The Tradition of the Clayworth Plough Plays

An image of three of the main protagonists, the Clown, the Sergeant and Eezum-Squeezum

Plough Monday

Plough Monday can be traced right back to medieval times.  It traditionally saw the return to work after the break for Christmas, especially in northern and eastern England.  The traditions for Plough Monday varied from village to village.  Plough Monday was originally the first Monday after the twelfth day of Christmas, 6 January.  Epiphany.

An image of the Clown
The Clown

A unique tradition

The tradition very nearly disappeared during World War 1 and then again in the Second World War.  Credit is due to the players and the landlords of both village pubs for upholding this unique tradition.

The Sergeant in his bright red coat
Enter the Sergeant

Plough Sunday

Naturally, the day before Plough Monday is not surprisingly known as Plough Sunday.  This tradition more often than not, now takes place in Clayworth, North Nottinghamshire, on the third Sunday of January.   

An image of three of the main protagonists, the Clown, the Sergeant and Eezum-Squeezum
The Clown, the Sergeant and Old Eezum-Squeezum

The death of the earth

In medieval times and in the dead of winter it was thought that the earth ‘died’ and there was a possibility that nothing would ever grow again. It was difficult to believe that the earth would ever wake up and again provide food.. 

A battle between Light and Dark, Good and Evil, Life and Death

I am lucky enough to live in the village of Clayworth in north Nottinghamshire, England where the most well-known of these plays still takes place.  The ‘script’ is usually a bit of nonsense but has a hidden, topical message somewhere within.   A pretend battle is fought between Light and Darkness.  Darkness is killed and then brought back to life by some miracle. The death of the Old Year and the arrival of the New Year is symbolised in this tableau.

The village pubs

This year the play was performed as usual in the surrounding villages on the Friday before Plough Sunday. 

The Blacksmith’s Arms in Clayworth     https://www.blacksmithsclayworth.com/ and the Brewers Arms, also in Clayworth,  http://www.brewersarmsclayworth.co.uk/  both play host to the Plough Play on Plough Sunday.

An image of The Blacksmith’s Arms, one of Clayworth’s pubs to host the Plough Play
The Blacksmith’s Arms, one of Clayworth’s pubs which hosts the Plough Play

 

An image of the Brewer’s Arms, one of Clayworth’s pubs to host the Plough Play
The Brewer’s Arms at Clayworth who also play Bost to the Plough Play

It gets very busy

The bar at the Brewers’ begins to fill from 12.15pm and by 12.45pm when the players arrive, it is absolutely heaving. Get there early, get a drink and a seat… and if you think ahead book for Sunday lunch, you won’t be disappointed.

Old Eezum-Squeezum

A fiddler and an accordionist enter the pub, followed at different times by the players: the Clown, the Plough ‘boy’, the ‘Horse’, the Soldier, Old Eezum-Squeezum (sometimes known as Beelzebub), and the Doctor.  Sounds bizarre and yes it is, but highly entertaining and amusing with rhymes and short songs which have been  passed down through the years.  There is even a sword dance! 

It was once common for those who took part in these plays to blacken their faces as a disguise.  They might also include something to associate with nature in their costumes such as a flower or feathers.

A Morris-cum-Sword dance takes place in a very confined space
A Morris/Sword dance in a confined space

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Eezum-Squeezum lies dead on the floor surrounded by all the other Plough Players
Eezum-Squeezum – dead on the floor!

It’s a miracle!

The climax of the play is the fight between Light and Dark,  Good and Evil, Life and Death.  It culminates in the slaying of Darkness (Old Eezum-Squeezum) – who is usually brought back to life by ‘the Doctor’ – and everyone lives happily ever after – with a pint in hand!

An image of Bessie singing her lament
Bessie… or Bill Oddie!

Good luck, fertility and wealth

The play brings together farmers and villagers.  The purpose of the play is to bring luck, fertility and wealth.  You need to be there in order to get your share, so put the date in your diary for 2020!

