June 23rd 1924 - June 23rd 1949
Lingering in ancient memories, voices frail,
Limbs weak with years, and with long labours bent.
Had you not been, that age-old beauty's tale
Of movement and sweet music, perfected
Through countless generations, father, son,
And grandson, all that richness must have sped
Forgotten, lost, inanimate, unknown.
You seized that treasure from Time's thieving hand,
You played for youth the part age could not play,
Summed in yourself tradition's faltering power
And from the dying past made every hour
Of future time with living music gay.
While England dances, proud your name shall stand.
ON Boxing Day 1899, at Headington, Cecil Sharp saw the Morris for the first time. Later, he invariably spoke of this occasion as the turning-point of his life. It was the beginning of his work of discovering and recording the Morris all over the Cotswolds, and although it was a few years before he was able to embark on teaching the Morris to others (the first part of The Morris Book was not published until 1907), Boxing Day 1899, now nearly fifty years ago, is the day from which we must date the origin of all the Morris dancing, including our own, which has resulted from his work.
What he accomplished was indeed stupendous. Apart from the innumerable songs and the other kinds of dances, he not only undertook the difficult task of collecting the Morris dances and devising a notation by which to record them, but he also persuaded people to learn to dance them and to go on dancing them; and the present vigorous state of the Morris is a living witness to his devotion and determination. For it is no exaggeration to say that but for Cecil Sharp there would be, scarcely more than a handful of Morris men in England to-day. Cecil Sharp drew into himself from the last generation of traditional dancers the almost extinct life of the English Morris, and transmitted it, reinvigorated, to new generations of dancers. We are the first in the succession of his heirs.
We therefore honour him with our gratitude, for his insight, his courage, and his achievement, and it is appropriate that in this year, which also marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death, we should place on record some account of the Morris Men's Clubs by whose members the dances which he saved are prized and practised, and of the Morris Ring in which those Clubs are united. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to obtain information about all of the Clubs, as some of them have been disbanded; but there is sufficient in the accounts printed here to show how remarkable is the development which has taken place out of what Cecil Sharp himself began.
I think, therefore, that we may fairly claim that the existence of so many flourishing Morris Men's Clubs would be a great source of happiness to our Founder. But if there is one thing that stands out from a reading of his biography, it is his passion for having things done right and done well, disregarding frills and ornaments and concentrating on the essential and permanent elements of whatever he had in hand. There will never be any justification for complacency on our part until we have satisfied ourselves that so far as the Morris is concerned our own standards in these two respects are as exacting as his were, and that we are doing all we can to put them into practice. He was never the man to aim at easy popularity, and if his work, which is now entrusted to us, is to endure we must never allow ourselves to forget those conditions which are essential for its permanence. Only that which is practical is permanent, and only in this way can we offer a valid tribute to a great practical artist.
There is another very practical way in which we can promote Cecil Sharp's work. For many years it has been my hope to produce in a handy and compact form a series of Morris handbooks, so as to make available for Morris men the whole repertoire of dances of each tradition so far as they are known. The Morris Book was a pioneer work; no such book had ever been published before, and to some extent this conditioned its method of presentation. Furthermore, at that time there were controversies and prejudices to be reckoned with, which are now forgotten, and the time is overdue for a more practical and complete presentation of the material which we have. The production of such a series of books would be a fitting tribute from Morris men to the memory of Cecil Sharp.
THE MORRIS RING
IT had been the custom of the Cambridge Morris Men since their foundation to invite to their annual Morris and Feast some leading Morris dancer from elsewhere, and such guests, after, having attended the Morris and Feast, were made Honorary Members of the Club. It soon became clear, however, that it was impossible for the Club to honour in this way all whom it would wish, and at a meeting held on November 2nd 1933 it was suggested that such dancers might be made Honorary Members without the usual procedure of invitation to the annual Feast. This, however, was felt to be unsatisfactory, and an alternative proposal was agreed to, namely, that the other groups and clubs to which these dancers belonged should be invited to join with the Cambridge Morris Men in establishing an informal federation of Morris Clubs, to be known as the Morris Ring. Five other Clubs were consulted, further discussion took place during the Cambridge Morris Men's week of dancing at Ringstead Mill in April 1934, and at the tenth annual Feast on April 14th the Squire, Joseph Needham, to whose initiative the plans for the Ring's foundation were largely due, declared the Ring instituted, the six Foundation Clubs being Cambridge, Oxford, Letchworth, Thaxted, East Surrey and Greensleeves. On June 2nd 1934, at the Thaxted week-end, representatives of five of the six Clubs approved a draft constitution, and Alec Hunter outlined the proposal to all the men present. This was followed by a meeting of Club representatives, and the Ring was declared constituted. The Inaugural Meeting of the Ring took place in Cecil Sharp House on October 20th 1934, Douglas Kennedy presiding, and was attended by between sixty and seventy men. Alec Hunter was elected first Squire of the Ring, and Walter Abson first Bagman, these titles being those already in use in the Cambridge Club.
