Hereburgh News and Gossip

Compiled by News Hound, Peter McDonald.

Click on a news headline below:

25 July 2002 Rejected - and not for the first time!
19 June 2002 Scarborough - Fayre Enough?
10 June 2002 The Morris Sphere
9 June 2002 Accordion Awareness
6 May 2002 Warwick Castle
1 May 2002 Dippy on May Day
27 April 2002 Pete Grassby's 50th birthday tour
20 April 2002 Owlswick Morris Ale
12 April 2002 British Blind Sport
10 April 2002 Hereburgh is 15 years old!
25 March 2002 Windmill in the Antipodes
2 March 2002 Oh no, not two more traditions?
20 February 2002What were you doing at 20:02 on 20/02/2002?
31 January 2002 What is it about New Year's Day?

Rejected - and not for the first time!

Have you ever heard of Morris dancers being turned away from a pub? You would have thought that a well-behaved team would be an added attraction on a pleasant summer evening. Quite apart from the extra bar revenue from the Morris folk themselves, there is almost certainly extra business from the onlookers and supporters.

But, no, it seems that not all landlords and managers feel the same way. Last Tuesday, before dancing a step, we were cruelly rejected (or was it ejected?) by the Durham Ox at Shrewley, together with Coventry Morris who have been dancing there for years. We were not welcome, presumably because we didn't suit the new image of the pub, despite the fact that Coventry Morris had permission and even posters in there! Fortunately, the Cock Horse at Rowington was as hospitable as ever and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening there.

And for Hereburgh, it wasn't the first time this year. Back in June, we were asked to leave Cox'sYard in Stratford almost before we'd started. Again we had permission but the duty manager wasn't aware and told us to move on. That was strange because Cox's Yard has been known as a Morris-friendly pub in the past and has a great location beside the river. Once again, we had no such problems with our second pub, the Pen & Parchment, over the road.

Lessons learnt.... slightly hurt pride.... modified pub list for next year. Of course it's really the pubs that are losing out but I would say that, wouldn't I?

[25 July 2002]

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Scarborough Fayre Morris Dance Festival, June 7-9, 2002

This report from our Foreman, Pete Johnson:

It’s twelve years since the side went to Scarborough and a few folks have been hankering to go, so we went! David, Pete B. and Doug were so keen that they went two days early to test out the Yorkshire Countryside and beer. Both turned out to be up to expectations and when the bulk of the party arrived on Friday they took us for a walk to show us both. Of particular note was the fog which had rolled in from the sea, offset by the pub which not only allowed dogs in, but offered them a plate of meat and a bowl of beer. Bella and Charlie were very impressed.

Friday evening, after the barbeque we repaired to the Scalby Manor Pub for a choice of two music sessions – both very lively - and retired to bed to be up in time to catch our tour bus the next day. By then we had found that Rosie wasn’t going to be with us and so eight of us were to hold up the honour of the side. There was much discussion about who was going to be banished to sleep in Rosie’s tent if they snored.

The tour was by steam train from Pickering to Goathland where we had two dance spots. By then we had five fit dancers, Pete B and Doug suffering colds and Liz nursing a very severe mystery illness. But we coped, and even danced well at times, though Liz wasn’t sure about the conventions when it came to leaving a dance in the middle to vomit. A mixed/joint Upton on Severn Stick Dance with Lady Bay Revellers was great fun and Big Band Speed the Plough was popular. The Black Sheep Ale helped…

The North Yorks Moors Railway seems to have the same problems as the rest of the country and the return journey was about 90 minutes late, so we missed out on the Golden Jubilee Street Party at Scarborough Spa, but they did bring us some of the food as compensation. No jelly though. Another barbeque and then shuttle bus into Scarborough for the Ceilidh. Two dances were enough for Janny and one for Pete J though the band, All Blacked Up, were splendid. We watched the Sheffield City Giants perform in the interval with their musicians, catchers, carriers and crew. The Gordon Crowther Memorial Staff was presented to Ashley’s Rise – a junior side – well deserved for their enthusiasm and talent.

