Location: Stapleford, Cheshire, England (SJ4964)
Year: Perf. 1908 to 1914
Time of Occurrence: 1st November to 6th November
Collective Name: Souling


James Henry [Harry] Lee
Souling Play from Stapleford, Cheshire
Duncan Broomhead Collection, Col. June & August 1978




{An introductory song sung outside}
We are one, two, three good hearty lads, and we are all in one mind,
we have come a-souling , good nature to find,
And if you will give us one jug of beer,
We will not come a-souling, till this time next year.
Step down in your cellar, and see what you'll find,
There is ale, rum, gin and brandy, and all kind of wine,
And if you will give us one jug of beer,
We'll not come a-souling, till this time next year.
God bless the master of this house and the mistress also,
And all the little children round the table do go,
Likewise your men and maidens, your cattle and store,
And it's all that lies within you, we will wish you ten times more.


[The Soulers would enter one at a time when it was their turn to speak, they would then remain in the room until the end of the play.]

{Knocking at door, someone says}


Open this door and let all our brave and gallant actors in,
We are inclined for King George to win.


In comes I Beelzebub,
On my shoulder I carry a club,
In my hand a dripping tin,
Ring ting ting.

{Hits tin with club}

Little Wit

In comes I that never comes yet
With my big yed and little wits,
Although my wits are very small
I'll do my best to please you all

King George:

In comes I King George
The brave and gallentest man of all,
With my broad sword and sheath
I won ten thousand pounds in gold,
And on that very self same day
I won the King of Egypt's daughter
And to the alter brought her.
If you can't believe these words I say,
Step in Turkey Snipe and clear the way.

Turkey Snipe:

In comes I the Turkey Snipe,
I comes from Turkey Land to fight,
I'll fight thee King George
Though brave and gallant man of all,
If thy blood be too hot
I'll quickly make it cold.

King George

Stand back thou black Morocco dog,
I'll cut thee, I'll slice thee,
I'll send thee to Turkey Land to make mince pies of,
Mince pies hot, mince pies cold,
I'll send thee to Black Sam,
Before thou are three days old.
Now the battle will begin.

{They fight and King George kills Turkey Snipe who falls to the ground}

Old Woman

Oh, king George, King George,
What hast thou done?
Thou has killed and slain my only son, my only heir,
How canst thou bear to see him lying bleeding there?

King George

He challenged me to fight, why should I deny?

Old Woman

Is there a Doctor to be found?

Doctor Brown

In comes I, Doctor Brown,
The best quick quack doctor in the town.

Old Woman

Where has thou travelled?

Doctor Brown

I've travelled high, I've travelled low,
Through Hail, rain, frost and snow.
Hickity, Pickity, Yorkshire and Spain,
Three times to the West Indies,
And back to Old England again
Where little pigs used to run round the streets
with knives and forks stuck in their arse,
Crying out, "Who'll eat me?"
Here Jack, take three drops out of this bottle into thy throttle
And arise and fight the battle.

{Turkey Snipe revives and rises.}

Turkey Snipe

Oh, my back.

Old Woman

What's up with thy back my son?

Turkey Snipe

My back is wounded and my heart confounded,
He knocked me out of seven senses into four score and ten.

{Enter Dick [the horse] with the Driver riding on his back}


In comes Dick and all his men,
He's come to see you once again
Was once alive and now he's dead,
And nothing but a poor old horse's head,
He was coming down Mouldsworth Hill,
With a cartload of fir bobs,
And one dropped off and pricked Dick's hind leg,
And he kicked the front side, back of the cart out.
Now Ladies and Gentlemen,
Would you kindly put your hand in your pocket
And help to buy Dick a new cart.

{Pigtail then collected money in a tambourine, does not speak.}


Broomhead's Notes:

Collected by Duncan Broomhead in June & August 1978 from Mr James Henry (Harry) Lee aged 83 years, of Laburnum Cottage, Willington Lane, Kelsall, Cheshire.
Harry learnt the play from his parents, family and neighbours and started Souling at the age of twelve, performing the play between 1908 and the outbreak of the first World War. Although he knew of Soulers in Kelsall and Delamere he never actually saw any other gangs perform.
Harry and his gang performed their version of the Souling play for five or six nights, starting on November 1st, visiting farms, cottages, large houses and pubs over a wide area, including Stapleford, Tarvin, Hargrave, Dudden, Barrow & Tarporley.
Each year, a couple of weeks before going out Souling, Harry and his gang of friends built themselves a rough wooden hut out of sticks and planks where they could practice the play.
After each performance they took a collection, spending most of the money on fireworks. Occasionally they would receive gifts of homemade cake and if they were lucky, free beer at the pubs. Harry and his gang made a point of visiting Stapleford Hall, knowing that they would be given half a crown to go away.
There are two Stapleford's in Cheshire, Bruen Stapleford and neighbouring Foulk Stapleford. Although Harry Lee did not specify which one he meant, I am assuming that it is Bruen Stapleford which contains both Stapleford Hall and the hamlet of Stapleford.
Costume: All costumes were home made.
Beelzebub - Ragged, black face, club.
Little Wit - Large smiling mask, cloths that do not fit.
King George - Blue velvet jacket, blue trousers with yellow paper stripes. pointed hat with crease in centre also with yellow stripes and a medal on the side. Home made sword.
Turkey Snipe - Brown face, own cloths but smart, hat with feathers in the band at the front. Home made sword.
Old Woman - Bloomers, stockings, blouse, bonnet with strings.
Doctor Brown - Tight coat, top hat, white shirt, bag containing bottles.
Horse - A broom handle for a leg and two brush heads minus bristles for the head. [[The horse was of the three legged 'mast horse' type - typical of Cheshire.] The operator leant forward in a stooped position holding the leg with one hand and working the head with the other]
Driver - Dressed like a huntsman, red coat, whip, reins.
Pigtail - Own cloths, pig mask.

File History:

2005-10-12 - Digitised by Duncan Broomhead
2005-10-14 - Encoded by Peter Millington
2005-11-07 - Corrections and amended notes from Duncan Broomhead by Peter Millington
2021-01-15 - TEI-encoded by Peter Millington


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