The Pace Egg

The Pace Egg cast 2023

The Pace Egg play has been performed by members of The Curtain Theatre for many years. This year’s performance was the first since 2019. It took place at The Coach House, Littleborough in front of a packed room and was thoroughly enjoyed  by the audience. A total of £222 was raised for Springhill Hospice, Rochdale.

History

The Pace Egg play is one of Rochdale’s most colourful  Easter traditions – and it’s still going strong today.

Thought to date back to pagan times, the shows were put on by small groups of children and teenagers and feature songs and a good amount of ad-libbing and raucous replies to hecklers.

Once widespread throughout England, the play is now only practiced in a few areas, particularly Lancashire, West Yorkshire and Rochdale.

The play involves a mock battle between St George and Slasher, who is killed but then revived by the Doctor’s magical bottle of medicine.

The Doctor always wore a oversized coat and hat – normally a bowler or top-hat – and carried a bag for his medicines.

The actors would usually have home-made wooden swords with sashes made by their mums or sisters along with cardboard helmets, breastplates worn over everyday clothing and blackened faces to complete the disguise.

There would usually follow more battles between St George and the Prince of Paradine with interruptions by comic characters including the Fool, Beelzebub.

In some versions, a character called Devil Doubt would ‘threaten’ the spectators with his broom if they didn’t contribute money at the end of the show.

He sometimes spoke a rhyme which went: “Here come I, little Devil Doubt, if you don’t give me money I’ll sweep you all out. Money I want and money I crave; If you don’t give me money I’ll sweep you all to the grave.”

Pace egging was an important part of the social calendar with bands of youngsters, usually boys drawn from one or more streets in a small area.