Roman firkins from the time depict these harrowing
droughts. In desperation, people found themselves forced
to consume concoctions of distilled lichens and heather.
This bland--to say the least--beverage made most of the ancient
MacThoy lugubrious and even more antisocial.--ed
the 20 Firkins
and the 20 Firkins is a musical written in 1905 by
Van Gelt. It tells of the events leading up to the
creation of the Clan's Easter Beer Hunt.
The curtain rises on
one spring morning. A young man, about
to perish from lack of drink, bursts into
song. He describes the terrors of the
season, as the year's supply of alcohol is
about to expire. Even Caligula's
stores are dangerously low. But hope
is around the corner. In a few weeks
the new brews will be ready for consumption.
The ensemble joins him singing of their great hero,
Intercontientius Appetitus, honored friend of Caligula, and the
creator of the Lichen drink.
The Chorus doesn't care much for the drink but it's all that
keeps them from living dry. The group breaks up as a band
of Upstanding Citizens come onto the scene to sing their tale.
The Upstanding Citizens roam the streets, mugging the unwary
for their drinks. They are half mad from sobriety and too
proud to quaff the Lichen Fix. They depart into the night.
Out of the famed Publicus Whatever comes our hero, Intercontientius
Appetitus, having concluded an evening of debauch. His
servant helps him with the firkins of beer he has to carry home.
These are the last of Intercontientiusí stash and once they
are gone, he too will be force to drink the Lichen Fix.
The pair sing of these treasured beers and the dangers that
lie between them and home until the new vats are breached. He sends his servant on ahead with a few of the drinks,
carrying the bulk of it himself. The boy will
distract potential muggers and lead them on a merry
chase. This will keep the road clear for his inebriated
Before leaving, the boy cautions his master to have care with
the firkins. The drunken Appetitus takes a wild swing at
him for his impertinence, falling to the ground. The
boy sits him on a bench that he might rest his eyes before
the journey home.
The boy sings of his mission. He describes his great
love for his master-- the man who created the Lichen fix.
He has run the Upstanding Citizens' gauntlet many times and has
no fear of them. The mob enters as this point and chases
the boy off into the night.
Appetitus wakes and begins his meander home. Along the
way, several bottles drop out of his robe and bounce under near
by bushes and behind rocks.
He arrives at his dwelling to the delight of his Clan.
They have been awaiting his return with the firkins.
Appetitus opens his robes to discover only one left. The Clan sings a song of lament and woe. How will they
survive without the bottles? Appetitus is accused of
drinking them on the way home. He is forced to agree. He
doesn't remember doing it and it is something that he would do.
Before the debate can go further, Appetitus hands
the remaining firkin to the smallest MacThoy and staggers off to
bed. The wee MacThoy sings of the last bottle before taking
it to bed with her.
The next day, Appetitus is reunited with his
servant who easily escaped the chorus.
He still has the bottles Appetitus entrusted
to him. Appetitus urges the boy to run
home with the bottles for his Clan.
Every time the boy moves to leave, the hero
detains him; the first time to chastise the
boy for leaving his master with nothing to
drink; the second for leaving him with a
half finished bottle; the third for an empty
firkin and so on until all of the firkins
have been consumed. The boy fearing
trouble sneaks off, planning to return when
his master is in a mellower mood.
Appetitus heads for the Firkin Whatever.
If he cannot have beer, he can at least
quench his thirst with a Lichen fix and pass
the time with the rogues there. On his
way, he discovers one of the missing drinks
hidden behind a rock. He sings of his
delight as he roots around in the
shrubbery, producing the others. He
resolves to make it his practice to hide
firkins along the trail that he might never
be thirsty again.
the Firkin Whatever, Appetitus sings of his
good fortune and raises the ire of the dread
Emperor Caligula. The hero adjourns to the
loo, leaving Caligula to sing of his rage
and his decision to send a phalanx of
centurions to find the hidden firkins.
The last of this song is overheard by
Appetitus who sneaks out the back.
The Centurions tear up the countryside
looking for the firkins. All the while
singing of their devotion to the emperor
despite the fact, that given half a chance
they will drink the firkins themselves.
Appetitus rallies his Clan.
Most are in favor of leaving and begin packing. The Wee
MacThoy comes forward and offers to give Appetitus her firkin if
it will make his friend, Caligula, happy again. All are amazed that the drink
remained unmolested in the MacThoy encampment for so long.
She shows them that she had disguised it as doll.
Appetitus sets the Clan to
camouflaging the remaining bottles, singing all the while.
The Centurion attacks
continued. Not all the disguises worked. Some
firkins resembled Ming vases but any centurion worth his salt
knew that if the MacThoy got a hold of a Ming they would knock
a hole in it and use it as a beer bong. They tore up
hedgerows favored by the Clan for trysting and even disemboweled
sheep after hearing stories of the drinks being disguised as
Over all the planned work, and the
MacThoy cache survived until the opening of the new vats.
The final scene has Caligula and Appetitus being reunited in a
toast though all concerned know it will start over again the
following year, a never-ending battle.
Obviously Alabaster embellished a
great deal on MacThoy tradition, white washing the Clan
story. This is a habit the writer had in all the musicals
he wrote about his family. The general history of it is
nonetheless accurate and adds another interesting wrinkle in the
History of the Clan MacThoy. --the ed