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Greatham Sword Dance Play - 1924

N.Peacock (1956)


Time of Occurrence: 
Collective name: 
[Not given]


Norman Peacock
The Greatham Sword Dance
Dec.1956, Vol.VII, pp.29-39


Rantom Tom / 1st Clown
Mr. Stout
Mr. Sparks
Mr. Wild
Squires Son
2nd Clown / True Blue. / Hector
Doctor / Dame Doctor


{Dancers: The King, Mr. Sparks, Mr. Stout, Mr. Wild, The Squire's Son, The Prince}

{Clowns: Rantom Tom, True Blue (Hector), The Doctor}

Rantom Tom

My master sent me here, some room for to provide,
So therefore gentle dears, stand back on every side,
For if he should come and find no room, he will bind me in his belt,
He will lay me down upon the ground and thrash me like a whelp,
He will make my bones like mice bones, like the ribs of little rats.
I once went a-courting to one Susie Perkins
Where the dogs and the cats made such a bow-wowing and barking
I forgot what to say.
What the dickens must I say?
Gurn before your nose and see before your eyes,
And if you can't mind, some of these bonny lads will take you by surprise.

{Sings to 1st tune}

They sent me before to knock at your door
To see if you'd let us come in.
Although I'm a clown they call me a fool,
To please our gallant fine king.
Although I am little I'm made of good metal
I'll scorn for to tell you a lie:
I once killed an urchin as big as myself,
Which made me both lamb and goose pie.
My coat is made of stand-off, stand-off,
My trousers are made of mohair,
My stockings and shoes, they are made of refuse,
And my sword is "Come strike if you dare."

{He strikes at the air with his sword}

Mr. Stout

{sings to 2nd tune}

Our King he will come in, dressed in his grandarie,
He'll call his young men in by one by two by three.


{walks round in a counter-clockwise circle and sings to 2nd tune}

Now the first is Mr. Sparks, he's lately come from France;
He's the first man on our list and the second in our dance.

Mr. Sparks

{follows King and sings}

God bless your honoured fame and all your young men too:
I've come to act my part as well as I can do.


The next is Mr. Stout, as I do understand,
As good a swordsman he, as ever took sword in hand.

Mr. Stout

{following Mr. Sparks}

I often have been tried in city, town and field,
I never could meet the man that ever could make me yield.


The next that I call on, he is a squire's son;
I'm afraid he'll lose his love because he is too young.

Squires Son

{following Mr. Wild}

Although I be too young, I have money for to roam,
I'll freely spend it all before I'll lose my love.


The last he is a prince, he is born of noble fame;
He spent a large estate the wars for to maintain.


{following Squire's Son}

Although I be the last, my name I'll not deny,
Although I be the last, my valour here I'll try,
And I'll not daunted be, although I be the last,
For I can act my part as well as all the rest.

1st Clown

Nay but I'm the last mesel, my name is Rantom Tom,
and the lasses you've got here I'll kiss them every one.

2nd Clown

Gadzooks I clean forgot that I was one of your crew,
If you want to know my name, my name it is True Blue.


We are six dancers bold, as bold as you can see.
We have come to dance this dance to please the company.
Our dancers are but young, and seldom danced before,
We will do the best we can, the best can do no more.
It's not for greedy gain this ramble we do take,
But what you please to give our clowns will freely take.
You've seen us all go round, so think of us what you will;
Music strike up and play, we're the lads from Greatham still.

{1st. Dance}

2nd Clown

Here comes I that never come yit,
With my big head and my little wit:
Although my head be big and my wit be small,
I can act my part as well as you all.
So room! Room! my brave gallants {Swings his sword round}
Listen what I've got to say.
My name is bold Hector and I'll clear the way;
Hector, Hector, the banberry bush, me mother's sister's son-in-law.
There's great Tom Paynes standing staring, swearing at the door
And he winnat come in, he's a poor silly fool like thee {to King}
He'll swear more over one inch of candle
than thou wouldst over a ten-pound note burning away.
{to King} Harks thee my canny man, listen what I've got to say,
Wasn't that thou stealing swine the other day?


Stealing what?

2nd Clown

Feeding swine, I meant to say.


Come young men and try your rapiers on this villain,
or he'll stand prating to me all day.
{to Clown} We're going to try you for sheep stealing.

{The dancers then make the Lock about the Clown loosely, each man turning clockwise on the spot and standing with hilt crossed over point.}

2nd Clown

Will you give me time to make my will and say my prayers?

{The dancers assent}

My son Basto I'll leave thee my old spotted cow,
and see that thou takes, good care of her.


So I will Dad!

