Location: Sixpenny Handley, Dorset (ST9917)
Year: Perf. 1880s
Time of Occurrence: Christmas
Collective Name: Mummers


Sydney J. White
The Mummers
The Dorset Year Book, 1955/56, pp.99-102




{Characters — Bold Rumour, Father Christmas, The Valiant Soldier, The Turkish Knight, St. George, The Doctor, Little Johnny Jack.}

{Enter Bold Rumour}

[Bold Rumour]

Make room, make room, my gallant boys,
And give us space to rhyme:
We've come to show St. George's play
Upon this Christmas time.
If you don't believe what I do say
Let old Father Christmas step in and clear the way.

{Enter Father Christmas}

[Father Christmas]

In comes I, old Father Christmas, welcome or welcome not,
I hope old Father Christmas will never be forgot.
Altho' I've only a short time here to stay
I'll show you all mirth and pastime before I go away.
For on this ground there shall be shown
The dreadfullest battle that ever was known.

{In comes the Valiant Soldier}

[Valiant Soldier]

Here come I, the Valiant soldier,
Slasher is my name
Is there arne a man who dare to stand
Before me with my naked sword in hand?

{Enter the Turkish Knight}

[Turkish Knight]

Here come I, a Turkish knight,
Just come from foreign land to fight;
That valiant soldier I do not fear,
No matter what sharp sword he do bear.
If his head is made of brass; and his body made of steel.
From my shoulder to my knuckle bones
That's the place to feel.
I'll clip his wings he shall not fly,
I'll cut him down or else I die.

{The Valiant Soldier comes forward}

[Valiant Soldier]

If thou art a Turkish Knight
Draw thy sword and let us fight.

{They fight moving round in circles, and clashing their wooden swords. The Valiant Soldier is killed and falls flat on the floor}

The Turkish Knight

I am come here to fight St. George
That noble man of courage bold;
And if his blood runs hot
I'll quickly make it cold.

{Enter St. George}

[St. George]

Here I come I, St. George, a valiant man,
With naked sword and spear in hand,
Who fought the Dragon, and brought him to slaughter,
And for this won fair Sabra, the King of Egypt's daughter.
Hold on, hold on, my gentleman, thou talkest very bold,
Thou talkest like that little man of whom I have been told,
But scarce I'll have three rounds with thee
I'll bring thee to thy bended knee,
And bleeding'I will leave thee.

{They fight and the Turkish Knight is killed}

Father Christmas

Oh now, St. George, what hast thee been and done
Thou hast cut down this knight just like the setting sun.

St. George

He gave me the first challenge,
Why should I deny?
Draw out thy sword, and fight, said I,
Pull out thy purse and pay,
I will have satisfaction before I go away.

{Father Christmas calls for a Doctor}

[Father Christmas]

Is there a doctor to be found?
To cure these two poor men that lie bleeding on the ground?

{Enters the Doctor}


Oh yes, oh yes, there is a Doctor to be found
To raise the two men that lie bleeding on the ground

Father Christmas

Well, doctor, what's thy fee?


Fifty guineas is my fee,
But five guineas I will take
From a poor old man like thee.
I can cure the itch, the stitch, the palsy and the gout,
And if the devil's in I'll drive him out.

Father Christmas

You're very clever. Doctor, where hast thou bin
To learn all these yer things?


I've been all round England, Scotland, Ireland, Portugal and Spain
And all the regions round about and back again

Father Christmas

Thankee Doctor, try thy skill.

The Doctor

I carry this little bottle of alicampane
Three drops on these dead men
Will bring them back to life again.
{The Doctor puts a drop on each man's skull and two drops on the breast bone, over his heart}
Arise you two bold champions and act thy parts
Show these ladies and gents thy valiant hearts.

{The Valiant Soldier arid the Turkish Knight rise from the ground and stand at the back}

{Then they all join in singing the following mournful ditty:—}

{The Ship that Never Returned}


" It never returned, it never returned,
And its fate is all unknown.
But from that day to this
They've been watching, watching, watching
For the ship that never returned."

{Father Christmas comes forward and says}

[Father Christmas]

Christmas comes but once a year
But when it comes it brings good cheer
Roast beef, plum pudding and mince pies
Who likes that better than little Johnny Jack and I

{Little Johnny Jack shouts (from the back)}

[Little Johnny Jack]

No one Daddy!

Father Christmas

I don't think they do my son.
So walk in little Johnny Jack and act thy part
Show these ladies and gents thy bold and gallant heart

{Enter Little Johnny Jack}

[Little Johnny Jack]

Here come I, little Johnny Jack
with my wife and family at my back.
{He shows some dolls tied on hisback}
Some are here and some are at home
I'm afeard they'll all be starved before I can come
With a pocket full of money and a belly full of beer.
I hope you all had a merry Christmas, and I
Wish you all a happy New Year.
Ladies and gentlemen our play is ended
Our money box is recommended.

{Father Christmas takes off his box hat and goes round using it as a money box}

[Father Christmas]

Copper or silver or gold if you can,
On whatsoever you give there is no ban.


White's introduction:

"AWAY back in the 'eighties' it was customary, in the North Dorset village of Sixpenny Handley, for the Mummers to go round each Christmas to the principal houses, farms and inns to perform the mediaeval play of St. George. The play is said to date from the 12th century and was not written but handed down verbally from generation to generation. Consequently versions varied in different parts of the country.
The Mummers wore a characteristic dress, made of coloured strips of cloth about one foot in length and half an inch wide, sewn on an old suit, each row of such strips overlapping the row below, and extending to the feet. Similar ribbons on the hat obscured the features of the wearer. Thus in Thomas Hardy's novel The Return of the Native, the heroine, Eustacia Vye, was able to take the part of the Turkish Knight without being detected.
The Mummers fought with long wooden swords and traditional gestures, marching slowly round and round in a circle. Those who were slain fell flat on the floor, and were later brought back to life by the Doctor, with his magic bottle.
The performance meant hours of preliminary rehearsal, and, at Christmas, many miles were covered in going from place to place to present the play. At Handley even the schoolboys used to fight in mock combat, repeating some of the rhymed sayings they had overheard.
It is difficult now-a-days to get the wording of the play, but the version here given may be taken as a fair sample of that performed in Dorset about the middle of the 19th century."

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2001-12-24 - Scanned by Peter Millington
2021-01-15 - TEI-encoded by Peter Millington


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