Plough Monday

On Monday evening, St Albans Morris met to mark Plough Monday with meal and song at the Lower Red Lion. Chief among the dishes was the traditional Plough Pudding – a suet-pastry-topped pudding filled with pork sausage meat, chopped bacon and onion with sage and sugar. Thanks to David and staff for looking after us so well.

John Lewis-Stempel, in his book, ‘The Running Hare – The Secret Life of Farmland ‘, describes the significance of this date:

FOR A THOUSAND years or more in England, Plough Monday, the first Monday after Twelfth Night, was considered the date to start ploughing. On that day, the mouldboard on the plough rarely turned earth. Ploughmen led a dancing procession through the streets, dragging a gaudily decorated plough behind them. On arriving at a house, the ploughmen asked for bread, cheese and ale, or a contribution of money. Ploughboys put on a mummers’ play or ‘jag’. Typically the jag ended with a pleading song, such as:

Good master and good mistress,
As you sit around the fire,
Remember us poor plough boys,
Who plod through mud and mire.
The mud is so very deep,
The water is not clear,
We’ll thank you for a Christmas box,
And drop of your best beer.

There were accompanying acrobatic dances; it was hoped that the crops would grow as high as the dancers could leap. The assembled peasants wished themselves a plentiful harvest from the sown corn and that God would speed the plough as soon as they began to break the ground. L

Our practice season resumes next Monday at the Scout Hut on Riverside Road, St Albans, and it will be time to start working off our Christmas excesses!