Mrs M C Balfour's account

I have heard of the sword dancers going on their rounds at Christmas in the neighbourhood of Harbottle, in the west of Northumberland where one of my servants lives ; but the song is much abridged, the men are content to tie ribbons about their shirt sleeves and at their knees, the Bessy is dressed up very plainly as an old woman and the “dance” has lost most of its old steps. In Belford, the sword-dancers have not performed for around 10 years ; but in December, 1890, five or six boys came around with masks, false noses or blackened faces and a broom. They repeated some incoherent and corrupted verses which neither rhymed nor made sense, and “swept” the inhabitants of the house before them, till they were given money and cake. Since then none have come round. They appeared to call themselves the Besom Boys, or the Christmas Sweepers.

Mrs M C Balfour, Belford, 1904