A New Year message from Savour the Moment

An explosion of colourful fireworks above the Edinburgh skyline taken in 2015 by Eric Richardson

Hope… for the New Year

A New Year message from Savour the Moment

The beginning of a new year is a time of resolutions and fresh starts.  Dark, winter days can make staying positive very difficult.  But for now, we have hope.

‘Once you choose hope, anything’s possible’.

Actor Christopher Reeve
An explosion of colourful fireworks above the Edinburgh skyline taken in 2015 by Eric Richardson
Hogmanay fireworks, Edinburgh 2015. Photo credit: Eric Richardson

Dark days

Written in 1908 a poem was brought to the attention of King George VI in 1939, when the days were very dark indeed.   He included it in his radio broadcast to the empire. Who knows what the New Year holds for us?  It is so full of uncertainty. Here is that poem, a message of hope for us all.

The Gate of the Year

by Minnie Louise Haskins

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

New Year fireworks Photo credit: Eric Richardson
New Year fireworks
Photo credit: Eric Richardson

Happy New Year…

and as the comedian Dave Allen, popular  in the 1970s famously said: ‘May your god go with you’.

Goodbye 2018, Hello 2019

Goodbye 2018.  That was the year that was

 

That was the year that I started my blog.  I visited places, made things, shared experiences with the grandchildren and blogged about them. It was an amazing summer. I loved it.

Fishing takes patience
Fishing on the Chesterfield Canal

Recipe archive

One day my blog will be the place that my children go to for the recipes that they currently request on a regular basis.http://savourthemoment.co/my-recipes/how-to-make-the-perfect-braised-red-cabbage/

Red cabbage and apples help to make a colourful display of all the ingredients required to make the perfect braised, red cabbage
All the ingredients needed to make the perfect, braised, red cabbage

Guest blogger

I did some guest blogging on a couple of other sites like https://thegrandparenthub.com/ this is a site that shares ideas and things to do with the grandkids and is full of inspiration.  And then there’s my local ‘What’s In and What’s On’ website for my region https://www.innorthnotts.co.uk/ which is full of things to do and places to visit.

Travel

Travel played a big part in my life during  2018.  South coast of England, east coast of the USA , west coast of the USA and Scotland.  There is an old saying ‘travel broadens the mind’ so perhaps there should be a bit more of it.

Route 66, Santa Monica
The end of Route 66 is on Pier Park, Santa Monica

The New Year is just around the cirner

2019 is already beckoning and it would be good to get to know my own country better.  Perhaps an extended tour of the UK in a motor home? https://www.justgo.uk.com/ All suggestions gratefully received.

Get active

There should be more exercise.  I could sign up for a ‘long walk’ or train for a half marathon.  Again, all suggestions considered. I do need a challenge.

Brand spanking new trainers

New skills

And then of course there is ‘sausage making’.  I recently purchased a sausage maker.  That is a story/blog, for another day.

It’s the best policy

I have to be honest and admit that I don’t like the turn of the year.  The ticking of the clock.  The anticlimax. The resolutions. The stepping into the unknown.  But it is just another day with a different number when all is said and done… isn’t it?

Hello 2019

So, with some trepidation I will welcome in 2019.  It boils down to two things: being healthy and happy.  That is all I wish for my family, friends and of course you and me.

Happy New Year dear reader, I hope it will be kind to us.

 

 

Wishing you warmth and good cheer this Christmas

Angel chimes, with lit advent candles on the mantelpiece by the Christmas tree.

I wish you a very happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

Angel chimes, with lit advent candles on the mantelpiece by the Christmas tree.
Angel chimes, with lit advent candles on the mantelpiece by the Christmas tree.

This image makes me think of the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’.   It contains all the names of the reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixen Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen and of course Rudolph.  Which got me nine points in a recent pub quiz!

Wishing you warmth and good cheer this  Christmas.