Monday, 28 March 2011

The Derby Ram or "Ye Olde Tup" Mummers Play as performed by the HTW 2010

Picture © the Chattering Magpie 2015

The 'ram' is a member of the group dressed in a sheep skin complete with a ram skull, who with a bag of apples over their shoulder but hidden under the skin, parades around the circle while the rest of the group sing or chant the following:

        "As I was going to Derby
        All on a market day,
        I met the finest tup, sir,
        That ever was fed on hay.
        Fay-lay, fay-lay,
        Fay-lay, lad-digo-lay.
        This tup was fat behind, sir,
        This tup was fat before,
        This tup, was nine feet high, sir,
        If not a little more.
        Fay-lay, fay-lay,
        Fay-lay, lad-digo-lay.

        The horns that grew on this tup's head
        They were so mighty high,
        That every time it shook its head
        They rattled against the sky.
        Fay-lay, fay-lay,
        Fay-lay, lad-digo-lay."

    1st Speaker

        Is there a butcher in this town?

    2nd Speaker.

        Our Bob's a blacksmith.

    1st Speaker.

        I don't want a blacksmith. I want a butcher.

    3rd Speaker.

        Well! here I am! I'm a butcher!
        Where do you want him sticking? In't 'eard. or in't arse?

    1st Speaker.

        In't 'eard of course.

    3rd Speaker

        Well ! Let's stick 'im in't arse then.

The group proceeds to chase after the tup, hitting him (gently) with the sticks until he falls down dead. Then the butcher (played by the Defender of the Hearth) symbolically cuts off the head (removes the skull). Out falls a bag of apples, which the butcher then seizes and will be distributed amongst the group at the end of the play. All sing again:

        "The butcher that killed this tup, sir,
        Was in danger of his life ;
        He was up to his knees in blood, sir,
        And prayed for a longer life.
        Fay-lay, fay-lay,
        Fay-lay, lad-digo-lay.

        And all the men of Derby
        Came begging for his eyes,
        To makes themselves some footballs of,
        For they were football size.
        Fay-lay, fay-lay,
        Fay-lay, lad-digo-lay.

        And all the women of Derby
        Came begging for its ears,
        To make their leather aprons of
        To last them forty years.
        Fay-lay, fay-lay,
        Fay-lay, lad-digo-lay.

        And all the ringers of Derby
        Came begging for its tail,
        To ring St. George's passing bell
        From the top of Derby jail.
        Fay-lay, fay-lay,
        Fay-lay, lad-digo-lay.

        And now my song is ended,
        I have no more to say ;
        Please give us all an apple now
        And we will go away. "

The Derby Ram is a traditional Derbyshire mummers play and folksong, edited by members  of the HTW for use in our Autumn Equinox ritual (Merry 2010).

Picture © the Chattering Magpie 2015


  1. Readers may be interested to know that I played the part of the ram in the play. A role that required me to shuffle about the ritual area on my knees while being chased by a very unfriendly bunch of covenors. The ritual was held out of doors and by the end of the play my legs were covered with mud and chicken poo!

  2. I'd love to have seen that Bran - seriously though I'd love to have seen the play itself - was involved years ago with Morris/Mummers stuff in Suffolk - ran folk clubs etc - love The Derby Ram - got loads of different versions - whats the tune you used ?

  3. Hello Peter.

    Our tune was based loosely (as I cannot read music and we used no instruments) upon the well known (in folkmusic circles) Lloyd recording with a few minor chnages based upon a recording of the play made in the north of the county for a 1970's documentary.

    Chattering Magpie.

  4. I would have loved to hear this tune in person. Sorry I'm a tad late in commenting - but I think this is brilliant!

  5. I think it would be a fun item to see, especially with a larger group of local people.