…one of the band’s members, Dan Rubin, contacted me in search of some information. It’s a bit outside my sphere of knowledge (and a bit too far East for me geographically), but perhaps someone who reads this blog – there must be someone! – will have some ideas.
… I live in Pouch Cove now, a small community north of St. John’s, which is the closest town in continental North America to Europe.
The influence of Devon is strong here. I bought and now live in a house built by Henry Langmead, whose family arrived from the West Country in the late 1800s, or perhaps earlier. Henry (known locally as Harry) was our last traditional mummer who practiced a tradition known as the Ribbon Fools. These people dressed up in white clothes adorned with multi-coloured ribbons, and created ornate and very scary masks to hide their faces. Unlike the Irish Jannies who went from house to house during Christmas, often cross-dressed, disguised and playing instruments, the Ribbon Fools would appear between Christmas and Old Christmas Day (the eighth of January) and would chase anyone they caught down the road, trying to whip them with the end of a rope.
I helped start our town’s Heritage Society, and have been trying to research this tradition for some years. But the leads are few. I have seen pictures of Morris Dancers with similar costumes, including some in a book that Sally lent me. But I would like to know more specifically where this tradition originated, and whether it has roots in Devon and the surrounding area.
If you can assist me in finding out more, that would be wonderful. It would be another strong link between Devon and Newfoundland.
If you have any ideas, I’d be grateful if you would leave a comment to this post or use the contact form.