For it’s your wassail
And it’s our, our wassail
And I’m jolly come to our jolly wassail…
These are the words to the chorus of the Drayton Wassail: a recording can be found on Topic Records’ Voice of the People Vol. 13 – They Ordered Their Pints of Beer and Bottles of Sherry. Drayton is a village on the Somerset Levels, not far from Hambridge, where Cecil Sharp was staying with his friend, the radical priest Charles Marson, in September 1903, and where he heard Marson’s gardener, John “Jack” England, sing “The Seeds of Love”, thus beginning the folk song revival, and his work as a collector.
When I was a kid I would often visit the area with my parents, and one of its most colourful characters was a Drayton resident named Charlie Showers, who would tell me ghost stories, and every January would sing the wassail around the village. The story was that, one year, he was the only person to turn up, and made his way from house to house, with no one else to share the liquid refreshment on offer!
Here is a recording, from the British Library sound archive, of Charlie and his wife in 1972, in which they talk about Charles Marson and Cecil Sharp: