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Mummers Songs

11 Dec 00 - 07:05 PM (#355276)
Subject: Mummers Songs
From: alanww

Hi there I hope the Digital Tradition can help us out. As the Captain of the Shakespeare Mummers in Stratford-upon-Avon (England!), each year we perform various mummers plays from our local area and, at the end, we perform an appropriate traditional song. At present we perform one of The Camptown Races, Not For Joe and Old Bob Ridley. But we have reference to other songs which were sung at some time (maybe 100 years ago!) but which have been lost. Can anyone please help with the words and tunes for the following:- 1 Darkies Lead A Happy Life 2 Ran Tan Tinder Box 3 Jack Up The Orchard Thanks. Wassail!

11 Dec 00 - 07:34 PM (#355295)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: Snuffy

And 4. Cat In The Fiddle Bag? (I'm one of Alan's troop)

11 Dec 00 - 10:47 PM (#355390)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: GUEST,Sarah

I'm at work now, but will check it out in the morning (U.S. Central time) when I drag myself up. I do have a number of old, old tunes from my parents' collections, although these don't really ring any bells (seasonal pun).

Anyone else out there? (Number one sounds ominously S. Foster-ish...)


12 Dec 00 - 03:50 PM (#355912)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: GUEST,Sarah

Update: Sorry, no luck so far. I've been through the handiest of the old collections I have, and haven't found any of the songs you've listed. There are some earlier editions around here somewhere, and I'll keep trying to find them, too...


12 Dec 00 - 03:55 PM (#355917)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: GUEST,Sarah

Update: Sorry, no luck so far. I've been through the handiest of the old collections I have, which are "Best Loved Songs" sort of publications dating back to the early 1900s, and haven't found any of the songs you've listed. There are some earlier editions around here somewhere, and I'll keep trying to find them, too...

But I have to get ready for work now, so it will be tomorrow before I can do any more -- my employers are very tacky about my being at the office in order to draw my pay. Heavy martyred sigh...


12 Dec 00 - 03:58 PM (#355921)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: MMario

no luck on internet searching either

12 Dec 00 - 04:31 PM (#355945)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: GUEST,Peter Millington

Over 100 Mummers' play texts, some with songs can be found at the Traditional Drama Research Group website:

The following song comes from a Sheffield chapbook version - on page:

Come all you jolly Mummers,
That Mum at Christmas time;
Come join with me in chorus,
And join with me in rhyme
A mumming we will go, will go, &c.
It is of St. George's valour,
So let us sing;
He's an honour to his country,
And a credit to his king.
Of Giants and of Dragons,
He was always sure to slay;
Likewise of Boars and Lions,
He always won the day.
Then bold Slasher he stood up,
St. George for to attack,
But he made him sing and yelp,
And cry out, "O my back."
He fought a fiery Dragon,
And brought him to the slaughter;
And by those means he won
The King of Egypt's daughter.
St. George with Prince of Paradine,
Did fight a furious battle;
And on the black and Moorish dog,
He made his sword to rattle.
Old King of Egypt he came by,
For to seek his only son;
St. George did plainly tell him,
He was slain upon the ground.
Then he called for Hector,
To come and use his sword;
And to do the best he could,
To stab and kill St. George.
A furious battle then they fought,
For full two hours and more;
St. George he gave him such a stab,
As made him yield and roar.
Now we have performed St. George,
Who was a fighting fish;
We hope you will remember us,
And then we all will wish.
A merry Christmas to all here,
And a glorious happy New Year.
{Exeunt omnes.}

A full version of the chorus is given in:

And a mumming we will go, will go,
And a mumming we will go,
With a bright cockade in all our hats,
We'll go with a gallant show.

The tunes are not give, but I have heard this sung to the tune of "The Nutting Girl" or "A nutting we will go".

The following song is a composite from the final songs of East Midlands plough plays, sung to a tune which a variant of "God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen":

Good master and good mistress
As you sit by your fire
Remember us poor ploughboys
Who plough through mud and mire
The mire it is so very deep
We travel far and near
We thank you for a Christmas box
And a mug of your best beer.

We're not the London actors
That acts in London's court
we are the country plougboys
Just come from plough and cart
We're not the London actors
We told you so before
We've done the best we can
So the best can do no more

Good master and good mistress
You see our fool is gone
We make it in our business
To follow him along
We thank you for civility
And what you've given us here
We wish you all good night
And another happy year

HTML line breaks added. -JoeClone 28-Mar-01.

12 Dec 00 - 04:38 PM (#355952)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: GUEST,Peter Millington (again)

...and you could try the now classic Newfoundland "Mummers Song" by Simani. The following website includes a sound clip.

