Winn Readhead's Book

Plough Jag Connections

PHOTO CAPTION: The Burton upon Stather Plough Jags Circa 1920
The band was identified in the late sixties as follows :
Left to right :- Hobby Horse, the late Alfred Chafer; Rag Fool, the late John Maddison   Besom Bettie, Arthur Arrand now living in Scunthorpe; Drummer, Osbourne Readhead, living in Scotland; Clown in white hat, George Render living in Scunthorpe: Music player with Melodeon, Robert Marshall of Normanby; Doctor with top hat, John Crawshaw of Burton;  Pretty Hatman, Hewlet Houldridge of Scunthorpe; Relief music man in uniform, Harry  Ashley:  Soldier,  Harry  Cox  now  in  Canada; Algie Ashley, dressed as a lady and Hobby Horse, Rowland Readhead.

Due to family upheavals I lost contact with my father after 1945 and never got to talk to him about the ”old days”. He died in 1971 but fortunately he left some of his memories in writing as he was interviewed by local newspapers on a number of occasions.  In one such interview in the 60's he tells of the Burton Stather Plough Jags. There was a tradition in the family of Plough Jag participation, as his father, grandfather and other distant relations had all been involved.  It was therefore quite natural for my father (Rowland Winn Readhead) and his younger brother (Osbourne Paris Readhead) should carry on this tradition.

In 1914, at the age of 14, he joined the “big gang” and continued until the regular meetings ceased, around 1924 he thought, though he wasn't sure.  He was sure however about the details of Plough Jag Monday, always the Monday nearest to January 7th.

The Band of about 20  set off at 8-00 in the morning with the first stop at Thealby followed by Coleby, West Halton and Winteringham, then to Winterton. Mr Sawyer of Winterton Hall gave them 10 shillings (fifty pence) and then it was on to Roxby and Bagmoor.  At 6-30 they would be at Normanby Hall where Sir Berkeley Sheffield also donated 10 shillings and the band obliged by dancing with his servants.

My father said they were always welcome wherever they went. People wanted to hear the music and the older people were especially disappointed if the band failed to call.  Many regarded the “Jaggers” as lucky and everywhere they went they were offered food and drink.

Rowland Winn Readhead 1962. Plough Jagger, step dancer, Bones player, sometimes danced for a gallon of ale.

As far as he could remember he had never known any one's garden to be ploughed up. No one refused us he reasoned.

As well as wishing everyone a happy new year, making music and leaving everyone happy, the “Jaggers” purpose behind the money raising activities was to pay for a supper the following week. This was held at the inn at the bottom of the Stather (Ferry House).

My father recalled one particular Jag when the whole of the takings at one village were lost. They were surprised on entering the village to find that no one was giving any money.  Eventually someone told them that two cheeky young boys dressed as Plough Jags had been about two hundred yards in front collecting for themselves.  He bemoaned the passing of such customs and that they had been allowed to die, but he said, “I suppose we must accept the march of progress.

Burton upon Stather Plough jags 1907, possibly taken at the foot of Stather Hill at the junction with Chafer Lane, Two of the characters identified are; kneeling with Melodeon Bob Marshall, sitting with drum, Lawrence his brother. I like to think that my Grandfather (Winn) might be hidden there in the guise of Hobby Horse.

In 1998 my wife Jean and I decided to visit Prague to soak up the unspoiled architecture and enjoy the Christmas Market. The journey was a long one by coach but with frequent stops and an overnight break, fatigue was kept to a minimum.  During these breaks we got to know many of our travelling companions.

However one of these, a gentleman travelling alone, never came within our orbit the whole of the holiday, until we were on our way home.  At the overnight stop in Germany we were a little late down for dinner and we sat down in the first available seats, to find ourselves next to the mysterious gentleman.  He quickly introduced himself as Brian Dawson, a retired music teacher from the Lincoln area.

PHOTO CAPTION:  Brian Dawson, village hall 2004

His great passion, I learned, was folk music especially from Lincolnshire and he travelled around collecting the remnants of folk-lore and music from all over the county. I told of my interest in Percy Grainger that great collector of Lincolnshire folk music and so we got on famously.

Brian asked me where I came from and on hearing that it was Burton upon Stather he said that he had visited the village once when researching the Plough Jags.  He was directed to the place by Harry Ashley of Scunthorpe (an old Plough Jagger).  He went on to say the he and Harry had visited an old gentleman in Burton by the name of Rowland Readhead in 1966! Well you can imagine my surprise, I nearly fell off my chair, here in the middle of Germany I was talking to to someone who had met and talked to my father.

