Hickling (SK6929), Nottinghamshire

T.F.Ordish Collection (1901, M.Peacock)

Mr. Bell (Inf.); Miss Kirby (Inf.); [Mabel Peacock] (Col.)
Mummers in South Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire [Plough Monday - also in Northants.]
T.F.Ordish Collection, c.1901, Vol.III, pp.146-149

Transcript of two letters originally sent to Mabel Peacock;

The first letter from Mr. Bell of Epworth, Lincs., relates to mummers called Plough-Bullocks in South Notts., South East Derbys. and Leics.

From his own recollections of his youth in Notts. (probably mid 19th Century), Mr. Bell remembered that the customs consisted of plough trailing, with singing, dancing and horse-play in costume, but without dialogue. If people did not give money, gardens might be ploughed up or other retribution taken.

He describes a particular incident involving his niece, Mrs. H.N. She was stopped by a party in about 1881 when returning from school at Long Eaton to her home at Toton. They made her give up all the money she had on her (eightpence) under threat of being thrown into the canal.

Mentions enclosure of a copy of J.P.Briscoe's 'Nottinghamshire Gleanings', which contains notes on the subject.

One of the mummers wore a top-hat and frock-coat (the "old lord") and another was dressed as a woman, the rest had no distinctive dress, but were covered with bright-coloured ribbons stitched to their clothes.

Boys were still going round at Stapleford, with whitened faces, and singing a song which ended -

"If you haven't got a penny a halfpenny will do.
If you haven't got a halfpenny, God help you."

At one time they used to carry a plough round, - as at Hickling and if money was not given them would jag up the ground round the door (hence, it is conjectured locally the name of 'plough-jaggers.')

It is not easy to tell which of Mr. Bell's statements relate to which location. In particular, because it is not a usual Notts term, the explanation of "Plough-Jaggers" may relate to Epworth, Lincs.

The second letter from Miss Kirby, Oxendon, Northants., says that there;

"The mummers used to come on Christmas Eve and go through some performance. On Plough Monday the boys came to the door with masks on, but there was no acting. In some villages, I have been told they took a plough round to the houses. The custom has almost died out, though a few little boys still come for money."

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.