences. There are numerous mentions of
customs, legends and ghosts. The following are of particular interest.
Caunton (p.41) quotes S.R.Hole's (1901) description of the Rang-Tang.
From Kirklington (pp.98-99) we have;
"Plough Monday was always kept on the second Monday in January when the
farmworkers of the village went the rounds of the village and acted a play in
every house where they were invited. They were given mince pies and ale or
money. The exit lines of the play were:
'We are the country plough lads
That go from door to door
Good Master and Good Mistress
As you sit by your fire
Remember us good plough lads
That work through mud and mire
So bring us out a good pork pie
And a jug of your best beer
We wish you all good night
And another Happy Year'"
At Laxton (p.106) it states; "On the first Monday in January, Plough Monday,
ancient Mummer plays were enacted, a tradition which has sadly disappeared."
A frontispiece signed D.A.Shaw (p.8) illustrates "Plough Sunday at Tithby", and
the text says;
"Despite attuning to the needs of the present day, old customs and rites are not
forgotten and are practised. One farmer breeds and works Suffolk Punches,
another farmer maintains a herd of Highland cattle, and on Plough Sunday the
plough is still brought into Holy Trinity Church to be blessed." (p.163)
There is a good description from Underwood with Bagthorpe (p.167);
"Mummer's plays were a feature of life in the area until the Second World War.
Dressed in bizarre costumes and with blackened faces, local youths with a
pretended show of force, would gatecrash Christmas gatherings in houses and pubs
to re-enact the age-old story of the triumph of life over death in Nature, the
origins of which go back beyond pre-Christian times. Over the centuries the
performances had become pure knock-about farce. However, there existed an
instinctive respect for their antiquity and no door was ever barred against the
Bullguysers. Unfortunately, to safeguard the blackout in the war years, the
police had to insist that the Mummers should play no more and another age-old
custom was lost."
From Woodborough (pp.86-87), several speeches are quoted from a Plough Monday
play, seeming to comprise a complete but brief text (18 lines). Characters
mentioned are Easom Squeesom, Big Belly Ben, a Soldier and Doctor.