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Wassail Song (Cherington)

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Place Collected: Cherington
Date collected: Between 1927 and 1935
Roud Number: 209

The collector, John Madison Carpenter wrote “Mr Howes has known for sixty years. Bowl decorated with fox’s brush and holly bow, with bough, decorated with ribbons. Charlie Phelps checked the Cherrington (sic) Wassail sung by Tom Tanner.” The song is very similar to others in the same area.

Further information comes from the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard – Saturday 04 February 1882 as follows:

WASSAILING IN GLOUCESTERSHIRE. A correspondent of Notes and Queries, J. T. F., writing from Bp. Hatfield’s Hall, Durham, says—l have just received an account of the above, from a lady friend who is at present on the spot, which seems to me worthy of a place in N. & Q. It appears that there they carry round not, as in Yorkshire, images of the Virgin and the children Jesus and John, but a wassail bowl, and their wassail song is very inferior, but still too characteristic to be lost. My friend sends me a sketch, and writes as follows :-

“The bowl is a large wooden one, with two pieces of wood arched over the top. A hole is in the centre, to allow a green bough to be inserted. The bough itself is covered with ribbons, tied on as it is carried from house to house on Christmas Eve. The bowl, of which I made a slight sketch, came to the Park on Christmas Eve, carried by two men. They sang the accompanying song, and we were expected to tie on a ribbon and to put a coin into the bowl to supply the wassail. One of the old inhabitants of Cherrington supplied me with the song, called here ‘The Wassailing Song’’—a decided accent on the ‘Wass.’ One of our maids, who is a native of Stinchcombe, says that a very old man carries the bowl there, and that he has done so from his youth. I should think two in the last verse have been tacked on to the other lines. I have not seen any account of this custom in any of the articles on Christmastide, so I should think it is confined to these remote villages on the Cotswolds.

“P.S. Mr. B. says it is a heathenish custom, and will have nothing to do with it.”

The Wassailing Song, as sung at Cherrington, Gloucestershire, Dec. 24, 1881.

“Wassail, wassail, all over the town,
Our toast it is white, our ale it is brown ;
Our bowl it is made of the mapling [or rosemary] tree,
With the wassailing bowl we will drink unto thee.

Here is to Cherry and to her bright eye;
Pray God send our mistress a good Christmas pie—
A good Christmas pie that we may all see,
With the wassailing bowl we will drink unto thee.

Here is to Broad and to his long horn;
Pray God send our master a good crop of corn—
A good crop of corn and another of hay,
To pass the cold wintry winds away.

Here is to Whitefoot and to her long tail;
Pray God send our master a never a horse fail—
A never a horse fail that we may all see,
With the wassailing bowl we will drink unto thee.

Come, butler, fill for us a bowl of the best;
We hope your soul in heaven will rest;
But if you do fill us a bowl of the small,
Down fall butler, bowl and all.

If here is any maid in the house—l hope there is some—
Pray let not the young men stand on the cold stone,
But step to the door and draw back the pin;
The fairest maid in the house let us all in—
Let us all in, and see how you do;
Merry boys all, and thank you too.”

Notes by Gwilym Davies 31 January 2016 and further notes from Trevor Brigham 23 November 2020.