> The Watersons > Songs > Pace-Egging Song

The Pace-Egging Song / The Heysham Peace-Egging Song

[ Roud 614 ; Master title: The Pace-Egging Song ; TYG 53 ; Ballad Index RcPaceEg ; DT PACEEGG ; trad.]

Emma Vickers of Burscough Pace-Eggers sang The Pace-Egging Song in a recording made by Fred Hamer in Burscough, Lancashire, in October or November 1963. It was included in 1967 in his E.F.D.S. book Garners Gay, in 1971 on the accompanying album Garners Gay, in 1989 on the EFDSS cassette of Hamer’s field recordings, The Leaves of Life, and in 1998 on Topic’s anthology of songs and dance tunes of seasonal events, You Lazy Lot of Bone-Shakers (The Voice of the People Series Volume 16).

The Watersons sang the Pace-Egging Song with Mike Waterson in lead on their 1965 LP Frost and Fire. This recording was also included on the Topic Sampler No. 6, A Collection of Ballads & Broadsides, and on the Topic CD sampler The Season Round. They sang it live at the Down River Folk Club, Loughton, of 20 October 1974, together with Boston Harbour and Mike Waterson singing Sweet William. All three tracks were included in 2004 on the Watersons’ 4 CD anthology Mighty River of Song.

Another live version of the Pace-Egging Song from a Christmas radio programme recorded in December 1980 at Crathorne Hall, Crathorne, North Yorkshire, was published in 2005 on the Watersons’ CD A Yorkshire Christmas.

A.L. Lloyd commented in the Frost and Fire sleeve notes:

The egg is taken as a handy symbol of life in many parts of the world, especially in association with springtime when the crops show their first signs of life. So at Easter time, in the north-west of England, the Pace-eggers go round, begging for eggs and, in some cases, performing a version of the mummers’ death-and-resurrection play. Strictly, the play is considered to belong to midwinter, but the folk aren’t always as punctilious as the folklorists, and in this instance the drama and its song have strayed from their winter date. In the fullest version, sundry masked heroes appear fight, are slain, and brought back to life by a comic doctor. This, the heroes’ calling-in song, is based on a version that Lucy Broadwood received from Heysham, Lancs.

Roy Palmer noted in Everyman’s Book of English Country Songs (1979), p. 219:

Pace is from the Latin word for Easter, and pace egging was the practice of collecting eggs and other eatables by touring the houses and farms in one’s locality. Little groups of men would either perform a pace egg play (like other seasonal plays, a semi-ritual enactment of death and rebirth), or would dress as some of the characters and present themselves simply with a song. St George, Admiral Nelson, Lord Collingwood, Mrs Pankhurst: these are just a few of the wide range of possibilities. These practices were largely confined to the north-western counties of Cheshire, Lancashire, Westmorland, Cumberland, and parts of Yorkshire, where some remains of pace egging can still be found. This song comes from Marple in Cheshire, where Mr Arthur Hulme remembered it being sung by children between 1895 and 1900.

Chris Wood sang Pace Egging in 1999 on his and Jean François Vrod’s CD Crossing. This track was also included in 2009 on Wood’s anthology Albion. He noted:

Learnt from the EFDSS tape The Leaves of Live and sung by Emma Vickers of Burscough, Lancs.

Eliza Carthy and the Ratcatchers (Jon Boden, Ben Ivitsky and John Spiers) sang the Pace-Egging Song live at Buxton Opera House in 2007:

Jon Boden sang Pace Egging as the Easter Sunday (24 April) 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Bryony Griffith sang The Heysham Peace-Egging Song in 2011 on her and Will Hampson’s CD Lady Diamond. They learned it “from the book English County Songs [1893] by Lucy Broadwood & J.A. Fuller Maitland.”

Andy Turner sang the Pace-Egging Song as the 29 March 2013 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week, giving credits in his blog to the Watersons and to Emma Vickers.

Kate Rusby sang the Pace-Egging Song in 2016 on her CD Life in a Paperboat.

