Onlookers envied the energy of the East Surrey Morris Men and the Greensleeves Morris Men from Wimbledon, who performed in front of Rye Town Hall last Sunday, May 24, writes Kenneth Bird. Handkerchief waving, knee-bell tinkling dancers weaved their way in intricate traditional sequences to the sound of accordions and the violin playing lively rustic tunes.
Many of the dances are from Cotswold traditions, with roots already considered ancient in the 15th century. By the early 1900s however, the folklore had nearly died out, and it was principally due to the work of Cecil Sharp, a music scholar (1859-1924), that the customs were revived. He collected many of these dances which then became popular as we know them today. Danced in sets of six or eight men, they are accompanied by a small band and often involve a Fool or other character, such as the red-jacketed hobby-horseman who entertained the spectators in Rye last weekend, on their 57th visit to the town.
Photo: Kenneth Bird