Looking back at an ancient art still seen on the Fylde coast

They are still a familiar sight of the summer.

Thursday, 26th July 2018, 3:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th July 2018, 3:22 pm
Carnival Day 1976:  Dancing along the procession route, are these young clog dancers from St Michaels
Carnival Day 1976: Dancing along the procession route, are these young clog dancers from St Michaels

They can be found dancing at various galas, fetes and festivals at weekends throughout the season across the whole of the Fylde coast.

They are instantly recognisable – with their bright-costumes, high-step and semaphore, and their batons and sticks in neat rows and geometric patterns.

Fit as sportsmen, they prance unceasingly through town and village streets, following rose queens and their retinues and the brass bands.

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Garstang's famous Morrismen, pictured in 1979

They are of course Morris dancers and clog dancers.

But did you know the original Morris dancing was considerably more belligerent – and it has its roots in war?

A form of folk dancing with bells and fluttering ribbons, was at first part of a Lenten or Whitsuntide ceremony – a fertility rite which had pagan origins and was no doubt Christianised as time went by.

The name ‘Morris’ stems from the 14th and 15th centuries when there was a close contact between England and France.

Morris men on parade at a Fylde Gala, in May 1983

In the south of France, the spring rituals included a fight between good and evil – a ‘battle’ between the Moors (who invaded across the Mediterranean from the North Africa coast) and Christians. Such contests became known as Mauresque or Morisca. Soldiers and foreign travellers saw them, liked them and brought them back to include their own folk dancing. Mauresque became Morris en route.

The contests between good and evil have long since been forgotten – the rhythm and tune of the dance has become more important, often linked with Scottish airs.

Fidlers Fancy women's morris dancing
A happy group of Blackpool Sailorettes Morris Dancers were celebrating the 18th birthday of their formation, in August 1987. The youngsters were pictured on the Promenade near North Pier doing a charity performance for Trinity Hospice
Morris Dancing in 1985
Blackpool Sailorettes in 1989
Garstang Morris Men
Dancing round the maypole in Kirkham market Square in 1987. A travelling band of maypole dancers moved around the Fylde, entertaining passers-by over the Bank Holiday. Bedecked in flowers and ribbons, the 20-member team began dancing round the maypole at Church Road in Kirkham. They were accompanied by Kirkham folk band Zephyrus who had organised the event.
Morris dancing
Blackpool Sailorettes in 1989