Good Swig at the Thatcht House

Shropshire Wakes 4
Susanna here, carrying on our Christmastide with a song from the era I’m currently writing about—the late 17th century.

As some of you know, I love using songs in my own stories, and I’ve been known to spend an enjoyable research hour or seven mucking about on the Bodleian Library’s Ballads Online website…but this particular song, although it is found there, didn’t come to me as a result of my own research.

It came via Twitter, three days before Christmas, in a random tweet that crossed my timeline, authored by historian and writer Emily Brand:

Emily Brand“Can we all agree to forget the Victorian Christmas & embrace the Restoration Christmas this year?” she wrote. “Features: – The finest young wenches that ever were seen – Cake & ale – Widows giving out mustard – Young maids & men getting together on the village green to shake their bums”

Now I confess, the Cake and ale would more than likely, on their own, have been enough to reel me in. But add the Restoration (which I’ve always loved)? And wenches? Wenches?!

Reader, I was well and truly hooked.


So, I looked up the ballad of which she was speaking, and I’m happy to report that it’s a doozy.

You can read it in its glory at the Ballads Online site, but I’ve transcribed it for you:

(The images taken from the broadsheets are © Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, 2011, 4o Rawl. 566, fol. 144r. All data published on the Bodleian Library’s Ballads Online site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License that allows for non-commercial use with proper attribution and the provision of appropriate links, both of which have been done here).

Shropshire Wakes 1

Come Robin, Ralph and little Harry,
and merry Thomas at our Green,
Where we shall meet with Briget and Sary,
and the finest young wenches that ere were seen:
Then high for Christmas once a year,
Where we have Cakes, both ale and beer,
And to our christmas feast there comes,
Young men and Maids to shake their bums.

For Gammer Nichols has gotten a Custard
My neighbour Wood a roasted Pig,
And Widdow Franklin hath beef & mustard
& at the Thatcht house there is good swig
Then high, &c.

There’s a Fidler for to play e’ry Dance
when the young Lads and Lasses meet:
With which the men & Maids will prance,
with the fidler before them down the street:
Then high, &c.

The Morice dancers will be ready,
Meat and Drink enough to lade ye:
And in a fools dress will be little Neddy,
to entertain our Christmas Lady:
Then high for Christmas once a year,
Where we have Cakes, both ale and beer,
And to our christmas feast there comes,
Young men and Maids to shake their bums.

And when that they shall all appear,
that are to be at our brave Wakes,
To eat up the Meat, and drink up the Beer,
And to play at Cards for Ale and Cakes:
Then high for Christmas once a year,
Where we have Cakes, both ale and beer,
And to our christmas Feast there comes,
Young Men and Maids to shake their bums.

Then Grace and sweetest Winnifred,
and all the Lasses on the place,
When that the young men they have met
See how the Devil’s-dream they’ll trace:
Then high, &c.

Shropshire Wakes 2

They side and then tun round about,
and briskly trip it to each other:
And when they have danct it out,
they presenting call for another:
Then high, &c.

Ralph leading up with Sue in’s hand,
And briget being by Robin’s side,
You’d laugh to see how they do stand:
with their heads together and feet so wide,
Then high, &c.

The dance being done the fidler plays kissum
which Dick and Harry soon did do,
And Randal the Taylor could not missum,
but he must kiss his partner too.
Then high, &c.

Then they sat down to their good cheer,
and pleasant were both Maids and Men,
and having dind and drank their bear,
they rose and went to dance again,
Then high, &c.

Thus they did dance from noon till night,
and were as merry as Cup and Can,
Till they had tyrd the Fidler quite,
and the sweat down their buttocks ran.
Then high, &c.

Then they went to the little thatcht house,
and plaid at Cards a game or two,
And with the good Liquor bid to carouse,
that they were made drunk both Tom and Hugh.
Then high, &c.

The rest unto hot-cockles went,
but Neddy gave Nelly a blow too hard,
That all together by th ears they went,
and all their sporting soon was mar’d.
Then high, &c.

The pots flew about the glasses were broke,
Don [?] was taring Mol by the Ruife,
Richard was pulling John by the throat,
at which the Hostess drew her knife.
Then high, &c.

They took the fidler and broke his pate,
and threw his fiddle into the fire:
And drunkenly went home so late,
that most of them fell in the mire.
Then high, &c.

The men went away and paid ne’r a groat,
but left the Maids to pay for their chear,
Betty was forst to pawn her laste coat,
and Biss [?] to leave her Garget there.
Then hey, &c.

And so my merry ballad is Ended,
when the Maids come again to these Wakes,
they’ll first see the young lads manners mended
and make them pay for ale and Cakes.
Then hey, &c.

Finis.

Printed for Phillip Brooksby, at the Golden Ball, near the Hospital-gate in West-Smith-field

If you want to hear what it sounds like when sung, the historical music ensemble Passamezzo has recorded it as part of their Christmas album, Old Christmas Returned, and they’ve provided the sample track on Soundcloud to enjoy:

 

In case the Soundcloud player isn’t working, here's the direct link.

 

(The moral being, I suppose, that no matter how good the swig at the Thatcht house is, make sure the men pay for it first, else you'll find yourself missing your very last coat and your gorget, which would definitely put a damper on your Christmastide).

25 thoughts on “Good Swig at the Thatcht House”

  1. I love this song, Susanna — what fun. A true festive feast, with a classic drunken mess of an ending. And of course, the women left to clear up. I’m for jumping in to the feast and dancing part, and leaving early before it all gets nasty.

    Reply
  2. I love this song, Susanna — what fun. A true festive feast, with a classic drunken mess of an ending. And of course, the women left to clear up. I’m for jumping in to the feast and dancing part, and leaving early before it all gets nasty.

    Reply
  3. I love this song, Susanna — what fun. A true festive feast, with a classic drunken mess of an ending. And of course, the women left to clear up. I’m for jumping in to the feast and dancing part, and leaving early before it all gets nasty.

    Reply
  4. I love this song, Susanna — what fun. A true festive feast, with a classic drunken mess of an ending. And of course, the women left to clear up. I’m for jumping in to the feast and dancing part, and leaving early before it all gets nasty.

    Reply
  5. I love this song, Susanna — what fun. A true festive feast, with a classic drunken mess of an ending. And of course, the women left to clear up. I’m for jumping in to the feast and dancing part, and leaving early before it all gets nasty.

    Reply
  6. Some things never change, though today we call them “office parties.” 🤤
    Good cheer to all! If you can’t shake your bum, at least wave and smile.

    Reply
  7. Some things never change, though today we call them “office parties.” 🤤
    Good cheer to all! If you can’t shake your bum, at least wave and smile.

    Reply
  8. Some things never change, though today we call them “office parties.” 🤤
    Good cheer to all! If you can’t shake your bum, at least wave and smile.

    Reply
  9. Some things never change, though today we call them “office parties.” 🤤
    Good cheer to all! If you can’t shake your bum, at least wave and smile.

    Reply
  10. Some things never change, though today we call them “office parties.” 🤤
    Good cheer to all! If you can’t shake your bum, at least wave and smile.

    Reply

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