Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Wassail Evening at Barrington Court

Last night (Wednesday 17th), Amanda and I were invited over to Barrington Court by Matthew Applegate, to take part in a wassail evening. This is a very old ceremony that involves blessing the apple trees and imploring them to produce another good harvest of cider apples this year. It seems steeped in Pagan traditions and is a wonderful sight to behold. Matthew wanted me to read a poem at this event, and not quite sure what to choose, I spoke to my sister Susan in Wales who is something of a clever clogs when it comes to tradition, folklore and all things vaguely Pagan related. She came up trumps and emailed me the words to a lovely old carol entitled "The Gloucestershire Wassail Carol". The words are:
Wassail! Wassail! All over the town,
Our bread it is white, our ale it is brown:
Our bowl it is made of the Maplin tree,
We all be good fellows who drink to thee.

Here’s to our horse and to his right ear,
God send our master a happy New Year.
A happy New Year as e’er he did see –
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

Here’s to our mare, and to her right eye,
God send our mistress a good Christmas pie;
A good Christmas pie as e’er I did see –
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

Here’s to Fillpail* and to her long tail,
God send our master us never may fail
Of a cup of good beer; I pray you draw near,
And our jolly wassail it’s then you shall hear.

Be there any maids? I suppose there be some;
Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone;
Sing hey O maids, come trole back the pin,
And the fairest in the house let us all in.

* Quaint name for a cow!
I "performed" this poem just after an all ladies morris dancing team from Devon had been through their paces, and I am pleased to say I got a great reception from the audience and a warm round of applause. After this we had a sing song from some chap who reckoned himself a font of all knowledge when it came to wassail traditions. I hope never to be stuck in a lift with him. This was followed by another dance from the Morris troupe and then we processed through the grounds to the oldest apple tree in the orchards. This is the first time in something like 130 years that they have produced their own cider at Barrington Court, so it was quite an auspicious occasion. They have been very lucky with help from some local farmers at Barrington, one of whom has loaned them a cider press for the next five years, his repayment simply being a gallon of cider per year and, as it was the first year, a commemorative flagon produced by the Eeles Pottery. Lovely! Sadly, Amanda and I had to slip away a little early as we had left my parents looking after our little one and he was busy screaming the house down when we left. When we got home he was still up and my parents were almost word perfect on the script of "Monsters Inc." having watched it several times over!


Anonymous said...

I was there! A brilliant night, especially the poem and the dancing. I have seen Good King Hal before at Barrington - he is great everytime. I was going to buy him a pint of good ol' Barrington Cider but he slipped away - I'll have to buy him ale at the Docks instead! Thank you Sir!

Mike Farley said...

Do you want pork scratchings with that, Mr A?