1948 – 1960
Reg Howes’ log book
ESMM are lucky enough to have the log-book which Reg Howes started in 1948. This records every outing of the side for the next 10 years, including the names of the dancers at each event. The number of dancers was generally quite small and the names most frequently appearing at this time were Bob Ash, Cecil Capp, Walter (Wally) Wakefield, Charles Rowse, Reg Howes, Eddie Reavell, Fred Higgins (the musician – concertina), Cleeve Mason and Bert Aldis.Music was sometimes a problem…if Fred Higgins was not available, or was required to dance, substitutes had to be found. For the Village Tour to Godstone and Bletchingly in May 1949 “the music was provided by Miss Whiteman and Miss Church-Bliss”. At another event “a girl violinist also played” and on one occasion, “Mrs Ash played piano music amplified by loudspeakers”. On another occasion gramophone records were used and, because there was no record of Bonny Green Garters, the dancers sang themselves off!
The efforts of these few post-war stalwarts were rewarded in the early and mid 1950’s by the arrival of new dancers and musicians some of whom were to be the backbone of the side for many years. Cyril Frost turned out with the side in July 1949, Alf Bloxsome was at the supper in the Greyhound, Sutton in January 1950 and Wally Randall first played his fiddle for the side (and danced) in March 1950. Bob Davies also joined in 1950 to be followed by Martin Jolley in 1952, Ewart Arnold in 1953 and Alan Hayward and Dan Rothenberg in 1954. Important years indeed, especially for the music.
Besides Wally Randall, it was discovered that Martin Jolley could play a very good fiddle, and ESMM also had Fred Hutt and Peter Jones who each played concertina as well as being dancers.
It was also discovered that Dan Rothenberg had a gift for fooling and he soon established a “Betsy” character who must have been captured in thousands of photographs over the years. In addition, Dan was indefatigable and highly successful collector for the ESMM bag. With nerves of steel, he was seen to collect from people on (moving) public transport and was even known to interrupt courting couples with a request for a contribution. An accomplished linguist, Dan “collected in more than a dozen languages” and was a much loved character within the side.
1960 Reigate Ring Meeting
In 1960, ESMM hosted their first Ring Meeting since WW2, based at the Royal Albert and Alexandra school at Gatton Park with Peter Jones
as Squire and Fred Hutt as Bagman for the meeting.
No less than 30 sides attended and on the Sunday afternoon, following the meeting, nine of the sides attended a memorable reception given by Captain Evelyn Broadwood and Nibs Matthews (the then Squire of the Ring) at the Broadwood family home in Capel.
The article on the left shows the local press report on the proceedings and pictures the massed dancing on the lawns at Lyne. With apologies for the quality of the image, just click on the article for a readable version displayed in a new window. Click on your “back” button to return to our main website.
North Downs Morris Men
Some relief to the continuing problem of numbers came in the late 1950’s by the formation of the North Downs Morris Men.The side was based in Caterham and initially learned their dances from Grace Meikle. It was not long before Wally Randall started going to Caterham to teach them and, when Wally died, his place as teacher (Foreman) was taken by Ewart Arnold and a few other East Surrey men. The outcome of this was a very close relationship between the sides with joint tours and, for 1967 – 69, a joint printed programme which was handed out to spectators on their tours. But North Downs were not destined to have a long life. Their numbers dwindled and eventually, in 1971 the few that were left, including Ira Butler, Joe Garnham and Dick Richardson started to wear the East Surrey colours, joining Dick Larque who had come over to ESMM a year or so earlier.
Wandle Valley boys’ team
During the 1960’s the main recruitment to ESMM came from a different source.
At the local primary school (Camden Road) a teacher named Mary Maynard (nee Archer) taught the children country and Morris dancing and a few of them were keen enough to go back to Camden Road to dance after they had moved onto their secondary schools. Mary thus found herself with a group of 12-14 year old boys anxious to dance Morris out of school hours. She provided them with baldricks and they called themselves the Wandle Valley Morris Dancers. Mary sought the help of a number of people in teaching Morris to the boys. Brian Heaton and Hugh Rippon (both involved in EFDSS local and national activities at the time) contributed . More importantly though, Mary contacted ESMM and suggested to Wally Randall that they should be “apprenticed” to East Surrey. Some of the boys attended ESMM practices, but the venture was not entirely successful and the Wandle Valley boys, now becoming young men, continued to exist separately, with Tony Cottle as (informal) Squire; Keith Gamble eventually took over from Tony as Squire and sometimes played his accordion for the side.
