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Jacundas

If you ever go to Skipton in Yorkshire, you'll find there's a religious house on the main square, St Leonard's, at least it was St Leonardís until about the beginning of the 19th Century when the monks had a dispute, the result was that the house was partitioned down the middle, one half remained St Leonard's and the other became St Mary's, and thus they have remained to this day.

Now how it was that Jacundas became a monk is a bit of a mystery. You see, Jacundas was a man who loved life, he loved good food and good ale and above all he loved the fair that came to Skipton during the first week in July every year.

Now it was the first week in July and it was the custom in St Leonard's for the monks to retire to their cells in the afternoon for a spot of horizontal contemplation. Jacundas was just lying there in his cot and he could hear all the sounds of the fair, gradually the temptation arose within his breast to go to the fair. He heaved himself up out of his cot and he walked along the corridor, then he opened the door and went into the Prior's Office. Sad to say, he took the contents of the poor box then he let himself out of the side door and he went to the fair.

There was an ox roast, so Jacundas ate beef and he drank ale. There was a sheep roast so Jacundas ate mutton and he drank ale. There was a pig roast, so Jacundas ate pork and he drank ale. Jacundas drank a lot of ale. He found himself on a seesaw, Jacundas was a big man, there were two at the other end. And as he was going up for the thirty third time Jacundas started to sing.

Indulche Jubilo

He was having a wale of a time. He saw two monks coming from St Leonardís pushing a wheelbarrow.

Brothers come and join the fun

But the brothers hadn't come to join the fun, they'd come to take Jacundas away from the fun. Well by now Jacundas couldn't walk, he could sing. So the brothers wheeled him back to St Leonardís. The Prior's Court was immediately convened, Jacundas was charged with stealing the contents of the poor box, leaving St Leonardís without permission and indulging in the sins of the flesh. I think they would have forgiven him all that, but he sang all the way through his trial. So they sentenced him to be walled up within an alcove in the cellar. But they were not so inhuman as not to put in a jug of fresh water and a loaf of warm bread, Jacundas was singing, so they just bricked him in.

Drink having been taken, Jacundas went to sleep. When he awoke, he was in a confined space, it was dark, where was he? Jacundas leaned backwards and fell through the wall into St Mary's. Now, St Mary's was a silent order, the fact that Jacundas was there, no one thought the twice about it, in fact they appointed him as the cellarer. Now St Mary's was a pretty austere establishment, I'm not saying that St Leonardís was some sort of Butlitz you understand, but at least there was plenty to eat. At St Mary's there was only gruel and thin ale three times a day. The beds were harder, the hairy shirts were hairier. Jacundas lost a lot of weight. Time passed, and it came once again to the first week in July. Jacundas dreamt of going to the fair, but no one could leave St Mary's.

But Jacundas did have the keys to the cellar, if he couldn't go to the fair in person at least he could go there in spirit, so to speak. Now in the cellar besides the thin ale for the monks there were large barrels of Malmsey, wonderful stuff Malmsey, plus small barrels of fine spirits for the Abbots guests. Jacundas imbibed liberally and in no time at all he started to sing.

Indulche Jubilo

Meanwhile upstairs the monks had eaten their gruel and were waiting for their thin ale. They became impatient but of course they couldnít complain because they were a silent order. But they had a way of showing their displeasure, they rattled their cutlery, eventually a deputation was formed and they went down to the cellar and of course they found Jacundas.

The Abbottís Court was immediately convened and Jacundas was sentenced to be walled up within an alcove in the cellar but they were not so inhuman as not to put in a jug of fresh water and a loaf of warm bread. Jacundas was singing, so they just bricked him in.

Now back in St Leonardís it was a sad day because the Prior had died and the monks were going through the agony of trying to decide who should be appointed as the new Prior. The cellarer had just come down and he heard the unmistakable sound. He ran upstairs.

Brothers, brothers, come quickly, JacundasÖ

The brothers ran down the stairs and they heard.

Indulche Jubilo (softly)

They pulled the bricks from the wall and there was Jacundas, twelve months to the day, and the bread was still warm and the water was still fresh. What could they do? So they appointed him as the Prior.

And it is recorded that Jacundasí time as Prior was one of great happiness. The brothers had plenty to eat and drink, they sang with enthusiasm, and yes they did go to the fair, they performed Mystery Plays. And when, at a great age, Jacundas passed over to his heavenly reward there wasnít a dry eye to be found in St Leonardís or indeed in the whole of Skipton.

And that is the story of how the Black Sheep became the Good Shepherd.