The 81st Meeting of The Morris Ring
Held in Manchester on 22-24 September 1961
(text taken from the 4th Ring Log Book, courtesy of The Morris Ring)
The 81st Meeting of the Morris Ring was held in Manchester, from the 22nd to the 24th of September, 1961. For the second time the Manchester Morris Men were hosts to the men of the Morris Ring. The Headquarters for the meeting was at Ashburn Hall, a University hall of Residence for young ladies, on the Wilmslow Road 21/2 miles from the centre of Manchester. These clubs were represented at the meeting; Bedford, Britannia Coco-Nut Dancers (full side) Cambridge (f.s.), Colchester, Coventry (f.s.), Derwent Valley (f.s.), East Surry, Grenoside (f.s.), Holy Name Sword Side Manchester (f.s.), King's Collage, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester (f.s.), Mersey, Oxford (f.s.), Ravensbourne (f.s.), Sheffield University, Stafford (f.s.), White Rose Leeds, Woodside (f.s.); in all about 140 men attended the meeting.
The Manchester men opened their meeting by a display outside the Central Library, St. Peter's Square, at 7p.m. on the Friday. This done they moved to the Drill Hall of the 42nd (Lancs.) Infantry Division, not far from Ashburn Hall, to receive the men arriving for the Ale. This function at the end, had some 50 men present; dancing under the direction of the Squire; and eating and drinking in the room adjoining the big hall. In this hall were shown, by the Morris men, charts for the tours for the morrow; and, by the military, cases of medals of yesterday. Of particular interest was a medal awarded for temperance. The Ale concluded, men were back in Ashburn Hall before 11p.m.; but many of them were up till well past midnight, sitting in the Common Room to talk; and to look at books and pictures set out by the Manchester Men, as well as the Ring's Scrapbooks and Logbooks.
The Saturday tours left Ashburn Hall in bright sunshine, after men had breakfasted well in the large first floor dining hall. The ladies thanked, and most heartily applauded, for their fine work.
Vehicles were parked and men danced at points in the centre of the city, before tours moved off under clouding sky. Towards the end of the afternoon showers cut short some shows; but in the main the programme was adhered to. A local M.P. brought two Ring brochures; some local youths at Withington wanted to know why the Morris men were allowed to dance on the pavement when they were jolly sure the police wouldn't let them have a rock'n roll session on the same spot; men had tea wonderfully served, in the homes of relatives of Manchester Men; and all worked their way to Piccadilly by 6p.m., for a magnificent big show. Overlooked by Queen Victoria, whose pedestal served as a vantage point for some, and obscured the view for others, Ravensbourne led off with Beaux of London City Badby; Mersey did the Rose Tree; Coventry, Young Collins Bledington; Stafford, Constant Billy Adderbury; Woodside Dearest Dicky; Cambridge, Swaggering Boney; Derwent Valley, rapper sword; Grenoside, announced amid groans as a Yorkshire side, did Old Black Joe Badby; Britannia Coco-Nut Men did both Garland Dance and Nut Dance; and the home product, sixteen of them in long lines of colour and clogs, set the seal on a superb Saturday. The massed dances were as usual.
The Feast began at 7.45 in Ashburn Hall. The 146 men ate soup, Lancashire hot-pot, apple tart and cheese. The two formal toast were drunk at 8.40; and at 8.45 Norman Peacock rose to propose the health of the City of Manchester, and the Manchester Morris Men. Making gentle apology for the White Rose on his own chest, he thanked the city for giving us welcome and fine dancing sites; and the Manchester Morris Men for the fine organisation which had made a fine Ring Meeting in a city once used to the Rushcart Processions, and their dancing. The Deputy Mayor then spoke of seeing the Manchester M.M., during his year as Lord Mayor, from the windows of his official residence on the top floor of the Town Hall; and how the dancers were the only ones privileged to use that site, and have the privilege of the Lord Mayor watching them from his windows. He used the rest of his twelve minutes to tell the men that Lancashire made the best goods, lots of restaurants in Manchester could provided anything to eat at reasonable prices, it was the only city in the country with six railway stations in the city centre, it had more beautiful gardens then anywhere else, the finest water supply in the country, more telephones then Liverpool and Birmingham or Glasgow, the country's best cricket ground, two football teams, a thousand rooms in the Town Hall, hoped we had a safe journey home and would be pleased to see us again, and sat down to the cheers of the delighted men.
Jim Mainland, Squire of the Manchester Morris Men, read a telegram from the Jockey Men, at their own feast, saying, "Greetings to the men; sorry you are unable to be with us; Jockey." Then he thanked the men for coming and sat down to men's grateful cheers.
