Pace Egg play
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The Pace Egg Plays are traditional village plays, with a rebirth theme, in which St George smites all challengers and the fool, Toss Pot, rejoices. The drama takes the form of a combat between the hero and villain, in which the hero is killed and brought to life, often by a quack doctor.
The plays take place in England during Easter; indeed, the word 'Pace' comes from the old English word 'pasch' literally meaning 'Easter'. They are a tradition that was once widespread throughout England, but is now only practiced in a few areas, particularly Lancashire and West Yorkshire.
Many Pace Egg plays died out after the Great War, when many of the men who took part in them were killed in action. In Middleton, North Manchester, Pace Egging (performing the Pace Egg Play) was revived in 1967. The Bury Pace Eggers were revived in 1969, and still perform in pubs and squares around the town and surrounding villages on the weekend before Easter.
The plays have also enjoyed a remarkable renaissance in Heptonstall, West Yorkshire in recent decades. The origins are uncertain, but some version of the plays have undoubtedly been performed over many hundreds of years. It has become an established Good Friday tradition, and hundreds come to Weavers Square to watch. In the play St George takes on contenders such as Bold Slasher, the Black Prince of Paradine and Hector.
The costumes — in particular the strange headgear comprising a towering edifice garlanded with flowers, peculiar to the Calder Valley — are as much a part of the fun as the action, where violent sword fights predominate but, as ever, good triumphs over evil.
Middleton Pace Egg Play
2011 sees the forty fifth consecutive year of the Middleton Play. Performancees take place in pubs throughout the town on Easter Monday, commencing at The Dusty Miller at 12.30pm and then every half hour at 'Last Orders' (formerly The Old Roebuck, the Britannia Inn, 'Harbord Harbord' (Wetherspoons), Assheton Arms, Old Boar's Head, and culminating in a final outdoor performance at the Ring o' Bells, at approximately 3.30pm (all times and venues subject to alteration).
After the last performance children take part in another ancient tradition, symbolising the rolling away of the stone from Christ's Tomb, when they roll their decorated (hard-boiled) eggs on the hill of the Parish Church of St Leonard. Although cast members come and go over the years, the current line-up have over 150 years of participation between them. The characters in the Middleton play are (in order of appearance) Captain Slasher, The King of England, St George, The Turkish Champion, The Doctor, The Female Clown (a.k.a. Miss Kitty Fair) Beelzebub and finally little Derry Doubt. There is also a large black horse, with rolling eyes and swivelling ears who, although not actually a traditional element in Middleton, nevertheless lends a certain something to the proceedings, and has even been known to dance!
The Midgley Pace Egg Play
As well as the senior adult performance, Calder High School itself performs a version of the play. The school performs the Midgley version of the play and it has become a big tradition within the school, and it has become a highly popular event with the Calder Valley public.
The school has performed to the Calder Valley now for over 50 years and the tradition still lives on to this present day. The play is rehearsed and choreographed by the students themselves so that they can make the performance their own and so that they can work outside the usual boundaries of a school drama lesson.
The line up in 2010 included Billy Painter (Who is also chief Editor of The Painter's Chronicle) as The Fool, Dario Coates as St George, Sam Harris as Bold Slasher, Jack Deighton as The Doctor, Rowan Carter as The black prince of Paradine, Jacob Jones as The king Of Egypt, Joe Cotton as Hector, Desmond as Toss Pott. And Clara Collet and Jess Woodhead as Directors.
The 2011 performance had Billy Painter as Saint George, Rowan Carter as The Black Prince (It is those two last year of being able to do Pace Egg), Jack Deighton as The Fool, Sam Harris as Bold Slasher, Joe Cotton as Hector, Tom Jennings as Toss Pot and James Kay as The Doctor and last and least Sol Cotton as King Of Egypt. The performance included a meeting in battle of the Calder High Black Prince and the seniors' Black Prince played by father and son.
The 2013 paceegg is currently being run by Tom Jennings (Who has played Toss Pot for 2 years) and Jack Deighton (who has played The Doctor and for the last 2 years has played The Fool).
Pace Egg Quotes
- "For pray you remember...tis pace egging time" - The Fool
- "Mince Pies hot, Mince Pies cold, I'll send thee to Black Sam before thou is nine days old" - St George/Hector
- "Cursed Christian!" - King of Egypt
- Cass, E. The Pace-Egg Plays of the Calder Valley, London: FLS Books, 2004.
- Cass, E. The Lancashire Pace-Egg Play, A Social History, London: FLS Books, 2001.
- Jennings, B. Pennine Valley: History of Upper Calderdale Dalesman Publishing Co Ltd, 1992.
- Calderdale Council: The pace egg play
- The Rochdale Observer 1909:The Pace Egg and its origin No such article found on this page October 28, 2012
- Digital Tradition: The pace-egging song