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Plough-Monday Play from Clipsham, Rutland, 1904

M.G.Cherry (1904)

Context

Location: 
Clipsham
SK9616
Time of Occurrence: 
Plough-Monday
Collective name: 
Plough-Boys

Source

Author: 
Mary G.Cherry
Title: 
The Plough-Monday-Play in Rutland
Publication: 
1904, Vol.1, No.6, pp.195-199

Cast

First Man
Fool / Tom-Fool / Tommy
Servant Man
Lady
Recruiting Sergeant / Sergeant
Jolly Joe
Thrasher / Thrashing Blade / Old Murphy
Doctor

Text

{THE PLOUGH-MONDAY-PLAY.}

{CHARACTERS:-}

{First Man. Servant Man. Recruiting Sergeant. Doctor.}

{Fool. Lady. Thrasher. Jolly Joe.}

{Enter First Man, singing.}

[First Man]

"Good People give attention,
And listen to my song;
I'll tell you of us Ploughboys
Before the time is long.
You see how we do moil and toil,
Without one dread or fear;
You see us Ploughboys labouring
All seasons of the year."

{Enter Fool.}

First Man.

"Well, my good man, and pray what are you doing here?"

Fool.

"Come to learn the Arts of Industry."

First Man.

"Arts of Industry? And pray who are you?"

Fool.

"Why, you have heard talk of all these Bob-fools, Jack-fools, Dick-fools, and artificial fools;
I'm none of them,
I'm a real old Tom-fool."

First Man.

"Suppose we call you 'Tommy,' lad.
And pray how far have you travelled this night?"

Fool.

"From my old grandmother's fire-side."

First Man.

"A funny place that! What made you leave it?"

Fool.

"Free Trade."

First Man.

"Free Trade! And what had Free Trade to do you?"

Fool.

"A good lot to do with me.
It made times hard,
not only made times hard,
but made my old belly very sore."

First Man.

"Why didn't you go to the doctor and get it cured?"

Fool.

"Oh, I know a better cure than that:-
a good beef-steak poultice and a quart of ale,
and clap it just here!
It's cured me, and many more besides me.
My old grandmother had a weak constitution,
and she died at the thought of it!
But she didn't die without making a will neither,
for she left me something very handsome."

First Man.

"What's that, Tommy, that she left you so handsome?"

Fool.

"Why, this old top-knot of mine," {pointing to beribboned hat.}

First Man.

"Surely you don't call that handsome? "

Fool.

"I should think now I do call it handsome!
Look how all the good people in this empty room admire it.
You want punishing, severely punishing."

First Man.

"How would you have me punished?"

Fool.

"Put you in the Stocks,
and there let you stop till Bob Peel serves his time in Purgatory!"

{Enter Servant Man, singing.}

[Servant Man]

"In comes I, the Servant Man,
And don't you see my whip in hand?
As I do go to plough the land
I turn it upside down.
Straightway I go from end to end,
And scarcely make one balk or bend,
But to my horses I attend.
As they go gaily round the end."

Fool.

"Ah, ah! What a funny old chap this is!"

First Man.

"Why is he a funny old chap, Tommy?"

Fool.

"Because he wears his old white smock outside."

First Man.

"Where would you have him wear it?"

Fool.

"Inside, to be sure;
my old grandmother always wore hers inside."

First Man.

"Ah, your old grandmother was such a funny old chap."

Fool.

"Ah, she was.
She lived ninety-nine years longer than my grandfather,
and then he grew a man first!"

{Enter, Lady singing.}

[Lady]

"Behold the Lady bright and gay,
Good fortunes amid sweet charms,
How scornful she was thrown away
All in that booby's arms.
He swears if I don't wed with him,
As you may understand,
He'll 'list him for a soldier
And go to some foreign land."

Fool.

"I don't like your song, Madam."

Lady.

"You don't like the truth."

Fool.

"Do you wish me to offend you?"

Lady.

"Do you wish me to tell you a lie?"

Fool.

"Get out of my sight you saucy old vagabond,
and let's hear what our Recruiting Sergeant's got to say."

{Enter Recruiting Sergeant, Singing or saying.}

[Recruiting Sergeant]

"In comes I, the Recruiting Sergeant,
I've arrived here just now,
I've had orders from the King
To list all young men that follow cart-horse or plough,
Tinkers, tailors,
Ploughboys, sailors,
Any more at my advance,
The more I hear the fiddle play,
The better I can dance."

Fool.

Faith, lad, do you think we are all such fools as to come here and see you dance?"

Sergeant.

"I can either dance, sing, or say."

Fool.

"Well, if you begin to dance I shall soon run away!"

