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Bedford Morris  -  Ireland Visit
 

 

Bedford Morris Men visited Ireland as guests of the Aughakillymaude Mummers

Bedford Morris Men were invited “over the water” to the Enniskillen area by the Aughakillymaude Mummers, a community group formed in the border country between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic to help promote inter-community understanding.

The Mummers invite different Morris groups so they can show off some of the many folk traditions to local groups, and they, in turn, can experience the Irish culture and hospitality.

 
Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance 1973   Bedford Morris Men dance the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance at  Peasmarsh  
Bedford Morris Men dance the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance at Woburn Abbey on 30 September 1973   Bedford Morris Men dance the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance at the Cock Horse pub, Peasmarsh near Rye on 30 May 1999  

One of the reasons why Bedford Morris Men were invited  is because in their repertoire of traditional dances is the mysterious Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, that can be seen once every year in the small village of Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire.   Some 40 years ago,  Bedford Morris Men were dancing at a number of national festivals and wanted to increase their repertoire.  In 1972 they were given six pairs of Red Deer antlers, from the Duke of Bedford’s Woburn Abbey estate, so they too could perform the mysterious “Horn Dance”.

In late September, thirteen Bedford Morris Men travelled to Northern Ireland by car, Land Rover and air, together with their various costumes; musical instruments; sticks and handkerchiefs; Dobbin, the hobby horse; Beaky, their six foot tall Bedford Eagle mascot - and six sets of Antlers.

 
Aughakillymaude Mummers Museum   horns in truck  
Some of the "Characters" in the Aughakillymaude Mummers Centre   Taking the "Horns" to the "photo-shoot" at National Trust's Crum Castle  

horns at Crum Castle 
Bedford Morris "Horn Bearers" at Crom Castle - L to R: Tim Durrant; Ian Daye; Stewart Cox; Anthony Heywood; Clive Haste; Simon Melvin.

Day 1:-  The Men were given a guided tour of the Aughakillymaude Mummers Centre and then “The Horn Dancers” went off for a photo-shoot with the fallow deer herd at the National Trust’s Crom Castle [above]. 

 
Bedford Morris Men at Maguiresbridge School   Bedford Morris Men at Kinawley School  
Bedford Morris Men - and their Fool - dancing at Maguiresbridge School   Bedford Morris Men and Beaky the Bedford Eagle, visit Kinawley School  

Day 2:-  The Bedford Morris Men danced at two local Primary Schools:  Maguiresbridge C of E Controlled School and the Kinawley (Catholic) Primary School.  As well as showing the children some Morris dancing, they were also all taught to dance the solo Fool’s Jig by Bedford’s Fool, Tim Durrant.  The children were very enthusiastic, especially when the Bedford Eagle “Beaky” made his appearance and disrupted the proceedings with his antics.

 
Bedford Morris Men make presentation in Enniskillen   BMM in Enniskillen   
Bedford Morris Men make a presentation Stephen Huggett, the Chairman of Fermanagh District Council in Enniskillen Town Hall [l to r: John Frearson - representing the Morris Ring; the representative of the Arts Council; Clive Haste, Squire of Bedford Morris Men; and Stephen Huggett]   Bedford Morris Men dancing in the "Diamond" in Enniskillen  
Bedford Morris Men dance in Enniskillen   Bedford Morris Men in Enniskillen  
Bedford Morris Men finishing in Enniskillen with Bonny Green Garters   Bedford Morris Men pause for a group photograph in Enniskillen  

In the afternoon the Men were greeted by Stephen Huggett, the Chairman of Fermanagh District Council at Enniskillen Town Hall.  Bedford’s Squire, Clive Haste, made a presentation and handed over a letter of greetings from the Mayor of Bedford.  They then had a dance session in Enniskillen’s “Diamond”.

Bedford Morris perform the Horn Dance at Glangevin   Bedford Morris perform the Horn Dance at Glangevin  
Bedford Morris perform the Horn Dance at Glangevin Bonfire event   Bedford Morris perform the Horn Dance at Glangevin Bonfire event  

The Bedford Morris Men then crossed the border into the Irish Republic to Glangevlin, County Cavan, for a Bonfire event.  After a musical introduction, the Morris appeared from behind the pub to perform the mysterious Horn Dance - finishing by processing around the bonfire.  Later, they displayed some traditional Cotswold Morris dances.

A video of the Horn Dance performance at Glangevlin can be seen on U Tube [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqLvEUU1Plo or search “Bedford Horn Dancers”.]

Bedford Morris dance at threshing event   Aughakillymaude Mummers at threshing event  
Bedford Morris dance at threshing event   Aughakillymaude Mummers at threshing event  

Day 3:-  The Bedford Morris Men performed winter style “Border Dances” at a country crafts and threshing event, and were able to watch their hosts, the Aughakillymaude Mummers, perform their play. 

John Barleycorn at Aughakillymaud   Bedford Morris perform the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance at the Aughakillymaude Mummers Centre  
Aughakillymaude Mummers Centre for the ritual burning of John Barleycorn   Bedford Morris perform the Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance at the Aughakillymaude Mummers Centre  
Bedford Morris perform a Border Dance   Bedford Morris perform the Branston Plough Play  
Bedford Morris perform a Border Dance at the Aughakillymaude Mummers Centre   Bedford Morris perform the Branston Plough Play at the Aughakillymaude Mummers Centre  

In the evening they visited the Aughakillymaude Mummers Centre for the ritual burning of John Barleycorn.  The Horn Dance was performed once more, again in the eerie half-light of a bonfire, and then the Men danced more Border Dances and later gave a performance of  their own Mummers Play, the Branston Plough Play, normally performed each year just after Christmas.

The following day the Men returned to Bedford after an three excellent days of very hard dancing - but as they say “someone has to do it !”

The visit would not have been possible without the generosity of the sponsors: the Arts Council Lottery Fund; the Fermanagh District Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund.  Bedford Morris Men also thank the organisers in Northern Ireland, Jim Ledwith and the Mummers Foundation for their invitation and all their hard work, and their hosts, the Aughakillymaude Mummers for their outstanding hospitality.

 

Further details can be obtained from:- John Frearson - johnphfrearson@btopenworld.com