|Where:||Handsworth, Sheffield and other locations|
|When:||26th December Boxing Day and around Christmas time|
The Derby Tup is also known as Old Tup or the Derby Ram and is a mumming play associated with house visiting customs around Christmas time in the Sheffield area. The Tup is similar to the Hooden Horse in construction – a head on a pole with snapping jaws and rams horns, held by an operator covered by a cloth to represent the body. The play is accompanied by the singing of the widespread old folk song “The Derby Ram” and is the story of how the ram is butchered and made into useful and desirable items for the local people to use. Other characters include his keeper and Beelzebub and Little Devil Doubt who solicit for donations with menaces!
The play is enacted by more than one group – we saw the Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers perform it at their Boxing Day dance so those are the details included in the table. It was a spirited performance which terrorised small children and we loved it!! They usually put on a mumming play with the sword dancing – if you’re partcularly keen to see this one, double check with them first (link below). In 2014 they performed the Tup on 3rd December at Thurlstone and the Sword Play on Boxing Day before the Sword Dance.
Some aspects of the play are very similar to Poor Old Hoss in Richmond (see separate article for details) including the tune of the song – so if you like one, you’ll enjoy the other.
The Derby Ram song is used all year ’round but the play is usually performed only around Christmas time. Not long ago (early this century) it was considered to be almost extinct so its survival is to be celebrated!
Click here for the Handsworth Traditional Sword Dancers website: http://www.handsworthsworddancers.org.uk/
Click here to find other mumming groups who may perform the play : http://www.mastermummers.org/
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