Isca Morris Mummers Tradition - The Gwent Play
In the "Chepstow Weekly Advertiser" of Jan 26th 1884, A E Lawson Lowe noted the prominence given in Monmouthshire to the mock combats. Towards the end of the century the custom had started to die out, but a shorter version of this play was certainly performed at the Bridge Inn, Chepstow in 1913, and another party dressed as Robin Hood's men fought mock battles in the bar of the Greyhound before 1910. An account with a script was published in the "Chepstow Mercury" of December 26th 1863.
The Gwent Mumming Play is based on a Chepstow Play published by Ivor Waters of Chepstow in his book "Folklore and Dialect of the Lower Wye Valley". With the help of local historians, including much support from Ivor and Mercedes Waters, the play was revived by the Isca Morris in 1979 and has been performed for charity each year since. The current text was adapted by Les Chittleburgh and has undergone several revisions, being republished in 1982, 1991, 1998 and 2001. Most recently, in 2001, with real life military action underway, the Turkish Knight character was temporarily replaced for that year with Boldslasher (and the relevant changes appear in brackets below).
The Chepstow Mumming Play ( Adaptation copyright Les Chittleburgh © 2001 ) as currently performed is as follows:-
Enter Father Christmas.
- " In comes I, old Father Christmas,
- Christmas or Christmas not,
- I hope Father Christmas will never be forgot.
- A mug of your strong beer, to make us dance and sing,
(Tankard slammed down on to the bar counter for free filling !)
- And the money in our pockets is a very fine thing.
- Christmas comes but once a year,
- But when it does it brings good cheer.
- Roast-beef, Mince-pie,
- Who do love it better than I?
- Room, room, room I say,
- For I'm the man as lets St. George this way,
- And in this room there shall be shown,
- The dreadfullest battle that ever was known "
St. George rushes in waving his sword..
- " In comes I, St. George, St. George the man of valour bold,
- With my spear and sword all by my side,
- I won three crowns of gold. "
Enter the Dragon with a roar..
- " In comes I, the fierce and fiery dragon
- I wanted a drink but I'm on the wagon!
- I must avoid your ales and stout,
- In case they put my fires out. "
- A fight ensues with the dragon being slain."
St. George continues..
- " I fought the fiery dragon, and brought him to his slaughter,
- And by that means I won the King of Egypt's daughter.
- If any man dare with me fight,
- I will dispense with him this very night. "
Enter the Turkish Knight..
- " In comes I, the Turkish Knight,
- Come from Turkey Land where I learned to fight.
- First I fought in Portugal, then I fought in Spain,
- Now I'm here in Raglan (or wherever..) to fight Bold George again.
- I'11 fight with St. George, that man of valour bold,
- And if his blood is hot, I'11 quickly make it cold. "
(Alternative - Enter Boldslasher..)
- ( " In comes I, old Boldslasher,
- I am a valiant soldier and Boldslasher is my name.
- With sword and buckler by my side, I hope to win the game.
- First I'll draw my sword,
- And then your precious blood.
- But for to fight with me I see you are not able,
- So with my trusty broadsword I soon will you disable. " )
- " Oh thou villaneous Turkish Knight,
- Step up, draw forth thy sword and fight.
- My sword being sharp and tapering,
- I'11 very quickly stick it in. "
(Alternative - St. George..)
- ( "Disable? Disable? It lies not in your power,
- For if I draw my trusty sword I soon will you devour.
- Stand off my good Boldslasher and let no more be said,
- For if I draw my sword, I'm sure to break your head. ")
(Alternative - Boldslasher..)
- ( " How can you break my head?
- My head is made of iron, my body made of steel!
- My hands and feet are knuckle bone, I challenge you to feel! " )
- " In comes I, old Beelzebub,
- Over my shoulder I carries a club,
- And in my hand a frying pan,
- I thinks myself a jolly old man. "
- " To start this fight without delay,
- I've come on in to clear the way.
- Room, room, room I crave,
- And if you won't give 'em room,
- I'11 sweep you all to your grave. "
Enter the Fairy off the Christmas Tree..
- " In comes I, dear little me,
- The fairy off the Christmas Tree.
- Fairy Land is where I've been,
- Trying to be the Fairy Queen.
- A fairy has a hard time,
- Up where the tinsel flickers,
- A wand of gold in one hand
- And a fir tree up her knickers.
- My beard is rough,
- My legs are hairy,
- But you're in trouble,
- If you call me a fairy.
- So I've come here tonight, all this way,
- To help St. George to win the day.
- With my magic wand I'11 do all in my power,
- To help St. George in his dreadfullest hour. "
Enter Jolly Old Woman..
- " In comes I, an Old Woman so jolly,
- Soon one of these two will learn of his folly.
- So stir up the fire and make a light,
- For these two boys to have a fight. "
They fight and the Turkish Knight ( or Boldslasher) falls dead..
