Midgley Pace Egg Play, West YorkshireThe tradition of Mummers’ Plays is an ancient one, and thankfully many survivals and revivals of the custom remain to entertain us at Christmas and Easter. The Pace Egg Play performed by pupils from Calder Valley High School in Midgley is one such in robust good health, though it is now ‘acted’ rather than ‘declaimed’ as once it was.
In 1932 the local boys’ school brought the play back to life, though now it is a senior school production (still, however, only featuring lads as actors, though female musicians may accompany them). Every Good Friday the troupe of eight players travels around the Calder Valley, visiting Heptonstall (perhaps undiplomatically given that village also has a Pace Egg Play of its own), Hebdon Bridge, Luddenden, Mytholmroyd, Todmorden, and of course Midgley itself.
The text used is said to date back to the 18th century, though the Pace Egg custom is far older, certainly into medieval times and according to some perhaps optimistic sources having roots in the Middle East of times long past. The version put on by Calder Valley High – with much improvisation and energy – tells the story of brave and cocky St George fighting three enemies – Bold Slasher, Hector, and the Black Prince of Paradine, with the interventions comic and otherwise of The Doctor, Toss Pot, The Fool, and the King of Egypt adding colour to his trials. Naturally there are daft hats and costumes; and equally naturally funds raised go to worthy causes.
Some of our customs are on the dry side, kept alive because that is what you do; not so Midgley’s Pace Play, done for laughs, though its cast members as part of their auditions need to know its history too.
More British Folk Customs?