Country Life (1965)


[Anon.] (Auth.)
TOWN AND COUNTRY: WHERE MUMMERS STILL SURVIVE [Guisers from Underwood, Notts. and Mummers from Symondsbury, Marshfield, South Verney and Sussex]
Country Life, 16th Dec.1965, Vol.CXXXVIII, No.3589, p.1683a

Article reads;

"'I am a Doctor',
'What is thy fee?'
'Five, pounds, but seeing as I know thee,
I'll charge thee ten.'

These words, heard from within a village barn, serve as a timely reminder that Christmas is near and the mummers are rehearsing in at least one or two villages in England. A century ago there must have been as many versions of this ancient play as there were villages. Few of the ploughboys who performed them realised that their drama of St. George and the Turkish Knight, and the Doctor with his sacred 'opplis poplis drops' probably formed a legacy from the Elizabethan chap-book versions, which may well have been derived from primitive rituals.

The Underwood Guisers, in the Nottinghamshire coalfield, whom the BBC recorded in 1949, seem to have lost the habit of annual performances a year or two later. The Folk Dance and Song Society, in 1951, made a colour film of the Symondsbury (Dorset) Mummers, whose players learned their lines, like the Underwood Guisers, 'from them as did it last year,' or by 'oral transmission,' to quote the official jargon. The Marshfield Mummers, in Gloucestershire, were revived in 1932 by the village schoolmaster, Mr. F.C. Thomas. A year or two ago the choirboys of South Verney, in the same county, also revived it; and a group of mummers in the Ouse valley near Lewes, Sussex, have performed each Christmas Eve since 1950."

[South Verney appears to be a misprint for South Cerney.]

Index Terms:

Locations: Underwood, Notts. (SK4750); Symondsbury, Dorset (SY4493); Marshfield, Glos. (ST7773); South Verney, Glos. (SU0497); South Cerney, Glos. (SU0497); Ouse Valley, Sussex
Years: Publ. 1965; Col. 1949; Ceased about 1951; Col. 1951; Rev. 1932; Rev. about 1963; Rev. 1950
Subjects: Christmas; Mummers' Plays; Text Fragments; Radio Broadcast; B.B.C. (1949); St. George; Turkish Knight; Doctor; E.F.D.S.S. (1951); Cine Film; Christmas Eve; Plays
People: English Folk Dance and Song Society (Col.); Mr. F. C. Thomas (Organiser)
Archives: TDRG Archive, Ref. TD00557

Last Updated Oct 1994 by Peter Millington.