Thus from the beginning it was the purpose of the Ring to provide a means by which the Clubs could be brought into closer touch with each other and so receive mutual encouragement, and this has remained its fundamental object throughout, based on the belief that, as in the old days of the Cotswold Morris, the dance can flourish as it should only in the atmosphere of a Club whose members are closely associated together. There is no doubt that the Ring's existence has fostered the Club spirit and has been responsible for the formation of Clubs which otherwise might never have come into being.
It was no accident that the Ring was first instituted at one of the Thaxted meetings, for Thaxted had been for several years the place where Morris men gathered to dance together; and it was also natural that after the Ring had been founded the annual Thaxted gathering should be counted as one of the important annual fixtures of the Ring. In many ways this Thaxted meeting is a model of what Ring meetings should be, for there it is the Thaxted men who are the hosts and make the necessary arrangements for the meeting, while the other Clubs are their guests. Similar meetings have been arranged by Clubs in other parts of the country, and I hope there will be many more. To provide a more central place of meeting for those Clubs who cannot easily get to Thaxted, regular meetings once or twice a year were instituted at Cecil Sharp House. The value of such gatherings cannot be exaggerated; it is universally agreed. Yet the size of them cannot grow beyond a certain limit without defeating their object, for the Morris cannot be danced in hordes or it will lose its character; and it is not in these large gatherings, valuable and inspiring as they are, but in the Clubs and in their regular meetings, that the true spirit of the Morris is to be found. Another function of the Ring, which I hope will be developed still more than it has been, is to provide an opportunity for experienced members of Clubs to meet and discuss anything concerning the welfare of the Clubs and of the Morris generally; and there may be many further ways, not yet attempted, in which the Ring can help the Clubs in the future, always preserving the essential relationship between the Clubs and the Ring. For the Ring is in no sense a 'super-Club'; it claims no right to prescribe policy for the Clubs that belong to it, nor has it ever suggested that every Club should follow a standardized pattern. Every Club associated in the Ring retains its own independence, and through its association in the Ring each Club contributes to the well-being of the others. There is not, and I hope there never will be, a `Ring style' of dancing; and if the Clubs ever begin to feel that the Ring is something over and above and superior to themselves, then it will be failing of its purpose.
For my own part, I should like to place on record my sense of the honour which has been done to me by the Clubs in electing me to be Squire of the Ring for the past two years. There can be few societies in which it is a greater pleasure to hold office, and although in looking back over this time it seems that I have done very little compared with what one might have hoped to do, it has been a great happiness to have this opportunity of getting to know Morris men better, to visit the Clubs on their own domestic occasions, and in however small a way to serve the Clubs and to help forward the work begun by Cecil Sharp.
Arthur L. Peck, Squire
THE MORRIS CLUBS
In the pages which follow there will be found a short account of many of the forty-three Clubs which have been admitted to association in the Ring. The date after each title is that of the Club's admission. The names at the end of each section are those of the dancers who either wrote the account or supplied the information from which it has been compiled. I am very grateful to all those who have made this interesting record possible.
The Abingdon Morris Men (May 1937)
The Bampton Morris Men (May 1937)
The Ring has the honour to count among its associated Clubs the two famous sides of Abingdon and Bampton. As is well known, the Bampton side has been dancing continuously from time immemorial, and for over fifty years has had the incomparable inspiration of William Wells, first as Fool and later as Fiddler. Whit Monday at Bampton is a day known to Morris men all over the world. The Abingdon side has had times of inactivity but with the encouragement of Kenworthy Schofield and Francis Fryer has got together on various occasions, and gave a fine performance at the Ring meeting at Stow-on-the-Wold in September 1938, at which Miss Mary Neal was present.
