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PART A: MORRIS, SWORD AND MUMMERS PLAYS IN AUSTRALIA

© 2005 Warren Fahey

 

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In 1982 Eleven dancers and two musicians of the SMM undertook the first tour of England by an Australian Morris team. It was an extensive tour with nearly fifty performances. John Milce, Squire of the SMM, presented the collection with several important items including the full British tour report which includes a detailed (and hilarious) trip diary. Included is a complete list of the 57 “pubs visited” and the extensive list of British Morris teams they danced with. This document (and all others scanned in this survey) is in the NLA Collection.

 

Another generous contributor to the collection was Hilary Oliver of Cranbourne, Victoria. Hilary had danced with the Plenty Morris Team.

“I was a member of Plenty Morris for about 10 years in the 1980s and ’90s, and I think that towards the end of my association with Plenty I was possibly the oldest female Morris dancer in Victoria! Every year Plenty used to dance at Morris’ winery in Rutherglen, on the Vic. Queen’s Birthday weekend – it was the highlight of our year. We dossed down in the Scout Hall most years, which was rough but adequate, except for the dunnies out the back (eventually indoor toilets were installed) Showers were attended at the caravan park. Some people drank more than others, of course, but I can’t remember anyone disgracing themselves. Chorus singing was great, then after midnight it was “lights out” and candles lit, and the gentler songs were brought out as people snuggled into their sleeping bags. I instituted a Winter Solstice ceremony (nothing to scare the horses!) in which many members took part, although a little early in the month. One year someone devised the Hartley Lying Down dance, foot-ups and heys included. It was screamingly funny; one woman was heard to cry “Get your hands off my tits!” during the hey… I can’t remember attending any May Day rallies, although other members may have. I did, however, attend a couple of Palm Sunday marches, and Reclaim the Night marches. I still have most of my kit, including hat….I suppose I could bear to part with them if they are going to be in the National Library – fame at last! I have many photos, but probably not many of drinking sessions… As for more detailed information about Plenty Morris, I would have to do some digging, or try to find some other members; we fought a losing battle to stay together and functioning, but numbers kept dropping, and we all seemed to have other lives to attend to, you know how it goes. I developed arthritis, and could hardly raise my feet off the ground at the end. Morris dancing was part of my developing interest in alternative spirituality, the theoretical origins of it sitting well with Paganism. And the music was great, and the traditional songs, too. It was one of the highlights of my life.”

Hilary also sent the collection several items of material folklore:

* Two Red Handkerchiefs
* A Plenty Morris carrying bag
* Hat covered with various badges
* Ankle bells on pads
* Baldricks
* Badges and ribbons

This brightly decorated hat is typical of female Morris dance hats

 

The ankle bells pads are an integral part of the ‘music’



Distinctive flowing ribbons



Baldrick is a cross-over vest ribbon



You need a ‘bagman or bag woman for the Ale money



Bright red handkerchiefs for dancing and waving



The whole Morris ‘kit & caboodle