This play came to Ireland in the 1600s and is related to the medieval mystery plays. Up until about 40 years ago the mummers used to perform on Christmas Eve in most areas of the province. Many people still remember the mummers coming to their house. Do you? Or have you ever participated?
It was mainly men who took part and they would dress up in elaborate costumes, the primary purpose of which was disguise, as they usually performed in their own area. Contrary to popular belief the costumes were not all straw or wickerwork, but varied with each character. One would wear a top hat, another armour, yet another sported a 'copper nose'. Each carried a different item such as a broom, a frying pan or a club. Only one was in the full straw regalia and he was called, of course, 'Jack Straw'.
(member of The Armagh Rhymers)
The group would visit various houses in the area with the 'Captain' arriving first to clear a space in one of the rooms (and also to ensure there were no young children who would be frightened by the sight of these strangely masked men).
The original point of the play has been lost in time, but would appear to have been a way of taking 'luck' to the houses visited.
Mummers performing in the Mayday celebrations in the
Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Co. Down
Raymond Adams - Feb '07
Hi there i dont remember the mummers as i was from glasgow
but my relations lived at ervey school house anniemary frank
francie and oliver gerrald my grand mother was the late
sara leitch and my mother who just passed away aweek ago
freda leitch (adams)i am her son raymond so i am looking
for info or pics about old ervey school house if anyone
has any please send to me at firstname.lastname@example.org thanks there
Ernie Swain - Dec '06
Sheena McCann: If you contact me, I'll send you the version
of the Mummers Play which the Ards Rhymers have developed
over the last 25 years and perform each year, coming up
to Christmas. We will be performing in Enniskillen tomorrow
(Sat 08 Dec)!
Sheena McCann -
Could someone please send me the rhyme for the Christmas
Paddy McGuckian - April '06
The McGuckian family appreciate the comments about their
father and husband.
Willie Curran - Dec '05
I lived in Ervey - Co Derry
Mummers or Christmas Rhymers as we called them were very
popular up until the early sixties. As stated in your article
only one character was dressed in straw (Jack Straw). I
remember some of the other characters... Prince George,
Doctor, Devil Doubt.
Each group had to have a singer and maybe an accordion.
Anne - Dec '05
In the late seventies and into the eighties a group of mummers
from the Belcoo area did the rounds of houses in the area.
Have to say I found it all a bit creepy and primitive but
I suppose it was keeping a very old tradition alive even
if it did interupt the latest episode of Kojak at a key
moment. No offence Mummers - I was only a shallow teenager.
Ted Wilmont - July '05
My late Father used to tell us of him and friends doing
the christmas rhyming as a boy in co Antrim. On christmas
nights he would recite many of the parts he could still
recall. I would really like to hear from anyone who has
any information, especially words as I can only recall snippets.
Condor - December '04
St Malachy's Primary School, Armagh. Every Christmas the
children did singing and plays and the children in P7 always
did the mummers. The rest of the school was buzzing for
it and when they went on the dinner hall would erupt with
excited children. It was the same play year after year,
nothing changed, probably due to the excellent foresight
of headmaster Paddy Hamill. I went back into the school
last year and sneaked into the store room in the dinner
hall and there up on the top shelf was the big head prop
(sorry to those who didn't go to the school as you haven't
a clue what I'm on about).
And then afterwards a certain duo would get up and do a
turn, Mark would sing Elvis songs and Barry would do the
dancing. Excellent memories.
Melanie Clarke - December
The late Mr. Patrick McGuckian (once principal at St. Patricks
P.S, Portrush) taught my class this play. He was a wonderful
man who took us for drama once a week. We would all look
forward to Thursday afternoon in our wee lunch hall and
practice. I can remember my lines even to this day "Here
comes I Prince George from England have I sprung; I've fought
many warriors and always have I won. Show me the man who
dares before me stand". Fantastic!! Long may this tradition
of teaching our Irish kids this play, go on forever.