Annotation:Ran Tan Tinderbox

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RAN TAN TINDERBOX. AKA - "Ran Tan Tinder Box." English. The tune was mentioned in a Mummer’s play from Weston-sub-Edge, Gloucester, western England, that was performed in 1864 at Christmastime. The character 'Cleverlegs' calls for "One of our old favourites tunes, 'Ran tan tinder box,' 'Cat in the fiddle bag,' 'Jonnie up up the orchard'."

Ran Tan was a name for a kind of demon, or a possessed person, but being on the 'ran-tan' was also slang for a drunken bender. In the novel "It was me" (1813) by 'Me pseud', a maid shouts this invective:

I say you ragamuffin rascal! you son of a ran-tan-tinder-box! you ugly big-eyed devil! or what it is as how you be! what business have you by my master's horse, or how come ye by it? but don't ye think as how we be to be frighted or scared by your inhuman ugly carcase; mind ye, old blubberhead, if you ar'nt arter being off, and putting Dobbin in his place, I'll pretty soon send the poker at your prosterous head, Mr. Dean-and-alive!

'Ran-tanning' was also another name for a Skimmington, or Charivari, a rowdy 'folk justice' kind of vigilantism meant to highlight and discourage behavior considered by the community to be deviant or outside of the norms [1]. The following is from a website on Lincolnshire history [2]:

Ran-tanning in Rempton, 1909. An effigy was paraded to a cacaphony of pots and pans, usually on three successive nights, after which the efficy would be burned.

In 1918, Number 59 Main Road was the home of Danny Fitton, an organ builder. Accused of wife beating, he was "Ran Tanned" by the villagers. They banged drums, kettles, pots and pans, processing around the village singing the Ran Tan rhyme:

Ran tan tan, ran tan tan; to the sound of this pan.
This is to give notice that Fitton has beaten his good woman
For what and why? 'Cause she ate when she was hungry
And she drank when she was dry. He beat her, he beat her indeed
For spending a penny when she had need.
He beat her black, he beat her blue; When Old Nick gets him
He'll give him his due. Ran tan tan, ran tan tan ...
We'll send him there in his frying pan.

On the last night, they burnt Danny's effigy and the whole process was seemingly legal so long as it was carried out on three consecutive nights. The last recorded Ran Tanning in Lincolnshire was carried out in Scamblesby in 1930.

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