Val Bott writes . . . I listed a series of topics for the advertisement of the Winter Scrapbook presentation that Janet McNamara and I gave on Monday evening when we advertised it. Alas, I completely forgot to include the Chiswick Mummers on the day! So, as a seasonal treat, here is the evidence I found. It is a letter from G W Septimus Piesse of 1, Merton Place, Chiswick, W, published in Notes & Queries No X pp 466-467 on 15 December 1860. His address was close to today’s bus garage and near today’s High Road Junction with Merton Avenue.
Septimus Piesse wrote:
About this time of year the inhabitants of Chiswick, Turnham Green, and neighbourhood are entertained (?) with a queer sort of performance by a set of boys calling themselves ‘the Mummers’. They dress in masks, and bedizen themselves in coloured ribbon and paper, then go from shop to tavern reciting their play. None but Notes and Queries can tell us what all this mummery took its rise from. I can remember it as an annual festival gradually degenerating for twenty years past, and the oldest inhabitants of Chiswick say, “It’s nothing now to what it used to was”.
Cast: Girl, Boy / Swiff Swash and Swagger; Second Boy / King George / Alonso; Third Boy; Doctor and Lord Grubb
ENTER Girl, with a broom.
“A room! a room! pray guard us all,
Give us room to rise and fall,
We come to show you activity.”
“In come I, Swiff Swash and Swagger,
With my gold-laced hat and dagger.
Once I courted a damsel, she’s often in my mind,
But now, alas! she’s proved unkind.”
ENTER second Boy
“In come I, King George with my spear,
Once I gained three golden crowns,
As true as I was drawn through the slaughter,
I also won the King of Egypt’s daughter.”
ENTER third Boy
“I plainly see you are a king;
My sword it points, Alonso, unto thee;
A battle! A battle! Between you and I,
Let’s see which on the earth shall lye.”
They fight, and the king is slain. They all shout,
A doctor! A doctor!
ENTER a Doctor
“Is there a doctor to be found
To cure this man bleeding on the ground?
Oh! Yes, there is a doctor to be found,
And I am he, can cure him safe and sound.”
They all shout
What can you cure?
“I can cure the hitch, the stitch, the palsy, and the gout,
Pains within and pains without;
Bring me an old woman that’s been dead ten years,
And nine years in her grave,
If she can crack me one of my pills between her nose and chin,
I’ll forfeit two thousand pounds if I don’t bring her to life again.”
The doctor then administers to the king, saying:-
“I’ll give him a drop of my triple distill;
I’ll warrant he’ll soon fight again.
The King rises
ENTER Lord Grubb
“In comes Lord Grubb,
On my shoulder I carry my club,
Under my chin my dripping pan,
Now don’t you think I a handsome man.”
Finale: Music and Dancing