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Wassail song (Brockweir)

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Place Collected: Brockweir
Date collected: 1964
Collector: Wortley, Russell
Roud Number: 209

The small village of Brockweir, alongside the River Wye had its own wassail song and custom.  The booklet “I remember – Social Life in Gloucestershire Villages 1850-1950” tells us that “wassailing was very popular in Brockweir till 1914”.

A verse of the song was noted by Francis Collinson from Miss Margaret Eyre in St Briavels in 1958.  In 1963 Russell Wortley recorded the song from Charley Williams (born 1909) who had learnt the song from his father, and in 1977 the collectors Andrew Taylor and Bob Patten subsequently recorded the wassail song and a number of other local carols from Charley.  Charley said that about 60 years previously, (i.e. about the time of WWI), about ten to twenty wassailers would go out on 5 and the 6 January.   Other wassailers were Charley’s father and  his brother-in-law Bill Bailey, William Edmund Hunt and Alfred Dibden.   Charley said that if you went wassailing or carol singing with the older singers you knew that you had to finish any song that you started, but the youngsters preferred to only sing a verse or so. ‘You had to sing it properly at the door’. Colonel Hare who lived at St. Briavels always waited for them on the lawn, for the Wassail, as he always loved to hear it.

Although the custom was a house-to-house wassail, like the custom in the south of the county, there is no evidence of a bowl being taken around with the singers and the song is quite distinct from other Gloucestershire wassail versions.

They took no instruments when wassailling but Charley also talked about singng local carols in Brockweir with Gilbert and Claude Williams when they would take an accordion. Most of the men in the village and some of the women would go carolling on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. Sometimes they would go to a house on Christmas Eve and stay there until 3am. There might be twenty in the party. Wassilling geadually died out but Charley said that carolling continued after the War.

He also mentioned making New Year gifts from apples with 3 sticks pushed into them with rosemary on the top and nuts which people would buy.

A recording of Charley singing the song, recorded in 1954, was provided by Mr Simpson of Brockweir.

(Notes by Gwilym and Carol Davies, drawing mainly on notes by Bob Patten, March 2012)

Media & Downloads

Hear the song/tune as collected (mp3 stream):

See the song/tune as collected (PDF file)
Hear the song/tune (midi file)
Version to sing (PDF file)
Hear a version to sing (midi file)

Modern recording performed by: Puzzlejug

Song/tune as collected (abc file)
Version to sing (abc file)