We danced on the front at Scarborough on Sunday morning and it was good to see Duke’s Dandy again. Karen had to get home early, but Liz’s hangover mystery illness seemed to have gone [make up your mind, Pete - was it a hangover or an illness? - Ed.]. Coffee, ice creams and cockles and then on to the procession. Things had gone well with the weather until halfway along the front when the heavens opened and we finished the procession on the beach in a bedraggled state. Gill was well in contention for the wet Morris shirt contest. But we were not too disheartened to sing Auld Lang Syne before we went back to the campsite to dry off, change and depart for home. A good trip.

[19 June 2002]

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The Morris Sphere

Rosewood Morris dance the Windmill

Helen O'Neill, from Rosewood Morris in New Zealand, has just sent me a copy of the "New Zealand Morris Sphere", Issue 119, 2nd quarter 2002. This nice booklet contains a round-up of news from the Morris teams in NZ and includes a picture of Rosewood dancing the Windmill for the first time (see earlier news story).

Helen tells me that, on June 8th, Rosewood performed the dance again, this time on the top of the Tararuas (or was it the Ruahine?) Ranges near a wind farm, in thick mist and ferocious winds on a loose gravel surface! The conditions were so bad that they couldn't even see the sails of the nearest windmill let alone each other properly. I imagine that the 'turning sails' chorus was blown round faster than usual!

Wouldn't it be nice if we could dance it with them one day?

[10 June 2002]

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Accordion Awareness

Seems that June is "National Accordion Awareness Month". When I say "National", I mean USA, and I might well have missed this vital information had it not been for the vigilance of Dave Shuttleworth in California. When digging further, we find that the piano accordion is the "official musical instrument" of San Francisco, the first American instruments having been built in that city by Guerrini in 1907. So our chum Lynne couldn't have found a better place to reside for a few years, even though she's left her Guerrini in my loft.

Lynne with her accordion?

San Francisco is celebrating by having a "Day of the Accordion" on June 16th with a number of events being held close to where Lynne and Dave live. Of course, the piano accordion has a rather poor public image, perhaps even worse than the melodeon (which is an instrument of which the general public is barely aware) and the banjo! The perception is probably due to the fact that many accordions get played in a 'cheesy' style, so very different from the way most folk musicians use the instrument. A short statement on the following web page seeks to explain that accordions are really trendy.

Dave also pointed me to a web page with some old pictures of the Guerrini Accordion Company at:

By the sort of weird coincidence that only seems to exist in the Hereburgh Gossip column, it includes this old photo of Lynne playing her Guerrini.

So, for the remainder of June, please be aware of accordions.

[9 June 2002]

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Warwick Castle

This report from Ian Hartland:

May Day Bank Holiday was the date on which we had arranged to dance at Warwick Castle as part of their entertainment package for that day. It proved to be a long but enjoyable stint and we attracted large crowds wherever we appeared. Having been instructed with almost military precision as to arrival and performance times, we duly presented ourselves on the East front of the Castle for our first spot near the Rose Garden. Twenty-five exhausting minutes later we were free to explore the Castle and its many attractions. Stalls offering medieval games and a Groat Exchange (new money for old!) to pay for the challenges lined the route into the Courtyard, where our next spot awaited us.

With an even larger crowd at 12:30, we produced our Secret Weapon, the audience participation dance. Unusually, we had a swarm of volunteers for the ritual humiliation that is our participatory speciality and we spared them little mercy as the occasionally misleading instructions and the threat of a wayward stick forced them through the dance. The volunteers responded magnificently and some even returned to watch our later displays.

Observing the strict instructions to consume no alcohol whilst on duty, we excused ourselves from the premises to briefly sample the delights of the town's Zetland Arms, before returning to prove ourselves the true athletes the audience had come to expect. An unexpected requirement had been to accompany a small procession of Edwardian Croquet players through the Barbican and into the Courtyard, a task we completed twice. Our rusty processional skills were swiftly mobilised into a precise double column and scarcely a foot was put wrong. It is amazing how effective fear can be for motivating dancers into intense concentration!