That was some coincidence and, but for being late for dinner, we may never have spoken to each other.  Brian went on to say that my father was suffering from bronchitis but he and Harry chatted about the old days in the Plough Jags even though they hadn't seen each other for fifty years.  My father said that he should talk to his brother Osbourne who would be able to tell him more.  Osbourne however lived in Scotland so it wasn't until 1976 when Osbourne was in Ashby on a visit that Bob Pacey talked to him.  Uncle Osbourne remembered two of the Burton Plough Jag tunes; one was a dance called “Over The Brush” whilst the other was a processional  played during the march from village to village. Bob Pacey wrote these down as my uncle whistled them.

Brian entertained the travellers in the hotel after dinner but unfortunately my wife and I had gone out for a walk and so missed the treat.  However on the coach the next day, on hearing that we had missed his performance, he sang my wife and I two songs just for us. They were “The Humber Belle” and “Nodding at the Wall”.

That coincidental meeting rekindled my interest in the Plough Jags and gave me a great respect for Brian Dawson and his work to preserve Lincolnshire folk-lore.

­­­­­­Some of the old Plough Jag music from the Burton upon Stather band, which was saved when Bob Pacey recorded and transcribed the tunes whistled by my uncle Osbourne at Ashby in 1976. In 2004 Brian Dawson wrote a fragment of it down for me and played it in the Burton village hall.

Transcribers note: I have notated this music in Noteworthy Composer, a shareware package. In Bar 4 the original scan on the Coleby Plough Jag website has some notes missed off. I have entered some notes using information provided in kind by Steve Hindley.

The Coleby Plough Jags
On joining the Burton upon Stather Local History Association in 2003 I pursued one of our aims, which was to bring the history to the people of the village.

With that in mind, I contacted Brian Dawson and he kindly agreed to perform for us in the village hall, the accent being on Lincolnshire.  This took place on 22nd March 2004, to a packed appreciative audience.  Brian was superb and he linked his songs with stories about their origins and folk-lore including the Plough Jags and his meeting with my father.  The icing on the cake was when he played those two old Plough Jag tunes which Uncle Osbourne had whistled to Bob Pacey all those years before.

PHOTO CAPTION: A rustic Dorothy Clark with Brian Dawson at the village hall 22nd March 2004

In conversation with Brian, he mentioned the revival Plough Jag troupe based in Scunthorpe.  This lead me to Steve Hindley and an invitation for the Coleby Plough Jags to also perform for us in the village hall.  This took place on the 27th April 2005 to another enthusiastic packed house.  Still wanting more I made sure that I caught their performance of 2005 and 2006 at the “Lions Head” in Winterton.

Steve Smith of the Ferry House Inn, aware of the historic connections between his establishment and the Plough Jags, asked me if I could help arrange a visit by the Coleby Plough Jags in spring 2006.  With the help of Steve Hindley and the goodwill of the troupe this was arranged and took place on the 6th May 2006.  This venue was most appropriate as it was from this place that the old Burton Plough Jag band set off and where they held their celebratory supper paid for by collections on route.

PHOTO CAPTION LEFT:  THE COLEBY PLOUGH JAGS Burton upon Stather village hall April 27th 2005
PHOTO CAPTION RIGHT:  THE COLEBY PLOUGH JAGS At the “Lions Head” Winterton January 2006 Foreground Steve Hindley “Old Joe Straw”

I am sure that my father would be surprised and pleased to know that he and his old Plough Jag mates were still remembered in spite of the march of progress.

PHOTO CAPTION:  THE COLEBY PLOUGH JAGS The Ferry House Inn, Burton Stather 6th May 2006

Transcriber note:
L-R Old Joe Straw, Steve Hindley: Beelzebub, Dave Barlow, Rag Fool, Eamon Greene; Hatman, Chris Marshall; Old 'Oss, Jim Hancock? The Doctor, Geoff Miller.

We are now hopeful that the Ferry House Inn can be included in the band's regular calling places in future commencing in January 2007. Transcribers note: This has proved to be the case up to present (Dec 2014).

One of my earliest memories is that of my older brothers and their friends dressing up in “fancy Dress”, some blacking up their faces, performing what they called the “Plough Jag”. This involved parading round the village calling at various houses and all the time playing “music” on a variety of instruments.  The object was to cajole money from anyone who unwisely opened the door.  The younger ones like myself followed them, copying their actions and not having any idea what it was all about.  Soon the young men went to war, the old men died and we found new games to play.

Winn Readhead
Extract from his book “Stather Chapter and Verse”, February 2013

Transcribed by Chris Marshall, 1st December 2014
Brian Dawson sadly passed away 22nd November 2013 after suffering a heart attack during a performance at Howsham village hall on 9th November 2013