Sergeant. {singing.}

"Come all young men in the mind of 'listing,
List, and do not be afraid,
You shall have all kinds of liquor,
Likewise kiss that pretty fair maid."

Sergeant..

"Now young man, will you 'list?"

Servant Man.

"Yes." {shakes hands.}

Sergeant. {singing.}

"In your hand I place this shilling,
Ten bright guineas shall be your bounty
If along with me you'll go,
Your hat shall be neatly trimmed with ribbons,
Also cut the garland show."

Servant Man {singing.}

"Thank you, kind Sir, I take your offer,
Time away shall sweetly pass;
Your sport it seems to very well suit me
Although I'm in co [sic] with the bucksome [sic] lass."

Lady {singing.}

"Oh, since my love has listed
To go as a Volunteer,
I neither mean to side with him,
Nor yet to shed one tear.
I neither mean to sigh for him
I'll let him for to know,
I'll get another sweetheart
And with him I will go."

Servant Man {singing.}

"Oh, since you've been so scornful,
The truth to you I'll tell,
I've listed for a soldier,
And I bid you all farewell."

Fool.

"Dost thou love me my pretty maid?"

Lady.

"Yes, and to my sorrow."

Fool.

"And when's to be our wedding day?"

Lady.

"Tommy, love, to-morrow."

Fool.

"I'm going to ask all you rag-jacks, bob-jacks, and screw-jacks
to me and my ugly wife's wedding
and I'll let you know what we're going to have for dinner -
a leg of a mouse, and a lark roasted whole;
so you may bolt about and get your knives and forks sharpened,
for there won't be a deal of gravy fly in your eye."

{Enter, Jolly Joe, sowing corn and singing.}

[Jolly Joe]

"In comes I, Jolly Joe,
I can either plough, sow,
Reap, or mow;
I hope the Master will bestow
All he can afford us all."

{Enter, Thrasher, singing.}

[Thrasher]

"Behold I am a thrashing blade,
Good people all doth know;
My father, he learnt me the trade,
Just ninety years ago."

Thrasher.

"I'm old Murphy, the big thrasher.
I thrashed my old Dad ninety years ago,
and at last my old Dad died.
Then I went down into the Battle of Waterloo,
and there I thrashed old Buonaparte [sic] and all his men.
I've thrashed this nation and many other nations,
and I'll thrash you, Tommy, before I go!"

Fool.

"Oh, no you won't,
For my head is made of brass,
And my body's made of steel,
My hands are made of knuckle-bones,
No man can make me feel."

Thrasher.

"I don't care if you are made of rub-stones, rap-sticks or fire-irons,
I will make you feel."

Fool.

"Oh, no you wont!" [sic]

Thrasher.

"Oh, yes I will!"

Fool.

"I should like to see you do it!"

{Thrasher fells Tom Fool with his flail.}

First Man.

"Oh see, oh see, what hast thou done?
Thou'st slain poor Tom like the evening sun
As he lies bleeding on this cold floor,
Faith, lad, he'll never rise no more!

First Man.

"Five pounds for a doctor!"

Thrasher.

"Ten to keep away"

First Man.

"Fifteen to come!"

First Man.

"Is there a doctor to be found
To cure this poor man of his mortal wound?"

Doctor {outside}.

"Yes, there's a doctor to be found
To cure that poor man of his mortal wound."

First Man.

"Step in, Doctor."

Doctor {outside}

"Here boy, hold my horse.
My horse is a donkey and very nervous at times,
so mind he dosen't[sic] kick you
and I'll pay you when I come out."

Doctor {enters}.

"In comes I, the Doctor."

First Man.

"Are you the Doctor?"

Doctor.

"Yes, and a very clever doctor too."

First Man.

"Pray what pains can you cure?"

Doctor.

"Ipsy, pipsy, palsy, gout,
Pains within and aches without,
Draw a tooth, set a leg,
Cure the pain in old Tom's head."

First Man.

"And how far have you travelled this night?"

Doctor.

"From my old grandmother's fire-side,
Where I've had many a piece of cold apple-pie,
And that's the truth if it aint [sic] a lie!"

First Man.

"And where did you learn your skill and education?"

Doctor.

"All round Italy, France and Spain,
And now come back to Old England again."

First Man.

"Can you tell me what is the matter with this old man?"

Doctor.

"Yes, if you allow me to feel his pulse." {Feels Tom's ankle}.

First Man.

"His pulse don't lie there, my good man."

Doctor.

"Where would you have it lie?"

First Man.

"Back of his head, in his neck-hole."

Doctor.

"A funny place that.
It beats very slow,
it beats nineteen times the tick of my watch goes half-once.
This old man is in a very low way, a very low way too,
he wont [sic] get a deal lower without you dig a hole and put him in it.
He's been living hard."

