John Baker's Notes

November 1997       

    The first time I heard about the Plough-Jag was during one of our visits to Coleby in the autumn of 1972. We had probably been to a nearby pub, or maybe brought a bottle or two to Mo Ogg’s house, when Mo mentioned performing the play in January of the following year.

    He had collected bits and pieces of plough plays from members of past plough teams in the area, but did not know anyone who knew the whole play. Mo put the present play together in the way he thought made some sort of sense. Stuart Smith was going to be the recruiting sergeant, but when it came closer to the date he was told by Hepworths, his employer at the time, that he could not have the day off work, so John Walker took over the part and made the role his own for more than ten years.

    Mo usually gave the appearance of being very laid back about the way the jag, which was in effect his creation, was being performed, but seemed to guide us very quietly from the side lines to bring the play to his required standard.

    It is to his credit that the play has continued these past twenty-five years. One compliment from an old friend of ours who used our local pub, for me was the best accolade, he remembered the plough-jag from his youth and remarked “you lads have got that plough-jag just about right”, the only reservation he had was about the inclusion of ladies in the team. In my view this was a minor detail. The ladies, as far as I can remember was part of the present play until the middle to late eighties.

    When the first plough-jag was being prepared, Dave Markham took on the job of PR /media contact and wrote to Yorkshire television and the BBC. One afternoon in December 1972 there was a knock at Dave’s door in Healey Road, and when Dave answered it; there was Marilyn Webb off the Calendar programme. She got the background of the play from Dave and said they wanted to do a short piece in Calendar news. On the day they duly turned up to do interviews, filming, and the like. So did the BBC.

    It did become hectic with Mo and Dave moving between Marilyn Webb and the BBC man, but Calendar did a better report, based on the extra research they had done. The only mistake they made was when Richard Whitely introduced it as the COLDY plough-jag.

    The first time the jag was performed was on the actual Plough Monday, the nearest to 6th January. One of the team members was approached by someone who had organised a pensioner’s party at Riddings Community centre on the Monday prior to the planned performance on the Friday.

    The Monday performance was a dress rehearsal and the audience was brilliant, there were many of the old folks who remembered the original teams touring the area, one old lady in particular was terrified of the Hobby Horse, apparently she had been frightened of the horse when as a child.

    When the Jag went to Clamart in 1976 for the town twinning ceremony, some of us went up the Eiffel Tower on the Sunday morning; Dave Barlow, Ralph Tomlins, and John Davies were among the party. John Davies had his mandolin and I had a whistle with me. After a walk up the tower and a final lift to the top level, John and I played “Harvest Home”, after which I remarked that it must make us the top musicians in Paris. Ralph Tomlins then gave us a centime and said that must make us the highest paid musicians in Paris.  

    During the mid-seventies some of the team suggested performing the jag on Saturday rather than Friday because it would have not involved taking time off work and we would probably collect more money. The drawback would be missing the performance at schools, which posed the question “What do we do on Saturday morning?” One of the team remembered that Saturday was market day in Gainsborough and the pubs opened at 10am, so it was decided to start in Gainsborough. John Walker arranged for us to collect for the Gainsborough branch of Mencap. They supplied the collecting tins and an excellent spread of tea, coffee, cakes and buns.