Life, photos but not the universe

And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun

There’s a bit of  folklore (possibly apocryphal) that suggests that this song was written about wartime when the men weren’t around to dance for the Whitsun festival.  One interpretation of the meaning of Morris is that it was a pagan ritual to ensure fertility in field and family.  So quite important and originally only ever danced by men.  (No doubt the women had their own rites.)  It’s still a lovely song whether or not it’s about Morris, with a number of interesting historical references.

It's fifty long springtimes since she was a bride,
     But still you may see her at each Whitsuntide
     In a dress of white linen with ribbons of green,
     As green as her memories of loving.

     The feet that were nimble tread carefully now,
     As gentle a measure as age will allow,
     Through groves of white blossoms, by fields of young corn,
     Where once she was pledged to her true-love.

     The fields they stand empty, the hedges grow (go) free--
     No young men to turn them or pastures go see (seed)
     They are gone where the forest of oak trees before
     Have gone, to be wasted in battle.

     Down from the green farmlands and from their loved ones
     Marched husbands and brothers and fathers and sons.
     There's a fine roll of honor where the Maypole once stood,
     And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun.

     There's a straight row of houses in these latter days
     All covering the downs where the sheep used to graze.
     There's a field of red poppies (a gift from the Queen)
     But the ladies remember at Whitsun,
     And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun.
(John Austin Marshall)

Highlights of this year at Bampton included:

Sunshine when putting up tents and when taking them down.

A thirteen year old girl instructing , first Barney, then Michael in the art of cat’s cradle construction, then dragging her Father out from the pub as a demo dummy, demonstrating how it really can be done, with her brother in between his game of Aunt Sally, and then roping me in as an alternative dummy since it looked as though I might at least understand the rudiments.

Both ours and a friend’s new grandchildren being present and delightful.

Our older grandchildren having a wonderful time and being as good as gold all weekend.

Finding that the coffee shop is still going strong and still serves wonderful coffee and breakfasts.  (Remembering the first time we did this 35 years ago and had 1/2 a pork pie and a pint of beer for breakfast)

Having the Sunday afternoon barbeque at the campsite with no rain at all.

Two hefty strangers trying their hand at Aunt Sally for the first time and watching as first they were told to let Grandad show them how it’s done by very small grandson, then when Grandad failed to score out of six shots, having small grandson (eight) score one out of two shots and to top it all, older  grandaughter (nine) scoring two out of two shots.

The annual crowd of friends met well again.

Discovering a whole lot of new small alleyways in the back streets of the town.

Watching the spectacularly noisy and black-and-red border morris team, The Iron Men and seeing the Seven Champions team perform their eye-wateringly funny dance around two ‘prisoners’.


Less highly lit moments:

Rain all day on the Monday when the teams dance.

Peter and Ralph not being there.

Um …. probably there were others.  I don’t remember.

I’ve posted so many black and white morris dancers – have a change.  These are the Seven Gilders – the Iron men’s sister team.  The Iron Men come from Coalbrook Dale of pottery and iron work fame and so do the Seven Gilders who painted the gold leaf on the pottery.  (I think – I was well into a lengthy pub session when I gleaned these nuggets of information)  Anyway, nothing to do with female pigs or Dutch currency.

I tried to upload videos of the dancing – eventually I came across a little note on Flickr which said  “videos can be up to 90 seconds long”  Ah.  So two minutes and forty seconds might be a bit too long.  Flickr seems not to be able to tell you it can’t do something until it’s finished trying and failed.  I then tried to edit the video, using the little camera’s software.  Hmm.

Moving swiftly along, here’s a little of the rest of Oxfordshire.

(Apologies for not doing the rounds yet – four days camping immediately followed by two days grandbaby minding have swallowed a week or more.   Playing catch-up slowly)


June 3, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. loving the background info on the Iron Men and the Severn Gilders. . . used to frequet a very nice pub in Coalbrookdale many years ago!

    how wonderful to have such a personal history stratching back all those years. . . I so hope that the grandchildren will keep it up! (not that I@m wishing the present away. . .)

    good luck with the editing processes! I took some short videos on my phone camera when I was in Egypt – hve been wondering what to do with them. . . will have to investigate


    glad you had a lovely time!


    Comment by english inukshuk | June 3, 2011 | Reply

  2. Dearest Mig, I’ve been absent from your page and I am disappointed because I’ve missed so much! This post alone is fabulous. I love the merriment and the dancing, the games. I’ll be leaving in a short time, but I’ll be back to peruse more of the posts below, I promise.
    (You know, I get a little fire when I hear about the ladies dancing alone, like I should be there to help them out!)
    In the meantime, a friend will be renting a boat and navigating the Erie Canal in New York. Made me think of you. I told him about my friend in England that has a boat and travels the canals. I’ve provided a link:
    Anyway, good to visit. Looks like you’;re having fun.


    Comment by Spadoman | June 3, 2011 | Reply

  3. Great post, Mig, thank you. Spadoman and I will be along for lessons in everything especially how to encompass breakfasts of pork pies and pints while dancing, playing the clarinet and erecting tents. Who said men can’t multi-task?

    I wondered if that poem could be American – maybe from the hand of Mel or Joe S., aka J S Marshall – until I read ‘a gift from the Queen’.

    Comment by Christopher | June 3, 2011 | Reply

  4. I thought of you Inukshuk, especially when looking up the Iron Men, as there was a video of the Wenlock something (sword? Stick?) dance : ) And yes, the family tradition is a great thing. Even better when Barney decided to take his hangover home in the rain and Youngest berated him for failing to turn up next morning in time for the first dance!

    We keep missing ‘Man : ) I come back and you’re away and vice versa. Never mind – I love your travel stories : ) That sounds like the most wonderful experience for your friend – I have some envy. But at the same time, I have a feeling that cruising on the Eerie Canal is a very much larger kettle of fish than anything we have here, even the Thames!
    Oh and sorry to have to tell you that the Iron Men dance with the Seven Gilders every so often – of course I’m quite sure you’d be welcome to join in! How could anyone refuse you?

    Do they have Whitsun in America Christopher? (‘Man? Mel?) Actually, men don’t multi task at Bampton – that’s why the weekend is four days long, one for tent erection, another for taking them down, one for dancing – oh yes, eating, the men do seem to be able to do that every day : ) I’m not sure what happens to the other two days. I guess they’re for drinking and divided between the rest of the time. Glad you noticed the clarinet (and oboe?) – most unusual for a Morris musician!

    Comment by letouttoplay | June 3, 2011 | Reply

  5. Your posts are like visual chocolate. Super images and thoughts.

    Comment by rosie | June 4, 2011 | Reply

  6. Oh, what joyful photos of the dancing. My goodness they’re having a good time of it. (and I love the fella’s jacket!)

    AND you had grandbabies.
    AND you got more grandbaby time on top of it?! Ohhhhhhh…what a wonderful weekend with kiddos, dancing, Aunt Sally-ing and traditions up the whazoo!
    35 years…….holy moly…..they must do one mean cuppa coffee!

    <– has a cup ready for the filling!

    What a joyous time of it…..sunshine and dry tent packing up and grandchildren galore!

    Comment by Mel | June 5, 2011 | Reply

  7. But not fattening I hope Rosie : )

    The jackets are great aren’t they Mel : ) I would have liked one to take home! 35 years ago I don’t think Bampton had heard of coffee which is why we were reduced to the pork pie and beer breakfast. The coffee shop appeared about five years ago and made the whole weekend experience complete : )

    Comment by letouttoplay | June 5, 2011 | Reply

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