William Hutchinson’s description
William Hutchinson assumes the sword dance to be of Roman origin, as was fashionable in the late eighteenth century. Although the Romans did have a sword dance called the Saltatio Armata, it was completely different in form to hilt and point sword dances, and there is no historical evidence to support his belief that the Roman custom persisted.
Christmas still has many peculiar customs: the Saltatio Armata, the Pyrrhick or Military Dance of the Romans, is still preserved ; men dressed out with ribbands perform a Sword Dance, and gather gifts for a merry night.
Men dressed in gay attire draw about a plow called the stot plow, and when they receive a gift, make the exclamation, “Largess!” but if not requited at any house for their appearance, they draw the plow through the pavement and raise the ground in the front in furrows. I have seen twenty men in the yoke of one plow.
These are the perfect remains of Roman customs. . . . . It may have been practised by the Romans in commemoration of the founding of Rome, or some cities in Britain.
The Stot Plow has been conceived by some to have no other derivation, than a mere rural triumph, the plow having ceased from its labour.
W Hutchinson, A View of Northumberland, with an Excursion to the Abbey of Mailross. Newcastle upon Tyne, 1778, vol. ii. Appendix, pp. 16-18