Bridport & West Dorset News, Views, Videos & Curiosities

A tribute to Bill Bartlett, Symondsbury Mummer

BILL BARTLETT, a great Dorsetman, passed away in late July 2011.

I was privileged to shoot an interview with him at Eype on the Dorset coast about his involvement with the Symondsbury Mummers – how the tradition was revived in 1950 and particularly about the film of the Mummers made by the late Peter Kennedy in 1952.

Bill was simply brilliant company and to meet him was to feel that you had known him for years: a very special person to many, many people.

“Singing the Travels” – the song associated with the Symondsbury Mummers – is played on melodeon by the late Peter Kennedy.

This material is drawn from the Trilith production, “Walk in Room”.

Editor’s Note: John Holman runs Transition Vision, the online TV service for Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire.

You can see the 21st century incarnation of the Symondsbury Mummers here.

Peter Kennedy – writing in the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, in 1952 – reported being knocked sideways when he first saw the Symondsbury Mummers perform.

‘”Magnificent young lads of sixteen and seventeen, over six feet, took the parts of the warriors and looked like giants in their tall conical hats.

“I found that they had learnt their parts entirely by word of mouth from uncles, fathers and grandfathers.”

The text of the Symondsbury Mummers Play is reproduced, with a short but good introduction, in A Dorset Christmas (Tempus, 2005), compiled by Fran and Geoff Doel.

St George: “Come, give me leave, I’ll thee battle, / And quickly make thy bones to rattle.”

It’s bloodthirsty but entertaining…