Winter Solstice

 A new season begins bringing with it the age-old winter festivals: a mélange of Christian and pre-Christian symbolism, celebrating light at a time when days are short, plenty after harvest and good company.

 At Winter Solstice last year we were invited to an old and lonely farmhouse deep in east Suffolk.  In the farm kitchen, little changed in centuries, were a group of people drinking and exchanging stories.  At a given time those of us who had no part in what was to come, were led out into the night by an elderly but spritely little lady.  Leaving signs of habitation behind, she sure-footedly led us through the dark along hedges, round woodland, through pastures and over stiles.  I was intrigued, but had no idea of where we were going or, for that matter, where we had come from.

 At length we crossed a narrow bridge leading over a river and through a copse to the garden of an old inn.  A menacing group of tall, black-robed, faceless and silent figures loomed out of the dark, standing sentinel, their heads lost in greenery.

 Lanterns marked a processional way across the garden and a crowd of people quietly waited for – what?  Eventually a tiny flickering light, a will-o’-the-wisp, appeared far away across the fields.  Slowly approaching it became a dozen flaming torches borne aloft by stern, black-faced, silent men in the garb of C19 farm workers.  Crossing the bridge, the only sound the thud of their hob-nailed boots, they filed between the lanterns to the courtyard and formed into sets for Molly dancing, the heavy rhythmic East Anglian form of Morris.  As the music began, some of the men stood guard, unsmilingly gazing out at the crowd as if protecting a mysterious and ancient rite.  Indeed I did have the feeling that here was something very old, a custom which had survived into the C21 in an isolated pocket of rural England.  It sent shivers up my spine.

 This was my introduction to Old Glory Molly Dancers and Musicians at the The Locks Inn at Geldeston.  Old Glory dance only during the winter, celebrating the winter festivals.  Their performances are characterised by a strong sense of theatre and if you want to see them wrap up well and get there early as there is often a torchlight procession to the venue. 

 Gill Brett

The Old Glory Christmas Carol

(Good King Wenceslas, almost, visits North Cove)

Brightly shone the stars that night
Tho’ the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight carrying winter fuel

The torch burned brightly in the night
And its glow was warming
A crowd of ploughboys formed a line, ready for their twirling

Come young man and stand by me
Get ready for the Sportsman
The Whiffler says you know this one but often need reminding

Crunching boots on icy ground,
marching with a swagger
Turn and spin and don’t let go, in case you get a clipping 

Up and down and arm in arm, listen to the music
Swing me round and keep me close
Don’t you let me go now.

Round we go and back and forth,
the circle gently swaying
to strange rhythms that the band is magnificently playing

Wrapped up warm the crowd looks on
Hands and feet they’re thumping
The dancing stops, the band retire, done with Winter dancing

 Dave Evans

21st Century Morris?

Changes to sides listed in Mardles from May 2001 – Aug 2017

As this is the last printed version of Mardles I began wondering whether a “Morris Correspondent” has a future in an on-line listings website and began leafing through back-issues of Mardles and, to my surprise, discovered I had a copy from May 2001.  I wondered how many had survived and were “Alive & Kicking” and how many had been “Lagabagged” and were no longer performing?  What kind of sides had formed in that time and what is the current state of health of the Morris fraternity as we settle in to the 21st century?

Click to read the rest of this article:21st Century Morris?

Morris at FolkEast


Local morris sides this year were represented by Pretty Grim, Green Dragon, Danegeld, Westrefelda and Treacle Miners with Green Dragon and Westrefelda also running workshops. For the first time another East Anglian side Chelmsford Ladies Clog were there and out in force. In addition to their stage performances they ran 2 excellent simultaneous workshops for adults and for 5-10 year olds and had performance spots at the ceilidhs: I was sorry to miss Chelmsford’s routine to “Till the Sun Goes Down” by David Jordan.

Read more: Morris at FolkEast