Mossley 6 of 17

Extract from F. B. Hamer's notes on the Mossley Morris Dance

In the letter (dated 20th December 1956) with which he enclosed these notes, N. Peacock says:- "When I was in Bedford recently, Fred lent me a set of notes which he had made about the Mossley Dance, and whilst I was typing them out I made a copy for you. Fred was not certain how much of this you'd seen, so I'm sending you a fairly complete copy - the instructions will be useful to you anyway and some of the other details may help if you're in Mossley. Incidentally, I believe he has some more information which he hasn't touched since he went blind; when I visit him again I'll see what can done about it."

This is a complete copy of the notes sent by Peacock, except that the order has been changed. The original order was:


My photograph of the MMD of 1903, which I had from Morgan, shows 3 concertina players. Morgan obviously preferred the concertina in numbers if possible, and will allow a flute or flutes, but a fiddle he thought quite ridiculous: a drum is useful for keeping the beat. The noise of the clogs on the road must not be forgotten: there is no doubt that Morgan considered this the finest music of all - he called the clacking of the clogs "beautiful", a word he must use very seldom.

Musicians on the Photograph

The drummer was the drummer of the Mossley band which, of course, supplied more that one musician. Sam Carside of Preston played the trombone in the Mossley Band, but the flute for the MMD. Wilkie Lukes (?is this Whitehead) was the original fluter - Morgan came later.

Dancers on the Photograph

Sam Morgan, John Morgan, Albert Oldfield, Levi Leech, Jim Lowe, Jerry Grimes, Bill Briers, Paddy Curry, Ted O'Neil, Fred Hanby (Pea Jim), Dave Ogden

On the boxes:

Bed Ogden, Tom Gallimore, Tom Titter i.e. Rhodes, Tom Nestor, Bill Ivins, Hoinby

(club foot)

The photograph was taken in front of the Crown Inn, now the Baa-Lamb Club. J. Holdsworth, the proprieter. is on the photo. The oldest photo was and probably is, in the "Fleece"; it was in the "tap" but was later moved to the best room.

The Mossley Morris Dancers outside the Crown in 1903

This Photograph is a copy of the one from Morgan to which Hamer refers to in his notes under the heading "Musicians".


Each year the team began to practise at Easter, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The fine for non-attendance was 2d. i.e. one pint. On Sundays they met again, and if you didn't attend on that day you were fetched in handcuffs and had to pay 6d. Then followed a "Judge and Jury" about which Morgan was not explicit (Thos. Burke in "British Night Life" refers to notorious "J and J" trials in London; any connection?).

The MMD "did the wake"; this was evidently their chief function, but they had many other engagements. The most popular was apparently the Huddersfield Carnival at the end of August. It was their custom to go to Blackpool "on spec". the Mayor of Blackpool gave them a donation of £10 on one occasion. They were not allowed to dance on the promenade but they could go anywhere else; they must have been in trouble with the police on more than one occasion over the collecting. Morgan claims that the student "rags" were one of the main reasons for the decline of the Morris; there were too many collections. They attended the Saddleworth rushbearing on more than one occasion, although Pownall, a Saddleworth man, says they didn't. I prefer to believe Morgan for reasons I give in my notes on rushbearing. Morgan says they went

in 1903, although this date occurs too often in his reminiscences; it is for instance the date he gave for the last rushcart in Mossley (see photo) which I suspect was the ONLY one for may years. The builder of it was a great Saddleworth rushcart builder (see rushcart notes). The MMD were at the Preston Guild in 1902 - he got this right - it is held every 20 years, and I was in it in 1922. Morgan says they were not allowed to collect, but were given as much beer as they wanted. They walked home to Mossley, dancing as they went. Other places visited were Knutsford (of course), Altrincham (contest?) and many dancing contests. Once they were present at the launching of a lifeboat (where?); they took up their positions in the boat in the posture shown in the Godley Hill photo (Boatman figure - any connection?) until the boat touched the water and then they swung up and into their back and forward figure. Since Morgan claims to have danced with the Godley Hill men, could this have been them? Is this the explanation of the Boatman that troubled Geoffrey Metcalf? They went to London in 1890. The last time the Mossley Morris was seen in Mossley was that done by a set trained by Morgan at a fete for the Infirmary "when John Ogden was Mayor". This I found was November 1922 - November 1923. The fete was probably in July 1923.

The Leader

The leader danced in front and down the middle as the spirit moved him. He did what he liked but indicated each change of figure by blowing on a whistle and giving signs. These signs do not seem to be mentioned in "Lancashire Morris" They are of course a feature of present day "fluffy dancing". Those apparently used by Hanby, though they may be Morgan's own, used when he led his own side, are:-

Dance back and forward - Swing R arm from back to front in a shallow arc, palm forwards as in under-arm bowling.

