The Galoshans Play (Inverclyde 2016)

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The Galoshans Play

Being a new adaptation o f the traditional play to be performed around the houses on Hallo ween, New Year and various special o ccasions

by Magic Torch

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 created a new version of the Galoshans play for you, your friends and family to perform. It contains all the essential elements of the play - a fight, a death, a resurrection by The Doctor, but it uses characters and events from Inverclyde folklore in some of the roles, and lines and lyrics from ballads and folktales associated with them. There’s a few new local references as well. But the point is really for you to take this version, and in performing it, to make it your own. This version also contains elements of the “Helensburgh” play, which is the most complete text we could find which was nearest to Greenock geographically. Clearly that does not mean it is definitely the one that was performed here, 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). We’d love to see or hear about any versions of the play that might be performed. You can contact us via our blog, Tales of the Oak. Rise Galoshans, and fight again. 1

A Greeno ck Galoshans Play Dramatis Personae Presenter

A narrator and friend to the audience.

Granny Kempock

Silent co-presenter. Grumpy witch with broom.


A national hero and recent visitor to the area.

Auld Dunrod

A local warlock of legend.

Doctor Brown

The best old Doctor in the town

Captain Kidd

An out of context pirate. Late.

PRESENTER and GRANNY KEMPOCK enter PRESENTER Make room! Make room! Make room to give us sport Me and Granny Kempock Do come here and resort To share a tale of ancient times Of heroes bold And dodgy rhymes. Silent and stern faced GRANNY sweeps with broom, occasionally attempting to sweep away audience members WALLACE Here comes I, bold Wallace, as you can clearly see. Back from old Port Glasgow, where they tied me to a tree. PRESENTER They tied you to a tree? 2

WALLACE Aye. A really big one. Took me ages to get away. And the buses are murder this time of the day I had to walk all the way down the Clune Brae. PRESENTER Ye don’t say. WALLACE But here I am, a noble Knight Who spent his blood for Scotland’s right, DUNROD enters DUNROD Here comes I, Auld Dunrod. I stack a pin in the wa’ And whenever I want my neighbours milk I just gied the pin a thraw. PRESENTER Stealing milk by magic eh? DUNROD I milkit the Laird of Kellie’s kye An a’ the kye of Dunoon Yes, Auld Dunrod gat far mair milk That wad mak a gabbert swim. PRESENTER That’s a lot of milk. WALLACE (drawing his sword) Witchcraft!


DUNROD You dare to challenge Auld Dunrod? A warlock of ill fame My magic sword held by my side I hope to win the game! WALLACE 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. DUNROD Says you. WALLACE Says I. DUNROD Come ahead well. WALLACE and DUNROD commence sword fight. PRESENTER This is like the taxi queue at Word Up. WALLACE is slain and dies melodramatically. WALLACE I may die, but you will never take my freedom. Because I will formally decline the offer in a democratic election. DUNROD Oh no! What have I done! I’ve killed my mothers only son!


GRANNY starts sweeping around WALLACE’s corpse. PRESENTER Here lies bold Wallace? Murdered by Auld Dunrod! A doctor! A doctor! Ten pounds for a doctor. To help him out by God! DUNROD / GRANNY / CROWD (chanting) Here is he. Here is he. Here is he. DOCTOR Here am I old Doctor Brown The best old Doctor in the town. DUNROD How far have you travelled? DOCTOR I’ve been up round the Gibby And down through the Strone And into Greenock cemetery To dig up lots of bones. DUNROD What have you seen? DOCTOR I’ve seen an old man who talks to cats A mermaid, a goblin, And a ghost with two hats. DUNROD What can you cure? DOCTOR All sorts. 5

DUNROD What sorts of all sorts? DOCTOR The reel, the rout, The skitter, the scout, The ringworm and the scurvy. I’ve pills and potions Balms and lotions To cure yer topsy turvy. DUNROD Good Doctor would... DOCTOR (warming to theme and interrupting) The itch, the pitch, The palsy and the gout If a man has nineteen devils in his head I’ll cast twenty one of them out. DUNROD (working out this magical feat on his fingers) Right. Well. You sound like the very person for the job! How much will ye take to cure a dead man back to life? DOCTOR Cure him back to life? That’s pretty specialist work. Is he long dead? DUNROD I just killed him there. So, a wee minute or two. DOCTOR’s actually easier if they’ve been dead for ages. Fresh dead and back to life costs a bit more. 6

DUNROD How much? DOCTOR Twenty pounds. DUNROD No chance. DOCTOR Okay ten. There’s a special offer on this week. DUNROD Do I look minted? DUNROD Maybe Wallace has some cash in his pocket. PRESENTER I wouldn’t bother, he’s been tied to a tree in Port Glasgow for a week, he’s rooked. DOCTOR Five? DUNROD Could ye do it on tick? DOCTOR How about for nothing? DUNROD I knew you were the man for the job! Now bring back the Wallace - who I never should have killed. DOCTOR Granny! Do you have any of yer herbal remedies with you? 7

GRANNY brings over a huge doctors bag. If time allows, she and the DOCTOR attempt a number of ad-libbed cures, which do not work. DOCTOR Ah! Here’s the very thing - hoxy croxy. PRESENTER What’s hoxy croxy? DOCTOR Bog myrtle for the midgies Nettle for the sneezes Heather for your coughs and colds It cures all the worst diseases. PRESENTER Even if yer already deid? DOCTOR Especially then. DOCTOR Here Wallace, take a little out of my bottle, Let it run down thy throttle And if it be you’re not quite dead... Rise Wallace and fight again! WALLACE leaps to his feet, alive and delighted. WALLACE Once I was dead and now I’m alive Blessed be the doctor That made me to revive! WALLACE shakes DUNROD’s hand. This would be the point for a wee song if one seemed appropriate. 8

As is often traditional, a random character, who has now lost their original context, turns up right at the end of the play. Enter KIDD, a pirate, flourishing his cutlass. KIDD Here comes I, bold Captain Kidd God’s laws I did forbid And so wickedly I did When I sailed. I murdered William Moore And I laid him in his gore Many leagues from shore When I sailed. PRESENTER Yer too late. The swordfights been. KIDD Has it? Sorry about that. The buses are murder this time of the day. PRESENTER Tell ye like treasure, you can collect the money in. Lords and ladies we hope you have been Entertained by this little scene. Our Greenock Galoshan, has passed by so fast With miscreants and ne’er-do-wells From our wee town’s strange past. Remember them, remember this, remember being here And maybe you can share the play With others every year.


The Goloshans 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 to 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 marvelous 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”

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