The Balgozvan Morris Men (March 1938)
In 1933 Walter Faires, a master at Balgowan School, Beckenham, introduced the Morris to a few of the senior pupils. The happy memories of the Morris which these boys had on leaving the School enabled him to form the Balgowan Old Boys Morris and Sword Dance Club, which was formally established on December 14th 1937, Peter Paddon being Squire, Dennis Harding Bagman, and Walter Faires instructor. The following March (1938) the Club became associated in the Ring, and most of the side attended the spring meeting at Thaxted in June. When Jack Putterill left Thaxted to be Vicar of St Andrew's, Plaistow, a mixed side of Balgowan and Morley College men (Walter Faires being also an active member of the latter Club) visited the parish to dance in the streets and at the Greengate Tavern, and also on the stage of the Greengate Cinema, for the benefit of the church funds. Numerous displays were given during the spring of 1939, and the Club attended the Ring meeting at Cecil Sharp House. In May the Men joined the East Surrey Morris for a day's tour of the villages around Godstone. Later in the summer the Club, together with a boy's team from Balgowan School, danced the Morris in an open-air festival at Herne Hill; the Club also visited Aylesford, Kent, where they presented the Kentish Hooden Horse, a ceremony which had not been presented since 1900. All members of the Balgowan Morris served in the War, the Squire and Bagman spending some time in a German P.o.W. camp. They and Walter Faires attended the Ring meeting in March 1946, but it proved impossible to get the side together again, and the remaining members were absorbed into the new Ravensbourne Club, founded during the winter of 1946-7, into whose possession the Hooden Horse passed, and was used at the Albert Hall Anglo-French Festival in January 1949. (D.H.Harding)
The Beaux of London City Morris (March 1947, as The Reel Club)
The Beaux of London City Morris had its beginning in a mixed club of young dancers living in and around London, and most of the members at some time or other took advantage of the instruction classes given at Cecil Sharp House. In time the feeling grew that it is only in a Club that the full meaning of the Morris can be understood, and in July 1947 the Beaux of London City Morris was founded. The Club made its first appearance at the autumn meeting of the Ring at Stratford-on-Avon the following month. The Club meets twice a month in St Pancras between October and May and concentrates on a few dances each year. The number of members is now sixteen. It has attended all Ring meetings since 1947, and has specially enjoyed the Thaxted gatherings. Displays of Morris dancing have been given at youth clubs, factory socials, and dances at the University of London, and have aroused much interest in the Morris. One Christmas, when the Club gave a show before some hospital patients, the nurses asked the Men to come and dance at their own party, which was to be held in the operating theatre, and thus it came about that Laudnum Bunches was performed in an operating theatre for the first time in history.(P.Swann)
The Bedford Morris Men (February 1936)
The Club dates from February 1932, when some old boys of Clapham Road School, Bedford, who had danced for several years at school under Thomas Northern, the present headmaster, began to meet there weekly under the instruction of A. W. Guppy, the son of a former headmaster. Among them was the present Squire, L. Arnold, who was soon followed by another present member, J. Housden, and by F. B. Hamer, then recently appointed to the staff of the school. By 1934 a side had been established, which under the name of `The Old Moles' began to give displays at local functions and appeared annually in the Morris and Sword competitions at the Bedford Musical Festival. In February 1936 the Club was reconstituted as the Bedford Morris Men, F. B. Hamer being elected the Club's first Squire, and was admitted the same month to association in the Ring. From then until 1939 it steadily increased its activities, attending as a complete side at all Ring meetings in London and at Thaxted, entering annually in the Bedford Musical Festival and appearing more often in public. The Morris Tour in the Trough of Bowland in 1939 was organized by F. B. Hamer and the Bedford Club. From 1940 to 1946 the Club's activities ceased completely, as most of the members were in the Forces, but it is noteworthy that all of them (with the exception of one of the musicians, H. Dixey, who was killed in Libya) rejoined the Club at its reconstitution in 1947, and the 1939 side appeared eight years later unchanged: a remarkable record, which is striking evidence of the loyalty of the members. In 1947 the Bedford Corporation granted the Club the right to wear the ancient arms of the Borough on its baldricks. The same year the Club undertook its first Morris tour in the villages of east Bedfordshire, and was invited to take part in the Albert Hall Festival of the E.F.D. & S. Society in January 1948. The Club has continued its early connexion with Clapham Road School by meeting there, and by its recent election of the headmaster as its first honorary member. The Club has never been large, and has had its difficulties in the years after the war owing to prolonged absence from Bedford of some of the members, but these difficulties are being surmounted, and the Club looks forward to increased activity in the future.(A.W.Guppy)
The Birmingham Morris Men (September 1938)
The Club was formed by members of the Birmingham City Police, and for a short time was very active and flourishing and gave some spirited shows at various dance meetings. Unfortunately, owing to the dispersal of its members, the Club's activities have not been revived since the war.
The Bishop's Stortford and Thorley Morris Men (May 1935)
The Bovingdon Morris Men (Inaugural Member)
The Bovingdon team was founded in the autumn of 1929 or 1930 and continued its activities until about 1938. It consisted almost entirely of village men, and was a genuine expression of the folk spirit by village people. There were always eight or nine men available, and to begin with the Club danced in Bovingdon and the surrounding villages, later going further afield as they became better known. An interesting feature of the shows was the singing of sea-shanties, with capstan and hauling rope, under the encouragement of a retired sea-captain, and later the performance of a mummers' play `King George and the Turkish Knight'. The team was in great demand at local folk-dance parties owing to this interesting repertoire. During the war Bovingdon was swamped by a large American airport, and it is unlikely that the Club will be revived in the changed circumstances which have resulted. (D.W.Small)
The Cambridge Morris Men (Founder Member)
Morris dancing in Cambridge began in the winter of 1911-12 at the Perse School, where Caldwell Cook was teaching some of the younger boys Headington dances and jigs and some sword-dances. By 1914 the Perse side, when Cecil Sharp saw it, was one of the three best in the country. The first men's side at Cambridge was formed in 1913, and in 1914 William Wells of Bampton came to Cambridge and fiddled and danced. The resumption of dancing after the war was due to the initiative of John Burnaby (May 1920), and the weekly practices then begun have been maintained in term time without a break ever since. Help was received in the early days from Alec Hunter of Letchworth. The Club was founded in 1924 by Kenworthy Schofield, to keep those who had gone down in touch with those still in residence. The inaugural meeting was held on October 24th. Since then an annual Morris and Feast has been held each year, usually in April. The number of members (dancers and musicians) is now eighty, and the number of honorary members sixteen.
