Traditional Drama Forum - No.12 ISSN 1743-3789 March 2005

News

Compiled by Eddie Cass

The Folklore Society Conference and AGM

This event will be held at the Pitt Rivers Museum Oxford, 64 Banbury Road, Saturday and Sunday March 12-13 2005. The weekend will include the Annual Presidential Lecture Saturday 12 March:

From Revival to Survival: The Glastonbury Thorn Ceremony
Marion Bowman

Other Papers include

  • Patricia Lysaght (Dublin), Swedish Ethnological Missions to Ireland 1943-5: Reasons, Achievements and Aftermath
  • George Monger, A Lucky Wisp of Hay? Material Culture and the Folklore Society
  • David Price (Oxford), Witch Posts
  • Jeremy Harte, Holy Wells and the Social Construction of the Body
  • James Grayson (Sheffield), ‘They First Saw a Mirror’ - A Korean Folktale as a Form of Social Criticism
  • Juliette Wood (Cardiff), Montague Summers: a Demonologist and the Bodleian
  • Megan Price (Oxford), Henry Underhill and Archaeology
  • Jonathan Roper (Sheffield), Christmas Mumming in Labrador

We hope to arrange a reception and storytelling session accompanied by Henry Underhill's Magic Lantern slides.

For further details of the conference contact: Susan Vass, FLS Office, Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, London WC1H OAB Tel: (020) 7862 8564; email: susanvass@hotmail.com

I would like to draw to the attention of members of the Traditional Drama Research Group, Jonathan Ropers’ paper in particular. Whilst the tradition does not constitute a play, the lecture should be stimulating for those with a wider interest in folk performance.

Mayoral Mummers

I picked up the following item as a posting on the Morris Dancing Discussion List on the 14th Dec.2004. Unfortunately, the Forum was not on the mayor’s mailing list but I did enjoy seeing the picture on the website. The posting was from Sandy Glover.

Mayoral Mummers

This year, the Doctor in St.Alban's Mummers, one Gordon Myland, also holds the (much less prestigious) office of Mayor of the City and District of St.Albans.

Each Christmas, the Mayor has an ‘official’ Christmas Card, which he sends on behalf of the city to many hundreds of the great, the good (and the political).

Gordon decided that this year's card should feature St.Alban's Mummers, so he chose a picture taken last Boxing Day. This picture was ‘doctored’ by the PR warlocks, and has now appeared on the card, together with a few words on the Mummers, and the URL of our website.

It has also appeared on the website

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/captainwebb/mummers/
The Mayor of St.Albans Christmas card 2004

where it may be viewed by those not fortunate enough to receive their own autographed copy.

It's certainly the nearest thing we’ve ever had to official recognition (though not the first time we’ve appeared on a Christmas card).

I admit to a degree of satisfaction that, across the world, hundreds of people of a certain status are going to open the envelope and say ‘Mummers? What the **** are Mummers?’ With luck, a few might even take the trouble to find out. Maybe even a politician or two...

Sandy
aka Old Father Christmas

The most distinguished sword used in a mummers' play

Peter Robson of Dorset sent us this very interesting extract recently.

Woodyates

"It is accepted as a historical fact that during his flight after the battle Monmouth put on shepherd’s clothes at Woodyates Inn (gone now) that stood near the main road over Cranborne Chase. Here he left his sword. Now, certain biographers of Monmouth, for instance George Roberts and Alan Fea, have stated that in 1847, on Christmas Eve, Woodyates’ villagers with blackened faces were performing at the inn the old Mummers’ Play that features memorably in The Return of the Native. A visitor’s attention was attracted to the old sword used by St.George in the play; he bought it for eighteen pence. When cleaned and polished it revealed itself as a beautiful weapon made by the great Andrea Ferraro. Its silver guard and hilt were richly chased and ornamented with royal emblems, rose and crown and Prince of Wales feathers and with the heads of King Charles I and Queen Henrietta. It was a sword given by Charles I to his son Charles II who gave it to his illegitimate son the Duke of Monmouth."

Berta Lawrence (1986) Thomas Hardy and the Duke of Monmouth
Thomas Hardy Journal, Oct.1986, Vol.2, No.3, pp.56-58, [p.58]

Peter added, ‘It must be the most distinguished sword used in a mummers' play. There is no other record of a play at Woodyates. The Christmas Eve date is pretty standard for Dorset, but the black faces are unusual…I do not know of a picture, and the sword has disappeared. I seem to remember reading, somewhere, that the mummers found it in the thatch of the pub's roof, where it had been thrust by the fleeing Monmouth, but this may be speculation.

Can anybody add to our knowledge?

Lecture

As part of the Good Friday series of Pace-Egg Play performances at Heptonstall, West Yorkshire, there will be a public lecture organized by the Hebden Bridge Local History Society. Details below:

Poster for Lecture by Eddie Cass, March 2005

Publications

Julia Smith (2004) Mummers and mysteries
Yorkshire Journal Winter 2004, Vol.47, pp.66-75

This is the final article in a four-part series on folk customs in Yorkshire. There are photographs and descriptions of the well known pace-egg plays of the Calder Valley but the article also includes comments and photos of other mumming groups performing in West Yorkshire. Smith does not ignore the mystery plays of York and there are illustrations of the pageant wagon performances which formed part of the York Early Music Festival of 2002. If the four-year cycle is repeated the next performances are due in 2006. The plays are well worth seeing.

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© Copyright 2005, E.C.Cawte. Editor: Eddie Cass (eddie.cass@btinternet.com), Last updated on 03/03/2005