For a number of reasons, including studying and exams, the discovery of girls, and the collapse of the ceiling of the upstairs room of the pub where they practiced, the Wandle Valley side broke up and from 1964 onwards, a number them joined ESMM. First came Tony Cottle and his brother Roy, to be followed later by Keith Gamble, David Bell and Bob Hobley. Finally came Peter Bradley who had started his Morris at Camden Road but had not continued with Wandle Valley.
Another evangelistic venture undertaken by Wally Randall in the late 1950’s, with the help of another ESMM member, Roy Horner, was to teach Morris to the Woodcraft Folk boys in Mitcham. As a result, in 1960, Ron Nunn (age 16!) joined the side. As well as dancing, Ron played English concertina and, with a short interlude to travel the world, was one of the side’s main musicians for over 40 years.
During the 1970s and onward, recruitment to ESMM tended to come from personal introduction by existing members and, occasionally, from interest shown by men watching our performances during the summer. It was fairly successful though as the records show that membership grew from a meagre 12 in 1966 to 25 in 1973. Two-thirds of these 25 were in their twenties or early thirties – a veritable rush of new, young blood.
Spring Bank Holiday Tour of Kent and Sussex
In 1958 ESMM had its first tour of Kent and Sussex based at Peasmarsh, near Rye in East Sussex. This weekend of dance has now become a popular annual event and for the first 35 odd years of its existence was organised entirely by Bob Davies and Dan Rothenberg. The weekend is a “family” weekend to which guest sides are invited. Greensleeves Morris Men have a permanent invitation to the weekend; other sides recently attending include Barnsley Longsword and Bedford MM.
In 1971, ESMM attended a “Weekend of Dance” hosted by Greensleeves MM at Chipperfield. Also invited were Garstang MM from Lancashire who danced in the Lancashire style with clogs on their feet, large floral hats on their heads and sometimes using garlands of flowers in their dances. They also danced to a big band that included a side drum and a big bass drum. ESMM became immediate friends with Garstang. We accepted an invitation to attend a Morris weekend they were holding in September 1972 in conjunction with the Preston Guild celebrations and an invitation for them to attend our 1973 Rye tour was instantly accepted.
[Insert a picture of Garstang MM dancing and/or their band!]
For the next six years – until 1979 – with their athletic (and noisy) dancing and their compelling music, they were a massive magnet for our Rye tour audiences. They also had a wide range of songs and tunes which they contributed to our pub “après-dancing” sessions. Some of these sessions were so popular that there was absolutely no room in the bars where we were performing and, because there was no room inside, people were hanging into the rooms through open windows. Memorable times indeed.
ESMM 50th Anniversary and the 1976 Guildford Ring Meeting
Before we hosted our 1976 Ring Meeting, in June 1976 ESMM were invited by British Gas to participate in a worldwide convention that they were organising for their employees. The event was planned to be held in the moat of the Tower of London and, of course we were unable to refuse the invitation!
The event included presentations by the Regimental Orchestra of the Welsh Guards, various spinning, turning, weaving and ironworking craftsmen, and numerous minstrels, tumblers, acrobats, fire-eaters and jugglers etc. Our bill of fare included roast ox and as much strawberries and cream as we could consume as well, of course, as free beer!
The picture on the left shows a performance with the dancers (from l. to r.): Laurie Jeal, unknown, Ira Butler, Dick Larque, and on the right of the set, Rich Winton and Peter Bradley. In the background you can see David Joy (an excellent dancer and accordion player who unfortunately left us when his job moved him to East Anglia), Dan Rothenberg (back to picture) talking to Ewart Arnold and David Shepherd.
Just before hosting our Ring Meeting we were able to attend Greensleeves MM’s Chipperfield Ring Meeting celebrating their Golden Jubilee.
Our 1976 Ring Meeting was hosted to celebrate our 50th anniversary. It was based at Surrey University, Guildford with Bob Davies as Squire and Dan Rothenberg as Bagman for the meeting. An infirm Kenneth Constable was able to attend the meeting and proposed the toast to the Morris Ring at the Feast. Dick Larque brought his skills as a potter to good use by producing splendid commemorative tankards for the occasion decorated with the Oaksprig and Saxon Crown.
For many years, ESMM have had a full programme of summer dancing sites. Apart from our Boxing Day outing, the programme usually starts with a full day tour on the May Day Bank Holiday and goes through to the first or second week of September. During this period, with an increased membership and expanded repertoire, the side was able to extend the number of dancing stops during a season and to recommence attendance at Ring Meetings , travelling all over England in the process. We also attended days and weekends of dance organised by other sides most notably the “Chipperfield weekends” organised by Greensleeves MM, the Bedford MM days of dance and the memorable “Cawthorne weekends” organised by Barnsley Longsword. More unusual tours undertaken in these years included occasional day tours, courtesy of Ron Nunn and his narrow boat, stopping at pubs by the River Wey and Godalming Navigations , and tours of Wandsworth and Putney courtesy of Young’s Brewery.