The most important undertaking of the Club has been the Travelling Morrice tours, of which the first, due to the initiative of Arthur Heffer and Rolf Gardiner, took place in the Cotswolds in June 1924. It was only a few months later that the formal foundation of the Club occurred, an event which was not unconnected with the recent experiences of the tour. The tour itself had received the blessing of Cecil Sharp, and the time of his death practically coincided with the last show of the tour, given at Adderbury. `Perhaps', Arthur Heffer wrote, `there is a mystery to be found here in that the magic circle is complete and the dances collected and pieced together by him from information supplied by old men have been taken back rejuvenated to, the villagers from whom they were originally acquired.' In all, thirty tours have been organized, of which fourteen have been in the Cotswolds, five in the Forest of Dean, two in Germany and one in Norway (the three last mentioned were in company with country-dancers). Joint performances in their own towns have been given with the traditional sides of Eynsham, Winster, and Chipping Campden. Every year (except 1940 to 1944 inclusive) there has been one tour, and some years there have been two. The English tours normally last for a week. Old traditional dancers have been met, and new and interesting information obtained from them.
The Club's part in the foundation of the Morris Ring has already been described.
The Cheddar Morris Men (June 1936)
The Cheltenham Morris Men (March 1937)
The Clifton Morris Men (Inaugural Member)
The Club was founded by Roger Pinniger in 1935. Twelve men danced regularly until the team was broken up by the war in 1939.(R.Pinniger)
The Colchester Morris Men (May 1935)
The Coventry Morris Men (February 1936)
The Club was formed in 1931 by some dancers who had previously danced in connexion with a Scout Troop. Regular weekly practices for Morris and Sword dancing were held from 1931 until November 1940, when the hall in which the Club met was destroyed in an air-raid (November 4th). After this, regular meetings were impossible, and the Club suffered a further heavy loss in the death in another raid (April 1941) of their fiddler. By February 1936, when the Club became associated in the Ring, it had a considerable reputation in the Midlands and took part in many outdoor functions in the district. It represented Warwickshire at several Albert Hall Festivals. Since the war efforts have been made to revive the Club, and it is hoped that before long this will be achieved.(W. Cleaver)
The Curfews Morris (September 1938)
The East Surrey Morris Men (Founder Member)
An active Morris Men's group was founded about 1926 as part of the East Surrey Branch of the E.F.D.S., and practised under the direction of Kenneth Constable. They took part in the early Albert Hall shows, in Branch Festivals and tours, and in the Morris Men's meetings at Thaxted and elsewhere. From 1934 to 1939 they flourished with Kenneth Constable as Squire and Leonard Bardwell as Bagman and musician. Outstanding events were the three May tours in 1937, 1938 and 1939, in the Pilgrims' Way country, each tour ending with a feast at `Ye Olde Hare and Hounds' at Godstone Green. These were memorable occasions. The tours were also well supported by dancers from Greensleeves, London Pride, Morley College, Wargrave and elsewhere, and the musicians included Francis Fryer, Clifford Smith and Kenworthy Schofield. During the war, the death of Richard Powell, a leading Morris Man, at an early age, was a great loss to the Club. Activities were revived in October 1948, with Robert Ash as Squire and Charles Rowse as Bagman, and there is every hope that the Club will regain its former vigour.(R.M.Howes)
The Edinburgh Morris Men (September 1936)
The team began dancing in 1928. Regular meetings were held, and soon Princes Street rang with the sound of the English Morris danced by mixed Scots and Sassenachs. The Club danced at the Grasmere meeting in September 1936, on which occasion it was admitted to association in the Ring.(A.B.Hunter)
The Foresters Morris Men (June 1936)
The Club was admitted to association in the Ring as the Bournemouth Morris Men in June 1936. The name was changed to the Foresters in 1937.
