Christmas Rhymers in the North of Ireland : Belfast 1872

W.H.Patterson (1872)


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Context:
Location: Belfast, Antrim, Ireland (IJ3474)
Year: Publ. 1872
Time of Occurrence: Christmas
Collective Name: Christmas Rhymers

Source:

W.H.Patterson
The Christmas Rhymers in the North of Ireland
Notes and Queries, 4th Series, 21st Dec.1872, Vol.X, pp.487-488


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

{"CHRISTMAS RHYMES.}

LEADER.

Room, room, brave gallant boys, come give us room to rhyme.
we are come to show our activity at the Christmas time.
Active young, and active age,
the like was never acted on a stage;
and if you don't believe what I say,
enter in St. George and clear the way.

ST. GEORGE.

Here come I, St. George, from England have I sprung,
one of those noble deeds of valour to begin ;
seven long years in a close cave have I been kept,
and out of that into a prison leapt;
and out of that unto a rock of stone,
where I made my sad and grievous moan.
Many a giant I did subdue ;
I ran the fiery dragon through and through ;
I freed fair Sabra from the stake,
what more could mortal man then undertake ;
I fought them all courageously
and still have gained the victory ;
and will always fight for Liberty ;
Here I draw my bloody weapon -
show me the man that dare me stand,
I'll cut him down with my courageous hand.

A TURK.

I am the man that dare you challenge, whose courage is great,
and with my sword I made Dukes and Earls to quake.

ST. G.

Who are you but a poor silly lad?

Turk.

I am a Turkey champion, from Turkey land I came,
to fight you, Great George, by name.
I'll cut you and slash you,
and then send you to Turkey,
to make mince pies baked in an oven,
and after I have done, I'll fight ever a champion in Christendom.

{The Turk falls wounded.)

ST. G.

A doctor! a doctor! ten pounds for a Doctor!
is there never a doctor to be found,
can cure this man of his deep and mortal wound?

DOC.

I am a doctor, pure and good,
and with my sword I'll staunch his blood;
if you have a mind this man's life to save,
full fifty Guineas I must have.

ST. G.

What can you cure, Doctor?

DOC.

I can cure the plague within, the plague without,
the palsy and the gout ;
moreover than that
if you bring me an old woman of threescore and ten,
and the knuckle bone of her toe be broke
I can fit it on again.
And if you don't believe what I say,
enter in St. Patrick and clear the way.

ST. P.

Here come I, St. Patrick, in shining armour bright,
a famous champion and a worthy knight.
What was St. George but St. Patrick's boy,
who fed is horse on oats and hay,
and afterwards he run away?

ST. G.

'I say by George you lie, sir,'
'pull out your sword and try, sir;'
'pull out your purse and pay sir,'
'I'll run my sword through your body
and make you run away, sir;
so enter in Oliver Cromwell and clear the way.'

OL. CROM.

Here comes I, Oliver Cromwell, as you may suppose,
I conquered many nations with my copper nose.
I made my foes for to tremble and my enemies for to quake,
and beat my opposers till I made their hearts to ache;
and if you don't believe what I say,
enter in Beelzebub, and clear the way.

BEEL.

Here come I, Beelzebub,
and over my shoulder I carry my club
and in my hand a dripping pan ;
I think myself a jolly old man ;
and if you don't believe what I say,
enter in Devil Doubt and clear the way.

DEVIL DOUBT.

Here come I little Devil Doubt,
if you don't give me money I'll sweep you all out;
money I want, and money I crave,
if you don't give me money I'll sweep you all to your grave.

LEADER.

Gentlemen and ladies, since our sport is ended,
our box must now be recommended ;
our box would speak if it had a tongue,
nine or ten shillings would do it no wrong.
All silver and no brass.

{Song by them all.}

[All]

Your cellar doors are locked,
And we're all like to choke,
And it's all for the drink
That we sing, boys, sing."

{End of the RHIME}


Notes:

Patterson's introduction:

"During the first half of the month of December, and occasionally almost up to Christmas, but never after, parties of eight or ten lads, of from twelve to sixteen or eighteen years of age, and belonging to the labouring or tradesman class, go about after dark performing 'the Christmas rhymes' in whatever houses they may be admitted to in the suburbs of Belfast and ins some of the surrounding villages. My experience does not extend further. These lads dress themselves for the occasion, by putting white shirts over their clothes, and wear tall caps of white paper pointed at the top, and with the front flat, something like the conventional bishop's mitre, with scraps of gilt and coloured paper pasted on for ornament. They are also provided with swords of hoop iron.

They police are not supposed to favour the rhymers, and the wayfarer who, passing along a dark road, suddenly encounters one of these ghost-like parties moving furtively along, if not acquainted with the institution, would fancy that he had wandered into the region of enchantment, or that the days of Whiteboyism had returned.

I have used the word 'institution,' and the Rhymers may be so regarded in this neighbourhood; they are sometimes a little boisterous, and their coming is regarded with some terror by old ladies or timid maid-servants; but in houses where materfamilias does not, for the nonce, object to a sudden inroad of half a dozen pairs of hobnailed boots into her nice hall, the children look on with great delight at the performance, although perhaps baby may scream at the blackened faces of Beelzebub and Devil Doubt.

After receiving a small present of money, the Christmas Rhymers move on to the next house.

The following are the Rhymes which, of course, have to be committed to memory by the different performers. I might say that the situation becomes very thrilling, when the Turk falls flat on his back transfixed by St. George's sword. Devil Doubt sweeps vigorously with a small besom while saying his part. The words are printed in little books, which are sold at a halfpenny each:-"


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23rd Dec. 2000 - Entered by Peter Millington

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