History of Morris Dance next 2
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
2. OBJECTS OF THE CLUB
3. CLASSES OF MEMBERSHIP
a. Full Members
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.
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
a. The occasion of the Sydney Morris Men Annual Ale.
a. A competent performance of the set dances currently in the club’s repertoire.
5. TERMINATION OF MEMBERSHIP
6. GENERAL MEETING
7. RESOLUTIONS AT LARGE
9. DUTIES OF THE SQUIRE
a. Selection of members for demonstration sides.
10. SOURCE OF CLUB FUNDS
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.
11. USE OF CLUB FUNDS
a. a) to ensure the efficient running of the Club.
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
14. ALTERATIONS TO THE CONSTITUTION