Folk .Wales

Gower animal head customs




(Recorded by MICK TEMS at Llangennith, 1995)


Once I was a young horse

And in my stable gay,

I had the best of everything,

Of barley, oats and hay;

But now I'm getting an old horse,

My courage is getting small

Obliged to eat the sour grass

That grows beneath the wall.


Chorus: Poor old horse, let him die.

Poor old horse, let him die.


I've eaten all my oats and hay,

Devoured all my straw;

Now I can hardly move about

Nor can my carriage draw.

With these poor weary limbs of mine

I've travelled many a mile,

O'er hedges, ditches, bramble bushes,

Gates and narrow stiles.


Chorus: Poor old horse, let him die.

Poor old horse, let him die.


My hide unto the huntsman

So freely I would give

And my body to the hounds

For I'd rather die than live.

So it's shoot him, cut him, strip him,

To the huntsman let him go

For he's neither fit to ride upon

Nor can his carriage draw.


Chorus: Poor old horse, let him die.

Poor old horse, let him die.



"That was one of the songs my father used to sing to me when I was young. It came from the old custom known in Gower as the Horse's Head. At the end of the year, some of the local wags used to get hold of an old dead horse's skull and dress it up with some ribbon, et cetera, and a piece of cord to the lower jaw to work it up and down. Then we used to go and sing at the doors of the villagers and demand to be let in. We'd have a drink of home-made wine, or a tip.


"We used to go inside and by pulling the jaw cord we used to bite or nip the occupants until l they paid up. Most of the girls and children were on the receiving end and were glad when this old custom died out. My father told me of one instance at Middleton when the occupants of the cottage refused to let them in and they bolted the door. The revellers pushed at the door and eventually they pushed the door and door-frame in, causing considerable damage. This custom ceased with the 1914-1918 war, thank the Lord. People were terrified of it."

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