> John Kirkpatrick > Songs > Hey for Christmas, or The Shropshire Wakes

Hey for Christmas, or The Shropshire Wakes

[ Roud V31804 ; Bodleian Roud V31804 ; trad. arr. John Kirkpatrick]

John Kirkpatrick sang this broadside ballad on his 2006 CD Carolling and Crumpets. He noted:

This was printed on a London Broadsheet in the late 1600s, and is notable for its rare and gloriously full-blooded descriptions of both country dancing and morris dancing, all neatly wrapped in a title that combines a joyous shout with the name of one of the commonest dance figures we have. Compared to the widespread refined, sophisticated, ethereal approach favoured by some of today's enthusiasts for 17th century dancing, this sounds several million times more fun.

The Oxford Waits were so taken with this song that they used it as the title track for the CD of their selection from the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballad collections, housed in their home town. You can hear their interpretation on Beautiful Jo Records BEJOCD-31, or see the full original 17 verses at www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/ballads (Douce Ballads 2(207a), 4o Rawl. 566(144)).

The prescribed tune is Dargason, bur I have moved the melody nearer to the busier, more modern creature it became–The Irish Washerwoman. The key change in the instrumental section honours the unique style and approach of the Chipping Campden Morris Dancers, who have the only two-key version I've heard.

Hot Cockles is the name of a terrific game of ancient origin that is frequently associated with Christmas. One of the players buries their face in the lap of another (who is sitting in a chair) and puts a hand behind their own back, palm outwards. With a shout of “Hot Cockles, Hot” from the sitter in the chair, someone else slaps the open hand, or, obviously, any other convenient part of the anatomy, and the kneeler has to guess who walloped them. They remain there in position, their cockles getting blacker and bluer, until thy guess correctly.


John Kirkpatrick sings Hey for Christmas, or The Shropshire Wakes

Come one, come all, come Christmas time,
Come hear the music calling you on,
To eat the meat and drink the wine
And dance and dance the whole night long.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Then hey! for Christmas once a year,
We'll have cakes and ale and beer;
Into the Shropshire Wakes they comes,
Young men and maids to shake their bums.

There's Robin and Ralph and Tom and Harry,
They'll come and meet upon the green
With Betty and Kate and Brigid and Sally,
The finest young wenches that e'er were seen.

There's a fiddler there to play every dance
When all the lads and lasses do meet,
And men and maids away they dance
With the fiddler before them down the street.

Oh how they side and turn about
And tripp├Ęd around and step to each other;
And when that they have danced it out
They call the fiddler to play them another.

The dance been done, the fiddler plays kiss
Which Harry and Tom they soon did do;
And Randall the tailor he would not miss
But he must kiss his partner too.

The Morris dancers they'll be ready
With meat and drink to make the merry;
And there's the fool to keep them steady,
He'd dressed as red as a holly berry.

Thus they did dance from morn' till night;
They were as merry as cup and can
Till they had tired the fiddler quite
And sweat down their buttocks ran.

Then they unto Hot Cockles went,
But Maggie gave Nelly a blow too hard,
And down together whole wallop they went
And all their sporting soon was marred.

They took the fiddler and cracked his head,
His fiddle they threw into the fire;
So drunk as they were nearly dead
And they slept where they fell right in the mire.