Jolly Old Woman..
- " St. George, St. George what have you done?
- You've been and killed my only son.
- Is there a doctor to be found,
- To cure this deep and deadly wound? "
Enter the Doctor..
- " Yes there's a doctor to be found,
- To cure this man lying bleeding on the ground.
- I am a doctor come from France, and Rome, and Spain,
- To cure the sick and raise the dead again. "
" What can you cure Doctor? "
- " I can cure the itch, the pitch, the palsy and the gout,
- Pains that run within and pains that run without.
- If a man gets nineteen devils in his skull, I'11 fetch twenty out.
- I'11 stop the blood and heal the wound,
- And raise the dead man from his doom!
- Also causing two blind men to see fair play,
- And two dumb men to shout hooray.
- Oh yes there's a doctor to be found,
- But I takes no less than fifty pound. "
- " Fifty pounds you heartless rogue,
- I can't pay that I'11 have you know.
- A wife at home and children three,
- And I support the Brains (or wherever..) brewery.
- I've no more money that I can spend,
- But will you take my flexible friend. "
- Father Christmas pulls out a giant credit card.
Beelzebub also pulls out something..
" I've got a flexible friend too! "
- " If a credit card you wave at me,
- Then in Guineas (Guiness !) Shall be my fee. "
Father Christmas pays the Doctor who goes over to the Turkish Knight ( or Boldslasher).
During a considerable amount of ad libbing and the use of relevant props, he says..
- " The Fairy has her magic wand,
- But I've come here to lend a hand!
- While you may groan at that poor rhyme,
- There's more to come if you've got time.
- In case you're thinking I'm a quack,
- And before he wants his money back,
- I'll fiddle with my stethoscope,
- To give this corpse a little hope!
- A frog in the throat's what I'm believing,
- Caused this man his sinking feeling.
- A frog in the throat? No! Bless my soul!
- Of course it was a toad in the hole! "
- and finally reaches the punchline...
- " I carry a little bottle in my inside pocket,
- Called Theakston's Pale fetched from the Gockett,
- I'11 pour three drops on this man's nose,
- He'll rise again to fight his foes. "
- ( " I carry a little bottle inside my jacket,
- Called Theakston's Pale, it cost a packet.
- I'11 pour three drops on this man's nose,
- He'll rise again to fight his foes. "
- ( " What's this that in my pocket swells,
- A potion carried from the Six Bells.
- A tavern renamed, a credit to the town,
- Let's hope that now it doesn't fall down!" )
The Turkish Knight revives and St. George says..
- " Oh thou foolish Turkish Knight,
- Returneth home to thy land to fight.
- Send here thy father and thy brethren three,
- And I'11 serve them just as I've served thee. "
(Alternative - Boldslasher revives, stands and says.. )
- ( " Oh my back, my back is wounded.
- And my heart is sore confounded.
- To be struck from seven senses into fourscore,
- The like of which was never seen in Wales before.
- Oh hark! I hear that silvery trumpet sound.
- Down yonder is the way,
- Farewell St. George, I can no longer stay. " )
Turkish Knight ( or Boldslasher ) slinks off.
Enter the Valiant Soldier..
- " In comes I, the Valiant Soldier,
- Swish-em, Swash-em is my name.
- With my sword and spear all by my side,
- I hope to win the game.( Brucy asides of "good game", "good game" etc)
- I'11 fight the heathenTurks, those men of valour bold,
- And if their blood is hot, I'11 quickly make it cold.
- I'11 cut 'em, slash 'em, hack 'em small as flies,
- And send 'em to the cookshop to make mince pies. "
He makes a bow and departs after the Turkish Knight ( or Boldslasher) .
Enter Robin Hood..
- " In comes I, bold Robin Hood,
- Freshly come o'er from Earlswood.
- Now brave St. George, he'll rule the roast,
- Let us triumphant to the toast,
- And homeward let our steps be found,
- When'er the Mummers time unwound.
- When Christmas cheer prevails I trow,
- And maids kiss 'neath the mistletoe,
- Let merry song and dance prevail
- And Bumpers of old winter ale.
- He makes his bow and departs with St. George "
Enter a man in rags and tatters..
- " In comes I, old Ragged Jack,
- With wife and family on my back.
- My family's large and I'm not too small,
- And every little helps us all.
- Some in the workhouse, some at home,
- When I do go the rest may roam.
- My name is little John,
- If anybody wants me let him come on.
- Let him be black or let him be white,
- I'11 show him I'm the one to fight.
- See here is my pouch, drop something in here,
- And we'll wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. "
Chorus from all to conclude..
- " Come Ladies and Gentlemen sat by the fire,
- Put your hands in your pockets and give us our desire.
- Put your hands in your pockets and treat us all right,
- If you give nought, we'll take nought, farewell and goodnight. "