I am not very fond of Morris Dancers or Morris dancing. In fact I will cross the road to avoid them. The sight of grown men tripping around each other dressed in fancy clothes waving hankies in the air does nothing for me. I once had the unnerving experience of finding myself in Bellingham for a night with Malcolm, my good friend, occasional walking companion, and drinking partner, being followed from pub to pub by the Hexam Morris Dancers. I called it harassment, Malcolm, I seemed to remember said that he thought it was rather uplifting to see such a tradition being continued and hoped that they would follow us to the next pub. They did, which seemed to please him.
Recently I was rather disappointed when chatting to a female friend of mine to find that not only did she enjoy watching Morris Dancers, but she also actively sought out their company, and indeed was hoping soon to perform with a troupe (Is that what you call a load of Morris Dancers? A Nerd would be better I would have thought.) “Its so traditional” she said with a wistful look in her eyes.
So that is it is it! Australians have being good at sports as a tradition, the Welsh have male voice choirs, the French have being good at cooking, the Italians have style and fashion and we the English have Morris Dancing. Henry V must be turning in his grave. Imagine faced with the mass ranks of heavily armed French knights at Agincourt, if we had confronted them not with Long Bowmen but with Morris Dancers, fancily dressed hanky wavers. (I’m glad I got that right) The French would have died laughing. Which I suppose would be marginally better than dieing with an arrow from a long bow sticking in your guts or being trampled under foot by your fleeing compatriots.
So who the hell was Morris? Apparently it comes from the Spanish Morisco and is a type of Moorish dance. So its origins are not even English but continental. Which figures when you think about it. Our Patron Saint St George is not English, so why on earth should one of our traditional dances.