Most morris sides have one or two people who don't take part in the dancing but dress up (more) oddly and do odd things. Many sides have a fool, who's main job is to amuse the audience in order to distract them from the dancing. Other sides have some sort of "animal", more properly known as a beast, the most common variety being a hobby horse.
As always Grimsby Morris Men take the view that if a thing is worth doing, its worth overdoing. As a result we have five characters (at the last count). Without further ado, here they are:-
The fool announces dances then dances in between the other dancers in the set. He also moves amongst the audience making jocular remarks, hitting people with his bladder and generally making a nuisance of himself.
The fool is our longest standing character, appearing not long after the side was formed in 1967. Our first fool was the late, and much lamented, Stan Compton, stalwart of the Grimsby Folk Song Club and founder member of Grimsby Morris Men. I'm sure that Stan would be proud to know that his son-in-law, Glenn Osborne is the side's current fool.
Stanley, or "Stan" as he is affectionately known, is our boar.
Stan is outgoing and friendly; he is a deeply caring animal. He is affectionate and warm and loves children (although he couldn’t eat a whole one!).
Stan was created, back in the mists of time (actually it was about 1986) by mad (well, he wasn’t very pleased) engineer "Count" Frankenspreadborough in his remote, Gothic, mountain top refuge in Laceby. As a result of a tragic accident during a cloning experiment involving a Grimsby Corporation coat of arms, a sausage and a polystyrene drinking cup, Stan was created. Partly formed and bewildered the witless creature was befriended by Grimsby Morris Men and given a purpose and a destiny!
Stan takes his name from the well loved and greatly missed Stan Compton who was Grimsby Morris Men’s first fool. Other Morris teams may have hobby horses - according to Chamber’s dictionary "One of the chiefest parts played in the ancient Morris Dance". In this context "Hobby" means: appertaining to a hob: a hob is a clownish fellow or mischievous fairy, as in Hobgoblin. We are delighted to have, in the shape of our unique and beloved Stan, a hobby BOAR! Like his predecessor and namesake, Stan is quite adept at entertaining the crowd and also frightening small children.
Stan is currently "driven" by John Ide.
Although the green man, or at least his foliate head, is found on many English churches, he is probably a pagan figure in origin, adopted by the new religion along with several festivals. As a pagan figure the Green Man is a symbol of fertility and the cycles of life.
Our own Green Man is Dave Laister, who comes out in his green finery for Waes-hals, Festival of the Leaves, Plough Sunday and anything else that has a hint of greenery or growth about. As long as he is kept well watered he's a happy tree, though he seems to thrive best on beer rather than Baby Bio.
Just in case you weren't aware, Saint George is the patron saint of England, despite never setting foot in England's green and pleasant land. He was probably Greek or Turkish . He was first adopted as a saint for the English by the Knight's Templar and other crusader groups and was widely accepted as the patron saint of England during the reign of Edward III.
Our own Saint George is a surprisingly cool dude, as the photo shows. Perhaps unsurprisingly he's most frequently seen on April 23rd and almost never when our Green Man is around. Hmm!
In days past Whifflers went in front of a procession to clear spectators from its path. In early times, they would have been men-at-arms, wielding their customary weapons such as javelins or swords to keep back the mob. By the time of Shakespeare, they had taken on a formalised role and by the next century had degenerated into being merely part of the ritual of events such as civic parades. They survived until the middle of the nineteenth century in the procession of the London craft guilds to the Guildhall banquet on Lord Mayor’s Day, in which young freemen called bachelor whifflers carried flags to lead each guild. They lived on to about the same date in Norwich.
Our Whiffler also has the arduous task of clearing a way through the crowds, but for Grimsby Morris Men rather than some Lord Mayor or other, and sometimes has to deal with crowds of 2 or even 3 people. Ian Horsley is our Whiffler.