Ranby (SK6580), Nottinghamshire

M.H.Mason (1877)

M. H. Mason (Auth.)
NURSERY RHYMES AND Country Songs: BOTH TUNES AND WORDS FROM TRADITION [The Old Horse: Christmas Play from Notts.]
London: Metzler & Co., 1877, pp.49-50

This includes a song headed "The Old Horse: CHRISTMAS PLAY". There are two songs with tunes, one headed "Prologue" (12 lines in 3 stanzas), and the headed "Enter the Old Horse" (20 lines in 4 verses). A footnote reads:-

"It is an old Christmas custom in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to go from house to house with the skull of a horse, painted black and red, and supported on a wooden fore-leg. A man in a stooping posture, and covered with a cloth, represents the body of the horse, and, from the inside, snaps its formidable jaws at the company. The custom also survives in South Wales, but the tune is different. There are many variations in the words. This is a Nottinghamshire version."

Marianne Mason lived at Morton Hall near Ranby, Notts., from 1869. As she collected the songs in this book from her family and the people around her, it seems likely that this play came from the vicinity of Morton Hall.

M.H.Mason (1908)

M. H. Mason (Auth.)
NURSERY RHYMES AND Country Songs: BOTH TUNES AND WORDS FROM TRADITION [2nd ed. - The Old Horse: Christmas Play from Notts.]
London: Metzler & Co., 1908, pp.49-50

2nd edition of M.H.Mason (1877), which includes a dramatised song headed "The Old Horse: CHRISTMAS PLAY". The footnote is extended as follows:-

"...Mr. Dixon prints, he says, for the first time, a version of these words, without the prologue, in his 'Songs of the Peasantry.' He thinks the 'Old Horse' to be of Scandinavian origin, a reminiscence of Odin's Sleipnor. The horse's head is, or was, however, used in Ireland in connection with customs most probably Phenician. It is placed at the end of a double row of bonfires, between which the people run up to it."

The reference is to James Henry Dixon, "Ancient poems ballads and songs of the peasantry of England", London: Percy Society, 1846

Mason is likely to have collected this play from the vicinity of Morton Hall near Ranby, Notts., where she lived from 1869.

Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection (1960, K.Clark)

Mrs. K. Clark (Auth.)
Memories of a Villager: Ranby Village 75 years ago [Christmas Morris Dancers & Horse's Head]
Nottinghamshire Local History Council Collection, Written 3rd Mar.1960, Ref.DD/121/1/51, 6pp.

Entry to an essay competition on old village life at Ranby, Notts. It includes the following (pp.3-4);

"In the winter months the hand bell ringers and morris dancers was busy practising for Christmas time. when they would visit the Farm houses. There was also a team of about 5 men doing a sketch called the horses head. the farmers invited their men and wifes to watch. The hand bell ringers and Morris dancers was always very popular."

A.Cossons (1962)

Arthur Cossons (Auth.)
Transactions of the Thoroton Society, 1962, Vol.66, pp.67-82

Summarises information contained in entries to an essay competition run by the Nottinghamshire Local History Society in 1960 (see Nottinghamshire Countryside, 1959/1960). The essays entitled "The memories of a villager" were to be based on the entrants' own recollections of Notts., village life. The 66 entries are deposited in the Nottinghamshire Archives Office.

Information is described under the following headings; Agriculture, Crafts Trades Industries, Transport, The Squire, Domestic Life, Customs, Houses, Field Names, Education, Miscellaneous and Material Remains.

The customs mentioned include; Shrove Tuesday customs, Rantanning or Tinpanning, and Mumping on St. Thomas's Day. The competition announcement had particularly asked for information on Plough Monday, and a list is given of 24 places where this was mentioned. Places getting a more detailed mention were plays at Blidworth, Cropwell Butler (where the characters were Tom the Fool, Soldier, Lady Dame Jane, Beelzebub and Doctor), Ranby (Horse's Head and Morris Dancing), and Shelford (Plough trailing).