American Morris Newsletter  

American Morris Newsletter

Volume 26, Number 3
December, 2006

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 AMN Article  

Filkins Morris
A Reconstruction

David Wintle

Based on the information published in English Dance and Song Vol. 44 No. 1 (Spring 1982) pp.14-16, by Philip Heath-Coleman. The music was created and digitized as ABC and .mp3 files, and was collected by Butterworth in July, 1912.

Principles on which the reconstruction is based

There is very little information about the dance: there were steps called "facing up" and "side step", and there is a description of what appears to be a left-footed galley, turning all the way round. Hand-clapping is referred to, but no sticks are mentioned.

That leaves us with quite a few gaps, to say the least.

One way of filling these is to look at the surrounding villages to see if something like an "area style" can be established. The nearest Morris villages for which dance notations are available are (in order of distance) Sherborne, Ascot and Bampton. The most direct connection between Filkins and these other villages in the nineteenth century was by road to Sherborne. Mr Heath-Coleman says that the Filkins men shared a musician with Sherborne, Jim "The Laddie" Hopkins, though this is not borne out by Keith Chandler's Morris Dancing in the English South Midlands, 1660-1900: A Chronological Gazetteer (Hisarlik Press, Enfield Lock, Middlesex 1993), where Jim "The Laddie" is not listed among the Filkins musicians on p.165. Mr. Heath-Coleman also suggests from "the internal evidence of the music" that there might have been an affinity with the Cloucestershire/Oxfordshire border traditions (though this is disputed by Roy Dommett as being subjective in a letter in English Dance and Song Vol. 44 No. 2 (Spring/Autumn 1982).

This leads me to agree with Mr. Heath-Coleman that any reconstruction should be based on Sherborne, possibly (as musicians often transmitted details of dances from place to place) with Jim "The Laddie" as a "carrier". Sherborne is a notoriously complex tradition, so I have assumed that the dances might well become simplified in transmission, so that face-to-face becomes a normal whole gyp and the normal Morris step is used rather than the Sherborne variant. Only left-footed galleys are specified, and Ascot provides a model for how these might be incorporated into the dance. "Facing up" is mentioned, albeit as the name of a step rather than a figure (though Mr Heath-Coleman points out that the same name is used of both step and figure at Oddington), so I have used an Ascot-style foot-up rather than the Sherborne style foot-up-and-down.

Hand movements are as for Sherborne, and additional steps are borrowed from Sherborne when required for individual dances.

The distinctive figures often come from farther afield; there is some old-style Bampton, and I have stolen from Longborough when all else has failed.

Bobby and Joan may well have been a country dance tune, but I have interpreted it as a Morris tune. Sally Clack comes from a deliberate misunderstanding of Mr. Heath-Coleman's notes, so as to produce an extra dance.

Are these really the long-lost Filkins dances? Well, no, almost certainly not. They are fun though, and danceable and subtly different, and nothing has been done which is inconsistent with the collected material (but to be honest you could do almost anything and still be able to say that).


4-step, ss (open), sh, G (lt) - always turn on G, sj, PC, HC (R-lr/L-rl etc). Outside foot lead in figures, except HR (inside foot).

Hand movements

Very similar to Sherborne: du with 4-step, high twist with leading arm in ss, arms held slightly forward at waist level with palms down with sh and G, thrown forward on sj and on t at end of shuffles, big du with PC and HC.

Common Figures

OY  sh/sht
FU  6x4-steps, sh/sht. Move up 2ft on first 4-step, beck on sh.
HG,BB  4/sj/sh/G/4/sj/sh/sht. Go past opposite on 4-step, sj back into line.
WG  4/sj/4/G/4/sj/4/sj. Go past opposite and face on 4-step, sj into line.
HR  4/4/4/G/4/4/4/sj.
WH  4/4/sh/sht; rpt. Middles up first half, down second half. Get into place on 4-steps, shuffle
facing opposite (for middles to get round in time, ends have to move quickly, turning
backwards over their shoulders to start the movement, so that the hey takes place within the
footprint of the set, which appears to implode).
HH  is half WH.
Finish  finish dance with 4PC facing up.

Individual Dances

Processional dance

Hey Diddle Dis

As a processional on

Form up some way from the dancing ground in order 1, 3, 5, 2, 4, 6 and dance on to
4/4/4/G/HC/HC/2PC/2PC; repeated ad lib. In last 4 bars, odds dance on the spot while evens
move up alongside them to form set.

As a processional off
In set formation, dance OY then round in a clockwise circle once or twice to the same steps
as before (evens turn out to form circle), then off in single file led by No. 1.

.mp3 Format | ABC Format

Handclapping Dances

Constant Billy

DF Clap /T-R-/T-L-/T-B-/F-T/. Feet kick r to r, l to l when corresponding hand is clapped. This is
followed by half a WG (4/sj/4/sj/) and the whole repeated. On the first beat of bar 1, take a step (l) towards opposite to facilitate handclapping.

.mp3 Format | ABC Format

Maid of the Mill

(this is the full sequence; in practice, a selection may be made, eg WG or BB; with HR; WG and BB but no HR).
DF Clap /T-R-/T-L-/, taking a step forward (l) on the first beat of bar 1, and kicking r to r, l to l when corresponding hand is clapped. Cross to opposite's place with 4PC without turning to face, then turn the easy way and dance HH on the wrong side. Repeat to place.

.mp3 Format | ABC Format

The Old Woman Tossed Up

Sequence As Maid of the Mill
DF Clap /T-URK-/T-ULK-/T-B-/T-P/; HH; rpt. Take a step forward (l) on the first beat of bar 3 to facilitate handclapping with opposite.

.mp3 Format | ABC Format

Handkerchief Dances

Bobby and Joan

Sequence As Maid of the Mill

.mp3 Format | ABC Format

Cuckoo's Nest

(this is the full sequence; in practice, a selection may be made, eg WG or BB; with HR; WG and BB but no HR).
DF Face up at end of CF and caper in column. Bars 1 and 2: Nos. 1 and 2 dance 4PC, beginning on the outside foot. Bars 3 and 4: Nos. 3 and 4 ditto. Bars 5 and 6: Nos 5 and 6 dance /4/4/, commencing on outside foot. Bars 6 and 7: all /sh/sht/, shuffling outwards first and finishing facing out. Repeat all that from the bottom, starting with nos. 5 and 6 leading, and finish shuffles facing in.

.mp3 Format | ABC Format

Highland Mary

Sequence As Maid of the Mill
DF Face opposite. /ss(lt)/ss(lt)/ss(rt)/ss(rt)/; HH. Repeat with opposite foot leading. Move about 6 feet on sidesteps.

.mp3 Format | ABC Format

Sally Clack

Sequence As Maid of the Mill
DF /HC/HC/HC/G/ss(st)/ss(lt)/sj/ ; WH.
Start with right foot. First two HCs in position, spring across the set on 3rd (pass rt shoulder); turn on G and cross back to place on sidesteps, passing rt; sj facing out and turn easy way into the hey.

Music Sally Clack goes to Step and Fetch Her (Bampton) or any other variant of The Triumph.


Princess Royal

This one's up to you. You could perhaps bring in Sherborne- or Ascot-style FCs and UCs and augment the A music accordingly, and use any of the available versions to fill out the B music.

.mp3 Format | ABC Format


 AMN, Vol. 26, No. 3, December 2006  ISSN: 1074-2689