The squire, proposing the Health of the Ring, seized the opportunity to give advice to clubs about public performance, ending his speech, as he raised his glass, with words "Give of the best to the public; only the best will do." Geoff Metcalf then reminisced; of being at the Tideswell Meeting in 1937, when the meeting consisted of 25 men; of being at many other meetings, and always finding Reg Howes there. Any man attending meetings for some time, would have come to know Reg, giving service to the Ring. This service, commemorated in the programme of this meeting, must now have something tangible to mark it; he held up a presentation tankard for all to see, and read its inscription
THE MORRIS RING
KEEPER OF THE SCRAPBOOK
FOR 25 YEARS 23RD SEPTEMBER 1961
Then he called on Reg to come and receive the tankard. Reg, as the cheers subsided, spoke of "this mug full of beer and happy memories." He spoke of Walter Abson's producing a great wad of cuttings and photographs at Grasmere in 1936, and wondering if someone could not take them off him; and of Squire Kenworthy Scholfiled's looking around the gathering, and catching his, Reg's, eye, and saying, "You take them; you go to all the meetings"; and that was how the Scrapbook was born. He looked back over twenty five years of meeting many men in many clubs; they were the salt of the earth; but rarely known to send in the photograph or cutting needed by the Scrapbook; he was afraid it was a dream to expect any reformation there. And, speaking of dreams, his mind went to one of finding an old yellowed paper about the Morris in an old bureau; with words on it saying "the Morris should be divertive and most sportsome" _____ let the Scrapbook be always divertive and most sportsome.
John Flynn of the Britannia Coco-Nut Dancers then received a Staff of Association from the Squire, to great cheering of all men present; who heard him say that the Britannia men, who had come with faces still blackened because they were to dance again, were glade there was no colour bar at Ring Feasts.
The Ludlow Log was read; a car owner was asked to move his vehicle from the after-Feast dancing space; and nine men of the Antrobus Gang, who had shared in the Feast, then gave their play, the 150 year old horse's skull eerie in the modern hall. The Britannia men then did their dances on the polished floor, for dancers to watch. Dan Howison sang The Frog and the Mouse"; and Russell Wortley "The Barley Mow"; and the Feast ending at 10.45 the men sat on the stairs below the hall and stood in the passages to watch Henry Whittaker (who had been with Tour A all day, dressed in a curious female costume, wig and false nose, collecting with plastic bucket) imitate bird and animal noises, pretend to be a train journey, and do a step dance on a little unrolled wooden mat. Julian Pilling did his clog dance. Then the Manchester Men stick-tapped and invited the landlord to fill the flowing bowl, and followed with The Postman, before transporting the domestic staff to their homes. The others meanwhile, dance by car headlights in front of the hall, until Bony Green Garters at midnight and the singing of Goodnight Ladies. The Manchester Men sat in the office counting money, others sat in the Common Room, talking, one or two ran bath water, and six men at 1 a.m. in Len Bardwell's room practised Abingdon Jockies to the Fair; their complaints of a too springy floor drawing his offer that they dance on his bed.
Before Sunday breakfast bottles were picked from the flowerbeds; after breakfast men packed up; and all drove to Albert Square for the church procession. As the men waited the musicians played "Farewell Manchester." The Manchester Men moved away first, the rest giving them a clear start before following, along Cross Street and St. Ann's Street, to St. Ann's Church. Here, ten men took staffs to the alter during the singing of the forth verse of the hymn O Worship The King. The Rector of St. Ann, developed his theme that men have to live with each other, and that there must be rules for doing so, said that excepting rules was not easy, and overcoming our inborn selfishness needed practice, just as dancing needed practice. Holy Communion followed the offertory hymn, many of the Morris Men joining the general congregation-tacking communion. Staffs were collected during the last hymn; and at 12.15 the men went out into pouring rain. Unable to dance in the Square, the men made good use of the wide arcade leading off it; where Jim Mainland announced that the rain had been contrived by the Jockey; but that they, Manchester, had what the Jockey had not---- a place to dance in the dry! He then roared out "face Moss Bros," as the men did Jockey to the Fair Brackley, where in the window was that firms booklet showing "the OK rig for every sport," including the Morris. After many dances, with Cambridge, Coventry, Stafford and Woodside performing singly ending in Bobbing Joe, Manchester went out into the Square and the rain, to finish their meeting as they had begun it ___ dancing Lancashire Morris before a goodly number of Lancashire folk.
A cheerful thirty or forty men then went to a nearby Lyons restaurant, where a section of the upstairs room had been set aside for Morris men, and sat and ate and talked till past two o'clock; when leave tacking and warm thanks to the host club became general.
The bag amounted to £159, including the sale of programmes.