The Greengate Morris (March 1938)
The Club was founded by Jack Putterill at St Andrew's, Plaistow, where he was Vicar, in 1937. The name was taken from the famous inn, the Greengate, which stands in the Barking Road, with an open space in front of it, and is therefore suited to the Morris in more ways than one. Here the Morris danced on Bank Holidays, as well as at other times in the streets of the parish and other parts of the East End. A barrel-organ was acquired and fitted with folk-tunes (country-dances and the Swalwell Sword-dance). The side twice entered at the Stratford Music Festival and obtained awards. Jack was Squire and musician, and his daughter Sylvia helped with the music. The Morley College Morris joined the Greengate side in outdoor dancing, and the Balgowan men also came to dance in Plaistow. Activities came to an end in 1939, and Jack returned to Thaxted in 1942. (J.Putterill)
The Greensleeves Morris (Founder Member)
The Greensleeves Club was founded in London in 1926, and has always remained what its founder, N. M. Cameron, intended it to be, 'a Club for men members of the English Folk Dance Society, who meet regularly and dance English Morris and Sword-dances together'. The early members, Cameron, Bell, Croft, G. F. Green, Finch, Martin, Freedman, Ranger, did much to further the general appreciation of Cecil Sharp's work for the English Morris. The first meetings were held in St John's Mission. Later the Club moved to Cleveland Street School and then to Tichborne Street School, which remained its meeting-place until the autumn of 1940. In spite of cramped conditions, the dancing reached and maintained a high standard, and the team was often chosen to show the Morris at the All-England Festivals of the E.F.D. & S. Society, and was invited to take part in the tours and festivals organized by the provincial centres and Clubs.
Cameron, unfortunately, had to leave London in 1929, but his successor John Heaven ably led the team until he too had to leave in 1940. During the war members were scattered, but with the return of peace Gordon Neil, ably assisted by William Ganiford, gathered together those old members who were still able and willing, and with these and some new members again formed the Club. Since then, more old members have returned, and regular meetings are held at Cecil Sharp House. (J.Snelgrove)
The Headington Quarry Morris Men (March 1949)
Under the tuition of William Kimber, who was playing for the Headington Morris when Cecil Sharp first saw it in 1899, the Headington Quarry team has recently been revived and is in a very flourishing and vigorous condition. The team, accompanied by Mr Kimber on his concertina, danced before Princess Margaret in Cecil Sharp House on June 2lst 1949.
The Lads of Southwark Morris (Inaugural Member)
The Club was founded by Wilfrid Abbott, from a team of boys belonging to a Scout and Rover Troop. After Wilfrid Abbott's death the leadership was taken over by William Ganiford, until 1938. Wilfrid Abbott also danced with a team of village boys at Emberton, and taught them Morris and Sword dances.(F.Abbott, W. Ganiford)
The Lakeland Morris Men (May 1935)
There had been Morris dancers in the Lake District Branch of the E.F.D.S. for many years, but it was not until 1934 that they formally constituted themselves into a Club. The following May the Club became associated in the Ring. With William Palmer as Squire and Leonard Hotson as Bagman the Club flourished for several years in spite of the considerable distances over mountain roads that had to be covered whenever the Club met. Regular practices were held, usually at Grasmere or Ambleside, and shows were given at summer festivals and winter parties; the Club also took part in the E.F.D.S. Festival at Liverpool in December 1936. The Lakeland Morris Men were hosts to the Morris Ring at a very successful gathering held at Grasmere in September 1936. (W.H.Palmer)
The Letchworth Morris Men (Founder Member)
Letchworth was probably one of the very first places in which any Morris of the revival period was danced, and on May-day 1908 a Morris jig was performed by Alfred Dickins. By 1909 the Morris was being taught to schoolboys, and an outdoor show was given by them on May-day 1909. For several years interest in the Morris continued, and a few dances were always performed in the May-day festival held yearly in the centre of the town.
About 1920, Alec Hunter and his wife infused new life into Letchworth dancing. Alec danced with the Cambridge Men from time to time, and in Letchworth he trained one of the best Morris sides of the revival; their performance of Brackley 'Shooting' will be remembered by all who ever saw it. The side met weekly for practice, and for six or seven years took part in all important folk-dance gatherings and gave many shows in its own neighbourhood; The Letchworth Men were always in close touch with Thaxted and Cambridge, and in 1927 these three Clubs joined together in the first of the Morris week-ends held at Thaxted, thus laying the foundation on which the Ring was later to be built. For some years previously, since 1921, the Letchworth men had camped at Thaxted over Whitsun and danced in the streets with the Thaxted men.