The dray tours, involved the side being transported on one of Young’s famous drays. These tours were the inspiration of Lee Burrows, a recent recruit to the side whose father Derrick was employed by Young’s brewery at the time. Our first tour in 1988 was a unique event for the side; the dray was driven by Derrick, but we can’t remember the names of he horses! Lee was also presented with his colours (rosettes) on this tour – to recognise his becoming a full member of the side – in front of his dad.
In addition, thanks to the efforts of Bob Davies, we attended the 1972 and 1992 Preston Guilds celebrations. For the 1972 Guilds we were the guests of Garstang MM (see above); for the 1992 Guild we were fortunate to be the guests of Royal Lancashire MM.
Despite the above activity, our dancing horizons have not been limited to the UK. In 1974 our first overseas foray to Copenhagen was organised by Tony Harber and this was followed by other very successful trips to Apeldoorn (1977) and Vienna (1978). We have also struck up a relationship with L’Aubade de Quercy a folk dance troupe based in Gagny (near Paris); we have been their guests for a weekend of dance in 1996 and 1999 and they have also been our guests in Sutton on a few of occasions.
Reigate Ring Meeting 1986
In 1986 ESMM hosted its third post war Ring Meeting, like its first, again based on the Royal Albert and Alexandra school at Gatton Park. Bob Hobley was Squire and Derek Stewart was Bagman for the meeting. Following Bob’s speech at the Feast, Silkeborg MM presented each of the East Surrey men with a small badge of the Danish flag as a memento.
Note Fr.Kenneth Loveless in the photograph – seated on the left – apparently enjoying the ESMM display!
The dancer in the photograph on the left are – (backs to camera): Ray Fuller, Dave Shires, Dick Larque; (facing camera); Peter Bradley [hidden], Derek Stewart, Bob Hobley.
Towards the millennium
1997 was a typically eventful year of dancing with weekends away as guests of Barnsley Longsword and Ravensbourne who this year celebrated their 50th anniversary. On a sad note, we said farewell to Tony Dowland who died on 20th May 1997. Tony joined ESMM in the early 1970s and was a loyal and helpful member of the side. At his funeral in Headley parish church, ESMM, in kit, performed a guard of honour and the service included an arrangement of Morris tunes (Young Collins, The Rose, Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, Bonny Green Garters) by some of the East Surrey musicians [Ron, Dave Stewart, Dick and Bob H] . This medley was a highlight of the service, along with the vicar’s accidental demolition of the hymn notice board! Tony was cremated in his ESMM Morris regalia.
We also said goodbye to Miriam Rothenberg who died in November 1996. Miriam was associated with the team (through Dan) for over 40 years and was especially loved by the children of both ESMM and Greensleeves MM. Her simple funeral service was attended by many East Surrey Men, wives and children.
Just at the end of 1997, on 6th December, Dan passed away. He was a full and active member of ESMM right to the end and was looking forward to our “Christmas sing-song” at the Lord Nelson. His humour, anecdotes, collecting prowess and above all, the “colour” he brought to ESMM will be sorely missed. This is the link to Dan’s obituary which appeared in the Spring 1998 edition of the Morris Ring “Circular”.
On a much lighter note, arguably the quote of the year (according to Bob Davies’ “Bagman’s Report”):
Woman on passing us, at rest, after our performance to a private function in Westerham: “Thank you. That was excellent, wonderful, I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Bob Hobley: “I bet you say that to all the boys!”
The Internet Age
In 1997, ESMM launched its first website – one of the first dozen or so Morris sides to do so. This initial website was primarily the work of Bob Hobley who mastered HTML in order to get the early website attempts to display.
The main substance of the website was the ESMM history written by Ira Butler to whom the side is eternally grateful. Since these early naïve attempts, professional website designers have been employed to advise on the artwork and content, but the “History” pages – certainly up to 1981 – remain pretty much intact.
East Surrey MM on the Telly!
In May 1999, ESMM spent a Sunday doing countless “takes” of The Willow Tree (Bucknell) for the BBC at Outwood Windmill. Some 5 hours of work was edited down to about 2 minutes of finished product that was broadcast on a children’s show (“Words and Pictures – The Dancing Hen”) in September. We are still available for televisual presentations!
To read about our “post-millennium” history, click here.