The Warburton Souling Play -
|| An interpretation, from our perspective, of
how each evening was received.
On this page it is normal for us to give a brief
of how we got on in each venue for each evening.
The First Night - 2nd November 2009
The Gang at Larchfield House ready to
leave for the Saracen's Head
Well, another Souling season is underway. The evening started off good
enough at The Saracen’s Head and although we arrived there just as
around 10 or so people departed we still had a good contingent from
Bollin Morris as an audience. From there it was to a very quiet Axe
Cleaver, around a dozen people at most, but we'd been warned that it's
a bit erratic on a Monday so it was no surprise.
We had a wait here as we were told to be at the Wheatsheaf in Agden at
10.00 as there was a darts match on that night and that it should be
finishing about that time. Unfortunately when we got there a
considerable number of the players had departed back to their home pub.
It was still a nice atmosphere with a good number of people still
there. For a Monday night it would be classed as a good audience - it
was a little disappointing as it could have been better.
To add to this Beelzebub unfortunately was unable to acquire a drink as
he’d chosen to donate it had seen the play before so the drinks had
mysteriously vanished as he approached!
From there to the Vine in Dunham where there was a quiz on. We were
told would be finished around 10.30pm. However a similar scenario
transpired here because just as we got there at just after 10.30pm it
obvious the quiz had finished and everyone was leaving! We were left
with just the regulars at the bar who gave us a good reception and
nevertheless a good end to the evening.
So that's it for the first night, A day's rest and then we go to
Knutsford on Wednesday.
The Second Night - 4th November 2009
night: we thought we all might like to visit Knutsford, that town named
after a guy who held the tide back. As it turned out he seemed also to
have turned back the tide of visitors to the pubs as they were all very
But still, we started walking around in the rain and after
deciding The Angle was more or less empty went and performed
at the atmospheric Cross Keys on Bottom Street. Quite a good crowd
there and very appreciative of our efforts, and the Landlord was
suitably welcoming. Some good ale from a wide choice was consumed of
course, in this CAMRA rated pub.
Seeing the desertion of the streets
we then went back to The Angle and deciding it was no better went
instead to The Lord Eldon (small, cosy and warm with a nice range of
real ales....) where the numbers were down but again, welcoming with
some very interested drinkers keeping us talking about the Play
A third visit to The Angle where we decided on a quick
performance quick to the very few in the bright, cheerful and TV-strewn
pub. This was followed by the short, wet walk to The White Bear. A
really old pub, with beams to bang your heads on, which some of us felt
like doing when we were ignored by some in favour of the post Champions
League Football summaries on the plethora of TVs. The bar staff are
great here though and very friendly, so we got away with it. Advice was
given on the best time to visit and more beer here of course...
off to the last pub for the night, the Builders. This is a tiny local,
and split into two halves as you enter, but in we did enter and turned
right into the lounge where a small (again!) but enthusiastic audience
really seemed to appreciate The Play. Nice range of beers consumed
again, lovely staff ....
With thanks to The Doc
The Third Night - 5th November 2009
So to the Thursday 5th November. Offering our own inimitable
form of fireworks we went to Lymm and Urmston this night, and all
entered the spirit of The Play with great gusto, including, as our
Enterer, a blast from the past in the guise of Mr J. R. Seed who
transformed the part from excellent to excellent!
The pubs, despite the promise of duller fireworks elsewhere and the
continuing dampness around the weather regions, had far greater numbers
in than on Wednesday and in all the establishments jollity and
attention abounded in equal measure. This was to much relief of the
Gang having endured the previous Knutsford tour.
The Spread Eagle was still relatively quiet though (except for the folk
club which on this occasion we left alone.. great audience in the past,
but they sounded like they were having a good show upstairs) but
attentive. From there it was a walk to The Bull, where the
Landlord (a happy chappie!) served us Antrobus Pies after the
performance. We were pleased to eat of the meat of our fellow soulers,
and very fine pies they made... tasted like fine pork... Lovely pub
this, warm and welcoming and one we always enjoy visiting.
Then a walk down the canal side to the last of our Lymm pubs for the
night, The Saddlers. Very busy, very warm and a splendid audience which
included a very biddable real doctor and his friends. I do hope we
caused no professional disquiet as he entered into the banter most
obligingly and made the performance a memorable one. We'd
heard that the landlord was not too well at present and that
his brother was in charge, however it was very reassuring to
see the landlord propping up the end of the bar with a pint in his
hand. A very relieving sight.
