The Old Horse, Sheffield District, Yorkshire, 1888

S.O.Addy (1888)

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Location: Sheffield District, West Riding, Yorkshire, England (SK3-8-)
Year: Publ. 1888
Time of Occurrence: Christmas
Collective Name: The Old Horse


Sidney Oldall Addy
A Glossary of Words used in the Neighbourhood of Sheffield Including a Selection of Local Names, and Some Notices of Folk-lore, Games and Customs
London, English Dialect Society & Trübner, 1888, Vol.57, pp.163-164

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

{OLD HORSE, a hobby-horse.}

{At Christmas mummers bring with them a representation of a horse. It has a wooden head, the mouth being opened by strings from the inside. The mummers sing the following lines:-}



We've got a poor old horse,
And he's standing at your door,
And if you'll only let him in
He'll please you all, I'm sure.
{Chorus -} Poor old horse, poor old horse.


He once was a young horse,
And, in his youthful prime,
My master used to ride on him,
And thought him very fine.
{Chorus -} Poor old, &c.


But now that he's grown old,
And nature doth decay,
My master frowns upon him,
And these words I've heard him say -
{Chorus -} ' Poor old horse,' &c.


His feeding it was once
Of the best of corn and hay
That grew down in yon fields,
Or in the meadows gay.
{Chorus -} Poor old, &c.


But now that he's grown old,
And scarcely can he crawl,
He's forced to eat the coarsest grass
That grows against the wall.
{Chorus -} Poor old, &c.


He's old and he's cold,
And is both dull and slow;
He's eaten all my hay,
And he's spoiled all my straw.
{Chorus -} Poor old, &c.


Nor either is he fit to ride,
Or draw with any team;
So take him and whip him,
He'll now my master's ....
{Chorus -} Poor old, &c.


To the huntsman he shall go,
Both his old hide and foe, [sic]
Likewise his tender carcase,
The hounds will not refuse.
{Chorus -} Poor old, &c.


His body that so swiftly
Has travelled many miles,
Over hedges, over ditches,
Over five-barred gates and stiles.
{Chorus -} Poor old, &c.

{Here the horse falls down apparently dead.}

{Then follows a prose conversation amongst the mummers, which is not worth preserving, because it has been so modernized as to have lost all its interest. The end of it is that the horse gets a new lease of life and attempts to worry a blacksmith who is called upon to shoe him. The play is ended by the following stanza: - }


The man that shod this horse, sir,
That was no use at all,
He likened to worry the blacksmith,
His hammer and nails and all.
{Chorus -} Poor old, &c.


Addy's Notes:

These lines are sung to an interesting tune, and with great noise and histrionic display. Young women pretend to lie frightened at the way in which the horse opens his wide jaws, and the awful manner in which he clashes . them together. There is a poem in Reliquiae Antiquae, ii. 280, entitled 'Lyarde,' which begins thus:

Lyarde es ane olde horse, and may noght wele drawe,
He salle be put into the parke holyne for to gnawe.

Indexer's Notes:

Another version of this play, from North Derbyshire, was published in S.O.Addy (1907) Guising and Mumming in Derbyshire Journal of the Derbyshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, Jan.1907, Vol.29, pp.37-39. (See This is essentially similar, although the first verse is worded differently, and give the tune. They may or may not have come from the same ultimate source.

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