I was pleased to be able to attend the Hartshill / Honeywall part of the newly revived Penkhull Wassail tradition on Saturday evening, in Stoke-on-Trent. It joins the existing Wassail procession tradition at Barlaston in the south of the city. About a mile away from the intercity train station in urban Stoke on Saturday, this was happening…
The procession tour took about three hours…
It was later asked on the Facebook event page if this Wassail was similar in nature to a Mummers’ procession. I did a bit of research and found that:
Mumming has a walking performance of a narrative story, presented more like a play. Done similar to Saturday’s Wassail, though, in a tour of the local pub yards around the boundary of a place. But instead of dancing it would have parts of the mummers’ narrative story performed in masks and costumes. In Ireland and England, the earliest examples of mummers were apparently recorded as happening at Christmastime and New Year. Although — as the fabric of tradition decayed — it seems the mummers would also make appearances at other times.
Locally, an interesting New Year’s Day one was recorded at Dore in Derbyshire, where it sounds like it had once been a full Mumming play in procession. An “‘Owd ‘Oss” song and hobby-horse procession was last recorded there on 1st Jan 1971, with a song which has a similar ‘open your door’ theme as the Wassail song we heard on Saturday…
We’ve got a poor old horse,
And he’s standing at your door,
And if you’ll only let him in
He’ll please you all, I’m sure.
“…in 1970, Ruaridh and Malvina Greig discovered it still being performed around Dore on New Year’s Day, at two private houses and at two pubs, the Devonshire Arms and the Hare and Hounds … Young women pretend to be frightened at the way in which the horse opens his wide jaws … The singers, Billy Palmer and Chris Ralphs, and the horse (Reg —) were from Dronfield, and had in the past been part of a much larger group. A full account appears in Lore and Language (1973)…” [Source]
Lore and Language for summer 1973 is online — although with a dismal display-method that only an academic librarian could love, and with broken links to the PDFs. The full reference is: Rory Greig, “We Have a Poor Old Horse”, Lore and Language 2.9 (July 1973), pp.7-10. So go to Page 7 at that Web link to read the article.
So if the Penkhull Wassail were to expand in future years, then having an additional group able to perform / sing the story of a poor old knackered hobby horse might be a suitable addition.