(an exttact from the notes of O. G. Ready)
In the choir of Waxham cum Palling, were strapping coastguards, lifeboat men, fishermen and various old sea dogs - together with their wives and children - to say nothing of a fair sprinkling of landsmen; the total number rising and falling with the time of the year and who, to the accompaniment of a little old harmonium played by my sister, could fairly make 'the welkin ring'. Once started on a favourite tune, the vibrant notes of wooden-leg Podler, the sweet contralto of the village belle, the fluty tenor of that jovial coastguard, and the growling bass of a six-foot teamster, wove themselves in and out of, led firmly on, and yet bound together, a full throated, almost rollicking stream of praise, not only from the choir, but also from the whole sea-faring congregation - the like of which, in these days of surpliced youth, is but seldom heard.
In the winter time, when snow was on the ground and fishermen had all made up, the choir was at its best, in fettle as well as in numbers; for did not the great social event of the whole year, the "Singers' Feast", take place a short time after Christmas!
At Christmas, we the 'singers' as the choir was always called, went round to all the principal houses to sing carols where, besides being overwhelmed with hospitality, they would collect subscriptions towards the Singers Feast. The Feast as held in the old schoolroom, a long, low, narrow building with brick floor, few windows, and only one small ventilation hole through the thatched roof.
As each singer was allowed to bring one or two guests, the choir at Christmas-time swelled to huge proportions, so that finally almost the whole village would either be at the feast itself, or at least turn up in Sunday best immediately after dinner to join in the games, songs, dancing and general merry-making.
The menu was of simple grandeur; first, delicious Norfolk dumplings and beef gravy; then mountains of prime roast beef and boiled mutton, backed up by potatoes, turnips, carrots and horseradish, and washed down with good six-ale; while the "sweets" course was represented solidly by plum puddings with lashings of rum and brandy sauce; to all of which, cheese, celery and good old pickled onions put a fitting copying stone.
Willing hands soon cleared away not only plates and dishes, but also the table itself, leaving the whole room free for dancing, while forms and chairs were ranged all round the walls.
Snow-white clay pipes, called "Churchwardens" having stems three feet long, and each tipped with red sealing wax by way of mouthpiece, were handed round to all smokers, together with half-ounce packets of black shag.
The old harmonium was wheeled into position, lads and lassies exchanged meaning glances, the school-mistress seated herself at the instrument, and in a trice we were footing it to the wailing, wind-blown strains of a polka.
Over brick floor, down a couple of inches, then up again on to the brick floor, marked each journey from one end of the room to the other, but what of that, it only added to the fun and, I must add, the dirt - for presently the whole room was a blur of sandstorm and tobacco smoke, through which the harmonium squeaked blindly on, candles stared red and dim, and phantom couples waxed and waned.
O. G. Ready, the author of these notes, was born in 1864, the seventh son of Henry Ready, Rector of Waxham cum Palling 1839-1886.