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PART A: MORRIS, SWORD AND MUMMERS PLAYS IN AUSTRALIA

© 2005 Warren Fahey

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The following scans and documents relate to the early days of the Sydney Morris Team and I am grateful to one of the original founders, John Milce.

THE SYDNEY MORRIS MEN – THE BEGINNING


Hey! This ain’t the Cotswolds! Sydney Morris Men and the Coat Hanger

Way back in the dark recesses of time when Gough Whitlam bestrode the land, an advert appeared in the SMH seeking practitioners of the ancient art of Morris Dancing. Two expat scousers responded, but unfortunately no-one else did, so the Sydney Morris Men ended before they started… but did they?

Meanwhile in January 1975 another recently arrived expat pommy (Tony Davies) danced a Morris jig at the inaugural Numeralla Folk Festival. Two Aussies (Huffy & Jim) witnessed this spectacle and were so enthralled that they prevailed upon Tony to teach them – and others of their UK – the sacred art. This was the acorn out of which the Sydney Morris Men Oak Tree grew.

The above 3 people, augmented by others of a like mind, practised what Tony remembered of Morris dancing from his time with the Hartley & Blackheath M.M. over the ensuing months. The specific detail of these early days is perhaps lost to us forever as, of the 3 originals, 1 is dead, 1 is somewhere in South Australia, and can remember nothing further back than his last sexual encounter, and the other is Jim Bradman. In addition to the above 3 men the early side consisted of Bill ‘The Bushy’ Harrison, Pete Wayperson, Keith Someoneorother, Bryden Alien, with Tony S(t)uttor playing accordion, and Jim Hadden (the advertiser mentioned in the 1st para) providing atmosphere.

After several months of practice the ‘side’ managed to secure a booking at a bush dance at the (now defunct) Swedish club in Rozelle. The week before this booking Steeleye Span were performing their first ever Sydney concert at the Hordem Pavilion. Huffy & Jim realised that this would represent a potential recruiting opportunity and attended the concert in full Morris regalia (at the time, whites & blue berets), and jigged with great enthusiasm up & down the aisles hoping to attract the attention of Maddy Prior and potential Morris recruits.

As luck would have it the 2 scousers mentioned in the 1st para were in attendance and, despite first passing Jim & Huffy off for French sailors, approached them on the off chance that they had something to do with Morris dancing. As a result of this encounter the 2 scousers (John & Gerry) attended the SMM’s first gig as spectators. The performance was, as could be expected, abysmal. This did not, however, discourage John & Gerry from joining the side, and performing at the next gig. They were followed shortly after by 2 expat Brummies (Loll & Trevor). It was this influx of 4 new members – all pommy folk enthusiasts – that set the SMM on the road to fame and fortune.

The first 3 office bearers were : –

* Squire – Tony Davies,
* Bagman – John (Huffy) Greer,
* Ragman – Jim Bradman.

This triumvirate did not last long. After a bloodless coup, brought on by Jim & Hufiy’s seeming inability to communicate with each other, the following were installed as Office Bearers;- Squire – Trevor Sutton, Bagman – Loll Osbome, Ragman – John Milce

                 The following minutes of the Sydney Morris Men makes for a better understanding of how and why the Morris Men worked:

SYDNEY MORRIS MEN – CONSTITUTION as at APRIL 1984

1. NAME
The Club shall be known as the “Sydney Morris Men”

2. OBJECTS OF THE CLUB
The objects of the club shall be to learn and perform the Morris dances of England and to help preserve the tradition of these dances.

3. CLASSES OF MEMBERSHIP
There shall be the following classes of membership:-

a. Full Members
b. Apprentices
c. Honorary Members
d. Non-Voting Members
Full membership is open to any men who fulfil the provisions laid down in section 4 and are prepared to attend rehearsals with reasonable regularity and to take part in tours and demonstrations when selected by the Squire.

Apprentice membership is open to men who are desirous of dancing with or playing for the Club with the aim of ultimately achieving full membership.

Honorary membership is by election and is open to the following:-

a. Men resident away from Sydney who have been Full Members or who have danced with or played music for the Club and who wish to continue their association with the club.
b. People who have assisted the Club in any way.
No more than 2 people in any 1 calendar year may be elected Honorary Members under clause (b) above.

A Full Member becomes a Non-Voting Member if a period of 12 months elapses without attendance at rehearsals or ‘foot ups’. A Non-Voting Member has no voting rights and need not be sent details of any A.G.M. etc. A Non-Voting Member may be reinstated to full membership upon application to the Squire after regular attendance at rehearsals for 3 months.