Off to Urmston and the Roebuck. This was updated after a fire last year
and has a different atmosphere these days, but the folk there were
still very welcoming and interested, the landlady contributed nicely to
the collection in absentia, we all had a drink of fine ale.
And to end, The Church Inn at Flixton. Another real pub, with a new and
very gracious landlord, welcoming locals and another set of fine ales
to follow a very lively Entering and following performance.
A much better night, much jollity all round and our thanks to all the
pubs and folks involved. It felt as though we were beginning that
reassuring climb in enjoyment of our last day of Souling.
Again with thanks to The
The Fourth Night - 6th November 2009
Always a good night, but as described by The Enterer this one started
brilliantly, continued brilliantly and ended brilliantly! In the very
succinct words of great literary merit (just like the words of The
We met at the Cheshire Midland in Hale to don our alter egos and, with
Sam Smith's in hand, met quite a few folk who all seemed very
enthusiastic about what we were doing, including one young lad whose
father does a trad play in Cornwall and another who had studied trad
plays and similar drama at Salford University.... perhaps these omens
boded well.. We've not done the Cheshire Midland for some time as it
had become a kid's pub. As the atmosphere seemed fine to
us there was discussion as to whether it was time to give it
another go. Perhaps next year.
Off for the first performance to The Greyhound at Ashley, where we have
often been met with enthusiasm. Stunning crowd this year, a pretty full
pub with a big party entertaining an Australian near the entry door.
They all joined in with cheering and I doubt he's seen anything like
that entertainment in Oz! Generous as well as we went round with the
hats and dripping pan. Beelzebub managed to nick a good pint... from an
unaware Landlord propping up his own bar! This is probably a first and
a very welcome departure from the norm. He took it in good part too and
was very interested in The Play and what's more important he bought us
all a drink. Were more than welcome for next year - goody goody!
Leaving such a successful venue is difficult, especially as it was more
enjoyable than all the previous night put together, but leave
we did to venture to the Malt Shovels in Altrincham. Good audience
here, not quite so busy but attentive and cheerful. Nice ales supped
again and good to see a 'Town Pub' doing so well. Most of the people in
there seemed very familiar to the Enterer as he did his bit and this
was confirmed by Beelzebub because as soon as he went it most visible
pints vanished of tables!
Up the lane to The Market Tavern where what can only be described as a
boisterous crowd met us in bewilderment! Difficult to play to as it was
pretty noisy, but we drew the folk in and they were very generous
towards the end. We apologise to the young boy who was scared out of
his wits by the entry of Dick, T'Hoss, but can only suggest an earlier
bed time. Perhaps in years to come, when the memory of last night's
nightmares have receded, he will be back to enjoy the performances
Leaving Altrincham in our wake and by now in full cry, loving every
minute of the best night so far of this year's performances, we moved
to The Quarry Bank in Timperley.
We were met by some friends just leaving, who, when asking the staff
when we were expected, had found total denial of our imminent
arrival.... They went back in, and we followed lustily into a great
welcome! Busy pub, lots of laughter before we got there, lots of noise,
but what a venue for us! Pulled the crowd in, performed at our very
best, apart from the Doctor who muffed his lines a bit when confronted
by some rather attractive dumplings just after uttering the line about
paving roads, and great applause at the end. A triumph! And very
generous again.... and more ale supped.
Then, finally, to what appears sometimes to be our spiritual home, The
Railway in Hale. Rammed to the doors, the Enterer literally "making
way" for the merry actors to come in... Time for the Enterer to fluff
his lines here as he had to get some people out of the way. But the
effect was there and it was quickly forgotten when King George came in.
Why this place is so good is hard to fathom. Hardly anyone can hear or
see us but they love it!! A great performance again, at full vocal
throttle, and great response from the furthest corners of the pub. Then
The Driver took over the fund-raising by singing, shall we say here,
some risque songs to some Irish ladies. The result was a
further £50 for Multiple Sclerosis!! Many thanks to them. Terrific to
see, terrific to hear (?!)and the end of a Wonderful Night. The result
of this night was a staggering record collection (all for MS) of nearly
£400... and we enjoyed every minute of the night. Memories will last
One thought: King George, hero bold, champion of champions, struggles
these days to be mobile (due to wearing armour too long I guess), but
give him a Turkish Champion to fight and he is up there with the
Yet again with thanks to
And so to the Last Day - 7th November
The Gang Having returned from
performing at the Church's Autumn Fair
As in previous years we met in the Saracen’s Head at 1.00pm for a drink
and some lunch before walking down Bent Lane to Warburton Church to the
Autumn Fair there. When we arrived people were already leaving, however
we managed to persuade them to go back into the church and so felt
obliged to start the performance some three or four minutes before the
allotted time of 2.30pm. It’s always a very different performance that
takes place in the church (notwithstanding the lack of a drink for
Beelzebub) and this time was no different. Slightly fewer people at the
Fair than in previous years, and of no surprise to us in view of the
week of very poor weather. This day also being damp and drizzly.