See also Les Barker’s parody The Schwarzenegging Song with Norma Waterson and Eliza and Martin Carthy on the Mrs. Ackroyd Band’s album Gnus and Roses.


Emma Vickers sings the Pace-Egging Song

There’s one or two jolly lads all in one mind.
We have come a-pace-egging, if you will provide.
With your eggs and strong beer, we’ll come no more here
Until the next year it’s pace-egging time.

Chorus (after each verse):
Fol the diddle-ol eye-day,
Fol the diddle-ol eye-day.

The next that comes in is our bold British tar,
He has served with Lord Nelson while during the war.
But now he’s come back old England to view,
He’s come a-pace-egging with our jovial crew.

Our next that comes in is our lady so gay,
And from her own country she has run away.
On her arm is a basket your eggs to put in,
And all her delight is in drinking neat gin.

Our next that comes in is Old Tosspot, you see,
He’s a valiant old man in every degree.
He’s a valiant old man, he wears a straw tail,
And all he delights is in drinking mulled ale.

Our time is so short, our journey so long;
We’ll hope you’ll excuse us with a very short song.
Put your hand in your pocket and pull out your purse
And give us a trifle; you’ll never be no worse.

The Watersons sing the Pace-Egging Song

Chorus (after each verse):
Here’s one two three jolly lads all in one mind
We are come a-pace-egging and I hope you’ll prove kind
And I hope you’ll prove kind with your eggs and strong beer
For we’ll come no more nigh you until the next year

And the first that comes in is Lord Nelson you’ll see
With a bunch of blue ribbons tied round by his knee
And a star on his breast that like silver doth shine
And I hope he remembers it’s pace-egging time

And the next that comes in it is Lord Collingwood
And he fought with Lord Nelson till he shed his blood
And he’s come from the sea old England to view
And he’s come a-pace-egging with all of his crew

[ The next that comes in is our Jolly Jack Tar
He sailed with Lord Nelson all through the last war
He’s arrived from the sea, old England to view
And he’s come a-pace-egging with our jovial crew ]

[ The next that comes in is old miser Brownbags
For fear of her money she wears her old rags
She’s gold and she’s silver all laid up in store
And she’s come a-pace-egging in hopes to get more ]

And the last that comes in is Old Tosspot you’ll see
He’s a valiant old man in every degree
He’s a valiant old man and he wears a pigtail
And all his delight is a-drinking mulled ale

Come ladies and gentlemen sit by the fire
Put your hands in your pockets and give us our desire
Put your hands in your pockets and treat us all right
If you give naught, we’ll take naught, farewell and good night

[ If you can drink one glass, then we can drink two
Here’s a health to Victoria, the same unto you
Mind what you’re doing and see that all’s right
If you give naught, we take naught, farewell and good night ]

Bryony Griffith sings The Heysham Peace-Egging Song

Come listen awhile unto my song,
March along, bold Wellington,
March right down to the cabin door,
For that’s the place that we adore.

Chorus (after each verse):
Sing ri-fol-lay, ri-fol-de-lay,
Sing Ri-fol-lay, sing ri-fol-lay

O the next comes in is Soldier bold,
In his hand he carries a sword,
With a shining star on his right breast
And a bonny bunch of roses around his wrist.

O the next comes in is Sailor bold,
He’s sailed around the ocean’s globe,
England, Ireland, France and Spain,
And now he’s come back home again.

O the next comes in is General Hill
He can neither fight nor kill,
He took a slash from whence he came
And all the people cried a shame.

O the next comes in is Never Fear,
He wants his peace-egg once a year,
He wants his peace-egg for to go
And treat young lasses you may know.

O the next comes in is our old lass,
She sits in the alehouse jug and glass;
She sits with her jug both morn and night
And in her glass drinks her delight.

Acknowledgements and Links

Transcribed from the singing of the Watersons by Garry Gillard. Thanks to Susanne Kalweit for assistance. I’ve also added three more verses—shown in brackets—from the Digital Tradition.

See also the Lancashire Peace-Egging Song at folkinfo.org which has both lyrics and a long note by Lucy Broadwood.