Another Courtyard spot, with more ritual audience humiliation, followed and we retired to explore the impressively restored Watermill, and thence to tea on the banks of the River Avon. A final dance spot, again outside the Rose Garden, completed an enjoyable if tiring day. The overall conclusion we reached, over excellent tea and cakes in the Brindleys' garden behind St Mary's Church, was that we would happily repeat the experience if asked. There is often a belief that non-Morris audiences are more easily impressed by what they see, but someone who has paid good money to visit one of Britain's premier tourist attractions is not going to be fooled by half-measures and it would seem, to judge from the reactions we inspired during our day, that we were excellent ambassadors for Morris Dancing.

[6 May 2002]

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Dippy on May Day

There had to be a new 'angle' for our 15th May Day dawn performance at Chesterton Windmill. The TV cameras have been there more times than we care to mention so this year we kept it low-key. So low, in fact, that only a handful of people turned out to see us dance at dawn - but we did have a HORSE!

Karen's friend Sarah brought Dippy all the way from Lowsonford. Dippy was immaculately turned out with bell pads sewn onto knee-boots and coloured ribbons plaited into his tail. Karen and Sarah had even trained Dippy in Morris noises - melodeon and bells - so that he wouldn't be upset when we started dancing. However, he did look a little uneasy at the sight of 20 dancers in rag jackets and he definitely flinched a bit when Margaret played the bodhran for our traditional singing of 'Hal an Tow'. But when the dancing started .....

It was all those white hankies in the dark that made him flip. He threw off poor Sarah and bolted while the dancing continued. His supporters followed the sound of his bells through five fields before catching up with him and bringing him back to the windmill for a final photo call at sunrise!

Here are some photos.

[1 May 2002]

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Pete Grassby's 50th birthday tour

This report from our Social Secretary, Doug Freeman:

Our good friend from Coventry Morris and original Hereburgh Foreman, Pete Grassby, invited us to join his 50th Birthday celebration tour on Saturday April 27th. This was part of Pete's weekend of celebration based at Fillongley Village Hall near Coventry.

Pete Grassby was keen to include Harbury as a dance stop on his magical mystery coach tour, but this was an outbound only stop. A few off us set of with 2 cars and a camper van to Fillongley so we would have some transport home. The tour left Fillongley at 10am prompt, that is 1 minute after Pete Bones arrived following, some panic calls from Liz to Doug's switched-off mobile. The over 50's guide to mobile phones clearly states that they are only for outgoing calls. The mobile was then used properly to warn the Hereburghers assembled at the New Inn at Harbury that we were going to arrive somewhat later than planned.

Pete Johnson (yes, this is a story of three Pete's) had the brain wave that we would dance the Hereburgh repertoire that day. Some would say a brave and some would say a foolish idea, the only dance we had practised recently was the Windmill. Undaunted, it was the Windmill at Harbury, a good solid dance under our belt with Pete Grassby joining the band. We then went high risk at Aston Cantlow with the Bull Ring. This was a master stroke of 1 pint dancing, well executed and Janny played on whilst a member of Coventry Morris, who wanted to make a concertina, quizzed her about her concertina. Our 4 pint dancing of the Millers Ghost could have gone better, but the atmosphere and beer (Uley Bitter) at the Holly Bush in Alcester was conducive to a more relaxed display, anyway nobody was really watching.

Upton on Severn, or should I say 'Hereburgh on Five', was next. Pete Johnson had rode his luck when he selected the aptly named Ugly Duckling. Pete Bones was chosen as musician and gave a faultless display on the buttons, but orientated himself some 90 degrees from the normal practice night musicians' spot. Pete Johnson decided to call it from the wrong place, well it is his dance, so Doug (aka Pete for the day) danced it from a non-calling position for the first time ever. Alan was still trying to work out which position he was in when Pete Johnson echoed those eerie words "this time". No blame will be apportioned for the set that ended up with 5 people on one side and 3 on the other, or those hitting air where sticks should have been, but when the three bladed reel was attempted there was no chance of recovery. Eight very duckish Hereburghers abandoned a dance for the first time ever in our 15 year history, and it had to be in front of two Ring sides and a former Ring Squire. Pete Bones though was smug about the whole thing distancing himself from the dancers.

