Up to his death in 2012, I used to regularly visit my uncle Harold, he was a fine, interesting and entertaining chap. We would reminisce, cure the world, empty a bottle, sing songs and recite monologues. It will always be a wonderful memory. Harold featured in the ramble Uncles in the War.
Most of the songs and monologues we performed were from the music hall period, it was usually for our own entertainment but sometimes we performed to an audience. One of our favourites was the co-op ham tea, pronounced Cwop Am Tea, which was what the Co-op Funeral Service provided during a funeral wake. Its alternative title was ‘The Requiem’.
I have no idea where this song came from, it may have been that Harold himself was responsible, it was certainly written locally, there is a reference to Peel Street which is a street in the next village. I have seen no reference to it elsewhere and I have enjoyed performing it many times over the years.
Uncle Harold’s high jinks
This is Harold performing one of his favourite party pieces of partly removing his false teeth. Hours of fun. During my wedding celebrations in the pub, Harold and Moi’s uncle Lewis got on like a house of fire. Lewis was also a great family entertainer and after much beer had been consumed Harold expanded his party piece by completely removing his false teeth and rinsing them in Lewis’s beer. To everyone’s hysterical amusement, and not to be outdone, Lewis drank it down in one go. Happy days.
The Requiem (Cwop Am Tea)
Even though ‘Cwop am tea’ is a song, it can easily be performed as a monologue. It goes as follows:
They wheeled the coffin down the aisle, the choir they sweetly sang, The organ played a requiem and then the church bells rang. He’d always been a quiet chap, not given to a spree, And there we stood to bury Pah, me dear old Mah and me. (Chorus) When all the other wives came in, weeping down the aisle, We had to send for extra chairs, they queued for half a mile, They came from near, they came from far, they filled up every pew. He must have been a Mormon but mi mother never knew, Till all the other wives came back to share the Co-op ham tea, And brought a load a kids with them, that looked a lot like me. He was a travelling salesman, said he worked in ladies tights, We always thought that was his job, not what he did at nights. Although I’d known him forty years I never would have guessed, That when he had some time off work, why he needed so much rest. (Chorus) The priest was old an feeble, and to make a bad job worse, He tried to marry mother to the man who drove the hearse, One wife rang up to ask, “Are we going to cremate” And would we keep him on a low light, just in case she might be late. (Chorus) One wife was only my age, she had a warm look in her eye, She said “You’re so much like your dad, it makes me want to cry, I only live on Peel Street, come and see me by-and-by, I have something your father liked, he’d have wanted you to try”. (Chorus) Each wife looked on wistfully and they laid him down to rest, Each one knew quite silently that he a stood the test. “He’d always been a proud chap” said mother with a frown. That’s why we bored an ole in’t lid before they screwed it down. (Chorus)
Oh go on then, here it is for your viewing pleasure!