Brinsley (SK4649), Nottinghamshire

P.T.Millington Collection (1971k)

Anon. (Perf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. 24th Dec.1971

Full text of a short (26 lines) Christmas Guysers play, noted down at its performance in Brinsley, Notts. The itinerary also included Underwood and Bagthorpe, Notts. The three characters were Beelzebub, Saint George and Doctor.

P.T.Millington Collection (1971, M.Machin)

May Machin (Inf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. 29th Dec.1971

Brief note as follows:-

"Recorded on the 29th December 1971 from May Machin of Hall Lane, Brinsley,

About 40 to 50 years ago, Guysers used to practice in the washroom at her cottage. There were about twelve participants, but she was not really able to recount any of the words of the play.

From outside, all the Guysers sang:-

We are the daily beggars,
That come from door to door.
We are the neighbours children
That you have seen before.

Beelzebub's lines were something like:-

Here comes old Beelzebub,
Money I want, money I crave,
If you don't give me any money,
I'll sweep you to the grave.

The Doctors lines included the couplet with the rhyming words 'Bottle' and 'Throttle.'

For costumes, all had black faces, and were covered with coloured paper, tacked onto normal clothes. They wore very tall plain 'dunces' hats, occasionally with a star shape on etc. In addition, Beelzebub carried a broom, and the Doctor wore a top hat and carried a bag."

P.T.Millington Collection (1971c)

Anon. (Inf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. Jan.1971

Brief note as follows:-

"Recorded from the barman of the 'Shepherds Rest' Bagthorpe in January 1971.

The informant described the visits of Bullguysers to the pub at Christmas in 1970. The boys had blackened faces and wore their coats inside out, and carried wooden swords. Characters included a First Man, Bullguy, Beelzebub, Doctor and Molly Mop.

The informant was not sure where the Bull Guysers came from, but thought they came from Brinsley. The characters are more in keeping with the Selston version."

P.T.Millington (1972b)

Peter T. Millington (Auth.)
Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser, 4th Feb.1972, Vol.75, No.4067, p.8 i

This letter summarises information received following an article published by the author three weeks earlier. The replies gave information on; Christmas, Guysers' plays performed at Underwood and Brinsley, Notts., and Heanor and Pinxton, Derbys., a Christmas, Bull Guysers' play from Selston, Notts., and a Plough Monday, Plough Bullockers' play from Kimberley, Notts. Information was also received concerning a Scottish play [Tillicoultry, Clack.].

The form of the name "Plough Bullockers" was probably copied from a respelling introduced by the newspaper editor into the original article, which in manuscript used the form "Plough Bullocks".

P.T.Millington (1972c)

Peter T. Millington (Auth.)
Let's revive The Guysers !
Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser, 22nd Dec.1972, Vol.75, No.4113, p.3 f-g

This article gives a perhaps ill conceived, Christmas Guysers (Guysering) text for use by children to keep the custom going. The article also appeals for further information from the readers.

The text (58 lines) was compiled from words sent in by readers mostly from Underwood and Brinsley, Notts. Ideas are given for costumes, and the characters are; Opener In, St. George, Slasher, Doctor, Bellzebub and Devil Doubt.

P.T.Millington Collection (1972, "Old Brunsly-ite")

"Old Brunsly-ite" (Perf.)
Guysers 1939 [Brinsley, Notts.]
P.T.Millington Collection, Com. 16th Jan. 1972

Text of a Christmas Guysers play from Brinsley, Notts. performed 1930. The characters are Master of Ceremonies, St. George, Slasher, Old Man/Slasher's Father, Doctor, Beelzebub and Last Character/Devil Doubt.

P.T.Millington Collection (1972, M.E.Sisson)

Miss M. E. Sisson (Inf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Com. 16th Jan.1972

The text (74 lines) of a Guisers play performed in the Underwood, Bagthorpe and Brinsley districts of Notts. The characters were Door-man (played by Alan Gill), St. George (played by the informant's youngest brother), Slasher, Tom Slasher (Slasher's father), Doctor, Beelzebub, and Little Devil Doubt. M.W.Barley arranged for the B.B.C. to record a performance in 1953, and this was broadcast on the 13th Jan.1954.

A.Cockburn Collection (1972, M.Couldry)

*Anne Cockburn (Col.); *Michael Couldry (Col.)
*[Guysers Play from Brinsley, Notts.]
*A.Cockburn Collection, 1972

*Tape recording and correspondence concerning a Guysers' play from Brinsley, Notts., performed about New Year. The characters were; St. George, Slasher, Doctor, Beelzebub and Devil Doubt.

Guysers at Jacksdale, Notts., c.1928 are also mentioned.

P.T.Millington Collection (1973, Flint)

Mrs. Flint (Inf.)
P.T.Millington Collection, Col. 1st Jan.1973

Brief note as follows:-

"Recorded 1st Jan.1973 from Mrs. Flint of Moor Rd., Selston, Notts.

The characters of the Guysers as performed at Brinsley up to 1900 consisted of a introducer (no name), King George, Slasher, Doctor and Beelzebub. They were dressed according to their roles although they all had blackened faces. King George had a wooden sword. The Doctor wore a long coat, a dicky-bow tie, a top hat and carried a gladstone bag. They used to burst in without first asking if they were wanted. Only vague lines were remembered, much on the same lines as other accounts."

I.T.Jones Collection (1982, I.T.Jones & A.Cockburn)

Mr. Idwal Jones (Col.); Miss Ann Cockburn (Col.)
Radio Nottingham Phone-In: Tape and Notes
I.T.Jones Collection, Com. 8th Jan.1982, Ref.L1-1

Tape and notes of a live phone-in on Radio Nottingham on Plough Monday 8/1/82 with the topic Plough Monday and Folk Customs. In the studio were Anne Cockburn and Idwal Jones with the interviewer Ms.Freddie Gaunt

Tape Counter (10 = ca.35 seconds):

93-114: Introduction and discussion in studio

180-196: Discussion in studio on the ancient society of horsemen

196-242: Discussion in studio on mummers plays and IJ singing the Owd 'Oss song.

