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Trinkum-Trinkums of Fifty Years
F. B. KETTLEWELL
"Trinkum-Trinkums" of Fifty Years
F. B. KETTLEWELL
BARNICOTT & PEARCE, THE WESSEX PRESS
PLAYS, SONGS AND DANCES
In 1889 we built a theatre, where the Windsor Strollers and others gave us some very pleasant evenings. A room for recreation was badly needed, and it has served other useful purposes. Once we had a dairy school in it, under the County Council; eleven churns going at once. It has also been used for dress-cutting and cookery classes, lectures and folk dancing.
About thirty years ago there was a carnival, at which Harptree represented a Viking ship manned by oarsmen. Amongst other villages which took part were Ston Easton as "The Old Woman who lived in a shoe” and Ubley as “Summer” a dream of mauve and yellow flowers. The Home Farm showed “Litle Bo-Peep.”
In old days we always had the Mummers at Christmas time. The actors were dressed in coloured tissue paper, cut in long strips and sewn thickly on to their clothes so as to hang fluttering about them. The Turkish Knight’s face was blacked, and the faces of the other performers painted. The following is the local version of the play:
Enter Father Christmas
Oh here be I, old Father Christmas,
Welcome or welcome mot, I hope old Father Christmas
Will never be forgot.
Roast beef, plum pudding and mince pie,
Nobody likes ‘em better than I.
Make room, make room, I say,
That I may lead my men this way.
Walk in, brave men, and do thy part
Room, room, ye gallant folk, give me room and rhyme.
I’ll show you some festivities this Christmas time.
Bring me the man who bids me stand,
Who says he’ll cut me down with his unfailing hand.
I’ll cut him and hew him as small as any fly,
And what can he do then to make his mince-pies?
Enter St George.
Oh here come I, St. Gearge.
The man of courage bold
With my sword and buckler
I have won three crowns of gold.
I fought the fiery dragon
And brought him to great slaughter,
I saved a beauteous Queen,
And a King of Egypt’s daughter.
If thy mind is high, my mind is bold;
If thy blood is hot, I’ll make it cold.
( They fight with wooden swords, and the Clown is slain)
Enter Turkish Knight, with followers.
Here come I, Turkish Knight;
I challenge thee, St.Gearge, to deadly fight.
Mind thy head, and guard thy crown
Or with my sword I’ll hew thee down.
(They fight, and the Turk is killed. His followers attack St. George in turn, and are soon laid low).
Enter Oliver Cromwell.
Here come I Oliver Cromwell,
As you may suppose;
Many nations have I conquered
With my copper nose.
I made the French to tremble,
The Spaniards for to quake;
I fought the jolly Dutchmen
And made their hearts to ache. Rub-a-dub-dub.
(He fights with St George and is killed).
Is there no doctor to be found
To cure these men all bleeding on the ground?
Enter Doctor, wearing a tall hat, with a bottle at his side.
Oh yes, there is a doctor to be found
To cure these men all bleeding on the ground.
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What can you cure, Doctor?
The hips, the pips, the palsy and the gout,
The pains within and the pains without.
I carr’ a little bottle by my side
Which is called the hokum pocum drops.
A drop on his head and a drop on his heart,
And up he rises to do his part.
What be thy fee doctor?
My fee is fifty pounds
And fifty pounds I’ll have of thee.
Don’t be so hard, doctor.
Well. I’ll say ten pounds,
And ten pounds I’ll have of thee
To set these wounded warriors free.
All right, Doctor.
Here’s ten pounds.
(Doctor proceeds to apply the drops, which take effect immediately.)
Enter Little Johnny Jack. (He has a huge umbrella hung over his shoulder, filled with rag dolls).
Here be I, little Johnny Jack,
I carr’ my wife and vam’ly on my back,
Christmas comes but once a year,
And when it comes, it brings good cheer.
Money in the purse is a very good thing,
Ladies and gentlemen, give us while we sing.
We wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year,
Plenty of money and always good cheer.