We decided to give up the Hereburgh tradition at our final 6 pint stop, the aptly named Wyre Piddle, although I think Life in the Old Dog could have been our ultimate challenge. We tried some Ascott but it all becomes a little bit vague. You may be forgiven for thinking this is an epitaph for Ugly Duckling, but Pete Johnson is made of much sterner stuff, some would say water off a duck's back.

The tour was excellent, the other sides very sociable, and thoroughly good day out. Those of us who stayed for the ceilidh with the Aardvark super band and Martyn Harvey calling, were in for a treat. Our very own Peter McDonald (another Pete) joined the band and was one of the many Aardvark stars of the evening. Being Hereburghers we cannot finish without praising the superb evening food spread, and sincerely thanking Pete Grassby for a brilliant day.

Here's to the next 50 years, Pete Grassby, play on.

Here are a few photos.

[27 April 2002]

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Owlswick Morris Ale

This report from our Social Secretary, Doug Freeman:

Our very own Hereburgh Morris Web Site advertised this event as 7pm at Waddesdon Village Hall, Aylesbury. The mini bus was hired courtesy of Warwick School and we had our very own bus driver Pete (Prof) Johnson. We set off in plenty of time from Harbury and arrived at 6:45pm only to discover the Ale start time was 7:30pm.

It is just for these sort of occasions that we elect a Squire with great leadership qualities, and soon we were drinking in a pub 100 yards from the Village Hall. Doug was, though, to rue his bold promise made on the bus about "buying" the first round, of course assuming it would be a free round at the Ale. He did though get some value for his money when the Squire consumed 2 pints of Fullers ESB, not realising the strength, before the Ale.

Our good friends from Owlswick Morris put on an evening of fine beer, superb food and plenty of time for dancing. Hereburgh Morris gave the Ugly Duckling an airing, obviously the lull before the "duck up" storm two weeks later at Upton on Peter Grassby's 50th tour, but that's another story. We joined in as many dances as we could do and some we couldn't do, but nobody seemed to mind or notice.

Our returned customer survey from last year's Owlswick Ale had obviously been taken seriously. The raffle was drawn at an amazing pace and Hereburgh had a number of happy punters grasping bottles of wine. Doug though was derided for his choice of a rather stunning art deco clock, but most Morris dancers just do not have any taste other than for alcohol.

Thanks again to Owlswick Morris for a splendid evening.

Here are a few photos.

[20 April 2002]

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British Blind Sport

This report from our Squire, Pete Bones:

Over the years, Hereburgh Morris has danced at a wide variety of venues for an equally wide variety of audiences. Even by these standards, the event we danced at during the evening of April 12th was unusual.

We had been invited to provide an hour's entertainment to give a flavour of English folk music and dance, to an audience which included many visually-impaired young people and their carers. They were in this country to take part in an international running event for the blind and this was to be held the following day, in the magnificent grounds of Princethorpe College. The venue for the evening's entertainment was in one of their drama studios.

As we gathered in the splendour of this inspiring Georgian (or is it Victorian?) edifice (believed to have been designed by that well known ecclesiastical architect Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, before he went on to design the Houses of Parliament), we all felt rather daunted. We realised that many of those in the audience would not be able to see us and most of them did not speak English as a first language. Furthermore we deduced that their hearing may be more acute than most, so would hear our duff notes and off-beat steps!

However Hereburgh have never been known to shrink from a challenge and this event proved no exception. With the impeccable timing typical of their race, the German contingent arrived first. These were followed by the Italians, French and several East European countries which I can neither remember nor spell.

The event being the first of the weekend was intended to be an ice-breaker, but as they took up their seats, they looked very inhibited and shy. I was beginning to wonder what we had let ourselves in for! However our first dance was well, if perhaps a little too politely, received. After a couple more display dances, we invited the audience to have a go and many brave folk volunteered. Soon there was a lot of laughter filling the room!

