Location: North Derbyshire, Derbyshire, England (SK----)
Year: Publ. 1907
Time of Occurrence: Christmas Eve
Collective Name: The Old Horse


Guising and Mumming in Derbyshire
Journal of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, Jan.1907, Vol.29, pp.37-39





The Old Horse, North Derbyshire [1907]
[MIDI music sound file] [ABC music notation]
It is a poor old horse,
And he's knocking at your door,
And if you'll please to let him in,
He'll please you all I'm sure.
Poor old horse, Poor old horse.
He once was a young horse,
And in his youthful prime
My master used to ride on him,
And thought him very fine.
And now that he's grown old,
And nature doth decay,
My master frowns upon him,
And these words I've heard him say-
Poor old, etc.
His feeding it was once
Of the best of corn and hay,
That grew down in yon fields,
Or in the meadows gay.
Poor old, etc.
But now that he's grown old,
And scarcely can he crawl,
He's forced to eat the coarsest grass
That grows against the wall.
Poor old, etc. .
He's old and he's cold,
And is both dull and slow;
He's eaten all my hay,
And he's spoiled all my straw.
Poor old, etc.
Nor either is he fit to ride,
Or draw with any team;
So take him and whip him,
He'll now my master's ...
Poor old, etc.
To the huntsman he shall go,
Both his old hide and foe [sic] ,
Likewise his tender carcase
The hounds will not refuse.
Poor old, etc.
His body that so swiftly
Has travelled many miles,
Over hedges, over ditches,
Over five-barred gates and stiles.
Poor old, etc.

{Then follows a prose conversation amongst the mummers, which is not worth preserving, because it has been so modernized as to have lost all its interest. The end of it is that the horse gets a new lease of life, and attempts to worry a blacksmith, who is called upon to shoe him. The play is ended by the following stanza :-}

The man that. shod this horse, sir,
That was no use at all,
He likened to worry the blacksmith,
His hammer and nails and all.
Poor old, etc.


Originally prepared for textual analysis during his PhD research on the 'Origins and Development of English Folk Plays' by Peter Millington (2002).
Original spelling and typography is retained, except that superscripts, long s and ligatured forms are not encoded.
Line identifiers are those used for line types in the Folk Play Scripts Explorer.

Addy's introduction p.37:

At various places in North Derbyshire, such as Norton, Eckington, and Dronfield, a number of men used to go round with "the old horse" on Christmas Eve. The body of the man who represented the horse was covered with cloth or tarpaulin, and the horse's head was made of wood, the mouth being opened by strings in the inside. When the men reached the door of a house, the man representing the horse got under the tarpaulin, and they began to sing:—

Addy's Notes p.39:

I have been told by an old man in Eckington, now dead, and by another man in Sheffield, that formerly the mummers used to find out where an old horse was buried, and dig its head up. I published the version of the ballad here given in 1888. [Note 1]
Note 1: Sheffield Glossary (English Dialect Society), p. 163. I did not, however, give the air. I now regret that I did not take down the prose conversation.

Peter Millington's Notes:

The full reference for the earlier publication is:
Sidney Oldall Addy (1888) A Glossary of Words used in the Neighbourhood of Sheffield... London, English Dialect Society & Trübner, 1888, Vol.57, pp.163-164. (See
The wording of the 1888 version is very similar to this one. However, there are a few significant differences, notably in the wording of the first verse, and the presence of a double second verse in this version - being a concatenation of verses 2 and 3 of the 1888 version.
I have added verse numbers. They are not numbered in the original.

File History:

2004-06-21 - Scanned, OCRed and encoded by Peter Millington
2021-01-15 - TEI-encoded by Peter Millington


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