Bells & Swords (& Handkerchiefs)

Morris swords & bells 001

Of course I’m talking about Morris Dancing. Didn’t you guess?

I was browsing the Reader and came across a blog about Morris Dancing, with videos. One was 40 minutes long – lots of different sides performing in London’s Trafalgar Square.

My English father (yes, that Stan Watkins again – what a multi-talented man he was) well, he did Morris Dancing. In New York. In the early 20s Stan became the President of the English Folk Dance Society there. He says “because no one else wanted to.” Modest man.

I was taken by a folkie friend (that’s another blog sometime) to see the archives of the EFDS at the University of New Hampshire. Not a lot, but some interesting correspondence with Cecil Sharp.

Won’t go on about him, but here’s a quote from RILM’s Dec 26, 2015 blog about William Kimber & the Morris Revival:

“…in 1899 Cecil Sharp witnessed a performance by theHeadington Quarry Morris Dancers at the home of his mother-in-law. Intrigued by the tunes, he invited William Kimber, the group’s concertina player, to return the next day so that Sharp could notate them.”

Anyhow, I had a quick look through Stan’s photo album and there are some wonderful photos of the Brampton Morris men (in the UK), and some of Dad ‘footing it feetly'(in NY) and accompanying the dancers on his concertina which he called a ‘squiffer’ and, sadly, was thrown away when the bellows deteriorated beyond mending.

But his homemade bells, sewn by hand on leather with ribbons above, survive, as do his ‘swords.’ And I have them with me.

Morris swords & bells 001

So I hope you enjoy the Morris Dancing on RILM’s @bibliolore blog – lots of bells and swords (that particular dance is amazing) and handkerchief dances, not to mention a coin-eating unicorn. I certainly did.



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