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Penkridge Christmas Play, 1899

A.Helm (1984) pp.49-54


Time of Occurrence: 
Collective name: 
[Not given]


Alex Helm
Staffordshire Folk Drama
Ibstock, Guizer Press, 1984, ISSN 0-902065-08-4, pp.49-54


Alexander / Alexandria
King of Egypt / Noble King / Jack
Prince George / Slack
Beelzebub / Old Divious [?]


{Prologue by Alexander called Part I}


I open the door I enter In,
I hope my favours for to win.
Whether I rise or whether I fall,
I'll do my endeavour to please you all.
Prince George stands at the door,
He swears he will come in
With his sword and buckler by his side
He swears he'll belt my skin,
Silence, brave gentlemen! If you will give an eye,
Alexandria is my name, and I will show you tragedy.
By rambling near I have took this country for to see
And these actors I have brought so far from here to Italy.
The next I do present, there is a noble king,
Just come from the wars, glad tidings he does bring.
The next I do present, there is a doctor good
If it hadn't been for him, I should have lost my blood.
Old Divious is the next, a miser as you see,
By the landing of his gold is come to poverty.
By the sounding of the trumpets and the beating of the drum,
Make room, you ladies and gentlemen, and let our actors come.
We are the merry actors that travel through the street;
We are the merry actors that fight for our meat;
We are the merry actors that show prison gale.
Step in the King of Egypt and clear the way.

{Enter King of Egypt}

[King of Egypt]

I am the King of Egypt that plainly does appear,
Prince George is my only son and heir.
Therefore step In, my son and act thy part with me,
And show thy face to all the company.

{Enter. Prince George}

I am Prince George, the champion brave and bold,
And with my sword I won three crowns of gold;
It was I that brought the dragon down to the slaughter,
It was I that gained the Egyptian monarch's daughter,
In Egypt's field I was taken,
And by my valour I soon from them escaped.
I'll sign the gate the hour of eye,
I went and joined no good design,
He gave me a blow that almost struck me dead,
I up with my sword and cut off his head.


Hold Slack, Prince George, don't thou be so hot
For in this place I know[est] what thou'st got.
For it's I that can either slash thee or hash thee
Or cut thee as small as flies
Or send it [thee] to Satan to make mince pies,
Mince-pies hot, or mince pies cold,
I'll send it [thee] to Satan before thou'rt three days old.

Prince George

My head is made of iron,
And my body's mad a of steel
And my knees are made of knuckle bone.
And no man can make me feel


Your head is not made of iron
Your body is not made of steel.
And your knees are not made of knucklebones,
So I can make you feel.
So, Prince George, before thou goest away,
Either you or I shall die this very day;
So mortal wounds thou shalt receive by me
So let us fight out manfully

{They fight and Alexander is slain. King of Egypt calls for a doctor}

[King of Egypt]

Five pounds for a doctor!
No doctor yet?
Ten Pounds for a Doctor!
No Doctor yet?
Fifteen pounds for a doctor!

{Enter the Doctor}


Hot tot tot, here comes a little doctor good and hero;
I have travelled far from home,
I have travelled far from here.

Prince George

How far hast thou travelled?


From the fireplace to the cupboard,

Prince George

No farther yet?


Yes. from Italy, Sicily, Germany, and Spain,
I have come to cure this man that thou hast slain.
Here Jack, take a bit of my nip nap,
Put it down thy tip tap,
Arise up Jack, and fight again.
I've healed his wound, I've cleansed his blood,
I've given him that what's done him good;
I've hills and pills for all diseases-
Take my physic then who pleases.

Prince George

What diseases canst thou cure?


All diseases both in and out,
The hips and the pips, the palsy and the gout,
There is nineteen serpents in a man, and I'm sure to fetch twenty out.
I once rode ten miles on an old dead donkey
to cure the old woman of the hipseypipsey,
and she couldn't sneeze for shouting.
I gave her one of my small pills
and she was well again on the next morning

{Alexander, comes to life again saying}


Oh! horrible, terrible! such life was never seen before!
And a man drove out of seven senses into fifteen.
Oh! out of fifteen into fourscore,
Oh! horrible terrible! such life was never seen before!

