Traditional folk music, dance and customs - Harrogate, North Yorkshire - Chas Marshall's Website
This page is based on the orignal Roots Tour Souvenir Booklet and provides a snapshot and history of the Ripon City Morris Dancers 14 dance repertoire the time of the tour. Information is included on the following dances:
The Roots Tour was organised by Geoff Hyde as part of the teams 20th Anniversary Celebrations. The theme of the tour is that we should perform each dance from our current repertoire in the town from which the dance originates or the place after which the dance was named. Inevitably such a tour takes us through or past many other places, which used to have, or still have Morris dances. It has become customary to name the dances after the locality where they were performed or collected. In many cases the dances were kept alive by tradition-bearers who were a close-knit family or group and consequently the dance could move from place to place as these same people moved.
Our tour starts in Ripon with quite a respectable number of dances from Ripon. Some of these are reinterpretations of traditional material and some are new inventions from fertile minds of team members. There is nothing wrong with new dances, as long as they have their roots in traditional material and style new recipes from traditional ingredients, as I like to call them.
This was the second dance to enter the Ripon City Morris Dancers repertoire. Unfortunately, the dance has only very tenuous links with any real Morris tradition or with any real basis in fact. Further research could shed some more light on the situation, but the following is the best I can glean at the moment.
Darcy Ferrars (or Ferris) organised a number of pageants around the country and was appointed as Master of the Revels in 1886 by the Festival Committee of Ripon for the Millenary celebrations. Events must have turned out well because Ferrars returned for further pageants in 1896 and 1906. His events were very much in a fanciful Merrie England mould, based as much on romanticism as on any historical fact. He also arranged a historical play in Thirsk during 1907, which included Maypole Dancers and Morris Dancers who seem to have danced with the Woodland Nymphs! Perhaps we should revive this.
The notation for a dance, entitled Lancashire Rushcart, was discovered by Julian Pilling in Ferrarss manuscripts held at Cecil Sharp House (HQ of the English Folk Dance and Song Society). I have not seen the original manuscript - only Julian Pillings notes on it. It is possible that the original manuscripts may reveal further contextual information. However, it is assumed that the dance was performed, or was intended to be performed, at the Millenary festival (hence the name we have given to the dance). There is no record of such a dance taking place in the Millenary festival according to W Harrisons book Ripon Millenary. There are records of morris dancers in the Ripon Historic Festivals of 1896 and 1906, although photographs would suggest these to be of the Cotswold Morris type.
The notation of the dance is very brief and somewhat cryptic. Ideas on interpretation from Julian Pilling and Dave Robinson have been used, along with a fair dash of my own thoughts. However the semicircle figure with solo dancing, which we use as a finale, is very obvious in the notation and quite unique. Ripon was a centre for the manufacture of spurs and was famed for its rowels - as true steel as Ripon Rowels. Tony Butcher thought this semi-circle figure represented a spur, thus giving the figure its name (although strictly speaking the rowel is the circular spiked disc of a spur). I still cant decide whether this is mere coincidence or a real piece of insight by Tony.
Of all our dances, this is one about which it is best not to be dogmatic. It may have been performed at some point during Ripons history and our rendering of it could only be described as it may have looked something like this.
The name of this dance reveals all - it was the third dance learnt by Ripon City Morris Dancers! In giving the dance this title, two factors were uppermost in my mind at the time. Firstly the need to be accurate in the naming of dances. When a dance is being altered to fit a team style, there may become a point beyond which any further changes render the dances original title inappropriate. Secondly, I was aware of some teams jealously guarding the origins of their dances by giving them numbers not names. One such team was Colne Royal Morris Men who thought that local dances should only be danced by the local team - not a totally unreasonable position.
The origins of the Ripon Number Three are to be found in the Pipers Ash Reel. However, the changes introduced were substantial, leading to the belief that a new name was also needed. Pipers Ash is a village near Chester and I understand that Graham Proctor, who held the position of squire at the time, wrote the dance for Chester City Morris Men. He named the dance after the village where he lived.
A number of teams dance the Pipers Ash Reel - watch out for that telltale sequence of stepping the next time you see Wakefield Morris Dancers. You will find the pace and movements of the original dance quite brisk in comparison with Number Three. To offset this I always prefer our music to be played at a lively tempo.
The history of the Ripon 1100 Morris Dance reveals part of our continuing links with the Preston Royal Morris Dancers. As the team sought to expand its repertoire of dances, the then leader of Preston Royal, Mike Holt, was invited to do a workshop for the team on the Whalley dance. Mike had previously learnt this dance when he was with the Clitheroe team, which included all the dances from the Ribble valley in its repertoire.
