Traditional Drama Forum - No.2 April 2001

Mummers ex Kendal

The following is quoted verbatim from a message sent to Peter Millington by a website visitor from New Zealand.

I am not sure how useful this information may be to you - nor am I too sure of its accuracy. My mother and aunt used to recite pieces of a mummers' play that they received from their father. He died in about 1924 and had migrated to New Zealand from Kendal in Westmoreland - probably born about 1880. I picked up some of the verses and hand them on for what they are worth - on the strength of a reasonably good memory - now not as good as it might have been.

There was a figure called Malley Masket. I have not seen her about in any of the collected texts.

Here come I old Mally Masket
In my hand I carry my basket
In my purse I carry my cash
And i think myself a jolly fine lass.

St George

I am St George from old England sprung
My famous name throughout the world is sung
Twas I who fought the firey dragon
And brought him down to slaughter
For that I won ten thousand pounds
And the king of Egypt's daughter.

(I used to love these lines - "ten thousand pounds and the king of England's daughter..." )

The black prince or paradise - or maybe he was slasher - the two were linked in my mind

"Slasher is my name -
Hit him! Inch him!
Beat him! Mince him!
Cut him up as small as flies
And send him to Jamaica
To make mince pies!
Mince pies hot.
Or mince pies cold.
We'll send you to Old Harry
E'er he's(?) three days old."

And there was the doctor - for whom I remember only fragments

He had travelled "from the Ip Tip Top of the I-talian ocean ten degrees below the 'potenuse"

And - more usual - he had cures for

"The itch the stitch the palsy and the gout
The pain within and the pain with out
Coughs colds itchy holes
And pimples on the pole"

(I suspect the last two lines my have been interpolations of my grandfather who someone once described as a "roisterer") I was reminded of this because I recently sighted a 19th century advertisement for a cure-all that sounded quite similar.

The doctor also had "poltices for footsore caterpillars and saddles for broken backed mice" - I may have mixed this.

I believe that this rhyme was used as the opener.

A room A room
Brave brothers all
Room to stand and room to fall.
Here I come I old hind to fore
I comes fust to open the door
I comes fust to kick up a dust
I comes fust to sweep up your dust.*

My aunt also linked this to pace egging - and also to the "Christmas is coming the geese are getting fat" nursery rhyme/song.

I'm not able to link any of this to anything from Westmorland!

* I cannot be sure that this was one of the pieces from his repetoire. I love the sense of making a place to perform in this - and perhaps sweeping away the dust of the dead old year and clearing the space for the arrival of the new.

I hope this is of interest to you. I am a writer of film scripts and I am using a mummers play to begin a new film.

I have enjoyed the site - and will return.

Graeme Tetley
New Zealand


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