Review of the online event – a handful of quirky English customs in story, song and pictures – by Gill and Barry Goodman on 22nd January 2022, attended by over 60 people from the UK, Netherlands, Sweden and the USA.
Review by Beth Neill
“This talk was a sequel to their ‘Good Morning Lords and Ladies’ last April. It was much as the title said: they presented a very quirky selection which would be familiar by name – if not exactly what happens – to most of the folk audience, but this talk will also be going out to non-folk audiences.
“Unlike their last talk which took us through the months of the year, this time we were taken on a tour of England, from the south-west up to the north-east – and lots of places in between. What I found interesting was just how far back some of these customs could be traced, with more or less validity – as far as 1159 [Whitby Penny Hedge], 1359 [Haxey Hood game] and 1445 [Olney pancake race] – even if the legends about their origins aren’t true and they may not have an uninterrupted history (Covid has interrupted most things anyway), while wassailing (waes-hael – good health) is supposed to be pre-Christian.
“The stories are fascinating – and people are keen to carry the traditions on – in some cases building it up into a big event in the calendar of the respective villages with supporting processions, fairs and church services. Some have only been revived relatively recently – as for the Stroud Wassail (post-1980) and the Olney race (1948) which now has an international feel as the pancake race has been replicated in Liberal, Kansas since 1950.
“We were treated to images of House Wassailing (Stroud, Gloucestershire) and Apple Tree Wassailing (Kent, Sussex), women racing with pancake pans (Olney, Bucks), planting a hazel/willow hedge to withstand 3 tides (Whitby, Yorkshire), flocks of geese going to the fair (Tavistock, Devon), Boggins leading the ‘Sway’ of folks chasing a replica ‘hood’ around the town and aiming for the best pub (Haxey, Lincolnshire) and four processions of the Floral Dance as well as the characters of Hal-an-Tow (Helston, Cornwall).
“To support the narrative by Gill and the various images, Barry treated us to a song to match each custom – in some cases there was an existing song well-known enough for the watching audience to join in the choruses (on mute!) while for the Whitby Penny Hedge song it was a world premiere. The most intriguing one was the Stroud Wassail song which had an unusual rhyming scheme (leg/pig; hip/sheep; arm/corn) but maybe if sung in the correct accent it works.
“A very pleasant way to spend Saturday afternoon. Thank you both.
Review by Beth Neill of Windsor Morris
See also the review of their previous talk: Good Morning, Lords and Ladies
Gill & Barry Goodman: Gill has been a volunteer at the British Schools Museum in Hitchin since 2007 and was founder member of Bedfordshire Lace Morris. Barry is a folk singer, songwriter and musician, ex-member of Redbornstoke Morris and The Outside Capering Crew, as well as an ex-President of the Morris Federation! Find out more at Gill & Barry’s web site: www.barrygoodmanfolk.co.uk
Donations from participants raised money for the British Schools Museum in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.