Forest of Dean Morris Men by Dave Blick

Forest of Dean Morris Men

Dave Blick

Meeting of 11 December 2014

Dave Blick and his team gave us clog dancing, Morris and mumming as well as a potted history.

‘Morris’ is believed to mean ‘Moorish’; possibly from the dancers blacking their faces.

Morris dancing can be traced back to at least Shakespeare’s time, with the famous Kemp’s Jig: Will Kemp, originally an actor in Shakespeare’s troupe, Morris danced the 100 miles from London to Norwich in 9 days (spread over several weeks). Morris survives so well today thanks to recorders, the first of which was Cecil Sharp who on Boxing Day 1899 heard music in Headington Quarry, Oxford. He found quarrymen dancing in costume. He later visited the Forest and recorded dances here. The Forest of Dean Morris Men gave us an early dance from Ruardean.

Dave himself has been dancing since he was 15. In 1968 he and Malcom Pattison started the Forest group at The White Hart in Coleford. What to wear was a challenge. The famous Ruardean jacket was recorded in the 1800s, and exhibited in The British Empire Exhibition of 1924. It is made of lots of multicoloured rags stitched to a shirt. Dave’s wife was commissioned to make eight (she is obviously a very understanding lady since some say that the rags are favours from ladies, and the team showed us bra straps and pants in their costumes!)

In the 1970s the Wimbury Step Clog Team had been revived. The six ladies gave us a traditional Wesley Waltz from the Wesley Hall, Cinderford. The clogs – made of sycamore or alder – are as worn by the mill workers who had regular big dancing competitions such as that in Brockweir in the 1930s. The clogs cope well with the wet, and cost around £60 today.

We had a taster of the wonderful mummers’ play that the team perform for charity at Christmas. A dramatic red stag – ‘Winter Wonder’ – followed the team. Jim Posser of Newnham had written down this Newnham Mummer’s Play in 1910 and it was only recently rediscovered. So far they have raised £20,000. CS