The Whalley dance and that from neighbouring Clayton-le-Moors are very similar and no are doubt inextricably linked. The dance was collected by Bernard Bentley of the Manchester Morris Men and members of this team trawled most of Lancashire for information, their efforts culminating in the article in the Journal of the English Folk Dance and Song Society (Vol. IX No. 1 1960) entitled The North West Morris : A General Survey. This article was written by Bernard Bentley and Daniel Howison and is a good starting point for anyone interested in the background of the North West Morris.
The Whalley turned out to have some interesting
new steps and figures such as the Hitcharound and the Heel and Toe, but
also included features very similar to other dances which we were performing
at the time. I decided to incorporate the good bits of the
Whalley with odds and ends from elsewhere to try to bring a completely
fresh dance to the team. Among the imported figures were Ladies Chain
and Long Corners - not original figures in themselves, but new to the
team at the time.
A dance for nine dancers developed by Paul Freeman and named after the ancient game. Paul wanted the dance to start as a normal North West set of 8 dancers with the leader at the head of the set. The leader was then to become integrated as part of the set for a sequence of figures which were uninfluenced by any other 9 man dance. The only other 9 mans North West Morris dance I have seen is performed by the Saddleworth lads and was developed by them around the same time as Paul was working on his dance.
Very popular in medieval times, Nine Mens Morris is regarded by many as a traditional British game but it is much older. Evidence of an early board has been found in an Egyptian Temple dating back to about 1400 BC. In Shakespeares time it was played as an outdoor game on a board marked in the turf and is referred to in a Midsummer Nights Dream. Also known as Merrelles. Evidence of an early board has been found in an Egyptian Temple dating back to about 1400 BC. In Shakespeares time it was played as an outdoor game on a board marked in the turf and is referred to in a Midsummer Nights Dream. Also known as Merrelles.
A dance choreographed by team member Jim Coulson and named after the neighbourhood in Ripon where both Jim and 3 or 4 other team members lived around that time. The main thrust behind the dance was a desire to create patterns that would look good from an audiences point of view, rather than being complicated for the dancers.
The Studley Royal Morris Dance is a North West style dance put together by Paul Freeman, with a little bit of polishing and adapting to RCMD style by yours truly. It is named after the Studley Royal Hotel (which once stood in Ripon Market Place) where the team used to repair for post-practice refreshments in the early years of the team. The Studley Royal Hotel was later converted into a North Eastern Electricity Board shop, which resulted in our move to the Golden Lion with the most happy consequences.
The Gisburn Processional is the first dance ever learnt by the team. We originally performed it as a stationary dance, but we now use it exclusively as a processional dance to which we have added some extra figures of our own, including Weave and Wind up. This dance is now used in most of the processions danced by the team, although the Ripon Millenary Polka, Nine Mans Morris and the Chorley Display Dance have been used in previous years.
Gisburn is a village in Lancashire situated on the A59 not far from Clitheroe. It used to be in Yorkshire until the boundary changes of 1974. The dance was collected by Leta Douglas, amongst others, who published it in a collection called Three More Dances of The Yorkshire Dales. This booklet includes the following description :-
As danced by a team of 12 men and 12 women annually at the Village Field Day, generally held in June. The men wear white shirts, red knee breeches, the women wear white dresses, red sashes over the left shoulder tied on the right hip, with bells across the chest, red stockings and clogs, and a red band on their hair.
All carry short white sticks with a bell attached at each end, the mens wound round with red braid and the womens with yellow braid. These sticks are carried in the outside hand by their sides during the procession and at head level during the dancing of the figures, and continuously shaken to ring the bells. The dance is done throughout with the left foot leading, a jaunty walking step for the procession, skipping step for the figures.
The dance was first performed around 1909 or 1910 and the last recorded time it was done by a Gisburn team was in 1953 when children danced. It is thought that the dance was introduced to Gisburn by a pedlar from Burnley way, who settled in the village.
The descriptions of the figures in Leta Douglass notation do match reasonably well what we do. However there are other descriptions of the dance, which inevitably differ from Leta Douglass notation to a greater or lesser extent. The dance may well have changed over the years and dancers recollections may vary.
Our version is based on the teachings of Trefor Owen, with further changes made to suit the Ripon City style. Thus care needs to be taken in referring to the dance - at best it may be described as Ripon City Morris Dancers interpretation (or version) of the Gisburn Processional.
I believe this dance was collected by Roland Higson of Horwich Prize Medal Morris Men and was taught at the Whitby Folk Week North West Workshops in 1985. Also known as the Millbrook Processional. There seem to be a number of similar dances collected in this area and I possess another notation entitled The Millbrook (Stalybridge) Morris Dance. Rolands original teachings included a final figure called Tickle-era which was danced to waltz (3/4) timing. We were never quite comfortable with this and I eventually substituted the finale figure from the Millbrook notation the similarly named Tittle Eara which is danced to a special tune in 4/4 timing. The photograph shows the Millbrook team in 1902.
