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Malpas Wassail

[ Roud 209 ; Ballad Index RcWasSo3 ; 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).

Dave Bland recorded a group our wassailers outside a house in Bodmin, Cornwall, on 6 January 1974. This recording was included in 1998 on the Topic anthology of songs and dance tunes of seasonal events, You Lazy Lot of Bone-Shakers (The Voice on the People Volume 16).

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 noted:

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.

Lady Maisery and Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith sang the Cornish Wassail on their 2019 winter album Awake, Arise. They noted:

Wassailing traditionally occurs around Twelfth Night or Old Twelfth Night to welcome in the New Year. From the Old English “waes hael”—be thou in good health. A wassail is made and then carried from door to door accompanied by a song such as this.

Lyrics

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 owd 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

Lady Maisery and Jimmy Aldridge & Sid Goldsmith sing Cornish Wassail

Now Christmas is over, the New Year begins
Come open your door and let us come in
With our wassail, wassail, wassail, wassail
And Joy come to our jolly wassail

Come master and mistress who sit by the fire
While we poor wassailers do walk through the mire
With our wassail, wassail, wassail, wassail
And joy come to our jolly wassail

We at this door, we do orderly stand
I s jolly wassailers with a bowl in our hand
With our wassail, wassail, wassail, wassail
And joy come to our jolly wassail

Good mistress and master, sitting down at your ease
Put your hand in your pocket and give what you please
With our wassail, wassail, wassail, wassail
And joy come to our jolly wassail

We hope that your barley may prosper and grow
That you may have plenty and enough to bestow
On our wassail, wassail, wassail, wassail
And joy come to our jolly wassail

It's Happy New Year, and long may you live
Since you’ve been so kind and willing to give
Long live our wassail, wassail, wassail, wassail
And joy come to our jolly wassail

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Greer Gilman for the Malpas Wassail transcription.