When the play was over, a box was handed round for contributions. At Cameley an eighth Character - Beelzebub-
60 "Trinkum-Trinkums” of Fifty Years
was introduced, but I have not heard of this being done elsewhere.
This old custom has quite died out and now we only have small boys who come round singing out of tune, "Ha'ark, the harr'ld aungels sing," or
Christmas be a comin' and the geese be vat,
Please put a penny in the old man's hat.
If you have not a penny, a ha'penny will do,
If you have not a ha'penny, God bless you.
Our Club Day was formerly the great village festival. First the potatoes had to be planted, and the 21st May was not considered too late, though now-a-days Good Friday is supposed to be the lucky day. The men were up at half-past three in order to finish by ten. Those who had the most ground to fill employed boys to help, and the lad who got his work done and was paid the first was acclaimed the champion. At ten o'clock everyone was off to the Waldegrave Arms to spend their money at the various stalls and side-shows to be found in a field adjoining the inn. At eleven the members assembled, wearing blue sashes and red, white and blue ribbons round their hats. Headed by the band, they marched round the village and then on to church, where a special service was held for them. The poles were stacked in the corner of a pew and the band led the singing. After service the men adjourned to the Waldegrave Arms for dinner, each paying half-a-crown, while the wives and families wended their way to the field to enjoy the merry-go-rounds and various other attractions. Our Club was so strong that we could have afforded two bands. The National Health Insurance Act killed many of these village benefit clubs, but the procession, shorn of its spears, still survives in many places, one of which is Chewton Mendip. There the few remaining members of the old club join with the larger numbers of the Ancient Order of Foresters.
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By 1905 the old-fashioned Club Day had almost died out in Harptree and few spear-heads were to be found, so I had some cast by Mr. Halliday of Wells from an original design resembling a spear proper. Thirty-six of these were presented to the Club on Empire Day. Five of the old heads had found their way to the collection of my brother, Sir John Olphert, and were afterwards returned to me. Two of them are now in the church, marking the churchwardens' pews. One has "E. H. W. L., 1804" on it. Sheep shearing was a great time for songs and joviality. The young men went from farm to farm to do the shearing. The Fuddling Glass, shaped like a cow's horn, was only brought out on these occasions. There was a knack about drinkng the cider which filled it, and unless it was held correctly, the liquor ran out all over the man's clothes. Every one had to drink until he could do it in the right way. At supper a posy was put beside each man's place for a button-hole, and there was great fun when the girls put pepper over the lads' flowers. The "old 'uns" escaped. There was singing and drinking all the evening, with dancing for the young folk. My informant told me that one fanner, who had a good tenor voice, never stopped singing when once he started. At the time of writing, sheep seem to have become unfashionable, and I only know of one small flock in the parish. Many years ago I happened to see in the Bristol Times and Mirror that Mr. Cecil Sharp of the Hampstead Conservatoire was in the county, trying to collect folk songs, and I wrote to ask if he would like to come to Harptree, as we
The Harptree Brass Club Head.
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had some fine old singers. He willingly accepted the invitation and for three years or more came every holiday to collect material. A "sing-song " was arranged one evening at "The Castle of Comfort," an inn on Mendip, the proprietor having been asked to bring as many singers as he could. At first only ordinary modern ballads were performed, as the company did not realise that Mr. Sharp wanted the old traditional airs, and it was nearly closing time when Mr. King struck up the Sheep Shearing Song. Mr. Sharp was at once alert, taking down words and melody, and returned quite delighted with the beautiful modal air. When asked next morning how he had slept, he replied that he could not stay in bed, but had to get up and harmonise the tune before he forgot it. After this he got "The Crystal Spring" from Mr. James Bishop and "Henry Martin" from Mr. Thomas Wyatt down to "Blue Bowl."
Mr. Sharp became well known to all the stone-breakers along the road and to the old songsters in the villages around, from whom he gathered many of the words and airs afterwards published in his book, "Folk Songs from Somerset." He taught many of these to his pupils, the children of King George V, and once whilst staying with us he received postcards from them, telling him how they had been singing his songs when shooting in Scotland.