Taught by Manchester Morris Men at Whitby Folk Week in 1987. This notation has been modified to suit the style of Ripon City Morris Dancers. I am not sure of the exact history of this dance, but I think it is a collection of North West Morris style figures named after a river which flows through Manchester.
More correctly called the Abram Morris Dance
according to some authorities.
The photograph shows eighteen dancers in addition to two clowns, a King and Queen. These extra four characters did not take part in the dance. The dancers kit comprised white straw boaters, white shirts, white waistcoats, dark trousers and dark boots. This costume was decorated with red, white and blue vertically striped waistbands and hat bands. Wide sashes fastened with rosettes were worn diagonally over the shoulder. A large white handkerchief was knotted to the middle finger of each hand.
The music used for the Abram Circle is a particular 7 part tune, which seems to be a conglomerate of two fairly common North West tunes; the Morris processional tune often known as Long Morris and the finale tune Cross Morris or Nancy Dawson.
Our version of the Abram Circle Dance is based on a notation kindly given by Paul Holden of the Horwich Prize Medal Morris Men. It is said that the Horwich Men could not imagine a load of Wigan Miners dancing around with hankies and modified the dance to use slings and polka stepping! Some further small modifications were made in adapting to Ripons style.
The Abram Morris Dancers have been revived by Geoff Hughes and can be seen once a year retracing the route of the traditional extensive tour of the Abram district. This tour commences at the Morris Dancers Ground; a plot of land near the Maypole Colliery where an undecorated maypole is said to have stood. The dancers costumes are close to the originals and the King, Queen and clowns are also usually present.
Nearer to home Betty Luptons Ladle Laikers version of this dance is a closer interpretation to the original.
This dance is based largely on the collecting work of that First Lady of North West Morris Pruw Boswell. Some of my own experiences of the dance are:
Watching Preston Royal Morris Dancers perform
at Sidmouth 1980 where I took some notes
This is a dance composed by Ed Sanders of Leyland Morris Men for Whitby Folk Week in 1986. It was taught at the North West Morris Workshops during the Folk Week, I believe in preference to dances from Leylands own repertoire being used. It has also been taught by Leylands leader, Roy Smith, at a North West Leaders Weekend organised by the Morris Federation. Waltons was taught to us at a dance exchange event with Slubbing Billys in Netherton, Huddersfield in January 1999, where we swapped Nine Mans Morris.
Another dance from the collecting activities of Pruw Boswell. When Pruw first collected this dance she believed that it was introduced into Poulton-le-Fylde by a dancer from Preston. At the time, Preston Royal Morris Dancers were thought to be the only team from the Preston area and the dance was named the Preston Royal Morris Dance. Subsequently, further teams were found to be active in Preston at the same period and it became uncertain that this dance was in fact the Preston Royal Morris Dance. As a result it was re-classified by Pruw as Poulton-le-Fylde. Some teams still, perhaps mistakenly, refer to this dance as the Preston Royal Morris Dance.
Our version has been developed from Morris Federation notations.
Pruw Boswell collected the Chorley Display Dance and I am grateful to Pruw for passing me a copy of her notation for use by Ripon City Morris Dancers. At the time I believe that John o Gaunts Morrismen were the only other team in possession of the notation and I doubt that anyone else has received it since. I have seen John o Gaunt dance the Chorley Display Dance and their interpretation uses slings instead of sticks held in the middle as the notation suggests and as we do ourselves. I am not sure if John o Gaunt are still dancing this, so perhaps we could regard ourselves as custodians of this particular dance. We have taught this dance at festival workshops and we have also been on a trip to Derbyshire to teach it to Ripley Green Garters.
Pruw collected extensively around the Preston area and was a significant influence, having had a hand in the formation of 4 North West Morris Dance teams, namely, John o Gaunt, Garstang, Preston Royal and Royal Lancashire. Some of her findings have been published in two books in the series Morris Dancing on the Lancashire Plain entitled The Preston Tradition and The Horwich Inquiry. She has material for a third book (covering amongst others, Poulton-le-Fylde) which sadly, I suspect, will not reach print.
The notation I received contains the following information. This dance has been adapted from the one performed by the Chorley Spick and Span Morris Dancers during the 1920s. Taught by Bobby Goodman, leader and trainer of the team from 1919 to 1939, who is reputed to have been a member of the Hindley Green Morris Dancers as a young man around the turn of the century. The figures are original - with the exception of the step-up which has been specially created for this version.
Inevitably there have been further changes to the dance as it passed into our repertoire. Many notations are not explicit in the detail of how particular figures should be performed, so there is a need, on the part of the dance leader, for some interpretation and adaptation to an individual team style. A few small embellishments such as the clashing of sticks have also been added to make the dance more distinctive. All in all though, I would reckon the dance is fair representation of the traditional performance.
The Chorley Display Dance is so named to distinguish it from the Chorley Polka which is performed by Royal Preston Morris Dancers.
Roots Tour Itinerary and Programme