The tradition involved the door-to-door singing of two specific carols which have been passed down over the past century. Other communities in the area, such as Cavendish and Green's Harbour, also once did a version of the carols, but the tradition remains strongest in Heart’s Delight-Islington. You can read more about the tradition in Chapter 7 of the book “Heart’s Delight - Islington: From Isolated Communities… To A Growing Town” Printed by Full Circle Printing for The Town of Heart’s Delight - Islington, circa 1990.
What the book identifies as Carol #1 is a variant of what is known historically as “A Virgin Most Pure” or “A Virgin Unspotted.” A few online sources suggest that the earliest known version of the text is in "New Carolls for this Merry Time of Christmas" (London, 1661).
The first verse was included in the fabulously-titled “Wyeth's repository of sacred music. Part second. : Original and selected from the most eminent and approved authors in that science; for the use of Christian churches, singing-schools & private societies. : Together with a copious and plain introduction to the grounds of music, and rules for learners” by John Wyeth, circa 1813-1820.
Below, you can see the Heart’s Delight-Islington version, and compare it with Wyeth’s first verse, and remaining verses which were included in a Maryland shape note song book published between 1800 and 1830. This combined version comes from The Second Penguin Book of Christmas Carols, by Elizabeth Poston, 1970. The Heart's Delight-Islington version is one verse longer; the "Virgin Most Pure" version has a refrain which is repeated between each verse, which goes: "Then let us be merry, cast sorrows away; / Our saviour, Christ Jesus, was born on this day."
The book "88 Favourite Carols and Hymns for Christmas" printed circa 1830 includes the "A Virgin Unspotted" first line, and a different final verse:
To teach us humility all this was doneIf you have a memory of this tradition (or photos!) comment below or email email@example.com
And learn us from hence haughty pride to shun;
A manger his cradle though He came from above!
The great God of Mercy, of Peace, and of Love.