Although a period of lesser activity followed, dancing was never given up, and a side could usually be got together for some special occasion: in 1932 a short tour was undertaken on the Herts and Essex borders. In 1938 and 1939 activity again increased, with frequent meetings and dancing in the streets. Since the war, street dancing has been revived to some extent, together with dancers from other Clubs. Letchworth was one of the Founder Clubs of the Ring in 1934, and members have attended every Ring meeting except that at Grasmere.(W.H.Palmer)
The Liverpool Morris Men (Inaugural Member)
The London Pride Morris (May 1937)
There are two eras in the history of the Club. (1) From the 1920's to 1936 it had a distinguished membership, several members being regularly included in the Society's Headquarters team. This was both an honour and a disadvantage, since the double call upon the men's time was one of the factors leading to the Club's dissolution in 1936. (2) In 1936 a new start was made by a few survivors of the old Club. From 1936 to 1939 few public performances could be given, as insufficient men were regularly available, and after the war similar difficulties were encountered. In spite of distance, however (one member travels thirty miles and back to attend practices), the great loyalty of the men, the return of two old members and the accession of a new one, have enabled the Club to renew its vigour, and the Club appeared in December 1948 at the London Festival of the Society. Both Bagmen of the Ring have been members of London Pride at the time of their election. (F.J.Tabor)
The Manchester Morris Men (June 1936)
The Club was a small one, having only seven or eight members, under the leadership of Stephen Hiley, but was able to continue its meetings until about the end of the war, and it was still possible to get together a side after Stephen Hiley left for South Africa. At present there is not a complete side but it is hoped that some new members may be forthcoming before long. (B.Bentley)
The Midland Morris Men (March 1949)
The Club was founded in 1948 by Walter Newall, for men living in the extensive tract of country from Northants to Notts, and from the Welsh Border to Lincoln. It meets at Birmingham, usually once a month, and the average attendance is about twenty.(W.A.Newall)
The Morley College Morris (May 1935)
Members of the Morley College Club were also members of the demonstration team of the Morley College Folk Dance Club founded in 1927. The Club attained a high standard of performance under the tuition of Richard Callender, but owing to its not having an independent existence lacked something of the essential Club spirit. It was, however, one of the first Clubs to arrange a meeting and feast open to all Clubs of the Ring. During the war many members left London to live permanently in the provinces, and the Club is at present inactive. At least three of the now dispersed members have helped to found new Clubs. (C.D.A.Capp)
The Newcastle Morris Men (June 1936; formerly The Monkseaton Morris Men)
The Club, which was active for a short time before the war, is now resuming its activities under the leadership of W. Fisher Cassie, dancing the Morris and rapper-sword dances; there is a keen nucleus and interest is increasing.
The Oxford Morris Men (Founder Member)
There has been men's Morris in Oxford for nearly 40 years. The early E.F.D.S. groups consisted largely of members of the University, and there was a succession of University Morris sides: newspapers commented on 'the dancing dons'. In 1934 R. I. Davison of Oriel was the Bagman of the University side which was one of the Founder members of the Ring. For the last 26 years the May morning dancing, with William Kimber or some-times Elsie Avril as musician, has been a notable event in the city's calendar, and many men now prominent in public life must have heard the Morris bells on May morning. Last May-day three teams were out - Headington Quarry, the Oxford Morris Men, and a University side from the Cecil Sharp Club.
Between 1937 and 1946 the Club was 'town' rather than `gown'. Even during the war years there was more or less regular dancing, and the May-day shows were kept up. In 1946 the Club was reorganized; the first Feast was held in April 1947, and P. Stuart Mills, who had kept the group together over a long and difficult period, was elected Squire. During the last three year's the Club has met regularly, and has given 48 displays, mostly at village fetes, but also at Corby Pole Fair (all day) in 1947, and at Adderbury (three visits: one for Miss Janet Blunt's ninetieth birthday). Musically the Club is now self-supporting, but William Kimber has played for very many of the displays. There is a strong link with Headington Quarry, where the side, which was active for a time between the two wars, is now again revived, and four members of that team were members of the Club. For a short period there was an Oxford City Police team. The Club's present membership is a mixture of Town, Gown, and Headington. (L.S.Bardwell)
The Ravensbourne Morris (March 1947)
The Club was founded by Geoffrey Metcalf on October 28th 1946 at Bromley, Kent, to provide for men in S.E. London and N.W. Kent. It was named after the Ravensbourne, which flows through its territory. The first Squire was Geoffrey Metcalf; the first practice was held at Beckenham in January 1947; and the Club was admitted into the association in the Ring in March 1947, when it received the staff of association formerly held by the Balgowan Morris (q.v.), some former members of which now dance with Ravensbourne. In 1947 activities were limited by small membership, but numbers increased in 1948, and in this year a Saturday tour was undertaken, in addition to a fairly full programme of other activities. In January 1949 a mummers' play was performed. The Club possesses a Hooden Horse, probably the only one now existing in Kent; and this always forms part of the show on suitable occasions. (G.Metcalf)
The Rugby Morris Men (March 1947)
The Club was formed at the first party held by the Rugby group of the E.F.D. & S. Society on December 23rd 1946, and consisted of the following men: John Dibdin (Squire), Les Wray, David Turner, Alan Franey, Harry Metcalf, and Geoffrey Mendham. In 1947 the Squire left Rugby, and was succeeded by Alan Franey, with Geoffrey Mendham as Bagman. In March 1947 the Club became associated in the Ring. Tours were organized during July and September, and a team went to the Stratford festival. In September the first Rugby Morris feast was held. In 1948 Les Wray became Squire, and there were tours at Whitsun and in September, During the following winter half the team left Rugby, and the remaining members are working hard to keep the side going. (K.A.Franey)
The St Albans Morris Men (Inaugural Member)
The Club was founded in 1930 by Kenworthy Schofield, who has been its musician and tutor ever since. It was associated in the Ring as an Inaugural Member at the first general meeting in October 1934. From the beginning the Club has shown the Morris at the principal folk-dancing events in Hertfordshire, and was commended at the All-England Festival of the E.F.D.S.in 1932.
