A Carolling Tradition

Geoff Nicolle and his family have been great supporters of Rosemarket Local History Society since our launch in 2021, kindly sharing a wealth of knowledge and meticulous research with us. Quite unexpectedly, we were delighted to come across a lovely article written by Geoff and his wife Sonia back in 2003 as volunteer contributors to a book published by Pembrokeshire U3A (University of the Third Age), entitled ‘Looking Back at Pembrokeshire; an anthology of Memories and Photographs’.

We are delighted to have been granted permission to reproduce that article, which featured memories of a specific tradition Geoff was introduced to when he first moved to Rosemarket in 1965 with his family having been appointed headmaster of the village school.

A Carolling Tradition
“In my home (English) county, carol singing stopped on Christmas Eve, so I was very surprised to see how and when it took place in Rosemarket in the 1960s.

There was no singing before Christmas but between Boxing Day and the New Year, carols were sung all round the Parish. Was this a continuation of the ancient celebration of the Twelve Days of Christmas which encompassed the coming of the New Year?

On the first evening in the Church, singers raised funds by carolling round the village. On following nights they visited outlying farms. By the 1960s, the travelling was by car and necessitated a few kind drivers volunteering to ‘abstain’. At each farm the singers were invited to drink and welcome in the coming New Year. Most farms had a ‘speciality’ drink to offer which ranged from ‘rum and black’ to home made barley wine. At Great Westfield a wide choice was offered. It is the only place I have ever seen whisky served in a pint glass. It was always a very happy bunch of carollers who arrived back late in the village.

New Year saw a different sort of carol singer. The young men of the village would arrive, sometimes in groups, at our door singing and asking to ‘let the New Year in’, expecting a drink and a mince pie. Singers would arrive from just after midnight to about 3am. The later ones were even happier than the first! We enjoyed these visits as ex pupils often forgot they were at their former headmaster’s house and ‘home truths’ were sometimes revealed.

It seemed that we were hardly asleep before knocking and faint carols would wake us.

Was it really 8.30am already? Yes it was. From this time and for much of the morning, children and sometimes in small groups would call and sing to augment their pocket money or receive sweets.

By the time we left Rosemarket in the 1980s, the Church singers and the child carollers no longer came but the young men made us glad that at least one of the village traditions continued. When next in Rosemarket, I must ask if they still come.”

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