Tragedy of St.George, St.John's, Newfoundland, c.1840

W.Whittle (1885)


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Context:
Location: St.John's, Newfoundland, Canada (47°34' N, 52°41' W)
Year: Perf. c.1840
Time of Occurrence: Christmas
Collective Name: Mummers

Source:

William Whittle
[Title not known]
Evening Telegram, 21st Dec.1885; Reprinted 21st Dec.1962, p.23


Cast: (Click on any name for the character name index.)
Text:

{THE TRAGEDY}

{Enter Father Christmas.}

[Father Christmas]

Make loom, make room my gallant boys,
And give us space to rhyme;
We've come to show St.George's play,
Upon this Christmas time.

{The Fiddler stands up and all stand around him.}

{Enter St.Patrick.}

[St.Patrick]

Here am I, St.Patrick, in shining armor bright.
I'm a famous champion besides a worthy knight.

{Enter St.George.}

[St.George]

Yes, St.Patrick, you are a famous champion, besides a worthy knight.
But yon are not fit St.George to fight.
What was, St.Patrick but St.George's stable boy,
Who fed his horse seven long years on oats and hay,
And after that he ran away.

St.Patrick.

I swear by George, you lie, sir!

St.George.

Pull out your sword and try, sir!
Pull out your purse and pay, sir.
For satisfaction I will have before you go away, sir!

St.Patrick.

Satisfaction you will have;
The satisfaction that yon crave;
Before ten minutes are at an end
I'll have your head tumbling in the grave!
So now the fight is between you and I;
I will conquer and you must die.

{St.George falls wounded and calls for a doctor.}

Five pounds for a doctor!
That won't do.
Ten pounds for a doctor!
That won't do.
Twenty pounds for a doctor!
That will and must do.
Is there a doctor who can he found,
who will cure your champion of his deep and deadly wound?

{Enter Doctor.}

[Doctor]

Here I am.
I can cure the itch, the palsy, and the gout,
And if the devil is in him I can root him out!

St.George.

What is your medicine?

Doctor.

I have here a little bottle in the waist-band of my breeches
called hectum spectur high generosity,
minced up with a hen's tooth and a cat's feather.
Put this into a bottomless skillet,
boil it over a slow turf fire;
knock it 99 times against the walls of Jerusalem,
first found out by old Methusalem,[15]
whose wife was sick and in great pain,
I made her rise and walk again.
She lived and bore children seven,
and when she died she went to heaven.

{The Doctor rubs his patient with hit wonderful liniment and pronounces in loud voice.}

Rise! champion and act your part.

{St.George rises and assumes a warlike attitude, when he is challenged to mortal combat by the Turkish Knight.}

Turkish Knight.

Here come I, a Turkish Knight,
Who learned in Turkish lands to fight;
I'll fight this man with courage bold;
If his blood's hot, it will soon run cold.

{St.George accepts the challenge and they engage in deadly strife.}

{Enter Alexander, Czar of Russia.}

[Alexander]

Here am I, Alexander, commander of the train;
My noble deeds and great exploits have given me great fame;
I made the lion to tremb1e, which did my name indict;
Full fifty thousand soldiers - I put them all to flight.
The Great Sham, the Great Mogul, with their dignity and splendor,
Their honor and their opulence to me they did surrender.
King George and Great Monsieur, I made quit the field,
And Frederick Golloway unto me did yield.
If any doubt my words, I say scratch up Bradley and boldly play.

{Music by Bradley} [The fiddler?].

{Enter Orson.}

[Orson]

Here am I, Orson. the wild man of the wood;
T never feared danger, but slew all I could;
First I was taken by a wondrous bear,
And was fed by him for many a long year.
Then I was taken by Prince Valentine,
And little I thought he was a brother of mine.
To prove the truth of what I say,
My brother, Valentine, is here today.

Dan Donnelly.[16]

Come all you heroes and men that would be witty,
Come listen unto Donnelly, the wight of Dublin city;
The Shamrock green I wear over my brow;
And show me thee man who dare oppose me now!
No one! I do insist!
For I have conquered nations with my mighty fist!

{END OF THE TRAGEDY}


Notes:

Whittle’s Introduction:

But what I most particularly wish to speak of is the "Tragedy of St. George," which was also another of the sports of the season of Christmas. It is an understood thing in dramatic life that a man assuming a character must, for the time being, divest himself of his personal identity, and make himself believe that he is really and truly that which he represents himself to be and by so doing, it goes a great way in persuading others into the same belief. So it was not a little amusing to see those noble fellows, who, perhaps, all the week were "culling" or "stowing" fish, stride and strut as King George, the Turkish Knight, Valentine and Orson, and other characters of the tragedy. Acceptably well, too, as I am informed, they read [i.e., recited] their lines.

Old Newfoundlanders, who have lived here in Boston 40 or 50 years, will repeat the lines of the tragedy today with as much fire and pride as Edwin Booth[12] would the lines of "Richard the Third." More power to them! One of them said to me, a few days ago, as his head shook with age, "Ah, these were the times! Lots of money; lots of fun!" and his good heart warmed and his weak yes [eyes] brightened as he recalled them. "Mickel Dreeling," said he, was "Captain of the Mummers" for many years previous to my leaving St. John's, and always rode a fine horse. Bob Daley used to be the "Doctor" in the "Tragedy of St. George." Sir John Harvey[13] was the last governor before whom they appeared; then came the 9th of June - glory be to God! - that left us homeless and penniless. In 1847, the year after the fire, came Sir Caspard LeMarchant.[14] That year I left St. Johns."

He told me the history of the "hobby-horse," and described the combat in the Tragedy. He repeated most of the lines; those he did not remember, I jogged his memory, for from childhood I had heard it repeated every Christmas time. The Doctor he considered the most conspicuous figure in the troupe, and with his marvellous cures and empirical gibberish, was a noted personage. ...

These performers were richly dressed, generally with white trousers and fancy suspenders showing their shirtsleeves which were profusely decorated with ribbons, high caps, made of pasteboard and covered with the costliest of wall paper from which also flowed yards of the richest ribbon.

Much the same as the "Fools" of more recent times. Father Christmas was personified as a very old man, whose face was completely covered by a mask. Each character in the play differed in dress, to describe which would consume too much valuable space.

The following was the cast of characters: - Saint George; The Doctor; St.Patrick; Turkish Knight; Dan Donnelly; Father Christmas; Valentine and Orson; Alexander, Czar of Russia, &c.

Whittle’s Conclusion:

I have given a few of I the 36 verses of this "powerful" tragedy: sufficient to show one of the good old customs prevailing in St. John's years ago.

Indexer's Notes:

This script was scanned from: H.Halpert & G.M.Story (eds) Christmas Mumming in Newfoundland - Essays in Anthropology, Folklore & History, London, University of Toronto Press, 1960, SBN 0-8020-3200-1, pp.193=196 [Reprinted: 1990, ISBN 0-8020-6767-0.]

Halpert and Story’s Footnotes:

11 / Whittle was a St.John's-born emigrant to Boston. He was active in raising funds for the relief of those who suffered in the fire which swept St.John's in 1892. See D.W.Prowse, History of Newfoundland (1895), p.529.

12 / Edwin Booth (1833-1893) the celebrated American Shakespearean actor.

13 / Governor of Newfoundland, 1841-47.

14 / Governor of Newfoundland, 1847-52.

15 / i.e., Methuselah (Gen. v. 27).

16 / For Donnelly see above and n.4. [Unfortunately, Note 4 is not in my photocopied extract of this text – PTM.]


File History:
2nd July 2004 - Scanned and encoded by Peter Millington

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