Cross over - Over-arm bowling action with R arm

Cross corners - Baseball throw

Introduction - Snake wriggle forward

John Morgan: Born 8th February 1881 so he is now 70 (1950). Dances very neatly; has lost one eye; is slight, wiry, swarthy, and wears ear-rings. He always worked at casual jobs; he lost a job as fireman at Victoria Mills for taking a day off to dance. He danced when he was 11. Travelled about on navvying jobs; at Horwich about 35 years ago he saw Morris dancers using handkerchiefs. Jack Stevens was one of the dancers: try t'Hen and Chickens pub. There was dancing on a slab, though who did it and what form it took, I did not find out. Morgan claims to have helped the Godley Hill men sometimes, but says they did not do "the real old Lancashire Morris". - Only the Mossley men did that of course! He knew the Royton men for he lived in Oldham at one time He trained a team of girls to do the Royton dance and was himself the leader. He called them the "Churchill Morris Dancers", insisted on their wearing clogs, and was very particular, Lancashire fashion, on the correct hand and foot and straight lines. (F.B.H. went up in his opinion when he pointed out a wrong foot in a photograph). He gave a good description of the Royton men and says they had "whifflers". He know the Failsworth dancers and says they (children) danced at Dob's Cross between the wars. He was scornful of the white shoes of the "fluffy" dancer, whom he claimed were stage-trained. A man Kelly (now back in Ireland) had a team, of girls at Charlestown. Knutsford was crowded out with "fluffy" dancers. At the old contests they used to have boards to dance on and he referred to a show at which they refused to dance on a lawn, preferring to use the asphalt path.

The Dance

Usually 12 men are needed, used in sets of 4, so 8 or 16 would do. Must have a leader, and often had another centre "to keep the band back". He worked with the leader but not certain how. They marched from one situation to the next swinging tiddlers. This swing, which is constant throughout the dance consists of a swing up by the hand above the foot on which the weight rests. The other hand is swung across the body under the armpit of the raised arm. He performed a curiously adroit twist which I tried to emulate, and Morgan approved of my efforts. The step throughout, except in "Tickle Her", is an incisive, clearly marked 4/3 polka step, rather in the manner of the Headington Morris Reel, but with more weight on the swinging foot; there is a much less pronounced swing with this foot; it comes across with the arm.

Back and Forward

4 walking steps back (no feet together) - MUST begin on the outside foot. 3 walking steps forward and caper. The hands do swings on the steps and are thrown forward on the caper.

Cross Corners

Both comers cross simultaneously. Dancers in right file in front. Dance in position, i.e. turn up & then turn down. Cross to places, right file in front.

Right Hands Across

Right hands in the middle with tiddlers up. Dance in position as in cross comers. Left hands back as in first part of figure.

Tickle Her

Done to a 4/2 step. This is always the finishing figure. I did not note it satisfactorily, but it is like Royton Nancy Dawson.

Turn Inside

Used to change direction. Right file leader turns counter clockwise 1/3 to face diagonal corner and dances across to the other file; partner turns 1/3 clockwise and does same. Files follow their leaders and cross over after turning inwards; the R. File dancer crosses in front.

(In the manuscript in pencil at the side; Partners and Arming)


I have in my possession (August 1950) on loan from John Morgan, a complete Mossley uniform.

Black velvet knee breeches, lace at the knees. White shirt, ordinary type, not cricket shirt: "best white shirt as if you were going to a funeral". White stockings. Clogs essential. Black velvet skull caps with large peak, amber ribbon 1" wide round edge, crossing in front above peak and leaving 1" ends. Sometimes wore rosettes on their caps: mine has a small rose spray at the intersection, a diamond L side just behind the peak along the ribbon, an artificial rose at L peak edge, i.e. over L ear. Amber sash worn, tied on outside i.e. L. file on L. R. file on R. Beads garlanded the shirt front as they do the Royton men. Armlets and wristbands of red, white and blue. Silk scarves worn by some men, others wore collars. Some men wore medals and brooches to make themselves look finer as a prize was given for the best dress. According to Luke Whitehead, whose father kept the pub at which the Mossley men met, his father upplied the uniform but was never paid for it in full: this I confirmed from others. Whitehead kept the Bull's Head where the first troupe had their Headquarters, the photo was taken here. Morgan said the earlier troupe had its headquarters at the "Fleece".


"Tiddlers" (F. B. Hamer suggests that Maud Karpeles misunderstood the dialect when she called them tiddlerers). These are 9 or 10 inch pieces of rope. The ends are tied with string, and they are plaited with red, white and blue ribbon, leaving 9 inches hanging at the bottom. There is a guard at the top end, i.e. a loop which is passed round the wrist. Tiddlers were never put down; There was no excuse accepted for losing them. ("There's no need to put 'em down even to have a drink" said Morgan. DC). Could this have been "tiffle-earas" as in Millbrook which is close by?


Jockie to the Fair:- Morgan's version is interesting and needs collecting; this is the tune he always hummed to me when showing me a figure of the dance. No words apparently.

Nancy Daws:- the usual Nuts in May tune. Words:

Nancy Daws the dirty bitch,

Scratched her arse and made it itch.

Brighton Camp:- Which Morgan called "Up and down to Charlestown" - the place near Mossley of course. Words:

O the Irish they went up the hill,

The English followed after,

They stuck their bayonets up their arse,

And made them run much faster

Tickle Our Martha:- i.e. Cross Morris or the Royton Nancy Dawson. The Mossley Men always finished with this tune. Words:

Tickle her and tickle her and tickle our Martha (or her Martha)

Tickle our Martha, tickle our Martha

One for thee and one for me and one for our Martha

Preston fluter played this. Morgan said this tune with "Cock of the North" was used for marching between set points. In the pub after a show if this tune was played, the "Preston Dance" was performed: this consisted of a march round the room, over the furniture or any other obstacle which presented itself Garside the fluter, was obviously either a wag or a butt.

The rushcart lads are bonny, bonny lads

The rushcart lads are bonny

(Morgan said "Reesh cart" of course)

I was told that any good march tune like "Blaze Away" would do.

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