by Joe Earp
The Foresters Morris Men (full title “The Foresters Morris and Sword Dancing Club”) was formed in 1952, and was the first Morris Dancing club in Nottingham. Since the side are near to Sherwood Forest, they have Robin Hood as their logo.
The Foresters Morris Men perform a Plough Play each January usually at Nottingham Castle. Plough Plays are traditionally performed on Plough Monday which is the first Monday after Twelfth Night. Plough Plays are very old (could possibly be ancient) and are a form of Mummers’ play local to the East Midlands.
The Foresters were one of the first teams to revive the custom of performing Plough Plays in post war years. The Foresters play started many years ago as an amalgam of local plough plays from Tollerton in Nottinghamshire, Long Bennington and Staunton (Lincolnshire); over the years of performance it has become well and truly their own.
The characters in the Foresters play and their usual actors are:
- Tom Fool
- Recruiting Sergeant
- Farmer’s Man
- Lady Bright and Gay
- Dame Jane
In comes I, who’s never been here before,
There’s six more like me at the door,
Some can dance and some can sing,
By your consent they’ll all come in.
My head is big, my wit is small
But I plays Tom Fool the best of all.
Hokum, Pokum, France and Spain,
In comes the recruiting sergeant, at his name.
In comes I the Recruiting Sergeant
I’ve arrived here just now with orders from the King
To enlist all young men that follow horses,
cart, waggon or plough,
Tinkers, tailors, peddlers, nailers
All the more to my advance,
The more I hear the music play
The better I can dance.
What you dance?
I can dance sing or say
If you shall dance sing or say,
I will quickly walk away.
In comes I what farms the Land,
Look at the tool I’ve got in my hand.
I uses this to hoe out weeds,
In tatties, carrots, onions and swedes.
The work is hard, the hours are dire,
up to your welly tops in mud and mire.
I’d leave all this for a place by the sea.
Nottingham’s not a place for a fella like me. or:
In comes I the Farmer’s man
Don’t you see the whip in my hand
As I go forth to plough the land
And turn it upside-down
Straight I goes from end to end
‘Till I go gently round the bend
And to my horses I attend
Behold a lady bright and gay,
Good fortune and sweet charms.
How carelessly I’ve been thrown away
Out of my true love’s arms.
He says that he won’t wed with me
And I must understand,
He’ll list all for a soldier
And go to some foreign land.
Recruiting Sergeant (sings)
Come all young men with a mind for enlisting,
List and do not be afraid,
You shall have all kinds of liquor,
Likewise kiss this pretty fair maid.
(says) Are you free willing and able young man?
I’m free and I’m willing.
Then on your hat I tie this ribbon
And in your hand I place this shilling.
You are now a King’s man.
Stand to attention, left right, left right!
And now my love’s enlisted
and joined the volunteers.
I mean no more to cry for him
Nor even shed a tear,
I mean no more to cry for him
But just to let him know,
I’ll meet another sweetheart
And along with him I’ll go.
Do you have any love for me my pretty fair maid?
Yes Tommy to my sorrow.
Then when shall be our wedding day?
Why Tommy dear tomorrow.
In comes I, Old Dame Jane,
With a neck as long as any crane.
Dib dab, over the meadows
Long I’ve sought thee,
Now I’ve caught thee,
Tommy, take the child!
The child Jenny, its none of mine
Look at its eyes, its nose, its chin,
It must be yours, just look at its grin.
What is it, a lad or a boy?
Well, mine’s all lads,
Take it and swear it to the village pump
You old ratbag.
In comes I Beelzebub,
On my shoulder I carries me club,
In my hand a dripping pan.
Don’t you think I’m a jolly old man!
Is there any an old woman that can stand before me?
I can, my head is made of iron,
My body lined with steel,
My hands and feet of knuckle bone.
No man can make me feel.
If your head is made of iron,
Your body lined with steel,
And your hands and feet of knuckle bone,
I think I can make you feel. (Hits Dame Jane with club)
Oh Beelzy, Beelzy, what have you done?
You’ve killed the old lady and lamed her son.
Five Pounds for a doctor.
Ten to stay away.
Fifteen pounds and a BUPA card and I’ll come in.
All right but hurry up
In comes I, the doctor.
And how comes you to be a doctor?
By my travels.
And what, pray are your travels?
Italy, Whitely, France & Spain, Twice round Nottingham and back again.
And what can you cure, noble-handed doctor?
Ipsy, Pipsy, Palsy, Gout, Pains within and pains without, Heal the sick and cure the lame, Raise dead men back to life again.
You’d best try your skills on this recumbent hag Lays bleeding on the ground.
In my bag I have a bottle, I’ll pour it down the old girl’s throttle. She, she isn’t dead, just in a trance. Rise up Dame Jane and join the dance.
Good Masters and Good Mistresses,
As you sit by your fire.
Remember us poor plough boys
Who plough through mud and mire.
The mire it is so very thick,
Our boots are very thin,
We have a little pocket here,
Won’t you put a penny in?
And now our play is ended,
You see our Fool has gone,
We make it our business
To follow him along.
We thank you for civility
And what you gave us here.
We wish you all goodnight
And another happy year.
An audio version of the play can be listened to at:
More information about Plough Plays and Mummers Play can be found at: