Location: Hamstall Ridware, Staffordshire, England (SK1019)
Year: Perf. 1884
Time of Occurrence: New Year's Day
Collective Name: Mummers


Douglas Kennedy
Observations on the Sword-Dance and Mummers' Play
Journal of the English Folk Dance Society, 2nd Series, 1930, No.3, pp.33-35



First Speaker.

I open the door, I enter in
Whether I lose, or whether I win.
If ever I rise, I'll stand before;
I'll do my duty to please you all -
I am put off the ragged set,
Put off the royal trim.
And if you don't believe what now I say,
Step in, Bulgard, and clear the way.

{Enter Bulgard.}


In comes Bulgard: Bulgard is my name.
I've just sprang from the English Channel again.
I've come to search this nation round and round,
And if I can find King George, I'll give 10,000 pound.

First Speaker.

King George! King George stands at the door
with his bright buckle sword by his side.
He swears that he will tan thy skin.

{Enter King George.}

King George.

In comes King George, the noble champion bold,
With my bright sword and buckle by my side
I won three crowns of gold.


What three crowns of gold didst thou win?

King George.

I won the emer-she-mer, sham-mer rock-a.
I didst slay seven Turks and brought them to the slaughter,
and by the means of this and that I won the King of Egypt's daughter.
For a fair body, or to fly,
or to conquer, or to die.
Tap. Tap. Art thou a prisoner?
Tap. Tap. Art thou a rocky stone?
Think I come here to be cut down like a dog?



King George.

Show me the man that dare before me stand.
I neither care for thee nor thy bright sword in hand.
Pray, what bold art thou?


I am the Turkish champion.
From Turkeyland I came;
I came to fight the daring king,
George they call his name.
And if he calls himself the champion,
I think myself as good;
And before I would surrender,
I would lose my precious blood.

King George.

Stir up the fire and make a light,
And see King George and the Turkey fight.
The hour is gone;
the clock's struck one,

{They fight, and Bulgard falls.}

{Enter Black Prince.}

Black Prince.

O King! O King! What hast thou done?
Thou hast killed and slain my only son -
Five pounds for a doctor!


No five-pound Doctor.

Black Prince.

Ten pounds.


Here am I.

Black Prince.

What can you cure, Doctor?


I can cure the itch, the stitch, the palsy, and the gout;
If there's 99 diseases in, I'm sure to fetch 100 out.

Black Prince.

Fetch one out then.


Here, Jack, take a sup of my nip-nap.
Rise and walk.
I've cured this man all safe and sound;
I've healed his wound and quenched his blood,
and he is the best man that ever stood.

{Enter Beelzebub.}


In come old woman Beelzebub.
Over my shoulder I carry my club;
Under my arm a dripping tin,
Don't you think me a merry old lady?
A rink-tink-tink,
And a sup more drink,
There are 1 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 jolly actors.


Kennedy's introduction:

"This version was sent to me in October 1924 by Mr.J.Turner of Bernard Street, Walsall.
Mr. Turner says of the play: 'I believe that Hamstall was the last place in Staffordshire to perform Mumming Plays. The late rector, Rev. J.O.Coussmaker, many years ago, fearing that the words would be forgotton, wrote them down and deposited them in the iron chest in the rectory. There I found them this year and, with the present rector's permission, made a copy of them.'"

Derek Schofield's Notes:

The above mentioned manuscript was examined in:
Derek Schofield (1981), "Mummers at Hamstall Ridware, Staffs. (SK1019)" Roomer, 1983, Vo.3, No.2, pp.7-9.
Schofield's article included additional notes made by the collector - John Octavius Coussmaker - plus some corrections and remarks, of which the following are extracts:
"Douglas Kennedy reprints the play text almost exactly, but does not include Coussmaker's introductory remarks to the play. As these remarks contain background information on the play, as well as a lesson for all folklore collectors past and present, I quote them in full:
Sixteen years ago (i.e. 1884) it was the usual custom on New Year's Day for one's Hall door to be suddenly thrown open, without any knocking, singing, or other ceremony, 5 or 6 young men dressed in any eccentric or gay clothing they cd get hold of (an old soldier's coat was especially prized), wd enter & then proceed to act a little rough play in the Hall. They were always very careful not to do any harm, though they pretended to be very wild fellows indeed. After a year or 2 they ceased to come, & their place was taken by a few village school boys, & now these are all grown up & have left the village, & the mummers come no more. Seeing that the custom was likely to die out, like may another relict of the past, I obtained the following words of the play, which I here append. In one or two places the meaning is not very clear, but I write it down as it was given to me, well knowing that in the text of the Greek Testament the more difficult reading is usually the more correct one, & so it well may be here. And if we ammend the text to suit our own imagination, we may lose some valuable old allusion.'
Alas, either Douglas Kennedy or Mr. Turner failed to take heed of Coussmaker's advice, because in the text published by Kennedy, there are some slight differences from the original manuscript text.
The first four lines printed in italics are not given in the manuscript, and must be either Turner's or Kennedy's rewording of the original. Some of the text has been set out in rhyming couplets, whereas Coussmaker wrote the whole text in continuous prose. The punctuation has also been altered and 'tidied up' in the printed version."
"Although most of the alterations are fairly trivial, the alteration of the sex of Beelzebub is more significant. Clearly, either Turner or Kennedy had never come across a female Beelzebub in a mummers play before and, perhaps believing it to be a mistake, changed the words to suit the supposed norm. The female Beelzebub occurs elsewhere in Stoffordshire, for example at Armitage, Brereton, Burntwoood, Darlaston, and Upper Tean, whereas at other locations (e.g. Uttoxeter), there is a character 'Old Mary Ann' who speaks some of the usual Beelzebub lines."

Indexer's notes:

Initially, a version of this text and Coussmaker's introduction was downloaded from: This gives neither a location nor a bibliographic source, and in any case, a substantial amount of supplementary text has been added to the script. I subsequently edited the text to conform with Kennedy's version. Afterwards, I made the corrections listed by Schofield and added his notes. I have however retained Kennedy's layout in rhyming couplets (although I have split a few additional lines) as this facilitates textual analysis. I have also retained Kennedy's punctuation.

File History:

2001-01-04 - Encoded by Peter Millington
2021-01-15 - TEI-encoded by Peter Millington


TEI-encoded File

A TEI-encoded XML version of this text can be downloaded here.

Text Relatives Map

See how many of the lines in this text also appear in other plays:
  • As a histogram sorted by the number of shared lines
  • On a map with markers sized according to the number of shared lines

Other Information

There may be more about this text at: