RING MEETING 1975
Formal Record From Morris Ring Archives  
The 153rd Meeting of the Morris Ring was held from Friday the 11th of July, to Sunday the 13th of July, 1975, at Ipswich, Suffolk. The host club was the East Suffolk Morris Men. The men were accommodated in St. Joseph’s College, a residential school at Birkfield, Ipswich; some were in rooms, and some camped in the extensive grounds. At the Town Hall the East Suffolk men gave a half-hour display on the Forecourt, beginning at 6 p.m. The Squire and Bagman of the Ring arrived at the same time, 8.30 p.m. The visiting morris men booked in at the town hall, and were directed to the College. Almost all men changed into morris dress before returning to the Ale at the Town Hall. Dancing on the Forecourt began at 8 p.m. and was continuous until the end of the Ale; it was watched by many people in the centre of the town that evening. Each man was given a paper bag with pie and sandwiches, which he could eat with beer and other drink bought at a bar installed for the occasion in the great Library Room upstairs in the Town Hall. The official information board, in the main entrance hall, showed, Function: Morris Dancing. Venue: Council Chambers, Library, Room 4, Forecourt. The Mayor of Ipswich (Councillor Mrs. Jones) arrived during the evening - her car joining those of the Squire and Bagman of the Ring, the only ones on the Forecourt that evening. She made a short speech welcoming the men to Ipswich; it was listened to appreciatively, and applauded; then a chair was brought out to the top of the great flight of steps, and she sat for a while to watch the dancing. The Bagman of the Ring had brought 1800 brochures to the Meeting, some already in packs of fifty for the morrow’s tours; and a hundred of the Aide Memoire second printing. By the time he left for his lodgings (at the home of East Suffolk morrisman Roland Butler, formerly of the Ring Bagman’s own club, Ravensbourne) the greater part of the books had been given out to the clubs requiring them. At St. Joseph’s College, a Roman Catholic school with some of the staff still in residence at the beginning of the vacation, the quiet bedgoing asked for by the host club was made.
Saturday morning was fine, and the day remained so. Breakfast was taken in the large College dining hall, without any queuing or waiting. Then the men boarded coaches which had arrived on the large tarmacked space by the main door; and tours were away on time - an important point, as some first shows were at a distance. Meticulous planning, ubiquitously characteristic of the meeting, had arranged for public houses to be open for the men’s first dancing sites - even when those sites were near Ipswich, and dancing began before 10 0’clock! Moreover, public houses were to be found open at last stops on the tours! Lunches were of the “ploughman” type, provided at public houses. After the last stop on each tour men found tea and biscuits at the home of an East Suffolk man; or at the home of a friends of the club. The coaches then took the dancers to the Corn Exchange (the rear portion of the Town Hall) where they could have a wash before forming into a procession in King Street. That procession was one long body of men, at the request of the Police Officer responsible for halting the town’s traffic; only the Chingford men, attired for dancing Royton, kept a little behind the main body, so that they might dance the Lancashire Processional whilst others Winstered ahead of them. The Squire of the Ring led the procession; the Bagman of the Ring ended it. The procession went along King Street, Soane Street, and into Christchurch Park. The large crowd waiting there was augmented by many others brought in by the procession. The show was on grass, in front of the Jacobean mansion; in the centre boards had been laid, upon which were danced the sword and North-west morris. The dances of the Big Show, which began at 6 p.m. and lasted for about eighty minuets, are given in an appendix to this Log. After the show the men (numbers of them stopping at public houses on the way) walked to the Corn Exchange. There was a brief, informal gathering of the outside guests for the Feast, to drink sherry; and then they were led by the Squire of the Ring into the great hall, the morris men standing as the guests entered. The Feast began at 8.10 p.m.; and Canon Smith said grace - “for dancing, for fellowship, and for good food, we thank you O God.” The company said “Amen,” and sat down to eat and drink, to all the noise and bustle of a morris feast.
At 9.13 The Squire of the Ring quietened the gathering so that he might propose the Loyal Toast: the health was drunk; and, with the men still standing, the immortal Memory was honoured, in silence, the Squire reminding the men that but for Cecil Sharp they would not be there that night. At 9.22 he asked Archie Bryden, of the Wessex Morris Men, to propose the health of the Borough of Ipswich. The speaker said that he had been asked to propose the toast because he had danced in the pre-war Suffolk side; it gave him pleasure to return to see the town, albeit much changed; to see Billy, there old hobby horse, used by the present Suffolk side; and to find such a fine hall as the one they were in, big enough to take all the dancers; and he said that all the men would agree that they were very much indebted to the Borough of Ipswich. The toast was drunk to much applause. The Squire then called upon Councillor Albert T. Lambert, at 9.30, to reply. The councillor said that he was delighted to be there that evening; he could speak at length about the Borough - granted its first charter by King John in 1200 A.D.; and granted Borough status by Queen Elizabeth the Second, after the resent government reorganisation, with in three weeks of its petitioning - but would keep his remarks to the magnificent hall in which they sat. Until two years before it had been a Corn Market on Tuesday’s; and on Wednesdays and Saturdays a place where people sold fruit and vegetables. Now it comprised that large hall; a restaurant for ninety people; a cinema seating two hundred and forty for the performance of specialised films (“ooh” from the men: “we have a wonderful committee; no blue films,” from the councillor; “oh” from the men.) and a bar. “I must tell you,” he continued, “that we have a wonderful piano, and a wonderful organ, (cheers) and the stage can be doubled by part of the floor coming up.” He thanked the morris men for inviting him; and was very glade to know of the brotherhood of the morris, and of its keeping alive worthwhile tradition. He sat down to great applause. At 9.43 The Squire called upon Roy Dommett, attending the meeting as a Bath City Morris Man, to propose the health of the East Suffolk Morris Men. Roy thanked the host club for one of the most brilliantly organised meetings he had ever been to (great cheering and clapping). It had been the only time that he had come to a public house at four o’clock in the afternoon, and found it open; it was a precedent for all future Ring Meetings: moreover, there had been a pub open at the first stop at 10 a.m.: and at his last stop at 5 p.m., he had been able to buy beer! He said that he had found a 1534 reference to the morris men in Ipswich being paid 3s 4d As he was a Civil Servant, he had written to the Treasury to ask what that was worth in today’s money: the Treasury wrote back to ask which day; finally it was worked out to be, as on the first of July, £242,000. 13.75p: which meant of course, that morris was a paying game in East Suffolk. There was morris danced at Ipswich before the First World War, and in between the wars. The first reference he could find of East Suffolk was that of a horse had appeared at a Ring Meeting; it had occasioned the first of the endless discussions on the role of animals; at this point there was a loud neigh somewhere in the hall, and much laughter. He said that that same hobby horse had been seen that day - but where was it now? And there was cheering as Desmond Herring showed himself. He spoke of learning his morris twenty-five years earlier; of the realisation that there was a vast body of material about the morris, laying in libraries and in collectors hands; and of the start that had been made in 1960 to collect all that could be found, to see old dancers, and to spread the newly gathered knowledge. That had been done by talks, by publications, and by instructional weekends, as at Halsway and Pershore. The result was Lionel Bacon’s Book of the Morris; it was a tremendous work; and he referred to John Wells Bagman of the Ring, sitting on his right, as the man who had spent many hours assembling the books: and John was given a great round of applause. Roy asked the company to drink to the health of the East Suffolk Morris Men; which they did, and followed that with hearty applause. The Squire of the Ring said that one of the snags of being Squire was that he was not allowed to reply; so he called upon Irvine Reid to do that. Irvine said that he had a slight advantage over previous speakers; he had know for two years that he was to speak that night - the others had known barely two weeks. He had forgotten to bring along with him the pile of paper he had prepared (cheers): he had thought of making a few notes during the evening - and found that he hadn’t a pen; so he had ended up with very little to say (more cheers): he referred to Inspector Adams, present that evening, and to the assistance given by the authorities in many ways; to the sites on which the men had danced, the successful use of the coaches, and to the timely opening of public houses - which, he assured the men, had been quiet legal. He thanked the Rings officers for guidance during the planning of the meeting; the east Suffolk M.M. had put in some of their own ideas as well! He thanked Keith Froom, the Bagman for the Meeting, for all his work (cheers and clapping); he hoped that the tours guides had led their tours well that day, and had been good hosts (roars of ‘yes’, cheers and clapping): he thanked the men, over 360 of them, for coming; and said the big gathering would be a great boost to the morris in East Suffolk. After saying that the public houses would be open some time after the Feast, and that he hoped that the men would enjoy some more dancing, he sat down, to great cheering. The men then left the hall, leaving John Bull, of Thaxted, asleep in his chair. Dancing did take place, mostly in front of the Town Hall; it ended at about 11.30 pm., the police having requested that. Many men took advantage of a half-hour coach ferry service between the Town Hall and St. Joseph’s College; and those who could not get into the last coach load were taken by Irvine Reid in his min-bus and by Keith Froom in his car; they made several trips. At the College, men went quietly to bed.
