J.MacTaggart (1824)


Location: town
Time of Occurrence
Collective name


Source author
John MacTaggart
Source title
The Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia
Source publication
London, [J.MacTaggart], 1824, pp.502-503


Beelzebub / Belzebub / Doctor
First Knight
Second Knight / Wounded Knight / Jack


{Enter Belzebub, and proceeds:}


Here come I, auld Beelzebub,
And over my shoulder I carry a club;
And in my hand a frying-pan,
Sae don't ye think I'm a jolly auld man.
Christmas comes but ance in the year,
And when it comes it brings good cheer,
For here are two just going to fight,
Whether I say 'tis wrong or right.
My master loves such merry fun,
And I the same do never shun;
Their yarking splore with the quarter-staff,
I almost swear will make me laugh.

{The Knights enter now, dressed in white robes, with sticks in their hands, and so they have a set-to at sparring, while one of them accompanies the strokes of the sticks with this rhyme:}

[First Knight]

Strike, then, strike my boy,
For I will strike if you are coy,
I'm lately come frae out the west,
Where I've made many a spirit rest;
I've fought in my bloody wars,
Beyond the sun, among the stars,
With restless ghosts, and what you know
Flock there when ere the cock doth crow;
I've elbow'd thousands into hell,
My ears delight to hear them yell.
I've broke the backs of millions more
Upon that grim infernal shore;
So strike if you're a valiant knight,
Or I shall knock ye down with might.
Your proud insults I'll never bear,
To inches I'll your body tear;
If you, my love, can keep, can keep,
You first must make me sleep, sleep, sleep.

{The second Knight now speaks, and the sparring becomes keener.}

Second Knight

Lash, dash - your staff to crash,
My fool, have you the water brash?
If you have not, I soon shall know,
I soon shall cause you tumble low;
So thump away, and I shall fling
Some blows on you, and make ye ring
Like ye sounding belly buts,
To start the music of thy guts;
Or clinkers on thy hairy scull,
To fell thee like a horned bull.
Reel away, who first shall fall
Must pardon from the other call;
Tho' you have fought beyond the sun,
I find we'll have some goodly fun;
For I have boxed in the East,
To solar furnace toss'd the beast.

{First Knight fails and sings out -}

First Knight

A doctor! doctor, or I die -


"A doctor, doctor, here am I."

{Wounded Knight sayeth -}

[Second Knight]

"What can you cure?"

{Belzebub answereth:}


"All disorders to be sure,
"The gravel and the gout,
"The rotting of the snout;
"If the devil be in you,
"I can blow him out
"Cut off legs and arms,
"Join then too again
"By the virtue of my club,
"Up Jack, and fight a main," &c., &c.

{Thus a fellow is struck out of five senses into fifteen.}


MacTaggart's Notes:

"'YULE-BOYS - Boys who ramble the country during the Christmas holidays. They are dressed in white, all but one in each gang, the Belzebub of the corps. They have a foolish kind of rhyme they go through before people with, and so receive bawbees and pieces. This rhyme is now a-days so sadly mutilated, that I can make little of it as to what it means, but it evidently seems to have an ancient origin: and in old Scottish books I see some notice taken of Quhite boys of Zule. The plot of the rhyme seems to be, two knights disputing about a female, and fight; the one falls, and Belzebub appears and cures him. I may give here a sketch of something like the scene, with the attending rhymes."

Peter Millington’s Notes​:

Scanned by me from the transcript in B.Hayward (1992) Galoshins : The Scottish Folk Play. Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1992, ISBN 07486 0338 7, pp.181-184. Hayward's transcript was taken from the 2nd edition (1876) of MacTaggart's encyclopedia. However, I have proof-read the scanned text against MacTaggart's first edition.

Hayward's Notes:

"The first edition of MacTaggart's Encyclopedia (1824) had a very limited circulation, and the second edition is more frequently encountered. Recently, however, the original has been reprinted, in an edition by L.L. Ardern in 1981, printed by the Clunie Press at Old Ballechin in Perthshire.

There are several points of interest about this information:

- This is by far the earliest of the Galloway accounts, preceding the others by around seventy-five years.

- The first seven and the closing thirteen lines appear in other versions- the remainder I take to be the author's invention.

- This report, and the unlocated Johnstone account, are only two to ascribe the Galloway play to the midwinter season,

- The phrase 'Yule Boys' is not known from any other source, and I have been able to trace no 'old Scottish books' that take notice of 'Quhite Boys of Zule'.

The 'irregularity' of MacTaggart's account has to be set againt his admirable credentials as an informant. His biography, which he himself gives under the heading 'MacTaggart', informs us that he was born in 1791, the son of a farmer, at Borgue (a feudal seat), and moved to Torrs when he was seven. Torrs is north of Borgue, five miles from Kirkcudbright (a play location), where he attended school until he was thirteen. Then he travelled widely in Britain, had a spell at Edinburgh University, and returned to Torrs from Canada c. 1820. at which place he composed the Encyclopedia, and died in 1830.

Although MacTaggart lived as man and boy in a farmhouse folk-play area, he gives no hint of having either seen or taken part the folk play.

In only one area is McTaggart consonant with the remainder the Galloway information: the Encyclopedia does not include the word 'Goloshan'."