In June, 1924, the ardent collector passed to his rest, his life work completed. He lived to see the English Folk and Dance Society started and the movement going strong in almost every county in England. I only wish we had known Mr. Sharp ten years earlier, as many an old singer heard at rent dinners and other social gatherings had crossed the bar before we met him. The following extract is from a letter he wrote me from North America in 1917:
I am collecting English Folk Songs in the Southern Appallachian Mountains of North America. I daresay P-------- has told you what I did there in this direction last year, and now I am continuing nay investigations. I have a book in the press which I hope to send you
MR. WM. KING.
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when it is issued, and you will then see the richness of the field I have so unexpectedly discovered here. There is no one who would have appreciated the value and significance of this work more highly than Mr. Kettlewell, and it is with this in my mind that I felt constrained to take up my pen and write to you. I do not think there was a happier spot in my life than those years I spent in Somerset collecting the county songs nor a happier period in that time than the month I spent at Harptree. In the terrible times we are passing through it is well to revert to such experiences in the past and to remember what a beautiful place the world was and to hope that it will be that again some day.
One year I formed a Choral Society and under the tuition of Mr. Wilson Ewer we competed at Frome, Shepton Mallet, Midsomer Norton and Bath. It was to Frome that we took our first Folk Song singers, Messrs. King and John Durbin. The former, who was over seventy, stood up before a goodly audience and started the Sheep Shearing Song. Suddenly he stopped and said, " Ladies and gentlemen, I've petched 'en too high," and began again in a lower key, winning the first prize. John Durbin followed with " Tobacco is an Indian weed," and came in second.
Step dancing was a great feature of all our entertainments up to thirty years ago. Men and women vied with each other and prizes were given at our shows for the best and greatest number of steps. For the music a fiddler was usually secured and latterly a concertina was used. When my youngest son was a child of five, he gave a birthday party on the lawn to all in the parish of seventy and up-wards. We had provided, as we thought, all kinds of suitable games, but after tea an old lady asked if they could have a dance. Fortunately the footman was a good performer on the concertina, and soon many of the company were treading their measures in a very graceful and dignified manner.
A clever young teacher was sent here by Miss Mary Neal to learn some of the intricate steps from a man locally known as "Korfie" and when she had mastered them, she went to America to teach them there. About 1910 I drove
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one evening to Nettlebridge to see Korfie dance in his own setting. I stood up in the waggonette, which was drawn up outside the Inn, and looked through the parlour window. The fiddler, Cave by name, was perched up in a corner. The room was full of men who faced each other in long rows and as soon as the music struck up began to step dance. They advanced and retired and walked round, and then footed it briskly. When a man was tired he sat down and another took his place, and thus it went on till closing time. The landlord told me that whenever it was known that Korfie was in the neighbourhood, men would flock from far and near for a dance. Last Christmas we were fortunate enough to secure Korfie for a party at the Women's Institute, and we thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition he gave.
Morris dancing was never traditional here, but Mr. Sharp, when collecting tunes in the neighbourhood, played them to our school children and so enthused them that they learned the dances and our village became renowned throughout the county for its Morris. The Corporation of Bath invited them three times to give a display in its Park, and the children danced on the band-stand before a large audience. Another time they performed in the Sydney Gardens and again one evening in the Pump Room before the Lord Lieutenant, the Mayor and a distinguished com-pany. From this small beginning Morris dancing in the County started. It has spread rapidly and been taken up in many of the village Institutes. In 1925 a team of our men competed for the first time in Bristol, gaining their certificates, whilst dancers from the Women's Institute won the county banner three years in succession, so that it has now become their own property. In January, 1926, six Morris dancers from Harptree made their appearance at the first All England Folk Dance Festival, held in London. Their names were Austin Wookey, Edward Baker, Arthur Smith, Edward Currell, Victor Currell and Frederick Battle.
