Traditional Drama Research Group
The website of the Traditional Drama Research Group

Introduction to Roomer

Toward the end of his life Professor Herbert Halpert made a list of some of the articles in Roomer, as the start of an index. The present index is made available as a tribute to his pioneering work in the study of traditional drama.

Between 1980 and 1991 forty issues of Roomer appeared, usually six numbers to a volume, and averaging ten pages in an issue. Roomer was started by Steve Roud, with help from Paul Smith, and a little later became the official newsletter of the TDRG. There were articles with new information, others with new ideas, some amendments, a few enquiries, and some answers. Disagreement arose about what ought to be included in the definition of Folk Drama, but usually writers assumed that readers shared their standards. Perhaps as a result, references to ‘play’, or ‘mummers’, are common, without troubling to mention the nature of the performance. This is occasionally tiresome when the place of performance is unfamiliar, but there were also numbers of accounts of a custom in a particular place, or in general, in much greater depth than is common. This makes indexing difficult. It is easy to index places and performances, but it is less easy to index the gradual unfolding of a new idea. So this index can only be one person's amateur ideas of how it should be done.

Typing errors are silently corrected if they are errors beyond doubt, but usually information is copied as found. Editorial additions are shown in {curly brackets}. Missing page numbers are silently supplied. Some issues have an unnumbered sheet at the end, which cannot be numbered if the pagination is continuous in the next issue. These pages are given the number of the previous page, for example the last four pages of volume 2 part 1 are numbered 7, 8, 8a, 8b. Otherwise pagination is continuous within each volume, except for volume 2, in which part 4 is followed by part 4/5, and here the page numbers in part 4 are repeated. There is a note at volume 2 part 6 page 48 that number 4/5 was wrongly numbered and paginated. Readers were asked to amend the part to 5, and the pages to 29 to 40. Here, part 4/5 has been indexed as 5, which is obvious from the headings to the other parts, but the printed page numbers have been retained for the sake of readers whose copy has not been amended.

Citations are by volume, number, (year), and page or pages (‘p.’ is omitted). It is to be understood that a reference to consecutive pages indicates that the subject is mentioned on each of these pages, but the information is not necessarily continuous. There is no special provision for a topic which appears more than once on a page.

Geographical Index

This lists, under each county or country, all the places mentioned in the general index, with their citations in Roomer. After the name of each county in the British Isles is a three-letter abbreviation, which is used for the county in the general index. The British counties are those used before 1974, which are often more relevant at the dates under discussion, and will not now be subject to amending legislation. Each of these places is followed by its grid reference, British or Irish. British place names are in the form used by the Ordnance Survey, and do not always agree exactly with the form in Roomer.

Subject Index and Classes of Performance

These include performances, people associated with a performance or its investigation, and other more general topics. The classifications published for quack doctor plays, and animal disguise, are used in listing the relevant topics [1]. To keep them together in the class index, plays are preceded by Py/, and animal disguise by An/. Customs are indexed from what is stated in the text, without assuming that a title necessarily indicates the nature of a custom. So a mere reference to a ‘play’ can only provide a heading ‘Play’ in the subject index. Similarly some ‘mummers’ in the last hundred years or so have visited without using words at all, so the use of this word on its own allows no classification. ‘Py/’ is intended to suggest the types of play listed in ERD, while ‘play’ indicates other dramatic actions, but the distinction is subjective and liable to be inconsistent. Some searches may need to be made under Mummers, as well as Play, and Py/ with its several sub-headings. This is especially true of a search for one place, but then the geographical index gives the total pages. A similar comment, to a lesser degree, applies to An/ entries. Py/d may indicate either doubt about the type of play, or doubt that the performance was a traditional performance of any kind. Most of the information in Preston’s account of his KWIC index is copied from ERD, so only new facts have been indexed. The status of a custom depends on the criteria of the reader. Some performances indexed here were by amateur drama groups, for example, and each reader must select or reject as the purpose may require.


This list aims to include every article which is mentioned in sufficient detail, except for two sets. The sources about photography in the lists at 4.4 (1984) 35-7 have been noted as an item of information, but it did not seem necessary to list them individually because they are too far removed from the subject in hand. Similarly the list of British Theatre Institute publications at 5.4 (1984) 31 has not been indexed. ‘Article’ here includes books, journal articles, manuscripts, and any other source of traceable information. The index provides an idea of the wide range of reading used at the time in these studies. Topics which appear in the references are not otherwise indexed, unless they appear elsewhere in the text. The Traditional Drama Research Group had meetings, but also published guides, so all such records of the Group are in the Subject Index, to keep them together.

The standard of citation in Roomer varies, so references have been copied as found, though the data have been rearranged to the style of the Modern Humanities Research Association, apart from a few changes which seemed suitable on this occasion, and so far as the indexer has grasped its intricacies. Omissions are those of the original author, and some unclear references have been left unaltered. When an article is cited more than once the citations often vary. Usually the fullest version is followed, or the one judged most likely to be accurate, though this can be no guarantee of a correct reference. A few problems have been silently solved by looking at the original, but there has been no systematic check for accuracy or completeness. In a few references alternatives have been given. If a book is cited more than once the page numbers have often been omitted because they become increasingly unhelpful. Three methods have been used for indexing articles without an author. Chapbook titles are in the Subject Index under ‘chapbook’. Articles in periodicals are at the head of the list in alphabetical order of periodicals, and these are preceded by other authorless articles, in alphabetical order of titles. Articles and summaries in Roomer are printed without inverted comas, and the references are completed in the citation.

The text of each article is followed by references to the points in the text where it is used, and a code for each use, as follows:

txt Articles in Roomer.
cit Articles cited.
cop Articles copied whole, or the major part of them, sometimes photocopied.
sum Cited articles which are summarized, abstracted, or from which parts are copied.
amd Articles which advise amendments.
rev Articles reviewed.
rec Articles received, or news of them received.
fco Articles noted as forthcoming.
que Queries.
adv Advertisements.

The distinction between copies and long extracts is not always a clear one, but these codes may be some guide. If an article is cited more than once its use may vary. The same principle is used as for dates, placing the code with the last of a series of references to which the code applies. As a fictional example,

2.3, 19, 22; 2.5, 27 (cit); 2.6 (1982) 44 (rev)

could be expanded to

2.3 (1982) 19, 22 (cit); 2.5 (1982) 27 (cit); 2.6 (1982) 44 (rev)

and this could be expanded to

Vol. 2, No. 3, (1982), pp. 19, 22 (cit); . . .


For the titles of journals which appear frequently, or which appear in the original text, or are used for brevity.

CECTAL Centre for Cultural Traditions and Language, University of Sheffield.
ERD English Ritual Drama, see Cawte and others, 1967.

Apologies are offered for omissions, mistypings, and the occasional perverseness of a new computer system. It will be a favour if they are pointed out.

Lount, Leicestershire
29 March 2003

  1. E. C. Cawte, Alex Helm and N. Peacock, English Ritual Drama: A Geographical Index (London: Folk Lore Society, 1967).

    E. C. Cawte, Ritual Animal Disguise: A Historical and Geographical Study of Animal Disguise in the British Isles (London: D. S. Brewer for the Folklore Society; Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield; 1978).