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Ballyboughal, Fingal North Co Dublin. Est Feb '08

Swords Mummers

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There was one night at the Fingal Folk Club were the Swords Mummers did a performance on stage. I didn’t know what a mummer was being very honest, but this I liked. In a funny sort of way, it was a little possibly, embarrassing that I did not know of this so very old tradition. I asked Ronnie [el presidenté] to send me on some information.

In short and for want a definition of some sort, here’s my take on it… you know the way the kids call around the doors at Haloween all dressed up, well, this as far as I can gather is something similar, except they are adults and arrive with a pre prepared act.

Rim Rhyme……….Pat Murphy
Prince George……V Delaney
Doctor……………..Willie Crosbie
Joe Butcher……….Tummer Crosbie
The Wren………….Clare Crosbie
Tom Fool…………..Ronnie Delaney

Here’s what Ronnie Sent me:

Among the ancient customs of Fingal that of “Mumming” at Christmas-tide still holds a place. A band of Christmas mummers, usually consists of about a dozen or more young men, all of whom wear disguises of some sort.

For these disguises old clothing, shirts as overalls outside the ordinary clothing, home-made comical head- dresses of plaited straw, and masks are worn.  Failing the latter, faces are blackened with burnt cork, or else whitened with flour in accordance with the role to be enacted.

For several days previous to Christmas, the mummers meet in some friendly dwelling, house or barn, where they devote their time to preparing the various disguises and rehearsing for their appearance in public on “Saint Stephen’s Night”.

Making the rounds the mummers do not enter any houses in a body.

The group come to a halt outside the door of the domicile being visited and only one mummer (The leader) known as Rim Rhyme enters the house.

This he does without giving any indication of his presence outside the door by knocking or otherwise. The door, if closed, is generally secured by a latch only, this is boldly raised by Rim Rhyme who pushes it back to its full extent and strides into the centre of the dwelling proclaiming in a loud voice, in a chanting strain.

Here comes I Rim Rhyme…

And so we begin a portrayal of good over evil with the characters following in hot pursuit.

Prince George the plunderer, battles with Rim Rhyme and falls foul to his sword. Then call in the doctor to cue all ills, The doc will call on Joe the butcher who will skin a cow. Slick slack with his family on his back will then summon the devil who will call upon The Wren.

Before we can say boo! Tom the fool will emerge to wish us all happy cheer and command this mummers band to steal your hearts away.

*many thanks to Noel Delaney for the images and to Yvonne for the video

View more images of the swords mummers

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