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Malpas Wassail

[ Roud 209 ; trad.]

The Truro Wassail Bowl Singers of Malpas, Cornwall, sang their Cornish Wassail Song in a recording made by Peter Kennedy in 1951. It was included on the anthology Songs of Ceremony (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 9; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1970).

The Watersons sang Malpas Wassail in 1975 on their LP For Pence and Spicy Ale. This track was reissued in 2003 on The Definitive Collection. A.L. Lloyd commented in the original album's sleeve notes:

A house-to-house luck wish song local to the Truro district of Cornwall. “Wassail” is an Anglo-Saxon (wes hael—to be healthy).

Louis and Sally Killen sang Malpas Wassail in the same year on their LP Bright Shining Morning. Louis Killen commented in the album's sleeve notes:

Wassailing (the word is Middle English: “be in good health”) is a custom still carried on in many parts of England on New Years Eve, when groups go from house to house singing the wassail songs and bringing luck in exchange for tokens of appreciation; that is, cakes and ale and money. James Madison carpenter, the American folklorist, collected several versions of this wassail around the Truro area of North Cornwall in 1929/30, and most of the text comes from his manuscript. Peter Kennedy recorded a version for the BBC in 1951 in the village of Malpas (hence the title we give it) in the same area. The tune we sing owes as much to the Waterson family of Hull as to the Malpas trio, with some unintentional variations of our own creeping in with the passage of time.


The Watersons sing Malpas Wassail

Now the harvest being over
And Christmas drawing in
Please open your door
And let us come in
With our wassail

Chorus (after each verse):
Wassail, wassail
And joy come to our jolly wassail

Here's the master and mistress
Sitting down by the fire
While we poor wassail boys
Do trudge through the mire
With our wassail

Here's the master and mistress
Sitting down at their ease
Put your hands in your pockets
And give what you please
With our wassail

This ancient awd house
We will kindly salute
It is your custom
You need not dispute
With our wassail

Here's the saddle and the bridle
They're hung upon the shelf
If you want any more
You can it sing yourself
With our wassail

Here's an health to the master
And a long time to live
Since you've been so kind
And so willing to give
With our wassail


Thanks to Greer Gilman for the transcription.