Bodmin Wassail songs
The first song is sung as the Wassailers arrive. The verses are not always sung in this order, or indeed all of them sung at each stop. It is possible that in the chorus the word Johnney was originally 'joy', as in most wassails, but this is how Bodmin Wassail inherited the song.
The old song is sung as they leave, sometimes in its entirety, and sometimes just the last verse and chorus. It has been around and sung, in either complete or truncated form, since at least the late 19th century, according to the late Wassailer Tom Green, Snr. A printed copy of the song was carried around on Wassail night. This copy was believed to have been lost until it came into the possession of Vic Legg in the mid 1970s via his colleague Vic Barratt. His father, Vic Barratt, Snr, had been a Wassailer for a short period in the 1940s and passed it down to his son. See an image of the manuscript, titled Wassail, in the Photos section.
Charlie Wilson was one of the Wassailers for about 20 years. In 1980, he suddenly sang a little wassail song, saying he had learnt it in St Columb Boys' Home in 1910. He was a "foundling" and had been in their care. It is possible that the song was the St Columb Wassail. Two years after he shared it, he died.
All the Wassailers have music in their lives in some way, and there are a number of personal favourites – from pop classics to folk standards – that have become part of the day's singing. Cornish classic Camborne Hill is one, folk ballad White Rose another. Roger Miller's King of the Road also makes a regular appearance.
The first song
For singing Wassail, Wassail, Wassail,
And Johnney come to our jolly Wassail.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Pockets of money and a cellar of beer.
If Master and Mistress be sitting at ease,
Put your hands in your pockets and give what you please.
If Master and Mistress are both wide awake,
Please go to the cupboard and bring us some cake.
Here comes a ship out in full sail,
Ploughs the wide ocean in many a gale.
If you've got an apple I hope you've got 10,
To make some sweet cider 'gainst we comes again.
Come knock on the knocker and ring on the bell,
I hope you'll reward us for singing Wassail.
Charlie Wilson's song
Call up the butler of this house, put on his redding ring,
Please bring us out a piece of cake, and the better we will sing,
We are not daily beggars, that beg from door to door,
But we are labour's children, who you have seen before,
We've got a little purse made of stretching leather skin,
We want a little of your money, to bind it well within,
Good Master, and good Mistress, who are sitting by the fire,
Just think of us poor children, who are wandering through the mire.
The old song
Wassail, Wassail, Wassail, Wassail,
I am joy, come to our jolly Wassail.
This is our merry night,
For choosing King and Queen,
Then be it your delight,
That something may be seen,
In our Wassail.
Is there any butler here?
Or dweller in this house,
I hope he’ll take a full carouse,
And enter to our bowl,
In our Wassail.
We fellows are all poor,
Can’t buy no house nor land,
Unless we do gain,
In our Wassail.
Our Wassail bowl to fill,
With apples and good spice,
Then grant us your good will,
To taste here, once or twice,
Of our Wassail.
So now we must be gone,
To seek for more good cheer,
Where bounty will be shown,
As we have found it here,
In our Wassail
As sung by Lar Cann in 2005. Words compiled from analogue recordings (1979 - 1989) of Tommy Green Snr and the printed manuscript in the possession of Vic Legg.