242-294: Fred Buckley phoning in re the Plough Monday play in Blidworth.

294-347: Ethel Glossop phoning in re the Plough Monday play in Cotgrave.

375-425: Charles from Long Eaton phoning in re customs in Norfolk relating to the ancient society of horsemen.

425-432: Announcement about the Calverton Plough Boys performing in Oxton and Epperstone on 9th and 10th January 1982.

437-472: IJ singing the version of Good Master and Good Mistress used by the Owd 'Oss Mummers and discussion in studio.

472-505: George from Nuthall phoning in re guising in Brinsley and Underwood.

505-535: Gerry Fearnley phoning in re an Old Horse play in Bulwell.

535-551: Studio discussion on New Year customs.

551-572: Ann Frett phoning in re play from Scotland.

572-575: Closing remarks.

I.T.Jones Collection (1982, George)

[Mr. George Surname Unknown] (Inf.)
Radio Nottingham Phone-In: George
I.T.Jones Collection, Com. 8th Jan.1982, Ref.L1-4

George from Nuthall rang the phone-in. Some 50 years previously they used to do a play around Christmas time in the Brinsley and Underwood area. They called themselves guisers. The play included St. George of England and Slasher who used to fight. There was a song very similar to Good Master and Good Mistress sung earlier by IJ. He used to play Beelzebub when he was 5 or 6 years of age. Adults taught them the play but only children took part.They used to earn over one pound each in 2 or 3 evenings which used to pay for all their Christmas presents.

P.T.Millington (1991a)

Peter Millington (Auth.)
IN YOUR VIEW: DO GUYSERS STILL EXIST? [in the area around Eastwood, Notts.]
Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser, 18th Jan.1991, Vol.94, No.5052, p.9 c-d

Article reads;


Twenty year ago, I wrote an article for the Advertiser with the above title, and asking your readers about the local custom of Guysing or Bullguysing.

These short rhymed plays, with St. George, Beelzebub, the Doctor, and a host of other possible characters, were traditionally performed around Christmas time by children going from house to house.

My worry at the time was that custom was dying out.

The response from your readers was very rewarding, and several people sent vivid details of their own performances in the 1930s and 1940s. Fortunately Guysing had not died.

I was able to record Bullguysers in Brinsley in 1971 and 1972, and the Eastwood Community Association performed the play to raise funds for Eastwood Festival in the mid 1970s.

However, the last performances I have heard of were recorded about 1980 by Dr.Ian Russell of Sheffield University in Jacksdale and Selston.

Do Guysers still exist?

I would dearly like to know if any of your readers saw or performed a Guysers' play this year, and if so where. Of course, I would still be interested in any other information people can give me on their Guysing experiences, and I will pass this on to local libraries for posterity.

I feel that it would be a pity to see this centuries-old custom disappear. I would like to think that information from your readers will not only keep a record for future generations, but perhaps inspire continued performances into the Twenty First Century.

232 College Street,
Long Eaton,
Nottingham, NG10 4GW"

The heading on my original letter to the editor was headed "Out Goes I St. George?"

P.T.Millington Collection (1991)

Mrs. Barbara Faulconbridge (Inf.)
[Christmas Bullguysers Play and Bullguysing in Selston, Notts.]
P.T.Millington Collection, Received 29th Jan.1991

Letter describing experiences of Bullguysing in Selston, Notts. Mrs. Faulconbridge was associated with the custom as a girl, probably about 1940. She was not a performer herself, having to be content with Christmas singing. The local Bullguysers "disappeared" when they discovered more lucrative grounds in Somercotes and Alfreton. In later life she had taught the play to her husband and sons for the entertainment of family and friends around Brinsley, Notts.

One of her sons witnessed a set of Guysers performing in Awsworth, Notts., during Christmas 1990.

Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser (1993a)

Anon. (Auth.)
GUISER'S STAGE A COMEBACK [in Underwood, Notts.]
Eastwood & Kimberley Advertiser, 31st Dec.1993, Vol.94, No.5205, p.2e-h

Description of the revival of the Christmas Guisers' or Mummers play originally performed by five of the six performers as children in the 1940s in Underwood, Notts. The characters were; Opener In, St. George, Slasher, Doctor, Belgebub [misprint for Belzebub] and Devildoubt. Performances were given to the Haggs Farm Preservation Society (because of an interest arising from D.H.Lawrence mentioning the play in "The White Peacock"), and venues in Bagthorpe, Underwood and Brinsley. A list of the actors is included.

Evening Post [Nottingham] (1994b)

Anon. (Auth.)
NEIGHBOURHOOD NEWS: Reporting on NUTHALL, KIMBERLEY, EASTWOOD, HEANOR, RIPLEY and ALFRETON: Going back to folklore: Friends bid to revive guiser plays [in Underwood, Notts.]
Evening Post [Nottingham, 18th Jan.1994, No.35699, p.1Bd-h

An account of the revival of the Underwood guiser play by five men who originally performed it as children in the 1940s. Maurice Holmes adapted several local scripts. A photo shows six characters. Five named in the article are; Opener, St George, Slasher, Doctor and Devildoubt. The other character in the photo is Beelzebub. Performances were given at Underwood, Bagthorpe and Brinsley, Notts., and for the Haggs Farm Preservation Society. Planned venues included Newstead Abbey and Nottingham Castle.

* indicates data that not yet been validated against the original source and/or has yet to be completely indexed.