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!

Christmas carolling

As we head into the Christmas break, St Albans Morris celebrated the season with an evening of carolling at the White Hart Tap.

Our practice season resumes in January, following our traditional Plough Monday meal at the Lower Red Lion. 

Merry Christmas to all!

St Albans Mummers

St Albans Mummers – with Trevor Adams (centre) as the Lord of Misrule and Mike Bennett as St George. 

Christmas is fast approaching and some of our dancers will soon be found around the locales of St Albans, performing the traditional mummers play of St George and the Dragon.  

The Mummers first appeared in St Albans over fifty years ago when a group of friends, mainly members of St Albans Morris Men, decided to put on a play every Boxing Day. They chose a play which had been modified from an earlier text by “Neggy” Wilson, a schoolmaster in the Hertfordshire village of Croxley Green, about fifty years before. 

The Mummers have become a major feature of Christmas in St Albans, raising money for local charities. You can find out more about the St Albans Mummers by visiting their website, or you can download their leaflet to find our where to join them this Boxing Day. 

Croxley Mummers

When not dancing, some of St Albans Morris may be found ‘mummering’. 

The custom of ‘Mummering’ or The Mummers’ Play has a long tradition over several centuries and the story line can take many forms. The play itself is loosely based around the hero, St George. 

The play performed by the Croxley Mummers originated shortly after the First World War when Neggy Wilson, headmaster of Croxley Boys’ School, decided to gather together a Mummers’ Troupe in Croxley Green.  He created a version of the play from accounts of those used around the country and this was the version performed until the mid-1950s. 

In 1994, a group of friends meeting in a Croxley pub revived the play, with St Albans Morris’ Nigel Moorcroft the original St George and our treasurer, Chris Hillier playing Father Christmas. 

It soon became the tradition for this imaginative group to be asked to perform the play yearly on Christmas. The Croxley Mummers raise money for local charitable works, including the Watford Peace Hospice and to date, in this, the 25th year of the revival of the original play, they have raised over £7500. 

This year, you can see the play performed around Croxley Green on 23rd December. 

Breaking the habits of a lifetime?

Our season traditionally begins with dancing outside the Town Hall at 0600 on May 1st, the date summer is supposed to start. But this year the Town Hall is a building site, so we’re dancing in the evening of May 1 in St Michael’s.

And just to be awkward, that will be the 3rd time we dance in public this summer. We’re at Caddington Village St George’s Day Celebration on Saturday 28 April and the Mayor’s Cream Tea on Sunday 29 April. With our final practice on Monday 30th, that’s 4 consecutive days we’ll have our hankies out!

A record?

At last night’s practice, for the first time in ages – certainly this decade and conceivably this millennium – we had enough for 2 full sets of 6 dancers and were well on the way to a third.

16 people danced at least some of the time, including 4 people new to us this winter. The 17th stuck to his pipe and tabor.

If you’ve ever fancied dancing, now’s a great time to start. Come along any Monday from 2000 to 4th Scout Hut, Riverside Road, St Albans AL1 1QW.