God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen


By Jon Wilks

“The merry time of Christmas is drawing on a-pace…”, and so I’m delighted to share with you this Birmingham-related recording of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” [Roud 394], taken from my forthcoming album, “Up The Cut”. You can listen to (and download) the track via my Bandcamp page now, and via various streaming platforms from December 1st.

Pre-save “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” on Spotify by clicking here. You will be notified via the Spotify app when it becomes available.

I found this broadside version of the well-known carol on the Broadside Ballads website. Printed by D. Wrighton at 86 Snow Hill, Birmingham, sometime between 1812-30, it contains lyrics I don’t recognise from my school days. Throwing down Satan wasn’t a major part of Yuletide festivities in 1980s Solihull, as far as I recall.

Sure, it’s a bit cheesy to do a Christmas song, but I feel it’s something of a Midlands tradition. If Slade can do it, then I’ll have a bash, too. This one’s for Noddy. Oi, oi!

Huge thanks to Andi Lee of Kosi Studios, who has helped me to mix and master this track, and the remainder of the tracks on “Up The Cut”. It’s hard to listen to your own music even once, let alone a hundred times over, so I’m very grateful to Andi for his help (and to Tom Moore for his help in demoing the track to begin with). Thanks also to Jon Nice for the lovely linocut cover.

Here’s to having as peaceful and restful a Christmas as 2020 will allow. Good tidings of the season to each and every one of you.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Lyrics

God rest ye merry gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember Christ our saviour
Was born on Christmas Day
To save our souls from Satan’s thrall
Which long have gone astray
This brings tidings of comfort and joy


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Love Actually: The tearjerking love scene deleted from classic Christmas romcom

It’s the festive season, which always brings with it seemingly endless repeats of Love Actually on the box.

But while many of us have seen Richard Curtis’ romcom enough times to know all the words, including those on Andrew Lincoln’s soppy placards, few know of the highly emotional storyline about an older lesbian couple that ended up on the cutting room floor.

The relationship was between the headmistress (Anne Reid) at the school attended by Karen’s (Emma Thompson) son and her terminally ill partner Geraldine (Frances de la Tour).

The audience was supposed to see a moving scene in which the pair bicker over their differing tastes in fancy sausages and display wicked senses of humours, before cuddling up at night.

It is later revealed during a school assembly that Geraldine died shortly before Christmas [ . . . ]

Source: Love Actually: The tearjerking lesbian love scene deleted from classic Christmas romcom | The Independent

The Wren Boy Procession and the Irish tradition of St Stephen’s Day

Ireland marks Christmas in much the same way as many other nations around the world, but we have quite a few traditions and customs that are pretty specific to this island.

Ireland marks Christmas in much the same way as many other nations around the world, but we have quite a few traditions and customs that are pretty specific to this island.
Christmas in Ireland lasts from Christmas Eve until the Feast of the Epiphany on 6 January and it’s on 24 December that one of the traditions marks the beginning of the festive season.
For example, after sunset on Christmas Eve a tall candle is placed on the sill of the largest window in the home and lit as a sign of welcome for St Mary and St Joseph.
The feast of St Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is marked on 26 December and in Ireland is often referred to as Lá Fhéile Stiofáin or Lá an Dreoilín or Wren Day. Traditionally, this is also a popular day for visiting family members and going to the theatre to see a pantomime
The name alludes to several legends including ones found in Irish mythology that link the life of Jesus to the wren bird. In a fading tradition in all but a few parts of Ireland, people dress up in old clothes and straw garments and travel from door to door carrying fake wrens during which those taking part sing, dance and play music.
Dependent on which region of Ireland you are in those taking part are called either “wrenboys” or mummers. Mummers carry on the tradition at the village of New Inn, Co Galway and Dingle, Co Kerry. In the North, the tradition is still often observed in Co Fermanagh.
The tradition has its roots in ancient Ireland when a real wren was killed and carried around in a holly bush tied to a long pole – these days fake birds are used.
The wren is one of the smallest birds in Ireland, but it has a very loud song and is sometimes called the “king of all birds.”
This is because of the legend of a little wren who rode on the top of an eagle’s head and boasted he had “flown higher than an eagle.”
Wrens were hunted for many years throughout Europe in medieval times with Ireland no exception to that.
In most parts of the island, the tradition died out in the early 20th century and the rhyme often used during the procession was “The wren, the wren, the king of all birds. On St. Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze. Although he was little his honor was great. Jump up me, lads, and give us a treat.”
In past times, the captured wren was tied to the wrenboy leader’s staff or a net would be put on a pitchfork. It would be sometimes cruelly kept alive, as the popular mummers’ parade song states “A penny or tuppence would do it no harm.”
The song, of which there are many variations, asked for donations from the townspeople. One variation sung in Edmondstown, County Dublin ran as such: “If you haven’t a penny a halfpenny will do. If you haven’t a halfpenny, God bless you!”
Often the boys gave a feather from the bird to patrons for good luck. The money was used to host a dance or “Wren Ball” for the town on a night in January.

Source: The Wren Boy Procession and the Irish tradition of St Stephen’s Day – Derry Now