Wednesday, 14 November 2012
A few weeks ago, whilst researching a article on Halloween for my newspaper column. I came across several brief accounts of the 'Christmas Rhymers'. I happened to mention this largely forgotten tradition to a few friends fae tha Ards. The next day I was rewarded with an email from Mr Thompson with an attachment containing several pages from a book entitled 'Six Miles from Bangor' wherein there is a description of the Christmas Rhymers as remembered by the author from his childhood in Donaghadee.
Intrigued I began to research this local tradition and was surprised to find that many texts still exist detailing various versions of the play.
The play was brought to Ireland by English and Scottish settlers in the 1600s (despite what fanciful notions you may read on other websites) and is related to the medieval mystery plays.
The mummers play is an example of the Hero-Combat play, one of the prototypes of English folk drama and deals with the theme of death and revival.
Costumes varied from place to place but were not (contrary to some websites) all straw and wicker work. One character would wear a top hat, another armour, yet another a cardboard nose. Only one was in the full straw regalia and he was called, surprise surprise, 'Jack Straw'.
For more information on Christmas Mummers and Rhymers in Ireland you can click on the link below, where you will find a comprehensive study of the tradition by Alan Gailey
Having stumbled across this important piece of our past I was impressed upon by Mr Anderson to revive this tradition. To this end I have compiled and arranged a Christmas Rhymers play, which Mr Anderson is currently promoting in the Ards.
Please check out Mr Anderson's blog for details of forthcoming performances.
Thursday, 1 November 2012
Halloween Is Cumin'
Halloween is cumin' tha goose is gettin' fat.
Wud ye please put a penny in tha oul man’s hat.
If ye havnae got a penny a ha’pney wull do.
If ye havnae got a ha’pney God bless you.
And tha oul man to.
Ay, Halloween is cumin' bit A doot ye’ll hear oany rhymers at yer dure. Yer mere lichtly tae fin a clatter o' weans dressed up es super heroes shootin', 'trick oor treat' an houlin oot plastic bags fer sweets. Maebe it's jist me bit A cannae wairm tae thon Amerikan idea o' Halloween. This notion o' gie es hanfus o' chocolate oor wu’ll dae simthin oan ye seems a puir excuse fer oor ain traditions whur apples an nuts oor a wheen o' pence wus handit oot tae weans efter they'd gin ye a rhyme oor a sang.
Years ago naeboady haed elaborate ootfits bocht fae shaps an folk didnae feel tha need tae dae up thur wundas wi mak believe cobwebs an spiders oor plaster tha ootside o' thur hoose wi orange an bleck decorations. Half tha fun cum fae makin' yer ain costume oot o' oul claes an bleck'nin' yer face wi a drap o’ soot fae tha fire.
Aff coorse oanyin o’ a mere mature vintage wull tell ye that even tha Halloween rhymers ir a racent edition an that tha verse at tha stairt shud bae, 'Christmas is cumin’ tha goose is gettin' fat'. An thur nae wrang fer maist o' oor Halloween rhymes cum fae tha oul Christmas mumming plays. A tradition that haes aa bit disappear't iver tha last faftie year. Ay, A doot thur's oanyin left wha haes mine o' Room Room, Devil Doubt oor Johnny Funny, tha wee man that collects the money. Jist es in a wheen o' years thur bae naeboady left wha haes mine o’ carvin' turnips oor bobbin' fer apples.
Ach weel A suppose wae hae tae accept that things change es time gans oan. Stillanaw A cannae help bit think wae haed mere fun.