After the fair it was back to Saracen’s Head for a relax and
possibly(!) another beer (and some pudding in same cases) before our
Taxi arrived to take us over to the other side on the Bridgewater Canal
to the Swan with Two Nicks at Little Bollington. This pub is split into
two sections by a central bar. The front has the smaller amount of
space but is much more cosy. The rear has the other side of
the bar however has a much more spread out dining area, and
this goes back a long way. In the past we’ve generally played in this
area at the back using the rear door for entry, however on this
occasion as the few people dining were very spread out we elected to
perform in the front. A good decision in the end as it worked well
helped by a very impressive roaring log fire in the front room.
Into the Taxi again for the journey back to the other side of the canal
and into Dunham to perform for a second time in the week at the Axe
& Cleaver. As was turning out to be the theme for this year
(apart from the Friday tour) the pub was nothing like as well filled as
it usually is. Still those that were there enjoyed it and we’re more
than welcome to go back next year. Chatting to the manager later it
seems even he was a bit concerned over the quiet week they'd just had!
No Taxi this time and instead a walk down the road to the bus stop at
The Big Tree for the bus to take us to Heatley. This year, unlike last
year, the bus duly arrived, and on time, and following a few songs on
board we were duly deposited right outside the Farmers Arms - to save
us the short walk back from the bus stop 200 yards further along the
road. The Play began and it was very quickly noticed by the Enterer
that this had the makings of a good performance due to the nature of
the audience and the whole ambiance of the pub. There was no need to
project our voices as we usually have to, in fact other than the usual
‘loud’ entrance by each character the Play was performed in more or
less ‘normal’ voices. The Doctor had a field day milking his part and
ad libbing for all it’s worth. It was one of those absolutely magical
performances that will be remembered for some tome to come. The
Landlord thoroughly enjoys it and we’re very thankful for his £20
donation to our chosen charity of Multiple Sclerosis.
We’ve been having a habit of meeting up with quite a number of familiar
faces here who come to see the Play each year, and especially a group
who were having a meal to conclude a week’s shooting. They were most
concerned to hear that next year we’ll be there the second Saturday of
November so were keen to get their shooting week in the diary for the
second week rather than the first week of November!
8.35pm so it was time to walk down the road to the Green Dragon and our
penultimate performance of the year. Again people were perhaps a little
thinner on the ground than in previous years, however it was a very
good performance and the Manager was very appreciative of the timing of
our arrival, detracting from something going a little awry within the
pub. He’s more than happy to see us next year as well.
So that was it. All done bar the walk down the road from Heatley to
Warburton and to the Saracen’s Head. By that time the drizzly weather
conditions had passed so we had a very pleasant and clear walk down
Bent Lane where we started the play precisely at our allotted time of
9.30pm. The place was full and had a very, very nice atmosphere. In the
past we’ve sometimes had difficulty in making it known that we’re here
as the song does not always carry when there’s lots of talking. Even
when the Enterer goes in there’s an initial quietening period as the
last people stop talking. This time however, a quick single rap on the
door then we started the song. The Enterer subsequently went in to a
silent room where you could here a pin drop. Superb! All round a very
good end to the week, regardless of the premature entrance of Old Hobs
– that seemed to be interpreted as a deliberate act to put Beelzebub
off his evil activities of drinking someone else’s beer.
In summary it was a year to remember in many ways. There was the
downright lowest point that any of can recall with the Knutsford tour
where we had a dank and drizzly night and never had more the a dozen
people in any one of the five pubs we went in. To counter that at the
other end of the scale there was the Friday night of splendid
performances, full pubs and attentive if noisy audiences where we ended
up with a record collection. Then there was that magical performance
and reception in the Farmers Arms on Saturday. Truly a year to remember.
So that’s it for 2009, roll on 2010 when the Warburton Souling Play
will be out and about on the 1st, 5th, 6th, 11th,12th and 13th
November. See you then.
updated: 9th November 2009.