Location: Selby, Yorkshire, England (SE6132)
Year: Photo. 1892; Publ. 1937
Time of Occurrence: Plough Monday
Collective Name: Plow Stots, Plough Boys


The Plough Boy's Play : A Version Recorded
Yorkshire Post, 11th Jan.1937, p.6c-e




In comes I. Beelzebub
On my shoulder I carry my club.
In my hand a dripping pan.
Think myself a jolly old man.
Jolly old man may I be.
I've three sons here as jolly as me.
If you don't believe me what I say.
Slip in King William and clear my way.


In comes King William. King William is my name.
My sword and pistol in my hand I'm sure to win the game.

Old R.:

Win the game you are not able.
My back's made of iron, my belly's made of steel.
My finger's made of knuckle bone that'll make you feel.
Mince pies hot, mince pies cold.
Knock a fellow down afore I'se ten days old.
{Knocks down King William.}
Who killed that man?


You did.

Old R.:

Who send for a doctor?


No doctor to be had.

Old R.

Ten pounds for a doctor.


No doctor to be had.

Old R.:

Fifteen pounds for a doctor.


No doctor to be had.

Old R.:

Thirty pounds for a doctor.


I'm a little doctor!

Old. R.

Who taught you to be doctor?


By my travels.

Old R.

Where did you travel?


England, Ireland, Scotland, Spain.
And back to Grannie's back door again.
A little pig running up and down the street
With a knife and fork in his hand
Shouting, "Who wants pork?"
I've a little bottle here
My grandmother gave to me
A thousand years ago.
Take a yard down yer throttle
Jack rise and beg.

{King William comes to life.}


I am an old Roger with me rags and me bags.
For the sake of the money I wear these old rags.
Me hat is an old one, me boots are all worn.
Me breeches are roven, me stockings are torn.


HJS's preamble:

"For many centuries the first Monday after Twelfth Day has been devoted to customs in the plough. Particularly in the North of England this day, which marked the resumption of work in the fields after yuletide festivities, was made a holiday with its own rites and ceremonies.
'Plough Bullocking,' the procession of the plough through village streets, revelry in motley garb, and a final carousal at night all marked Plough Monday.
Most important of all was the Plough Boy's Play, which is still performed in some villages in the North and East Ridings. For centuries the words of this play have been handed down from father to son, and no trace of it in written form has ever been discovered.
This version of it was taken down a few years ago from a family whose predecessors had acted it from memory for many generations. It comprised four actors and borrowed their 'properties' from the houshold wardrobe.
The characters (in order of appearance) are Beelzebub, King William, Old Roger and the Doctor."

HJS's epilogue:

"Occasionally, instead of King William the 'hero' was St. George. Old Roger was sometimes known as The Slasher. Various interpretations of the story have been offered, the most probable being that which suggests that it protrays the yearly wax and wane of Nature. It may, of course, have had some obscure political significance, the meaning of which has now been lost."

Peter Millington's Notes:

This article was published with two photographs. One shows horse-drawn ploughing. The other shows four men in white decorated clothes and tall decorated hats, accompanied by two or more other normally-dressed men, who appear to be musicians. The caption reads:
"'Plow Stots' near Selby 45 years ago. This Plough Monday custom has been revived at Goathland."
It is not stated whether or not the photograph related the play text, although the presence of four main dramatis personae suggests that they might be.

File History:

2000-10-29 - Encoded by P.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: