2018 Mummer's Play
Photo courtesy of Phil Davies
Headington morris dancers put on Boxing Day mummers' play
Hundreds of residents tore themselves away from the Boxing Day sales to watch a centuries-old mummers' play performed by Headington Quarry Morris Dancers outside local pubs.
Father Christmas, King George, a Turkish knight, a doctor and Beelzebub all featured in the comedic play, which can trace its roots back to the 18th century.
Dave Townsend, who lead's the group and played the Turkish knight, said: "It's a bit of fun and a social gathering where people in the community can meet over Christmas.
"We always get a big turnout as it's not something you see very often. It's also a good excuse to head out to the pub on Boxing Day."
The popular annual play is part of an English folk tradition dating back to the medieval period.
Often associated with Christmas, it is usually put on by amateur actors donning outlandish costumes.
The plot typically features Saint George or King George, is comedic, and involves the miraculous resurrection of a character.
Locally the play has been put on by the Headington group in its current form since the early 1950s, though there is evidence showing it has been performed in the area for much longer.
Each year the group put on a version called ‘St George and the Turkish knight’, which some sources date back to 1780.
John Graham, who has been lending the accompanying music to the Headington mummers' play for 61 years, said: "It's all about good triumphing over evil. King George is killed by a Turkish knight and then resurrected by a doctor."
The morris dancers also did a sword dance after the play and were also joined by the North Oxford Folk Association Hand Bell Players, who performed carols at each performance.
The group started at the now closed Crown and Thistle pub on the corner of Old Road and Titup Hall Drive at 11.15am.
Among around 60 people gathered at the first stop was Katie Eyre and her family.
She said: "We've never been to the play before but live just around the corner so decided to come out and see it this year."
She said her children William, five, and Alex, two, had particularly enjoyed the bell ringing.
The travelling troupe then went on to the Six Bells, The Chequers Inn and finally The Mason’s Arms at around 1.45pm.
By Erin Lyons, Reporter, Oxford Times, Thursday 27th December, 2018.
Link to video supplied by Ian Nichols