2nd Clown

My son Taylor, I'll leave thee my lapp-board and shears,
and see that thou makes good use of them.


So will I Dad!

2nd Clown

My son Fiddler, I'll leave thee my backbone for fiddlestick,
small bones for fiddle-strings.
{to King} And as for thou, I'll leave thee the ringbone of my eye for a Jack-whistle.
So ladies and gentlemen all, I bid you all farewell.

{The dancers tighten up the Lock around the Clown's neck and then draw their swords and the Clown falls down dead.}


A doctor! A doctor! Ten pounds for a doctor!



Here am I, what is thy will with me?


Here's a man fallen upstairs and broken his neck.


Fallen upstairs and broken his neck!
I never heard tell of such a thing.


Downstairs I mean, Doctor; thou's so full of thee catches.
Where dost thou live. Doctor?


I live in Itty-titty, where there's neither town nor city,
Wooden churches with black puddings for bell-ropes;
Little dogs and cats running about with knives and forks stuck in their paws,
shouting, "God Save the Queen."


How far cost thou travel, Doctor?


From the fireside to the bedside.


What, and no further?


Yes, the cheese-and-bread cupboard.


I thought thou was a cheese-and-bread eater.
What is thy fee, Doctor?


My fee is, £19 19s 11-3/4d, but £19 19s 1-3/4 s I'll take from thee.


Well! Set to work Doctor
and I'll see thee paid or unpaid in the morning.


That will never do for me -
"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,"
so I'll go home, indeed that I will.


Nay! Nay! Stay Doctor and I'll see thee paid out of my own pocket.


How long has this man been dead?


Just half-an-hour since we took off his head.


It's a long time for a man to be dead and brought alive again,
but however I'll try my skill.

{Examines Clown}

Here's a leg broken and an arm broken and his wind-cutter's loose.
No matter ladies and gentlemen,
I am a doctor who travels far and near and much at home;
Take these my pills to cure all ills -
the past, the present and to come.
The gout, the itch, the sores, the stitch,
the money-grubs and the burley-stubs,
All out of this little dandarious box of mine;
Thousands have I erected
and as many more distracted.
Now is there any young man in this company got a scolding wife?
Bring her to me in the morning and I'll give her one pill of the sivil
that'll send her headlong to the divil.
So I'm a doctor that can cure all aches, pains, cramps and sprains,
And take away all wrinkles, hiccough, headache, backache, bellyache, toothache and migraine.
I'll make the paper smock to crack,
and soon remove the pain of love
and cure the love-sick maid,
The young, the old, the hot, the cold,
the living and the dead.
I can make the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak,
the lame to walk and fly.


Dame Doctor, you lie!


How can I lie when I'm walking on this ground? -
I'm better than any doctor.
I can cure any pretty maid that goes bow-legged,
old bones, strange in back;
Big stout maids and whisky-jades.
I can make any person or persons fly over nine iron hedges,
Such as old Kate Rickerburn, the mother of fifteen dead, born alive;
Two misfortunes in one night; broke a pot, cut her arm,
And besides that the old lady could crack a marble.
Now is there any young women in this company would like a little of my ink-a-tink, white drops of life? {Produces a bottle}
Look here, when I was late in Asia,
I gave two spoonfuls to the great Megull, my grandmother,
Which caused her to have two boys and three girls.
She was then the age of ninety-nine,
and she swore if she lived nine hundred years longer,
she would never be without two spoonfuls of this excellent cordial of mine
for a safe deliverance on a cold and frosty morning.
Two spoonfuls will cure the cuckle and take away its horns.
So my cork I'll pull out, my business to complete:
Soon you will see this young man stand up on his feet.

{Gives the Clown a drink}

I'll scour him over and over again. {Does so}
Judge and try, if he die, never believe me more,
But if I find his spirits fail,
I'll blow him up as if the devil was in his tail.

1st. Clown

{Rises and sings to 2nd tune}

Good morrow gentlemen, a-sleeping I have been;
I have had such a sleep as the likes was never seen;
But now I am awake and alive unto this day,
And now we'll have a dance, and the Doctor must seek his pay.

{2nd Dance}


Peter Millington's Notes:

Scanned text downloaded from

Collins scanned his text from: Alan Brody (1970) The English Mummers and their Plays, London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969.

Brody text is reprinted from: Norman Peacock (1956) The Greatham Sword Dance, Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, Dec.1956, Vol.VII, pp.29-39.

This has not yet been proof-read against Peacock's paper. Some ancillary information has been drawn from: E.C.Cawte et al (1937) English Ritual Drama, London, Folk-lore Society, 1967, p.44.