The Blue Stots Return - Again

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Haxby Plough Stots, 1920s
Haxby Plough Stots, 1920s

'Blue Stots' (from Plough Stots) are what folk play performers are called across a swathe of Yorkshire in and around the Vale of York. These plays have been extensively researched by Chas Marshall and Stuart Rankin of Knaresborough Mummers, and they published the results of their endeavours in a booklet entitled 'The Return of the Blue Stots' in 2003. This was well received, and led to further information coming to light. I personally dip into my own copy quite often.

The core of the booklet is an expansion of the relevant list of plays in E.C.Cawte et al's 'English Ritual Drama' (1967), along with sample scripts, photographs and illustrations, and stitched together with analysis and historical narrative. It was published in a limited edition, but as copies were donated to appropriate libraries and archives, it is fairly readily accessible.

Of course, the interested reader may wish to follow up the sources given in the lists. This is not usually a problem for the publications, but access is patchier for material in manuscript collections. The latter include the authors' own field notes. I am therefore pleased to report that Chas Marshall has just finished transcribing the manuscript notes, including the new material, into a 67 page document. This was initially sent to the same libraries and archives, but Chas has kindly made it available for anyone to download from: [PDF 819kB]

The Field Notes are a collection of primary source material arranged by village, of which there are 21, plus a list of the standard questions they asked during their field work. A few villages are only represented by brief fragments of information, but some others run to several pages, complete with scripts, photographs and press cuttings. As you would expect, the Notes overlap with the original booklet, but whereas the booklet was analytical in its approach, the Notes set out the primary sources in a more formally structured arrangement.

The Blue Stots booklet and the Field Notes go side by side, and I am sure I will be consulting the Notes in the future just as much as the booklet. Chas Marshall and Stuart Rankin deserve our thanks for their generosity in making their collection so openly available.

Peter Millington


C.Marshall & S.Rankin (2003) The Return of the Blue Stots: An Aspect of Traditional Drama in Yorkshire
London, Dockside Studio, 2003

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Readers' Comments

Phil White - 16-Jan-2011

I am currently researching my family history, today while talking to my 88 year old mom, a farmers daughter from Youlton near Alne she told me something never mentioned before. My grandad as a youth, a farm labourer, went plough stotting. His home village was Brafferton and he was employed in Tholthorpe And later Tollerton. My mom sang us the song her father taught them, it was virtually word for word the Beelzebub song mentioned in your notes for Haxby blue stotters. Mom says as kids he kept them amused many anight with the stories of the tricks they got up to plough stotting. He also played the melodeon. I noticed the tradition for the blue stotters in Helperby was different to this but Grandad would have been doing it around 1890/1900. Your notes on the tradition are fascinating and I can''t wait to show mom. Its amazing how she remembered that song when the last time she heard it would have been 80 years ago.
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