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Wassail song (Uley)

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Performer: Beeston, Edgar
Place Collected: Uley
Date collected: 1975
Collector: Kennett, Andrew
Roud Number: 209

The wassailing tradition in Uley was very vigorous up to the time of WWII, according to information supplied by Mr Edgar Beeston to Andrew Kennett in 1975.

The performers were Gilbert Boddie,  Harry Elliott, Mr Beeston (Edgar’s father) “Rattle” Fisher, and Samuel Lloyd.  Theirs was not the only group in the village: there were 3 or 4 similar groups: one from top – Lower Crown, one from “Sheepshearers” at bottom of turnpike and one from King’s Head.   The groups wore their ordinary clothes and would go wassailing when they came out of the pubs at about 9 p.m.   They didn’t dress up, but just came out of the pub and went wassailing.  They generally went wassailing on Boxing Day or Christmas Eve.  The groups each had an “animal”, which in the case of Mr Beeston’s group was one of the group dressed up as a bullock, with sacking on.  The sacking was split open at the side so that the person could see where he was going.  “Eyes” were crocheted onto the sacking.  Horns were fixed to the sack – stuck to a board under the sack.  The “head” of the animal consisted of a board with a pair of horns fixed onto it and the person under the sacking had 2 strings to keep the horns in position.   Gilbert Tudor, a butcher in Uley supplied the horns to the group(s), possibly a new set each year.  On the back of the platform was the wassail bowl.  Two of the group held tassels to lead the animal around.  When the animal reached the door, he would bend down.

The bowl itself was about eighteen inches across, and made of plain wood with no ribbons.  The wassailers would give the bowl to the house and the occupants would put drink or money in and then invite the wassailers in for a drink.

The groups would travel all around the village and the local farms, such as Muttrell Farm and Dingle Farm as well as rich houses.  At the farms they were usually given drink [rather than money].

Notes by Gwilym Davies from information provided by Richard Chidlaw and Andrew Kennett.