13 Dec 00 - 08:02 AM (#356279)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: GUEST,John in Brisbane

Pardon my lack of knowledge of this subject, but I've come across a small number of them over the last year or two, without taking too much notice - I seem to recall one or two in books I've searched through recently - Maybe Cecil Sharpe's English Country Songs or another title containing Cumbrian songs. (From memory I posted an index to the Cumbrian songs).

I gather that Mummer songs themselves aren't that hard to find, just your four titles? Is that correct?

Regards, John

13 Dec 00 - 08:59 AM (#356295)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: Snuffy

Most mummer's plays were collected in the late 19th/early 20th century. Because mummers traditionally blacked their faces, when the Negro Minstrel Show craze swept Britain (in the 1850s/60s?), most mummers adopted one of these songs at the end of the play. Maybe because their audience now expected that sort of song from someone with a black face. Folk processing amd thread creep aren't purely modern phenomena.

As a consequence, the songs that had been sung pre-1850 were never collected, but there are references to a few titles in some plays. We would like to resurrect them, if possible, to be able to do a more authentic (i.e. older) version of the plays.

Wassail! V

15 Dec 00 - 04:42 AM (#357490)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: GUEST,John J

Bugger, my cookie needs sorting agn! Re; Mummers me on and I'll get some stuff sorted / put you in touch with sources you ma find of interest. In the meantime I'll get this cookie sorted. Again. John

16 Dec 00 - 05:50 AM (#358183)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: Snuffy

John J

Alanww is away for the weekend, but I'll get him to e-mail you next week.

Wassail! V

18 Dec 00 - 10:28 AM (#359029)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: alanww

John in Brisbane / John J / Sarah / Peter Millington / MMario Thanks for all your efforts. Yes it is just these four songs which are hard to find. I have emailed the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at EFDSS to see if they can help and await their response. All the best Wassail! Alan W PS I was in Brisbane in October and sang at the POD Folk Club at Coorparoo!

19 Dec 00 - 06:45 AM (#359682)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: GUEST,John in Brisbane

Alan, I checked with my local resources today but found nothing (except one song called Happy Darkies - which I didn't investigate further). My specialist music librarian suggested Library of Congress given that some of the material suggests to be US in origin.

Was speaking to Shez Wright last night about some tasks for the Woodford Festival - now less than a week away. She has just resigned from organising POD activities. Hope you enjoyed The POD.

Regards, John

28 Aug 01 - 10:11 AM (#536722)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: alanww

Anyone else got any ideas, as I still haven't had any luck in tracing these particular songs?
Perhaps they don't exist and they were just an in joke between the mummers themselves at the end of the play, which finishes (from memory):-
Fiddler Wit: "In comes I Fiddler Wit, with me great big yud and little wit. Me wit so big, me wit so small, I've brought me fiddle to please you all!" All: "What about Cat in the Fiddle Bag etc"
"We're one, two, three jolly boys all in a line ..."

28 Aug 01 - 01:20 PM (#536806)
Subject: Lyr Add: THE MUMMER'S SONG
From: GUEST,Nick


Don't seem like Christmas if the Mummers aren't here
Granny would say as she'd sit in her chair
Things have gone modern, I 'spose that's the cause
Christmas is not like it was

(knock, knock, knock) Any Mummers 'lowed in?

Hark what's the noise, out by the porch door
Granny 'tis mummers there’s 20 or more
Her old weathered face lightens up with a grin
Any Mummers nice Mummers 'lowed in?

Come in lovely Mummers don't bother the snow
We can wipe up the water sure after you go
Sit if you can or on some Mummer's knee
Let’s see if we know who ya be
There's big ones 'n tall ones 'n small ones 'n thin
Boys dressed as women and girls dressed as men
Humps on their backs an mitts on their feet
My blessed we'll die with the heat
There's only one there I think that I know
That tall feller standing o'er long side the stove
He's shakin' his fist for to make me not tell
Must be Billy from out on the hill

Don't 'spose you fine Mummers will turn down a drop
No home brew, nor alky whatever you got
Now the one with his rubber boots on the wrong feet
He's had enough for to do him all week
'Spose you can dance, yes they all nods their heads
They've been tappin' their feet ever since they came in
Now that the drinks have been all passed around
The Mummers are plankin' her down
Hold on to the lamp and be careful the stove
Don't swing Granny hard for you know that she's old
No need for to care how you buckles the floor
'Cause Mummers have danced here before

My God how hot is it, we better go
I 'low we'll all get the devil's own cold
Good night and good Christmas, Mummers me dears
Please god we will see you next year.
Please god we will see you next year.

You can hear the tune (I think)

HTML line breaks added --JoeClone, 3-Oct-01.

