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Christmas Mummers Play from Kempsford, Glos. - 1868

R.J.E.Tiddy (1923) pp.248-253


Time of Occurrence: 
Collective name: 


The Mummers' Play
Oxford, University Press, 1923, pp.248-253


Arthur Abland / Tanner
Robin Hood
Little John
Tom Pinny / Jack / Master Cleverlegs / Master Tom Pinny / Rub a Dub a Dub


{Enter Arthur Abland.}


Arthur Abland

A room, a room brave gallants all
Please give me room to rhyme
This merry merry Christmas time
Activity of youth activity of age
Such life was never known or played upon the stage.
I am a bold Tanner from Northamptonshire I came
Long time I wrote my name bold Arthur Abland.
With a long pike staff on my shoulder
so well I clear my way
Let them be one two or three I make them flee
They dare no longer stay.
As I was walking one summer's morning
Through the forest merry greenwood
To view the red deer
That run here and there
Then I saw bold Robin Hood.

{Enter Robin Hood.}

As soon as Robin Hood did me spy
Some sport he thought for to make
He bid me fan he bid me stan
And he bid me thus for to spake.

Robin Hood

Who art thou bold fellow,
who begin so bold high here
Stroth to be brief thou lookst a thief
Come to steal the King's deer.
I'm the keeper over this forest
And the King put me in trust
To mind the red deer
That run here and there
So stop thee good fellow I must.


If thou beist Keeper over this forest
And hast any great command
I don't care a peg for thee looking so big
So mend theeself where thee can.


Let us measure staves bold fellow
Before we begin our play
I won't have my staff half a foot longer than shine
Else that will come to foul play.


My staff is eight foot and a half
And growed straight on a tree
An eight foot staff will knock down a calf
And I'm sure it will knock down thee.

{They fight.}


Oh hold our hands, oh hold our hands
And let our quarrels fall,
We shall beat our bones all to a meat
And get no quaintance at all.
If thee will leave thy tanning trade
And bide in greenwood with me,
My name's Robin Hood and I swear by the wood
I will give thee both gold and fee.


Pray tell me where is Little John!
In queen so plain I heard his loud voice.
By his mother's side he is our kinsman Dear

{Enter Little John.}

Little John

What is the matter master I pray you tell,
You stand with your staff all in your hand
I'm 'fraid all things arn't well.


The man that bid me stand
Is the Tanner by my side;
He 's a bonny blade
And a master by trade
And he swears he'll tan my hide.

Little John

Thee be recommended
If the fate thee can do
If thee be so big and stout
Thee and I'll have a bout
And thee shall tan my hide too.

{They fight and: Little John knocks Arthur down.}


A thousand pounds I'll give
Arthur Abland's life to save.

{Enter Doctor on a man's back.}


Hold my horse, Jack.

Tom Pinny {from without}

Yes Sir I've got him fast by the tail.


Rack him up with a faggot and fuzz
and give him a bucket of ashes to drink.

Tom Pinny {from without}

I'll do as I be minded.

Doctor {Walking round rattling a pill-box.}

See Sirs, here comes this noble doctor
Both stout and good
And with my hand I'll stop his blood.


What country cost thee come from?


From France from Spain from Rome I come
The furthest part of Christendom.


What can'st thee cure?


All sorts of diseases
Just what my pill pleases.
The heart corn and the smart corn
The itch, the stitch
Pains within and pains without
Both the palsy and the gout.
I don't go about like these half re-rafty sham Doctors
pay ther kill nor cure.
I goes about for the good of the country.
I'd sooner kill than cure.
Bring me an old woman thats been 70 years dead
and 70 years . . . . . .
and 70 years laid in her grave
if she will rise up and crack one of my silver pills
I'll be bound to maintain her life to save.
I cured old John Juggler's wife.
Her had the rheumatiz in all four of her elbows,
her died and I cured her afterwards
and I'll cure this man if he ain't too far gone

{Gives a pill to Arthur.}


What else can'st thee cure?


Horses cows sheep and pigs
And so walk in Master Cleverlegs.

Tom Pinny {from without}

What's the matter with my legs more than thee own?


Walk in Tom Pinny.

{Enter Tom Pinny}

Tom Pinny

Tom Pinny's not my name.


What is't thee name?

Tom Pinny

Master Tom Pinny, a man of great fame.
Doesn't know my name?
Here comes I as can't be hit
With my great head and little wit.
My head's so big, my wit's so small
I've come to endeavour to please you all.


What canst thee cure?

Tom Pinny

A magpie with the tooth ache.


How d'ye do that?

Tom Pinny

Cut off's head and throw his body into the ditch.


Ah what country cost thee come from?

Tom Pinny

I comes from the country where they knits horse shoes
and spins steel iron bars
and thatches pigsties with pancakes.
Have you got any?


Christmas comes but once a year
Then I have a very good share
beef plum pudding and strong beer.


Last Xmas day I turned the spit
I burnt my fingers and felt it hit -
The spark jumped over the table
And the frying pan beat the ladle,
Aye aye says the gridiron
What can't you two agree.
Bring 'em to me, I'm the Justice of Peace
And I'll make 'em agree.
Old Mother Harding killed a fat hog
Made black puddings enough to choke her dog -
Hung 'em up high upon the pin
The fat ran out and the maggots crawled in
Hee-haw! Pudding and string.


Billows [bellows] if you please, Missus

{Takes a pair of bellows from the fire place and blows into Arthur's mouth.}

Rise up bold Arthur Abland
and give the Ladies and Gentlemen a dance before you go away.

{Arthur Abland rises and they all dance around while Tom Pinny sings to his fiddle.}

Tom Pinny

So here I am a rub a dub a dub
On my shoulder I carries my club
In my hand an empty can.
Don't you think I'm a jolly old man.
Green sleeves and yellow leaves
Now my boys we'll dance apace
Hump back and hairy wig
Now my boys we'll dance a jig.

{Exeunt omnes, dancing.}


Tiddy's Notes:

"This version is stated in a note of Mr. Tiddy's to have been taken down by Mr. W.W.Ward in 1868 from John Couling, 'a member of a very old peasant family in Kempsford'. The following information seems to have been communicated from the same source.

'Mummers' Dress was simple and according to the fancy of the actors to a large extent. There were, however, some constant features. On their heads they wore a kind of foolscap made of paper decorated with plumes or flags from the river or pieces of coloured ribbon. In their hands they carried quarter staves and those who had them old swords. The character Tom Pinny, who represented Father Christmas, wore a sort of mask leaving part of his face bare which was painted red. This was considered by far the most important character, and the success of the players depended very much on the good acting of this part. He too wore a foolscap like the others or an old bonnet, and carried an instrument which he pretended to play on as a fiddle. It was made of a piece of wood 18 in. long and 3 broad, bored at each end with four or five holes through which were strung pieces of whipcord. A tin canister or something of that sort formed the bridge. Tom Pinny was also made to appear hunchbacked, straw being stuffed up inside his coat. He also carried a can in which he collected money from the audience. The Mummers went at Christmas time to the principal houses in the village, knocked at the door and said 'Please let the Mummers act'. Permission being given they walked into the room, each coming in as his part required. The audience stood or sat round the sides of the room while the Players occupied the space in the middle, walking round and round, beating the floor with their staves and using a great deal of rustic action.


1. Arthur Abland, the Tanner.

2. Robin Hood.

3. Little John.

4. The Doctor.

5. Tom Pinny."

Peter Millington's Notes:

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