In 1939 the Club began to make its own occasions for showing the Morris in public, and during the summer toured the villages of Hertfordshire on many occasions. This activity was resumed in 1947, and has become a regular feature of the Club's summer activities. Also in 1947 shows were given at two neighbouring public schools, Haileybury and Aldenham, and at the teachers' training college at Leavesden. On May 19th 1948 the St Albans Men appeared on television, and later that summer showed the Morris to an aggregate audience of about 30,000 during the week of the St Albans Millenary Pageant.
Practices are held weekly throughout most of the year. There are twenty-eight full members and several recruits. A new Squire is elected each year. (D.Cassels)
The Springhead Morris (March 1937)
The Springhead Morris was founded by Rolf Gardiner to dance Morris and Sword dances in the festivals and celebrations instituted by him with the aim of restoring a seasonal calendar of musical and other artistic activities as an integral part of the agricultural life of the Springhead community at Fontmell Magna. Festivals were celebrated at such times as Christmas, May-day, Plough Monday, and harvest. One Plough Monday the team danced at eight different places in Dorset, including Blandford, Dorchester and Shaftesbury. On another occasion they made a longer tour and joined in a show with the Eynsham traditional team at Eynsham. (R.Gardiner)
The Stansted Morris Men (March 1937)
The Club was founded in the winter of 1934-5. Mr H. Bentley Thorn, of Bromley, who is well known for his magnificent work in teaching the Morris, met some of the younger men of the village at a country-dance party given by Mr and Mrs Hunt in the old barn at Goodmans Farm, and persuaded them to take up the Morris. From then right up to the outbreak of the war he came over once a month to Stansted, at some personal inconvenience, to take the Morris practice. One or two older men helped to complete the side, and by the end of the summer such good progress had been made that on a Saturday afternoon in September the Club was able to undertake a tour round the neighbouring villages. Open-air shows were given at Wrotham, Hartley, and Meopham. The Club regularly attended the London gatherings, and gave displays at local fetes and shows. The war put an end to the Club's activities, and in the changed circumstances since the war it seems unlikely that the Club will be revived. (G.Baker)
The Suffolk Morris Men (June 1938)
Suffolk men have been meeting for Morris dancing on and off since the early 1930's. A full side attended Thaxted first in 1936. Walter Watford was Squire when the club was admitted to association with the Ring in 1938. In the summers of 1938 and 1939 two or three tours in Suffolk were organised. There are now two teams active: one at Ipswich, led by Leslie Ford, and the other at Sudbury, led by Archie Bryden; both have given displays on various occasions. (R.A.Bryden)
The Thaxted Morris Men (Founder Member)
Morris dancing at Thaxted began in 1910, after a visit from Miss Blanche Payling, who came from the Esperance Guild of Morris Dancers organized by Miss Mary Neal, and as a result of this visit Mrs Noel soon had a large class of mixed dancers. Three Thaxted dancers were invited to dance throughout the week at the Earls Court Exhibition of Shakespeare's England in 1912. In 1913 Father George Chambers brought the Thaxted dancers into touch with Cecil Sharp's work by taking some of them to the classes then being held at Dunmow by Mrs Hobbs; a friend of Cecil Sharp; these classes, however, were almost entirely for country- and sword-dancing. There was no dancing from 1914 to 1918, but after the war the Morris was revived by some of the old dancers, with the encouragement and help of the Letchworth side and of other visiting teachers. The custom of dancing in the streets of Thaxted on Bank holidays began about this time, and has continued ever since.
The first annual meeting of Morris Clubs was held at Ardeley in 1926. The next year it was held at Thaxted, where it has continued to be held since that time, and when the Morris Ring was founded this meeting became one of the big annual Ring gatherings. The long and happy association of Morris men with Thaxted and with Thaxted Church led to a suggestion in 1948 that Morris Clubs, through the Ring, might subscribe towards the recasting of one of the church bells, three of which were in a state of bad repair, and for this object a sum of £45 in all was subscribed by the Clubs. The bell, inscribed with beautiful figures of Morris and other traditional dances, was cast by the firm of Gillet and Johnston, the work being carefully superintended by Michael Howard, one of the directors and himself a Morris dancer, and the bell, with the two others, was dedicated by the Bishop of Colchester on Saturday March 26th 1949, while a large gathering of Morris men, organized by the Ring, was dancing in Cecil Sharp House. (G.Chambers, A.B.Hunter, J.Putterill)
The Wargrave Morris Men (Inaugural Member)
Late in 1933 Francis Fryer and Reginald Annetts, who had become interested in English folk-dancing while living near Newbury, moved to Wargrave. Here they found neither country-dance centre nor Morris Club in existence, but regular (and separate) weekly practices for both kinds of dancing were soon begun. Various local men took part in the Morris practices, and visitors sometimes put in an appearance. Three local men proved to be stayers (John Gillet, Tom Jones, and Rae Jones), and later Fred Coxhead, who had done a good deal of dancing with Fryer and Annetts in the Newbury district, joined the Club. When the Morris Ring was formed in 1934, the Wargrave Morris Men were one of the Inaugural Members, and early in September 1936 the Ring met at Wargrave Hall, the Wargrave Morris Men being responsible for the local arrangements.
