Harby (SK7431), Leicestershire

S.Race Collection (1924, E.R.Granger)

Mr. E. R. Granger (Col.)
Plough Monday Play [from Cropwell Bishop, Notts., etc.]
S.Race Collection, Com. 13th Jan.1924 & 16th Jan.1924

Two letters mainly concerning a Plough Monday play from Cropwell Bishop, Notts. The first replies to S.Race's enquiry after information, and says little, other than that the play had been performed up to the First World War and then discontinued. Two other points are of note;

"A friend of mine here who then lived at Hickling can also remember a party of players coming every year from Broughton. He says he was only a lad at the time, & that they were generally very frightened - & that the players generally got quite drunk on the proceeds of the play - & painted the place red before they went home."

"One interesting Plough Monday custom on old lady neighbour of mine told me last night. On that date the lads used to remove all mops & brooms from the back doors, & hold them to ransom on the church wall."

"The old lady tells me that a party used to come every year from Harby when she was a girl. They called them then 'Molly dancers'. - evidently a corruption of Morris"

The second letter contains the text (95 lines) of the play, including the tune to the final song in doh-ray-me form. The characters were; Tom Fool, Bold Tom, Recruiting Sergeant/Flasher, Farmer's Man, Beelzebub, Easem Squeasem, Dame Jane and Doctor. Evidently some lines were omitted. Reference is made to information quoted in the "Guardian" - i.e. the Nottinghamshire Guardian - probably E.M. (1924). The writer's enquiries prompted an immediate revival of the play by four young men.

S.R. (1947)

S. R. (Auth.)
Nottinghamshire Guardian, 18th Jan.1947, No.5305, p.3 c-e

A review of the origins of Mummers' Plays and Plough Monday Plays. Race regards as fanciful the idea that the Mummers' Plays were a survival from pagan times, on grounds of lack of evidence. Although it may have originated in the 18th century, it really became popular in the early 19th century, under the influence of such books such as "Hone's Year Book for 1826". Chapbooks were an important factor later in the century. He cites a chapbook published in Belper in 1846, and chapbooks published by Heywoods of Manchester in the 1860s to 1880s. The Plough Monday play evolved from the Mummers' Play in the mid 19th century. He cites E.K.Chambers' (1933) feeling that the Plough Monday plays were confined to Lincs., and adjacent districts.

Texts from Clayworth (R.J.E.Tiddy, 1923) and Cropwell (Chaworth Musters, 1890) are compared. The characters for the Clayworth play are given as; Bold Tom, Recruiting Sergeant, Farmer's Man, Lady Bright and Gay, old Eazum Squeezum and the Doctor. The Cropwell characters are given as; Tom the Fool, Recruiting Sergeant, Ribboner, Doctor, Lady, Beelzebub, Dame Jane and the Farmer's Men. The text from Chaworth Musters (1890) is also compared with another text from Cropwell Bishop collected later by Race (S.Race Collection, 1924, E.R.Granger). In the latter play, the Lady had been lost, and Beelzebub had been replaced by Easem Squeasem. Other plays mentioned include a team from Harby, Leics., which used to visit Cropwell Bishop regularly, and a Retford troupe in the 19th century, one of whose members wore an animal's head.

Race concludes by posing the question, "Why should the observance of Plough Monday be so general in the countryside, and its play confined to an area comparatively small?"