• The Formation of Grimsby Morris Men

    After the Earthquake of 1749 we believe that Grimsby was without a morris side for over 200 years. This was all due to change in 1967.

    At that time, Grimsby Folk Song Club wa already a thriving concern and would continue to grow over the next decade or two along with the general revival of folk music in England at that time. Although many of the local performers were establishing reputations as singers, musicians and writers some members of the club noted that the one thing Grimsby didn't have was a Morris Side. The details are somewhat confused but it's fairly clear that Stan Compton, Bill Meek and John Conolly all thought that it would be fun to have a go at this Morris Dancing lark and went on to persuade several other club members, including Mike Lee, Glenn Osborne, Graham Thomas, John Ide, Alan Ferrier, Brian Dawson, Paul Bellamy and Pete Munday to give the dancing a bash with others, principally Sue Cave, providing the essential musical support.

    Grimsby Morris Men in1967

     

    Some of the founding members of Grimsby Morris Men. From left to right:-
    John Conolly, Mike Lee, Glenn Osborne, Graham Thomas, John Ide, Alan Ferrier, Stan Compton and Brian Dawson

     

    Here is Glenn Osborne's recollection of those heady days:-

    In July 1967 at the Grimsby Folk Song Club, members John Conolly and Bill Meek had the idea of a Morris side. A Morris(!) Dance display(!) was given at Winteringham school (I think). Dress was casual to say the least - net ball braids for baldricks and 3/4 inch dowel for sticks. The dance we learnt was'Lads-a-bunchum, in Adderbury style. The musician was Sue Cave,who didn't like the traditional tune (Oh dear mother what a fool I be) so she wrote and played a new tune. The steps/figures were gathered from the 'Morris Book' - Cecil Sharpe version. The hey was missed out as we couldn't figure out how to do it!

    We danced again at the Christmas Ceilidh at the Lifeboat Hotel after much practice in the side-room there. John Conolly was musician on melodeon at the ceilidh, plus Sue Cave. (This event was later chosen as the side's official first dance-out with the Winteringham School gig being regarded as more of a public practice.)

    In March 1968 the Grimsby Folk Song Club orgainised an evening of folk songs and traditional folk dancing at the Winter Gardens with the Worksop Morris Men and the newly formed Grimsby Morris Men.

    After a tremendous amount of public performance(well those three) the turning point was the Sidmouth Folk Festival in summer '68 when Stan Compton, John Conolly and myself with others from Grimsby (names escape me) went to a Morris workshop with Hugh Rippon and learnt to dance (almost) properly. The dance we learned was Willow Tree in Bracknell style. At the final night Ceilidh we had decided to do a "fish-slapping" dance* - a sort of a mix up of 'Lads-a-bunchum' and 'Willow Tree' with a pile of dabs plus a huge Cod's head that Stanley used as an end to a Fools stick (in place of a pigs bladder!).

    On resumption of Grimsby Folk Song Club in September, Grimsby Morris Men started to get together properly. The rest is history (tradition?) as they say. The first of many Boxing Day dance-outs was thus created, the event in 2007 being the 40th.

     Over 50 years have passed since the side (re-) formed. Dancers and musicians, fools and beasts have all enjoyed their time with the side in those ensuing years and all acknowledge their debt to the pioneers of 1967.