King of Egypt

Oh! thou silly ass that lives by grass,
How dost thou salute a stranger?
I live in hopes to buy new ropes
To tie thy nose to the manger.


Sir, unto thee I bend, stand off thy slave.
I think thou art not my friend.
Oh! slave kind sir That word is too far to be in the name.
That word is to stop my honour in vain.
Stop, kind sir, with all thy fear,
Point out the time and place and I'll meet you there.

King of Egypt

I'll cross the water the hour of five,
I'll meet you there if I am alive:
I'll cross the water the hour of ten
And I'll meet you there with gentlemen.


Sure to express thy beauty thou art not able
Thy face shines like the very kitchen table.
Thy teeth are no white than charcoal.
Thy breath stinks like the salt sea.
So mortal wounds thou shalt receive by me,
So let's fight out so manfully.

{They fight and the King of Egypt is slain.}

Twenty pounds for a doctor!
Oh, what is here ? Oh, what is here ? Oh, what is to be done ?
Our king is slain and his crown is likewise to be won
Therefore take up his body and bear it hence away
For in this place he shall no longer stay.

{All sing together}


Bouncing Butler velvet here,
Christmas comes but once a year
When it comes it's never so near,
So farewell, Christmas once a year.


Ladies and gentlemen, you see
Our actors are but poor,
If the worst can please the company
The best can do no more.
Step in, Beelzebub

{Enter Beelzebub}


Ya ha ha, here comes one that's never been yet
With a big head and little wit:
Although my wit it is but small
I'll do endeavour to please you all
Five and twenty of December,
Christmas comes you will remember
Brings glad tidings of great joy
Roast pudding and lumps of beef, sir.
Ya ha ha here comes old Beelzebub
On my shoulder I carry my club
And in my hand my Keginpan
Don't you think I'm a jolly old man?
Money I want money I crave,
If you don't give me money I'll sweep you all into the grave.

{All sing together}


To my rink - a - tink - tink and a sup more drink,
I'll make an old kettle cry sound.
I'll mend an old kettle all round.
My coat all pitches and patches
To my honour I give as I look,
My shoes are all stitches and stitches.
As I go stacking about.
To my rink - a - tink - tink, and a sup more drink,
I'll make an old kettle cry sound,
I'll buy an old kettle, I'll sell an old kettle,
I'll mend an old kettle all round.
My snuff box in my pocket,"
As large as you suppose,
As large as any turnip:
As ever used to grow-
To my rink-a-tink-tink, &c


Helm's Introduction:

"A MS from Mr Noel James, taken down from an actor, in the Ordish collection, gives the text of the play from here. The MS is dated 26th December 1899. and its version depends heavily on the chapbook versions formerly current in the Industrial north-west."

Helm's Notes:

"Burke, 1956, collected information from the area which described the party as 'dancers' in the period 1870's to 1890's. The performers used to visit the informants' home every Christmas" or Near Year wearing old clothes and one man with his jacket turned inside out. They had black faces and a concertina player used to play 'Cock of the North' and 'Goodbye Dolly'. This may have been the post-action entertainment which the second informant said took the form of dancing to a concertina and hitting sticks together. This informant also added that they wore rags - i.e. clothes with rag stitched on.

Another witness (Cawte, 1955) said it was performed fifty years or more, before, and the five performers were called Molly Dancers. They started on Christmas Eve and performed for a week, visiting the farms. They had ribbons on their shirts and wore top hats. They did not black their faces. There was a Doctor Jessup:

Take a bit of nick nack
Rise up Jack and fight again'

There was no song, but someone played a tin, whistle.

The earliest known version of the "Alexander" chapbook was published in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1771 and the Penkridge version shows many similarities to this. The description of this dancing to a concertina and hitting sticks together might be compared with the accounts of Morris dancing in the Bilston area c. 1862 (Hill 1884), although the latter involved more men and was a performance in its own right.