"The Statham Morris Dance"
(The Lymm Dance as danced in Statham)

Geoff Bibby's diaries up to 1980

Note: The Lymm Dance was collected from dancers from the 1923 Statham team. The dance, as they performed, it included a figure (double cast) which was danced exclusively by the Statham  team. Hence this page refers to the Statham Morris.

Before the turn of the century, the Lymm area boasted two Morris teams; one based in Lymm itself, the other at Oughtrington. Only the Oughtrington team continued to dance after 1900 and this team disbanded before the end of the first decade of the century.

So on March 14, 1938, when Maud Karpeles came to this area in search of material, her chances of gleaning any dance notation on Lymm were slim. Fortunately, three dancers were still alive: Charles Simpson, John Robert Downward and Abraham Wilson.

From Charles Simpson, Maud Karpeles noted a version of a "step up" and a "step and turn" (see Journal, vol. VI, no.3, 1951), the step up being performed with "slow. walking steps" - one to each bar of music, which is in itself unusual to say the least.

Armed with such little knowledge as this, I was determined to concentrate on collecting as much material together as possible. Looking back I cannot understand how I could be so enthusiastic. With no surviving dancers, how could I collect any more notation? It was impossible, although I did have one advantage over Maud Karpeles - I would be able to visit Lymm again and again, if necessary!

In order to avoid "discovering" information which had already been collected, I made a list of everyone who might have further knowledge of the dance, and began writing.

Principally, these were ex-Manchester Morris Men Derek Froome, Eric Pollitt, Julian Pilling and Dan Howison.

Derek and Eric were very helpful, but could offer no real clue as to where to go from here. Eric Pollitt wrote to me with the opening words "Welcome to the league of the dead-horse floggers" - Not very encouraging. Dan Howison was also very helpful, and gave me something to start on, with a copy of some notes on the dance that had been deposited at Warrington Library, but had since disappeared. The notes were as follows :

The Lymm Morris

Information given by Mrs Booth. (Her father, Mr Higgins, danced with the Morris Men in the early 1900s. He taught her the dance).

FORMATION
2 4 6 8
1 3 5 7
(or with 6 men)

MUSIC
'Yankee Doodle' and 'Oh Susannah'

TEMPO
Fairly quick

'A' MUSIC
Hands circling alternately
Dance - walk forwards.

'B' MUSIC
Turn to face opposite end; hands and feet crossing together.

Same for procession and stationary dance. No 1 may call out any figure, such as "Corners", "Back to back" etc.

The boys of Statham performed a version of this dance in 1923, as part of the May Queen celebrations.

So the boys of Statham had danced in 1923. Dan Howison said they were about eleven years old at the time, and this meant that I may be able to trace them.

My first action was a letter in the local newspaper. A simple statement that the Statham lads had danced a traditional morris dance in the 1923 May Queen celebrations, and an appeal for any information. I put a similar advert in Statham Post Office.

I returned to Statham in April, 1977, and was directed from the Post office to the "Star Inn", to see a Ted Edwards, who knows all about the Statham May Queen. Mr Edwards was an invaluable informant. He confirmed that the Statham lads had danced "over a number of years, from about 1920 onwards" and that the leader was dressed as a woman, wearing a bell on "her" waist at the back and carried a wooden ladle, dancing up and down the set shouting "Smack 'em up lads".

I had photographs of the Lymm (Oughtrington) team with me (from Ardern's Guide to Lymm and District) and Ted Edwards, to my surprise, was able to identify the dancers. He knew some first-hand e.g. "Bob" Downward and identified others by family likeness.

Ted Edwards told me that Ned Rowles, "an old Lymm dancer", had been the leader of the Statham boys team, and he suggested that I call on his son Dick, "who lives in Holly Road, off Rushgreen Road, next turn after the off-licence at the bottom of Sandy Lane". Oh no he didn't and I spent all day looking.

On July 21, 1977, I visited Dick Rowles and found him sitting with his wife in the sunshine. Dick remembered the Statham lads who danced 1923, and knows, vaguely, where they live now. His wife said she has a photograph of the team, but cannot find it, so I left my address, and asked her to let me know as soon as she does find it.

July 26, I received a card from Mrs Rowles, and I called round immediately. Dick named all the boys on the photo, and I borrowed if to have a copy made.

From this date on (July, 1977), continuing up to 1980, I have a diary of my movements concerning the recovery of the dance and peripheral information which is far too long and boring to be published here.

It is sufficient to say that my informants so far, number well over 30, and that each person I meet passes me on to more suggested sources, so that I will never get to the end of the list I still have three of the 1923 dancers left to trace, and one dancer who is speculated as being a twelfth lad missing from the photographs.

Go to Notation for the Statham Morris Dance or go to The Lymm dance page


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Last updated 2 May 2008