28 Aug 01 - 01:43 PM (#536816)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: selby

I think the ran tan tinder box is on John Kirpatricks wasssail cd on fellside Keith

28 Aug 01 - 02:08 PM (#536830)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: pavane

The words used by the doctor in many plays are printed as a song in a broadside in the Bodley collection, dated between 1700 and 1740, along with a tune. See The Infallible Doctor

28 Aug 01 - 02:46 PM (#536860)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: Alice

My interest in Mary O'Hara's singing came up in some emails exchanged with Jean Ritchie, and Jean added this bit about what is called The Wexford Mummer's song, on Mary O'Hara's album.

"....she heard Sean O-Touma's name. She jumped out of her chair, "Oh! Oh! You know Sean-O?" she cried. I told her he had sung a lovely little song for us, about two girls and their little pigs... she interrupted me, singing out on the refrain of that song, "Fa-la-la-la-la-la!" ........... putting me off!" So we sang it for her, then played the tape of Sean-O himself singing it, and she was giggling about the surprise she was going to give Sean-O when next she saw him....."

I've done a sound clip of it here, CLICK, my singing. I have always wondered about this song and how different it seems from other mummers songs in the tradition of the plays. If anyone knows more about its background, I would appreciate it. Now I'm off to alert Jean to this thread.


03 Sep 01 - 09:07 AM (#540705)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: alanww

Refresh ... !
"Farewell to Princes Landing Stage ...!"

20 Nov 03 - 06:37 AM (#1057660)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: GUEST,alanww

Refresh again!
Thanks for the contributions so far but I still do not have the songs for the titles mentioned at the start of the thread. Any more thoughts?
The black horse fall in the big mud hole ...!"

20 Nov 03 - 01:41 PM (#1057915)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: Malcolm Douglas

A reference at the Traditional Drama Research Group, added since Peter Millington posted to this discussion nearly three years ago, mentions three of the titles:

Christmas Mummers' Play from Weston-sub-Edge, Glos. - 1864

The impression given is that these may have been the names of dance tunes, not of songs. It's also possible that they didn't exist at all except as a standing joke; at all events, it appears that the Weston mummers didn't know them, as a note indicates that the tune they actually played for the three-handed reel was Not for Jo[e]

Perhaps someone might follow up the earlier reference to John Kirkpatrick, just in case.

20 Nov 03 - 07:35 PM (#1058135)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: Snuffy

We (Shakespeare Mummers) are again performing the Weston Subedge play this year (including one performance in Weston Subedge), hence alanww's original request and current refreshing.

Ran-Tan is at JCs Tunefinder, but not Ran Tan Tinderbox, nor the other two.

WassaiL! V

09 Dec 07 - 06:25 PM (#2212125)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: GUEST,Chicoutimi Girl

Anyone have the music/chords for the Mummer's Song (Newfoundland version)....


09 Dec 07 - 06:31 PM (#2212131)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: Emma B

Chicoutimi Girl, I met up with Ron Hynes earlier this year and swopped information about the Newfoundland and British tradition of mumming.

He has a lot of information about the Newfoundland Christmas scripts which now seem to have fallen out of performance.

22 Dec 11 - 11:26 AM (#3278393)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: MuddleC

Well, it's four years later.... any one found the songs???

23 Dec 11 - 04:25 AM (#3278805)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: GUEST,George Frampton

Charlie Bridger (died 1996) sang 'Darkies' (or 'Playing on the Old Banjo') which strikes me as a period Christy minstrel song. Charlie was born at Kenardington on the fringe of Romney Marsh in Kent, and joined the Woodchurch village band as a boy, retiring to Stone in Oxney in later life. I was given a recording of his songs you still wish to pursue this. Nice polka tune. I may have the words somewhere, otherwise contact me.

23 Dec 11 - 11:34 AM (#3278943)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

Three of them look more like tune titles, as Malcolm suggested above.

However, there is a reference to Johnny's Up The Orchard in a book Sharps, Flats, Gamblers and Racehorses: "There we would roar out " Dear Old Pals " or " Johnny's up the Orchard " with the great Mac-Dermott", suggesting that there was indeed a song.

So a bit of looking found a broadsheet titled Johnny's Up The Orchard at UCLA. Sadly it's in a special collection and isn't available online.Here's the online search ref:
Johnny's In the Orchard (I found it originally in a reference document for the collection).

If you scroll down to: Box 8 Folder 16, you'll find the entry.

Perhaps someone in the area could look it up for you.

(I'll have a look for the others now).


23 Dec 11 - 11:45 AM (#3278946)
Subject: RE: Mummers Songs
From: Mick Pearce (MCP)

(I should have mentioned that The English Folk Play gives the title as Jonnie Up The Orchard for the Weston-sub-Edge play.