THE latest book from Colin Andrews of Morchard Bishop, near Crediton, is titled "Mumming in Devon Past and Present".

It contains the scripts of 12 traditional plays that were collected up to the early 1950s from people who remembered taking part in such performances many years earlier.

Those who took part in Sidmouth Mummers Play.
Those who took part in Sidmouth Mummers Play. (C Andrews)

The Mumming genre is still very much alive, and the book contains more than a dozen more recent texts from plays introduced and adapted from elsewhere in the UK.

It also contains some original scripts featuring local legends, historical or recent events.

Within the Crediton postal area, for example, there are plays from Sandford, Bow and Morchard Bishop.

Colin explained: "Mumming is the name given to a ritual drama that traditionally involves combat between good and evil forces, death and  resurrection.

"There is often also some comic element which usually involves a doctor.

"Written references to mumming in Devon go back to at least the 17th century but the origins are almost certainly very much older.  

From the latter part of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century Mumming Plays were recorded from several locations in Devon, in most cases from the memory of persons who had taken part many years earlier.

"During the past 60 years various groups, including Devon-based Morris sides, have revived these plays, or reconstructed them where the historical records were incomplete.

More recently a number of new plays in the mumming genre have been produced, inspired by Devon legends, notable people with a Devon connection, or some topical events.

"'Devon Mumming Past And Present' seeks to provide a practical source of reference for traditional and contemporary mumming plays in the county.

"It is not intended to be an academic treatise, although there are references to such studies that have been made.

"The first part of the book covers the recovery, adaptation and performance of ‘traditional’ scripts from Ashburton, Bovey Tracey, Bow, Dartington, Lympstone, Sidmouth, Silverton, and Tiverton, and some other fragments.

"This is followed by texts used in Devon but clearly based on plays from other parts of the country, and by plays newly created by active Devon groups that include, among other topics, the  Franken’s Nights legend and Tom Pearse’s Grey Mare. 

"The play scripts are supplemented by music notation where songs are included in the performance, and by photographs of the mumming troupes where possible.

"A reference section is included at the end for anyone wishing to delve deeper into the tradition of mumming in Devon."

Colin added: "For my own part I've taken part in Mummers plays at University, in Sussex (the Steyning Mummers Play with Chanctonbury Ring Morris), in Devon with Exeter Morris, a version of the Sidmouth Play and with Winkleigh Morris in the Franken's Nights plays, and in his home village of Morchard Bishop.

Colin Andrews has been actively involved for more than 50 years with many different aspects of folk traditions.

The book is available for £12 + £3.50 postage direct from Colin though his website: . It may also be ordered through The Bookery in Crediton.

The ISBN is 978-1-3999-5733-5.