The Wonderful Tragedy of St George
and The Dragon
(or how to go yer Galoshans)
You may hear it called “galoshans” or “galachans”, it is a folk play once performed at different times of the year from Valentines Day through to Hogmanay. In the West of Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway, the time of performance was Halloween, perhaps linked to other harvest rituals and celebrations of the time. There are many suggested reasons for why the play is called “Galoshans”, from the character of Galatia, present in some (but not all!) versions of the play through to the suggestion that a “galosh” refers to the type of clogs often worn by the rustic peasantry who would have performed the plays in richer folks houses! Cheap chapbook copies of the play were produced, but the main means of remembering the performance was of course oral tradition. For that reason, versions of the play vary widely across the whole country. As with much language and ritual, the original meanings gradually faded until eventually the Halloween tradition of going around the doors no longer included performing a play, but was still generally referred to by the same term “Going Galoshans”. Greenock and Port Glasgow are among the few places left in Scotland to continue to use this term, and even then, it is heard far less often than thirty years ago. To help you enjoy a wee bit of traditional Halloween, we’ve printed a copy of the Galoshans play for you, your friends and family to perform. This “Helensburgh” version of the play, is the most complete one we could find nearest to Greenock geographically. Clearly that does not mean it is definitely the one that was performed here, sadly, as far as we are aware, none of the original chapbooks remain to allow us to be sure. However, the text in the Helensburgh play closely matches the text of the piece quoted in John Donald’s “Old Greenock Characters”, which gives a lively description of Halloween celebrations in the town. The Helensburgh version was recorded in “Galoshins – The Scottish Folk Play” by Brian Hayward (Edinburgh University Press 1992). For comparison, we have also included a version of the play first printed in E.K. Chambers “The English Folk Play”, Clarendon Press, 1933. This was not a version ever performed as such, but does include all the core elements that appear across the many variants. You could use this as the basis of your own new interpretation of the play, changing the language to your own areas vernacular, adding in some more local characters or history, the choice is yours.
Note: This version of The Galoshans Play was compiled by Magic Torch in 2010. It is intended for free distribution in the hope of encouraging new performances of the Galoshans play. If you decide to do one, please let us know, you can reach us via our blog http://talesoftheoak.blogspot.com/ 2
Galoshans – Helensburgh Version
PRESENTER [entering without knocking] Room! Room! Brave gallants give us room to sport For in this house we must resort, Resort, resort to make a merry time. [Enter SLASHER] SLASHER Here comes I, Slasher, For Slasher is my name, My sword and buckler by my side, I hope to win the game. [Enter JOCK] JOCK The game, sir, the game sir, It’s not within your power, I’ll cut you up in inches In less than half an hour [a fight ensues, JOCK is slain and falls to the floor] PRESENTER A doctor, a doctor, ten pounds for a doctor. [the Doctor enters] PRESENTER Are you a Doctor? DOCTOR Yes, I’m a Doctor. PRESENTER What can you cure? DOCTOR All sorts. PRESENTER What’s all sorts? DOCTOR The itch, the pitch, the palsy and the gout, And if a man has nineteen devils in his head, I can cast twenty out.
[The DOCTOR bends down to the wounded man] Here Jock, take a little out of my bottle, Let it run down thy throttle, And if you are not quite dead, Rise, Jock, and fight again. [JOCK rises] JOCK Oh, my back, my back is wounded, My heart’s confounded. To be struck out of seven senses into four score – The like was never seen in Great Britain before. [St GEORGE enters] St GEORGE I am St George of noble England sprung, Many mighty deeds and wonders I’ve made it known. I’ve made the tyrant tremble on his throne. I followed a fair lady to a Giants gate, Entombed in dungeons deep, there to meet her fate. The giant always struck me dead, But by my sword I knocked off his head. [Enter the BLACK PRINCE] BLACK PRINCE I am the Black Prince of Paradise, born of high renown, Soon will I fetch St George’s lofty courage down. Before St George shall be rescued by me St George shall die to all eternity. [there is a missing passage here] JOHNNY FUNNY Here comes I, Johnny Funny, I’m the man that draws the money, Twa wee pooches doon to my knees, Can only haud tuppence or three bawbees. [The cast take a collection, form a circle, crossing their arms across their bodies holding hands and sing a song together to close the performance]
From John Donald – Old Greenock Characters (Second Series) Milne, Tannahill and Methven 1930 Little companies of Goloshans too, were to be seen rushing from one tenement ti another seeking admissions, sometimes, indeed, insisting on their assumed privilege to perform the wonderful tragedy of “St George and the Dragon.” Their poverty, but not their will, barred full dress representations; yet they did their best. Their faces were fearfully camouflaged, and their ordinary garb (sometimes with jacket turned inside out) was embellished with various coloured trimmings, and a wooden sword where required. Cocked hats made from wallpaper or newspapers, were worn, the principals having helmets (liker coronets) of tin clippings, which material also provided daggers, medals and sundry other adornments. The kitchen floor was the bloodless scene of many a desperate encounter with the wooden swords, but all ended happily; for when “Dr. Brown, the best old doctor in the town,” administered to the slain hero his marvellous life restoring potion, saying, “Rise, Jock, and fight again!” everyone was highly gratified, including the actors – if the collection was satisfactory. It is so many years since I saw the Goloshans book that I cannot recollect the plot (if there was a plot) of the drama, although I was once one of those “strolling players” and cast for the part of the Doctor, and of the lines set down for him only a fragment remains in my memory. Here it is. He is asked : “What can you cure?” And replies “The itch, pitch, the palsey and the gout; If a man had nineteen devils in his skull I’d cast twenty-one of them out”
St George And The Dragon
(E.K. Chambers, Clarendon Press 1933) [Enter the PRESENTER] PRESENTER. I open the door, I enter in ; I hope your favour we shall win. Stir up the fire and strike a light, And see my merry boys act to-night. Whether we stand or whether we fall, We'll do our best to please you all. [Enter the actors, and stand in a clump] PRESENTER. Room, room, brave gallants all, Pray give us room to rhyme ; We're come to show activity, This merry Christmas time; Activity of youth, Activity of age, The like was never seen Upon a common stage. And if you don't believe what I say, Step in St. George and clear the way. [Enter St. GEORGE] St. GEORGE. In come I, Saint George, The man of courage bold ; With my broad axe and sword I won a crown of gold. I fought the fiery dragon, And drove him to the slaughter, And by these means I won The King of Egypt's daughter. Show me the man that bids me stand; I'll cut him down with my courageous hand. PRESENTER Step in, Bold Slasher. [Enter Bold SLASHER] SLASHER In come I, the Turkish Knight, Come from the Turkish land to fight. I come to fight St. George, The man of courage bold;
And if his blood be hot, I soon will make it cold. St. GEORGE Stand off, stand off, Bold Slasher, And let no more be said, For if I draw my sword, I'm sure to break thy head. Thou speakest very bold, To such a man as I ; I'll cut thee into eyelet holes, And make thy buttons fly. SLASHER. My head is made of iron, My body is made of steel, My arms and legs of beaten brass ; No man can make me feel. St. GEORGE Then draw thy sword and fight. Or draw thy purse and pay; For satisfaction I must have, Before I go away. SLASHER. No satisfaction shalt thou have, But I will bring thee to thy grave. St. GEORGE Battle to battle with thee I call, To see who on this ground shall fall. SLASHER. Battle to battle with thee I pray, To see who on this ground shall lay. St. GEORGE Then guard thy body and mind thy head, Or else my sword shall strike thee dead. SLASHER. One shall die and the other shall live; This is the challenge that I do give. [They fight. SLASHER falls] PRESENTER O cruel Christian, what hast thou done? Thou hast wounded and slain my only son.
St. GEORGE He challenged me to fight, And why should I deny't ? PRESENTER. O, is there a doctor to be found To cure this deep and deadly wound. Doctor, doctor, where art thee ? My son is wounded to the knee. Doctor, doctor, play thy part, My son is wounded to the heart. I would put down a thousand pound, If there were a doctor to be found. [Enter the DOCTOR] DOCTOR. Yes, there is a doctor to be found, To cure this deep and deadly wound. I am a doctor pure and good, And with my hand can stanch his blood. PRESENTER. Where hast thou been, and where hast come from ? DOCTOR Italy, Sicily, Germany, France and Spain, Three times round the world and back again. PRESENTER. What canst do and what canst cure ? DOCTOR All sorts of diseases, Just what my physic pleases; The itch, the stitch, the palsy and the gout, Pains within and pains without; If the devil is in, I can fetch him out. I have a little bottle by my side; The fame of it spreads far and wide. The stuff therein is elecampane; It will bring the dead to life again. A drop on his head, a drop on his heart. Rise up, bold fellow, and take thy part. [SLASHER rises] [Enter BIG HEAD]
BIG HEAD In come I, as ain't been yet, With my big head and little wit, My head so big, my wit so small, I will dance a jig to please you all. [Dance and Song ad libitum] [Enter BEELZEBUB] BEELZEBUB In come I, old Beelzebub. On my shoulder I carry a club, In my hand a dripping-pan. Don't you think I'm a jolly old man? [Enter JOHNNY JACK] JOHNNY JACK In come I, little Johnny Jack, With my wife and family at my back, My family's large and I am small, A little, if you please, will help us all. [Enter DEVIL DOUT] DEVIL DOUT In come I, little Devil Dout; If you don't give me money, I'll sweep you out. Money I want and money I crave; If you don't give me money, I'll sweep you to the grave.