4. ADMISSION TO MEMBERSHIP

4.1 Dancers
Any one apprentice may be admitted to the side as a Full Member on:-

a. The occasion of the Sydney Morris Men Annual Ale.
b. One other occasion during the year, which will be determined by the office bearers at the time at their discretion.
The minimum requirements for acceptance as a Full Member are:-

a. A competent performance of the set dances currently in the club’s repertoire.
b. The ability to dance a solo jig from two different traditions.
The above requirements to be to the satisfaction of the Squire and Foreman.

4.2 Musicians
Musicians may be admitted to full membership of the side when they have demonstrated their ability to play the Morris tunes to the satisfaction of the Squire and Foreman.

5. TERMINATION OF MEMBERSHIP
The membership of a member may be terminated by resolution of the Club in General Meeting, supported by not less than one half of the number of Full Members present and voting, but in the case of a Full Member such action shall be taken only for persistent neglect of the obligations of membership, and after the member concerned has been given fair warning and an opportunity to state his defence.

6. GENERAL MEETING
General Meetings shall be convened from time to time by the Squire or Bagman, by giving to each Full Member not less than 14 days notice of the date, the hour and the place of the meeting, and the principal business to be considered. Such a meeting shall be convened as the Annual General Meeting at least once a year (allowing not more than 15 months interval between one Annual General Meeting and the next). A Special General Meeting shall be convened by the Bagman as soon as possible on the request of not less than one half of the Full Members stating the business to be considered, or if not so convened within 21 days may be convened by those members. The quorum for any transaction at any General Meeting shall be one half of the Full Members for the time being and, except as otherwise herein provided, all questions shall be decided by a majority of the Full Members present and voting and, in the event of equality of votes, the Squire shall have a second or casting vote.

7. RESOLUTIONS AT LARGE
A proposition supported by not less than one half of the number of Full Members for the time being, including either the Squire or the Bagman, shall have the force of a resolution of the Club in General Meeting if all the Full Members present at two consecutive rehearsal meetings have been consulted thereon and there are not more than one third of the members dissenting. Such resolution shall be recorded and dated and authenticated by the signature of the Squire or Bagman.

8. OFFICERS
There shall be a principal officer of the Club to be designated the “Squire”. He shall serve for a term between Annual General Meetings. Only those Full Members for whom a nomination has been handed to one of the Officers before the meeting shall be eligible for election, except that the retiring officer shall be eligible for re-election without such nomination. In the event of a casual vacancy, the other officers, or failing them, the senior Full Member shall, as soon as possible, convene a Special General Meeting to elect a successor and in the meantime perform the duties of the vacant office. The Club, in General Meeting, may also elect such other officers as it thinks fit, to serve until the next Annual General Meeting. The method of election of such office bearers will be the same as that for election of the Squire.

9. DUTIES OF THE SQUIRE
To provide for the following:- a)

a. Selection of members for demonstration sides.
b. Organisation of all tours and demonstrations.
c. The conducting of all correspondence on behalf of the Club.
d. The maintenance of adequate records of all Club proceedings, such records to be available for perusal by all Club members.
e. The maintenance of accurate financial records.
f. The presentation of financial statements at each AGM covering the period since the previous AGM.
g. The instruction of all members and apprentices in the performance of the Morris.

10. SOURCE OF CLUB FUNDS
The Club funds shall be derived from:-

a. Subscriptions from all Full Members and Apprentices of amounts and at the intervals fixed from time to time by the Bagman, or Squire as the case may be, on a basis laid down by resolution of the Club in General Meeting.
b. Donations from Members and others.
c. Payments for services rendered.

11. USE OF CLUB FUNDS
The 2 primary uses of Club funds shall be:-

a. a) to ensure the efficient running of the Club.
b. b) to provide members with the basic items of regalia (i.e. baldricks and bells).
All surplus funds shall be used to provide Members with a measure of reimbursement for expenses reasonably and actually incurred on behalf of the Club. Saved as aforesaid, no Member shall receive any personal benefit from Club funds.

Club funds may also be allocated to such charitable or other purposes as may be determined by resolution of the Club in General Meeting.

12. COLOURS AND REGALIA
The Club shall have a distinctive costume and regalia for wear on all suitable public and private occasions, as determined from time to time by resolution of the Club in General Meeting. The Club colours shall be red, white and blue.

13. INTERPRETATION
The majority decision of the elected officers shall have authority to determine any questions arising under the Constitution, subject to confirmation at the next General Meeting.

14. ALTERATIONS TO THE CONSTITUTION
This constitution may only be altered by resolution passed by a two thirds majority of the Full Members present and voting at a General Meeting, not less than 14 days notice of intention to propose the alteration having been given to all Full Members.

15. QUORUM
A quorum is half the full membership for all business.