THE BRAUNSTON MUMIES* PLAY.
As many of you will know I had intended to write a new Mumming Play, based on traditional texts, for use at the Wassail Day in the Village early next year.
However once I started to research the subject I discovered that in fact the many villages around Daventry had Mumming Plays and there was no doubt that such plays were being performed in this village and others a century ago.
The definitive work on these Folk Plays is, of course, Reginald John Elliott Tiddy’s book “The Mummers’ Play”, published posthumously in 1923. The book contains 33 complete plays.
RJE Tiddy was a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, teaching English literature. He was also a leading light of the folk dance movement in Oxford, being a close associate of Cecil Sharp.
He lived in Ascott-under-Wychwood from where he ventured out collecting Morris dances and Folk Plays. Ascott-under-Wychwood is just forty miles from Braunston.
At Christmas in 1913 Tiddy journeyed to the villages around Daventry and collected the texts and some fragments from local Folk Plays. Mummers would perform around the villages in an attempt to collect money.
One of the best and most complete plays was noted down by Tiddy in the village of Badby just six miles from Braunston. It is the script for this play which I think we should perform.
Tiddy returned to the area and saw the play performed each Christmas up until 1915. By then it was difficult for any village to get enough men to act out the play. Most fit young men had marched away to war.
War was to be Tiddy’s fate too. He joined the Oxford and Berks Light Infantry in 1915 and was commissioned as a Lieutenant. He was sent to fight in northern France, and was cut down by a German shell on the 10th August 1916.
The war to end all wars changed the English countryside and its customs forever. Maypoles were taken down on village greens all over the country. When the war was over very few were ever erected again. Instead the village greens sprouted new decorations, the war memorials bearing the tragic lists of villagers who would never return.
Sadly the Mumming Plays, with their simple messages of rebirth went the same way as the Maypoles. Surely a hundred years on it would be a great idea to perform them again.
*For the pedants among you (and I know there are many) Mumies is the correct description as used by the performers in Northamptonshire as opposed to the far more common Mummers used in most other parts of the country.
THE BADBY MUMIES PLAY
(as collected Christmas 1913)
Musician (it was not noted what he played)
In comes I that’s never been before
Six merry actors stand at your door.
They can merrily dance and sing
And by your leaf they shall walk in.
Walk in John Fenn.
My name is not John Fenn. My name is Mr Fenn.
I fought three battles,
one at home and two abroad
and I killed the king.
In comes Molly; she says
You have not killed the king,
for I am the mother of the king.
The king is still alive
and Old balled Turk shall have his own way
and the king shall not be destroyed.
In comes I the Turkish Snipe.
I came from Turkey for to fight.
If any one think woll to fight,
Draw his sword and try his might.
John Fenn and the Turk fight. Fenn collapses dead on the ground.
I speared him through the heart and thigh.
Oh I wonder if there is a doctor to be found,
to cure this poor bleeding boy that lays upon the ground.
In comes the doctor.
Of course there is a doctor to be found
to cure this lad upon the ground.
What will you cure him for ?
Set to work.
What has he the matter ?
He is got the hip, the pip, the palsy and the gout
The pain within and the pain without.
Doctor gives him some medicine and giant pills, and Fenn rises up from the dead.
In comes I that’s never been yet,
My head so big my wits so small
I’ll play you a tune to please you all.
My father killed a great fat hog and that you plainly see
for I have got the bladder tied on my heardy girdy.
In comes poor old Father Christmas, I have not long to stay.
I hope you will remember me before I go away
welcome now welcome not
welcome poor old Father Christmas shall never be forgot.
The whole company finish with a song but the actual song was never noted.