HARPTREE must have had a great charm for many, for I have heard of houses of that name in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Surrey and Kent. Many years ago I saw "East Harptree" painted over a villa in Jersey. Men were still at work doing it up, so we made enquiries and were told that the owner, a M. de Lerier, had given the name to the foreman and told him to paint it in, but he knew no more.
My husband was a keen soldier and had served in the Shropshire Light Infantry and the 27th Inniskillings. There were three subjects connected with the Army which he had much at heart.
One was the uniform of soldiers in war time. He had a full suit made in 1873, and sent up to the War Office for inspection. It was dust-coloured, with very dark maroon facings and bronze buttons. After being kept in London for a considerable time, it was returned with thanks. Nothing further was done in the matter until the South African War obliged the authorities hurriedly to substitute khaki for the bright uniforms in order to save the men as much as possible from the accurate aim of the Boers.
Long years before the outbreak of the Great War he advocated the adoption by the French and English of the same pattern of rifles and ammunition, as he was con-vinced we should ultimately and inevitably have to fight Germany together, and that on French soil. As any soldier knows, such an arrangement would have simplified enormously the problem of the supply and transport of ammunition during the war. He also urged the adoption
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66 "Trinkum-Trinkums” of Fifty Years
of the same field gun by both nations. As an illustration of the wisdom of this proposal it may be remembered that in the spring and early summer of 1918 all the American Infantry Units who landed at Calais, to the number of well over 150,000, had to have their Springfield U.S.A. rifles and equipment taken from them on landing. They could not be used as reinforcements to British formations until they were re-armed and equipped, for it would have been impossible for our Ordnance Service to have coped with two types of rifle and ammunition at that juncture.
In season and out of season he wrote and lectured on universal military service. He did what he could to help Lord Roberts in his endeavours to awaken the nation to the danger of unpreparedness, but the public only folded its hands and closed its eyes for further slumber. Then war broke out and Lord Kitchener's great army of volunteers was formed, and it was eventually found necessary to resort to universal military service. Had Lord Roberts' warnings been heeded, the war might possibly have been averted. In any case, thousands of lives would have been saved.
For some years my husband's health had been failing, and when in 1914 he offered his services as interpreter to the native Indian troops on any front on which his know-ledge of languages would be of use, his age and ill-health stood in the way. The war certainly hastened his end. He had preached our unreadiness so often that he feared the nation was not equal to its tremendous task, and Lord Kitchener's death and that of our kind local doctor, who was killed in the front firing line, seemed to be the climax. He never asked for war news again.
The winter of 1916 was long and cold. The snow lay thick and the branches of the trees were bent down with it. On the 1st March he set out to walk to his beloved school for the last time. That night he complained of his head and never came downstairs again, but passed to his
rest on Ash Wednesday, the 8th. The coffin was made from a tree grown in the Park, and two days later, covered with the Union Jack, he was laid to rest in the little railed-in bit of ground in the cemetery which had been given to him thirty-five years before. And now I come to the close of fifty years and find myself writing these memoirs at Harptree House. My true and devoted servant, John Purnell, still walks round helping me with my bees—in which cult he is a past master—and with general advice and information. He was at work on the hall windows of the Court the day I arrived in 1875. May he be at the door when my time comes to see me out !
Sept 18th 1930
Dear Dr Wright
Thank you so much for your booklet.
I am just starting for Hampshire to see my great grandson, &
will write fully from there.
My book was only meant for my W I and not for the public!
Monday Sept 1930
Dear Dr Wright
I was only able to acknowledge your kind thought of me before leaving home and make the acquaintance of my great grandson.
I have now read the contents with much interest but could find nothing uncommon, we have all the same super
[On two facing pages. First page:]
-stitions in Somerset & it was only last week I heard of a farmer in my village who did 3 things, to avert the evil eye, & the misfortunes that befell his farm stock. When I return home I mean to go into the matter, & learn what he did. I find 2 old women wear pattens. Still in my
village, we are unspoilt as yet & a curtsey can yet be received.
With regards & many thanks.