First Man.

"Can you tell me what he's been living on?"

Doctor.

"Rub-stones, rap-sticks and fire-irons,
last night he swallowed a young wheelbarrow for his breakfast.
He's been shipwrecked in a turnip close;
tried to cut his throat with a bucket of cold water;
hang himself with a wooden iron rolling-pin;
and all such goings on as these.
He wants a few of my snicksnalls out of my breeches trousers lining's pocket,
one in the morning, two at night,
and swallow the box at dinner time.
"If the pills don't digest the box will,
Here, Tom, take a pill.
Stop, stop, ladies and gentlemen
While I put my glasses on, {puts on spectacles}
I'll tell you a pretty parl [sic] then;
I see no peg upon the door
So I hang my hat upon the floor.
"When I went down yonder up in the east of Yorkshire,
there came to me an old woman with her eye out,
her nose in a sling,
and I set that,
and a very sure cure I made of it too.
She's alive from that day to this if she's not dead,
this old man's not dead,
"He's only in a trance,
So raise him up and we'll have a dance,
If he cant [sic] dance, I can sing,
So raise him up and we'll begin.

{They join hands and circle round once, then all sing as follows:-}

"There's a good time coming, boys,
Wait a little longer."
"Good master and good mistress,
That sits around your fire,
Put your hands into your pockets,
That's what we do desire.
Put bread into our hopper,
And beer into our can;
Let's hope you never will despise
Our jolly servant man.
Success unto our Master
And Mistress also,
Likewise the little children
That round the table go.
Let's hope they ne'er may come to want,
Till nations doth provide,
Let happiness and plenteousness
Attend your fire-side.

{After receiving hospitality, etc.}

We thank you for civility,
And what you gave us here;
We wish you all good night
And another happy year."

First Man.

"A happy New Year to you all!"

{Exeunt omnes.}

Notes

Cherry's Introduction:

"In the extreme north-east of Rutland, bordering on Lincolnshire, lies the little village of Clipsham; and here it is that every Plough-Monday sees the representation of the ancient Plough-Boys-Play. From time immemorial the first Monday after Old Christmas Day has been sacred to the memory of 'the lads that follow the plough.' The Sixteenth Century and Twentieth Century ploughboys keep the same festival; then, as now, they were wont to go from house to house receiving hospitality and coin of the realm. Mr. Ditchfield, in his interesting book 'Old English Customs,' tells us that 'the money was in pre-Reformation days devoted to the maintenance of the ploughmen's light, which burned before the altar of the Ploughmen's Guild in the chantry of the church,' mais nous avons changé tout celá!

When the play actually was conceived is hard to say, as it has never been put in writing, but is handed down by word of mouth from one generation to another. Parts of it are evidently very old, here and there one finds modern innovations, but the ground-plan closely resembles the ancient Mummers Plays' scattered over our English counties; indeed some of the words, phrases and ideas, are identical. The obvious and natural result of a lack of education on the part of the rustic performers in olden times has led to many local differences, but still the Play itself is the same whether acted in Lincoln, Leicester, Nottingham, Rutland or any part of England. The real true home, however of the Plough-Monday-Play is Lincolnshire, that large and essentially agricultural county. Though in parts of Yorkshire, Huntingdon and elsewhere, it may have degenerated into the formula:- 'Please to remember the Ploughboys':- yet in South Lincolnshire at any rate it flourishes exceedingly, and nearly every village has its beloved 'Play' on the Monday after Epiphany.

At Clipsham, and I believe elsewhere, the characters who perform this play are eight in number. The first man (who fulfils the part of 'the Greek Chorus,') and Tom Fool, his butt, are dressed in white smocks gorgeously decorated with odds and ends of ribbon, calico, and coloured paper, and wear tall cone-like hats gaily beribboned. The Servant man, Thrasher and Jolly Joe, also ought to wear white smocks, but belted in with a stout leather strap they are adorned with their horses [sic] brass ornaments, and the first named displays a cartwhip, the Thrasher a formidable flail, and Jolly Joe, a 'hopper,' from which he sows imaginary seed, but which really denotes the fact that 'all contributions are thankfully received.' The Recruiting Sergeant sheepishly swaggers in a well-worn uniform, he and his tunic alike interpolations. The Doctor is most learned and awe-inspiring in top-hat and black clothes; while the Lady (who often sports a fine moustache) is simperingly bashful in short skirt, beneath which dainty hobnail boots peep forth, man's jacket, straw bonnet and white veil which complete the array. In all things else, as truly may be observed, the characters 'speak for themselves.'

I am indebted to the far-travelled Doctor for the 'book of the words' now here printed for the first time this, the fifteenth day of April in the year of grace one thousand nine hundred and four."