John Davies - Reflections

Swansea, November 1997

    A couple of years ago I reached the threshold age of 40 and my wife, Sue, in her infinite wisdom, decided to supply my work colleagues with the most incriminating photographs of me in my former youth. These were duly enlarged and posted at all public parts of my office block in Swansea University, where I now work. For some strange reason, a number of these photographs captured me dressed up in women's clothing with an alarming amount of make-up on. Now, I have tried to explain to them that I was playing various female roles in a North Lincolnshire mumming play which was and still is performed annually in my home town of Scunthorpe, but for some reason, they just wanted to draw their own conclusion!

    I look back fondly on the time in the mid to late seventies, when I took part in the Plough Jag, I was cast either in the role of Besom Betty or The Lady, and this was my first encounter with wearing dresses (honestly officer!). I have to say that a great time was had by all, and for the benefit of such a good cause (The Mencap Charity), Never has a folk tradition been re-enacted with such alarming vim and vigour, and given that the original intent of the performance was for the plough lads to collect cash to buy themselves some ale, our re-enactment was extremely realistic, certainly with regards to the purchase and downing of beer (all be it from our own resources).

    I recall quite well (surprisingly enough) the time we performed the plough-Jag at the Festival of the Little Pea in Scunthorpe's twin town of Clamart, in the suburbs of Paris. Our performance took place as part of the opening ceremony and I am not quite sure what they made of it all. This strange bunch of people with blackened or painted faces bursting forth in a dastardly display of diphthong. For those locals who thought they had mastered the English language, I guess we may have well have come from the planet Zog, given our thick impenetrable North Lincolnshire accents.

    “In cums I, 'ol Besom Betty, to wash yer floors and scrub yer petty".


    I look back fondly (but sometimes slightly nervously) at the time in the...