The Sunday morning was bright. Once more breakfast was obtained easily. A few men joined College staff at the service in the college chapel; but most drove to the Tower Ramparts Car Park. The procession formed up, and Winstered the short distance to St. Mary’s-le-Tower. The organist, John Cooper, used Flowers of Edinburgh and Shepherds Hey for his improvisation. During the singing of the first hymn twenty-three bearers of staffs (including the Squire of the Ring) went to the altar where the staffs were laid. The staffs were returned at the singing of the last hymn. The first lesson Ecclesiastes 3, vv 1-8, was read by Michel Garland; and the second, Romans 12, vv 1-8, by the Squire of the Ring. After the Collects, a group of morris musicians, at the west end of the church, played Orange in Bloom. In his address Canon Leslie Smith said how happy it had made him to be at the Feast the previous evening; and how, when the beer had run out, he had regretted that he could not do what Someone else could have done! He welcomed the men, both to Ipswich and to the service. He said that his own connection with the morris, through Desmond Herring, began in 1956. He referred to the beauty of colour in costume, and the excitement of movement; to the comradeship of the morris; and to the wisdom of the early church, which had retained wholesome pagan customs at the coming of Christianity. After the blessing the men went out, to the organists improvisations of Bonny Green Garters, to form into procession; and to go once more to Christchurch Park. A few light drops of rain fell; but the large audience stayed for a seventy-minuet show; it is listed in an appendix. Men then walked back to the Corn Exchange for a fine meal in the Small Hall. When most men had eaten, a couple of sides danced in the restaurant for the benefit of the staff. The visitors then sought out East Suffolk hosts, to say a great “thank you,” and “goodbye.”
Appendix 1. The Tours:
Tour A. Led by Brian Foster (Fool) and Steve Pallant: Hartley (15 men) and Grimsby (10 men) to Westleton, White Horse, 10.15:The Sole Bay, Southwold, 11.30: South Green, Southwold, 13.30: Wickham Market, The Square, 15.00
Tour B. Led by Eric Barker, John Smith, and Peter Allan: Thaxted (7), Lincoln (10) Wantsum (Kent) (6) to Carr Street, Ipswich, 9.30: Hollesley, Shepherd and Dog, 11.00: Orford, The Square, 12.00: Woodbridge USAF/RAF Base, 14.00: Woodbridge, The Bull, 15.00.
Tour C. Led by John Huggett and Dick Hemming: Cambridge (12), Chingford (13) to Tavern Street, Ipswich, 9.30: Grundisburgh, The Dog, 11.00: Earl Soham, The Victoria, 12.00: Saxted Green, The Mill, 14.00: Framlingham, near the Castle, 14.45.
Tour D. Led By Alex Boydell and Mike Farmer (of Northampton): London Pride (13), Broadwood (Sussex) (12), Pinewood (U.S.A.) (1), to Woodbridge, The Bull, 10.00: Blaxhall, The Ship, 11.00: Snape, The Crown, 12.00: Friston, The Chequers, 14.00: Aldeburgh, The Moot Hall, 14.45.
Tour E. Led by Mike Burn and Dave Tydeman: East Kent (9), Bathe City (12), to Hendlesham, The Square, 10.00: Gislingham, Six Bells, 11.00: Thornham Magna, Four Horseshoes, 12.00: Debenham, The Square, 14.30: Little Bealings, 15.45.
Tour F. Led by Dave Burt, Peter Rose, and Paddy Butler: Moulton (7), South Shropshire (12), Ashdown Forest (12), to Burry St. Edmunds, Market, 10.15: B. St. Eds., Abbey Gate, 11.15: Woolpit, The Swan, 12.15: Norton, The Dog, 13.00: Needham Market, near the Church, 15.15.
Tour G. Led by Paddy Buckley and John Pardy: Failsworth (11), Benfleet Hoymen (14), to Ipswich, Broke Hall Estate, 9.45: Kirton, White Horse, 10.30: Trimley, Hand in Hand, 11.15: Felixstowe, Spa Gardens, 12.15; Ferry crossing to Harwich on m.v. Brightlingsea. Dovercourt, The Phoenix, 15.00.
Tour H. Led by Ivo Barne and Lawrence Morrison: Stafford (11), Painters (10), Stevenage Swordsmen (10), to Manningtree, Market, 9.45: Dovercourt, Phoenix, 11.00: ferry crossing to Felixstowe on m.v. Brightlingsea. Felixstowe, Spa gardens, 14.00: Felixstowe Ferry, The Ferryboat, 15.00.
Tour I. Led by Dick Thorborrow and Mike Reeve: Green Ginger, Hull (9), Gloucestershire (10), Rumford (8), St. Albans (2), to Capel St. Mary, White Horse, 9.45: Debham, near church, 10.45: Stratford St. Mary, Kings Arms, 11.45: Stratford St. Mary, The Anchor, 13.30: East Bergholt, Red Lion, 14.15: Stutton, Kings Head, 15.15.
Tour J. Led by Desmond Herring and Phil Woodgate: Wessex (12), Earls of Essex (10), to Sudbury, Market Hill, 10.30: Long Melford, The Bull, 11.30: Lavenham, The Square, 12.30: Kettlebaston, 14.15: Stowmarket, Abbots Hall Museum, 15.00.
Tour K. led by Mike Garland and Don Wallace: Chanctonbury Ring (15), Standon (7), to Ipswich, Civic Centre, 9.30: Somersham, Duke of Marlborough, 10.30: Great Bricett, Red Lion, 11.30: Bildeston, Red Lion, 12.30: Lavenham, The Square, 14.30.
Tour L. Led by Roland Butler, Pip Sadler, Ivan Woolard. Apley (Bath) (10), Wheatsheaf (London) (9), Kemps Men (7), to Ipswich, Chantry Estate, 9.30: Hadliegh, Market Place, 10.30: Boxford, White Hart, 11.45: Nayland, Post Office, 14.00: Stoke-by-Nayland, the church, 15.00.
Tour M. Led by Keith Froom and Terry Baker. Green Man’s (14), New Cambridge (U.S.A.) (8), to Ipswich, Stoke Park Estate, 9.30: Forward Green, Shepherd and Dog, 11.00: Great Finborough, The Chestnut Horse, 12.00: Monks Eleigh, 14.15: Kersey, 15.15.
Appendix 2.
The squire and bagman of the Morris Ring, driven by Irvine Reid, saw Tour C at tavern street, Ipswich: Tour B at Carr Street, Ipswich: Tours G and H at Felixstowe. The Squire of the Ring and his Lady, Irvine Reid and his lady, The Bagman of the Ring, entertained Mr. Mumford (Chairman of the Suffolk Coastal District) and his Lady, to pre-lunch drinks at the Spa Pavilion Bar; and to lunch at the Grand Hotel Bar, Felixstowe.
Appendix 3. The Ring’s Brochure was the only item offered for sale; 1075 were sold. The host club had had printed 10,000 three fold handouts, as attached hereto; these were given away. In addition, there were single leaflets, 10 by 21 cm, put about the district in the weeks preceding the meeting: copy is attached. These leaflets, the Feast menu, and the meeting’s posters, carried the meeting’s motif - the back view of an East Suffolk Morris Man, air-borne in a Bucknell full-caper.
Appendix 4. Top table at the Feast, as seen by the men in the body of the Hall: - L to R, Brian Holeman, Offley: John Venables, Green Man’s: Norris Winstone, Kemp’s Men: Russell Wortley, Cambridge: Michael Blandford, London Pride: Canon Leslie Smith: Irvine Reid, East Suffolk: Chief Inspector Adams: The Squire of the Morris Ring: Councillor Arthur T. Lambert, Deputy Mayor; The Bagman of the Morris Ring: Roy Dommett, Bath City: Archie Bryden, Wessex: Ewart Russell, St. Albans: Colin Fleming, Westminster: Keith Froom, East Suffolk: Steve Woodruff, New Cambridge: Johnny Burke, Stafford.
Appendix 5. The Massed Show in Christchurch Park, Saturday, 12th July, 1975.
Willow Tree, Bucknell, for all. Cambridge, Constant Billy, add: Moulton, Jubilee Hill: Kemp’s Men, Beet Topping: Balance the Straw for all: Green Man’s, Stafford, Sheriff’s Ride, Lichfield: Stevenage Sword, rapper; Earls of Essex, Shepherds Hey, Add: Jockey to the Fair, Brackley, for all: Bath City, Princess Royal: Benfleet Hoymen, Ampleforth Sword Dance: Grimsby, Gallant Hussar, Bled; Getting Upstairs for all: Wheatsheaf, Old Taylor, Ducklington: Failsworth, own N.W. Tradition: Lincoln, Black Joke, Add: Chingford, Royton; East Suffolk, Shepherds Hey, Wheatley: Bonny Green Garters.
Appendix 6. The Massed Show in Christchurch Park, Sunday the 13th of July, 1975.
Willow Tree Bucknell, for all: New Cambridge, Highland Mary, Bampton: Broadwood, Maid of the Mill, Ilmington: Thaxted, Maid of the Mill, Brackley: Black Joke, Add., for all: Chanctonbury Ring, Valentine, Fieldtown, spurious: Benfleet Hoymen, Ampleforth Sword Dance: Painters, Flowing Bowl, Add: Furze Field, Add., for all: Gloucestershire, Cuckoos Nest, Sherborne: Green Man’s, and Stafford, Sheriff’s Ride: Rumford, Rodney: Laudnum Bunches, H.Q., for all: South Shropshire, Queens Delight, Bucknell: Squire of the Morris Ring, Fool’s Jig: Apley, Greyhound, Fieldtown Style: East Suffolk, William and Nancy, Bled. Boney Green Garters.