9 media items.
The following account is given in the village log book written by an old village worthy, John Croft, plumber, painter,glazier, zinc & plate worker from 1843-1885. He was aged 76 when he wrote the log back in 1892. The book is now kept at the mechanics institute.
I am told that 70 years ago Kirkby was noted (it was a general custom at that time amongst the villagers at Xmas for a week or two) for sending out a first rate team consisting of six dancers with each a sword in his hand, a fiddler and a drummer and marshalled by Tom [Gregg] who also acted as clown, all being dressed in ribbons and all the gay colours procurable. The dancers [?] formed in line shoulder to shoulder and the music playing, the clown commences to around them singing,
You noble spectators wherever you be
Your attention I beg and I crave
It's all my desire that you make a big room
And abundance of pastime you'll have
I am the second Sampson in Judges you'll find
Who delights in his darling so dear
What a blockhead was I for to tell her my mind
So gallant and quick you shall hear
Then continuing marching round when he comes to the first he makes a big [scroll] on the ground with his [large] wooden sword as a signal he shall follow when they march round singing
Here come the man that laid (foul) hands upon me
And (by him) I was grieved to the heart
As I laid asleep on my dear darling's knee
O the [barber] was playing his part
Then marching round again the second dancer turns out and they continue marching round and singing :-
The second's his brother. you might think they were twins
I thought by the [world] they would fight
Where these two Philistines seized on me
You'd have thought they'd ha' ruined me quite.
Then the 3rd dancer turns out and they march round singing:-
The third is a man of so (some much) more milder blood
Some pity there's lodged in his breast
He oftentimes threatened to do me some good
But he doesn't for fear of the rest
The 4th turns out and the continue singing
The 4' he comes on like a ranting young lad
He's like his (some majestial) majesty stands
It was he that gave the orders that I should be [polled]
So they fastened (fettered) my feet and my hands.
Then marching as again the fifth man turns out and they continue singing:-
The 5th is as cruel as cruel can be
The others and him did devise
It was he that gave orders I should no more see
So they instantly bored out my eyes
Then next the sixth turns out and they continue marching round & singing:-
The 6' is no better at all than the rest
He was the first breeder of strife
Many of you there had been in my place
You'd been glad te’ come'd off with your life.
Still marching and singing:-
These are the six lads ,lords, that first laid ruined hands on me
Without the consent of my dear
But I will come on with them by a bye
And so gallant and [?] you shall hear
When they were all merry carousing with mine
The first one for Sampson did call
He pulled down the house and slew all at that time
So that was an end of them all
These here six actors bold
ne'er came on't stage before
But they have done their best
And the best can do no more.
You've seen them all go round
Think [or say] what you will
Music! strike up and play
T'oad wife of Dallowgill
After [Harry] sang this very comical ditty the dancers taking hold of the point of each other's swords jumping over them and going the through many other antics and manoeuvres finally interlock them into a sword lattice with which they hold up and all dance round the clown going round with the hat and the music playing as the marched off:-
Ri folder diddle O, ri foldie do folder day
ri folder diddle O ri fol a
Shout lads shout here's a huzza.
A remnant of what used to be marshalled by Tom [Wood] made a [?] and formed a very prominent feature in the pageantry and procession on the occasion of the Ripon Millenary Festival hels in Studley Park in 1886. They performed on the green at Fountains Abbey before the Marquis of Ripon and before thousands of people on the two days of those memorable proceedings and were much applauded. Since that time I am sorry to say this grand and Xmas custom has fallen still further into disuse and that we may now consider a revival hopeless
- (end of extract)
The second verse is sometimes sung as follow:-
The first he comes on like a ranting young lad
He conquers wherever he foes
He scares by his enemies to be controlled
And his name it is William Rose.
The swords are 26 1/2 in to hilt and 31 1/2 in all, 3/4 in wide in blade which is roughly pointed, wooden handle not hilt.
There are 7 figures in the dance;
1. Single Under
2. Single over
3. Double under
4. Double over
5. Double sword
6. Over sword
I did not see "double sword". The head man was William Harrison, Traction engineer, the Blacksmith;s name was George Whitehill.
The account given in the log book describes the preliminaries rather differently from the way I saw them.
Tom [Ward] stand between line of dancers and crowd and and [orated] verses to tune (no 2496) very dramatically, now pointing to one or other of the dancers and now sweeping round to address [Larkeson] When he came to first verse, 1' dancer left his place at end of rank and walked in an oval track in fornt of the rest of the [six/sword] dancers timing his walk, which was very slow and dignified, so that the beginning of the 2' verse he was close to the second dancer. The latter then left his place and walked behind first dancer. This method repeated [move by move] till all dancers were walking in ring
The last two versed were sung very impressively by Ward turning to the crowd to address them, and at the words each bar"Music strike up" the melodeon player started over almost drowning the singing [voices]
The dancers then stood in a ring
facing centre without moving and solemnly clashed all their swords together at the 1st and middle beat of each bar, the swords being held with points upwards. Then they placed swords on their left shoulders, and took hold of the tips of the swords of their left hand neighbours. At the end of the strain they passed arms over [own] heads and [stand] still linked by swords. They then danced the figures as given above, concluding after "your own sword" with the Clash, then the shoulder swords and interlocking. Except during the "clash" and "shoulder swords" dancers were always joined by their swords.