7 months ago
By David Rowland
The Summer that Was
Our planned celebration for the 29th April was a great success, marking 50 years to the day since the revived team had first danced in public (indoors, at a Barn Dance at Balshaw’s Grammar School in Leyland.). In the morning we danced to plenty of people at the Market and to rather less people on Hough Lane. A good crowd awaited us at St Andrew’s Church (where they hold a regular coffee morning on Saturday’s!), and many of those folk followed us to the nearby South Ribble Museum & Exhibition Centre. The morning’s activities concluded with us dancing to nobody at all at the local library! Now isn’t that a pip?
In the manner of the Pied Piper of Hamelin, we seemed to collect more and more past members as we went along. There was Neil Chadwick – now playing a fiddle rather than an accordion; David Smith, who made his team debut at 8 years old; Jeff Warwick; David Garstang and his daughter; Ernest Wrennall, who was in at the beginning 50 years ago (and whose dad had danced in the 1950’s); Ken Holmes, who ‘s probably the Leyland dancer with the longest pedigree, having first appeared in the Moss Side St James’ team in 1946 before going on to feature in the Leyland team of the 1950’s and then with the current ‘revivalists’. There was also the Reverend Derrick Bannister, and later on the Reverend Ken Dagger, to demonstrate what a drastic effect Morris dancing can have on one’s life too!! (All we lacked was the presence of the Reverend Kevin Downham to make it a holy trinity!).
An excellent buffet lunch for current team members, their families and guests followed at Leyland Cricket Club, where we were also joined by the Mayor and two South Ribble Borough Councillors. By request the team performed a couple of dances and a special presentation was made to Roy Smith, who has been with the team since its revival.
Then the invasion! Early arrivals included Eric Bowling; Malcolm Milner, wearing his team tie and whose team waistcoat still fits him! Alan Moon, Derek Gifford, Chas Fraser, Mike Cowburn, and Brian Whittaker: some members from long, long ago and others of more recent vintage. We also received a number of apologies for absence, including one from New Zealand.
Descendants of Jack McKittrick, leader of the team from 1910 to 1914, and Jimmy Grant, Jimmy Southworth and Percy Lazenby of the 1920’s were there. So too were Graham Mee of the St James’ Boys Team; Mattie Richardson (Antrobus) and Mary Johnson (Norris) of the St James’ team; Barbara Hamer, Valerie Kite, Doris Reeve and Roy Smith of the 1965 Leyland Folk Dance Group team; Thomas Calderbank ex-Houghton Rapper Sword Team (frequent companions of the Leyland Morris Men over the years); David Hunt, Curator of the Museum; members of the local Historical Society and members of the general public. Duncan Broomhead, who looks after the Morris Ring’s photographic archive, was there too – although, any other Ring representatives was notable by its absence. They might have learnt something had they managed to find the time to come along!
Far more people turned up than we could have hoped for. We had a busy, sociable and lively time and the two hours of the exhibition just flew by. There was much interest in the photo-displays, the albums of archive photos going back to 1890 and the scrapbooks dating back to 1967, and we hope that all were able to locate the appropriate photos and to have all their questions answered.
To drive the idea of celebration home, marking 50 years to the day since we’d first danced outdoors in public, we turned out on Monday, 1st May at the Scorton Bikes & Barrow Festival. Our reward – in addition to the Vicar’s latest (and latent) home brew – was to be filmed for national TV. We’ve appeared on regional telly before but NEVER on the national – and we were on TWICE that same evening.
Since then an evening with a group of Cubs at Newton With Scales; Cuerden Valley Park’s Spring Fair; an 80th Birthday celebration at Inglewhite; an evening with St James’ Scout Group, Lytham Club Day, the Open Gardens at Croston, a dance and song session at Sherwood Lodge in Fulwood, and on school duty with a workshop at Meadowhead Junior School in Blackburn at the beginning of September, have come along at regular intervals and have provided us with quite a variety of events. With more ‘soldiers on the ground’ so to speak, we could have accepted even more of the enquiries that came our way.
Mike Baily, Secretary
Updated 18:08 - 12 Sep 2017 by David Rowland