David Brindley gave an erudite talk on the history of Morris and how the kit evolved, though he did try to emulate The Full Monty by stripping of his gear to demonstrate his points. Doug and I had to stop him before too much bare flesh was revealed. We also played a few Morris and other folk tunes, and finished off with some social dancing to the accompaniment of a scratch band with Maureen doing the calling.

After the event, we retired to the Plough at Eathorpe where we reflected on the evening and enjoyed a glass or two of rather splendid ale. We all agreed that we had accomplished the mission, and well and truly broken the ice.

[12 April 2002]

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Hereburgh is 15 years old!

Yes, it really was 15 years ago, on April 8th 1987, that we first got together in the Wight School and Pete Grassby took us through our first Morris steps. A lot has happened since then - but that's a huge understatement!

We had our 15th Anniversary General Meeting on April 10th but our main celebrations will be later in the year, at the height of the dancing season. Here are the inevitable AGM team photos.

[10 April 2002]

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Windmill in the Antipodes

The Hereburgh Windmill dance has found its way to another continent. Having become established in the repertoire of Berkeley Morris in San Francisco, it has now been performed in public by Rosewood Morris in New Zealand.

Helen O'Neill is to blame! She took a copy of the dance and tune away with her when she called in on a Hereburgh practice last year. Rosewood learnt it in time to perform it during their 'autumn equinox' weekend at the base of Foxton Windmill (in the process of being re-built), in the company of 30 other dancers from around the North Island.

Where will it turn up next?

[25 March 2002]

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Oh no, not two more traditions?

Well, yes, it certainly looks that way. Not content with our existing repertoire of 11 traditions, we invited Steve Priest, Foreman of Adderbury Morris Men, to our annual workshop on March 2nd. Steve did a grand job teaching us a few basic Adderbury dances and he also successfully conveyed his enthusiasm for the tradition so that we're keen to carry on with it ourselves.

At lunchtime, we enjoyed another deep and meaningful lecture from Doug - this one entitled "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" - and this looks set to become another Hereburgh tradition.

After a hard day's dancing, we normally go out for an evening meal after the workshop, quite often for a curry. This year was no exception so around 25 of us descended on a Balti restaurant in Warwick where we enjoyed a fine meal. Fortunately, there wasn't room to show the waiters and the other diners what we had learnt during the day so I think we could go back there another time.

[2 March 2002]

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What were you doing at 20:02 on 20/02 2002?

There are a few Hereburghers who know exactly what they were doing during these 60 seconds on this memorable date - 8pm on a Wednesday being when we (are supposed to) start our Morris practices.

Responding to my call to do something significant (to savour this once-in-a-lifetime moment), ten dancers took to the floor at exactly 20:02 and danced Black Joke. The idea was to dance it symmetrically - some hope! In the first place, we had one set of 6 and one set of 4. The less experienced dancers forgot absolutely everything that makes this dance different from the other Ascott dances and some of the experienced dancers suffered brain-fade too. In all, not an auspicious moment - but still a memorable one if you can see the funny side of it!

Incidentally, congratulations to David who spotted the flaw in the assertion (sent to me by a Texan colleague) that there would never be another time and date like 20:02, 20/02, 2002.  Of course there will!

[20 February 2002]

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What is it about New Year's Day?

It's uncanny. For the last three years, the weather in Harbury has been perfect on New Year's Day, which has made our Hangover Tours more agreeable than ever. Our photographs (2002, 2001 and 2000) prove it. It's as though Someone made a New Year's Resolution to give us sunshine in winter but, like most resolutions, the resolve waned a few days later and the usual wind, rain and freezing temperatures were restored. But we were grateful for that day.

There was a new and welcome ingredient in this year's Hangover Tour. As we wearily plodded up Manor Orchard on our way to our last dance spot, at the Old New Inn, a mirage appeared at No. 20! We were certain that we could see a table full of alcoholic refreshments outside the Darbys' house to refresh us as we passed by. But it wasn't a mirage!

[31 January 2002]

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