The Lancashire Pace-Egg Play (Book)

A Social History - by Eddie Cass

FLS Books, ISBN: 0 903515 22 9, pp.257

I found the book an enjoyable read with lots to offer readers at a variety of levels.  It covers the historical background, development and social context of the Lancashire Pace-Egging Play to the present day.  Cover illustrationThe play is a custom performed at Easter time.  It has roots far back in our national folklore culture of mumming plays, travelling fairs and local entertainers.

The book contains a wealth of references and sources.  It has texts of the play, words of songs used and descriptions of costumes.  Case studies are used to examine different ways in which it is performed.  If a reader wished to start up a Pace Egging team, revive a local play, or seek a greater understanding of today’s performances of the play, then this book offers an excellent source of information.

There is enough academic rigour in this study to satisfy the serious folklorist and historian alike.  For a subject whose real origins and earliest influences are masked within a largely oral tradition, this is no mean feat.  A growing presence of recorded evidence and printed materials from the 18th century onwards has been drawn upon and described within the book.

Alongside all his efforts to present and maintain a solid foundation of historical evidence, Eddie Cass has been able to draw out the vitality and local colour of the play, particularly in his case studies.  He has described the ebb and flow of the play’s evolution and popularity throughout its history.

He describes the various means, verbal, printed and otherwise of handing on the Pace Egging play custom from one generation to another.  In many parts of Lancashire the play did die out, or almost died out during the first part of the 20th century as national and world events crashed in on the lives of local people or cultural fashion lurched in another direction.  Some of these plays were revived in the latter half of the century to take on a new life and a new place in local custom and affection.

In the maintenance and development of our own ‘folk’ national traditions we own much to a small band of enthusiasts, folk singers, dancers, teachers and musicians.  In his case studies and in other parts of the book, Eddie Cass has acknowledged many who have, in recent times, played a prominent part in keeping the Pace Egging tradition going and vibrant.  We also owe much to unsung heroes in local and national libraries, in schools and educational institutions, who have researched, collected and maintained recorded materials on Pace Egging plays and other local customs and traditions.

For most of us it is all too easy to miss or overlook our own national cultural roots.  I am pleased to see this book and would like to see many more of its type.  It sheds a light on a facet of our own indigenous roots and reminds us of our own rich cultural past and present.

Any musician reading Eddie Cass’s book might have one regret; that it contains no music for the Pace Egging songs listed.  Perhaps this may be included in a future revised edition …

Available, priced £13.95, from: FLS Books, The Folklore Society, The Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, London WC1H 0AB.

Harry Langston - 4.3.02

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