Morris Dancing

Border Morris - Roots and Revival
Introduction by Steve Cunio

from American Morris Newsletter Vol 23 No 1 Spring 2000

The three articles in this series on Border morris were originally given as talks at a one - day workshop run by the Morris Federation, entitled "Border Morris - Roots and Revival." The original intention of this event was to present views of the history of Morris dancing in the Welsh Border counties from the earliest records to the present day explosion of Border teams. The three speakers were to have been John Kirkpatrick, Dave Jones, and Gordon Ashman.

John Kirkpatrick is the founder of the Shropshire Bedlams, as well as being a noted singer and musician in his own right. He moved to Shropshire in the 1970s and had the opportunity to start a morris team with a completely clean sheet. The resulting team, although inspired by the morris and the music from the area, was nothing like anything anyone had seen before, and has directly led to the vast increase in the number of teams dancing Border morris today.

Gordon was the squire of the Ironmen morris team, from Ironbridge in Shropshire, and was the driving force that changed them from a very ordinary Cotswold team to one of the most influential Border teams around. He became very interested in the early accounts of morris in the area and has given lectures and written articles on the subject.

Dave Jones was a similar influence in changing Silurian Morris Men (from Ledbury in Herefordshire) from a Cotswold to a Border team. He too became interested in the historical material, but his published work was more interested in the dances themselves. He did some collecting from the remaining dancers and other people who knew them, in particular from Bill Scarrott of Pershore. Dave's last team were the Old Wonder Not For Joes, based largely on the material from Bill. Unfortunately, Dave died of a brain tumour while this event was being organised. He was ably replaced by Roy Dommett, who also has a strong interest in the dances of the area. Roy will need little introduction to many readers, but his work with the Border morris, particularly in the early days, has probably been under appreciated.

The three presenters thus provided a continuous history from the earliest records, through the material collected from the old dancers themselves, to the modern phenomenon that is Border morris. The day then concluded with a - sometimes heated - discussion, which continued into the evening in the local pub.

Finally, mention must be made of Mike Salter, the then secretary of Open Morris, who found and booked the hall and provided the refreshments throughout the day. There were probably two or three times as many people as he had expected and he did a sterling job under very difficult circumstances.