With the aid of one, or sometimes two, guest dancers, the Club was able to dance in public on various occasions, for example at Brownlow Hill, Warfield, in October 1937, and at Selborne in July 1938 (as part of a pageant attended by 2000 spectators), and about this time the Club organized an evening's dancing tour of villages in the Lambourn valley. In July 1939, with one guest dancer, they performed the Boosbeck Sword-dance at the summer festival of the E.F.D. & S. Society (Berkshire Branch), the music being provided by Fryer playing an accordion similar to that used by George Tremain, the musician of the traditional Boosbeck team. At the present time the Club is doing its best to resume the activities interrupted by the war. (F.Fryer)
The West Yorkshire Morris Men (March 1938)
The Whitchurch Morris Men (May 1949)
A keen group of dancers at Whitchurch were put into touch with Lionel Bacon at a meeting of the Ring, and with his help and tuition have made excellent progress. The Club was founded and admitted to association in the Ring in May 1949.
The Wrington Morris Men (March 1938)
The Club was founded by Roger Pinniger. Help was given by the Vicar, the Rev. A. J. Hook, who knew Cecil Sharp. The side danced for two years, 1937 to 1939. (R.Pinniger)
Morris Men's Clubs which have been admitted to association in the Morris Ring
|May 1934||Founder Members:||Cambridge, Oxford, Letchworth, Thaxted, East Surrey, Greensleeves|
|October 1934||Inaugural Members:||Bovingdon,* Chelmsford,* Clifton, Lads of Southwark,* Liverpool, St Albans, Wargrave|
The following are the dates of admission of the other Clubs:
|May 1935||Bishop's Stortford,* Colchester,* Lakeland,* Morley College*|
|February 1936||Bedford, Coventry|
|June 1936||Cheddar,* Bournemouth* (name changed to The Foresters in 1937), Manchester,* Newcastle|
|March 1937||Cheltenham,* Springhead, Stansted*|
|May 1937||Abingdon, Bampton, London Pride|
|March 1938||Balgowan,* Greengate,* West Yorkshire,* Wrington*|
|September 1938||Birmingham,* Curfews*|
|March 1947||Reel Club (name changed to The Beaux of London City in 1948), Ravensbourne, Rugby|
|March 1949||Headington Quarry, Midland|
* These Clubs have either been disbanded or have temporarily ceased to hold regular meetings.
The Scrap-Book, which contains a large collection of news-paper cuttings, photographs, and other records of the Clubs' activities and of dancing at Ring meetings, is kept by R. M. Howes.
OFFICERS OF THE MORRIS RING
|Alec Hunter||1934||Walter Abson||1934|
|Kenworthy Schofield||1936||Robert Ross||1946|
Morris Men's gatherings organized in connexion
with the Morris Ring
|(1)||1934||October 20th||Cecil Sharp House (Inaugural Meeting)|
|(2)||1935||May 3lst to June 2nd||Thaxted|
|(3)||1935||September 13th to 15th||Stow-on-the-Wold|
|(4)||1936||February 1st||Cecil Sharp House|
|(5)||1936||June 5th to 7th||Thaxted|
|(6)||1936||September 4th to 6th||Wargrave|
|(7)||1936||September 18th to 20th||Grasmere|
|(8)||1937||March 13th||Cecil Sharp House|
|(9)||1937||June 4th to 6th||Thaxted|
|(10)||1937||June 12th to 13th||Tideswell|
|(11)||1937||September 17th to 19th||Kettering|
|(12)||1938||March 12th||Cecil Sharp House|
|(13)||1938||June 9th to 11th||Thaxted|
|(14)||1938||September 16th to 18th||Stow-on-the-Wold|
|(16)||1939||March 18th||Cecil Sharp House|
|(17)||1939||May 13th to 14th||Longridge, nr. Preston, Lancs|
|(18)||1939||June 9th to 11th||Thaxted|
|(19)||1940||March 10th||Cecil Sharp House|
|(20)||1946||March 23rd||Cecil Sharp House|
|(21)||1946||August 3rd to 5th||Stratford-on-Avon|
|(22)||1947||March 22nd||Cecil Sharp House|
|(23)||1947||June 14th to 15th||Thaxted|
|(24)||1947||August 1st to 4th||Stratford-on-Avon|
|(25)||1948||May 22nd to 23rd||Thaxted|
|(26)||1948||September 25th||Cecil Sharp House|
|(27)||1949||March 26th||Cecil Sharp House|
|(28)||1949||May 27th to 29th||Thaxted|