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 ~ Bedford Morris Men ~

" Founded 1932....Part of England's living heritage "

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Bedford Morris - Christmas Newsletter 2013

Bedford Morris Men send you Seasonal Greetings.  

Bedford Morris Men send you Seasonal Greetings.  Our card illustrates various events during the year.

Last year we carried out our traditional Christmas events: our Border Morris tour, to the Horse and Groom and the Fox and Hounds, Clapham; the Devonshire Arms and the White Horse, Bedford; the Fine Companions’ party where we danced three Border dances; and Boxing Day, when we danced on Bedford Embankment and then at the Swan Hotel, where we introduced the formal proceedings by singing the Boar's Head Carol.  The New Year started with our annual Plough Monday Plough Play tour - we started at the Wellington Arms; moved to the Three Cups and the Castle in Newnham Street and finished at the Cricketers in Goldington Road. 

Having postponed our AGM for the 80th Anniversary celebrations, it was held in early January. Our new Bagman is Phil Nicholson, the other officers remain unchanged.  In late January, representatives attended the funeral of Daphne Nicholls, long time supporter and good friend, and wife of our honorary life member, Roger Nicholls.

Our own great loss this year was Jonathan ‘Georgie’ Birch, a very popular member of the Side.  He was out dancing with us on the Border tour, but later ‘felt unwell’ and had brain surgery for a small tumour.  He was making good progress but on 12 March, he felt faint and died suddenly.  He leaves a wife, Anita, and two young sons, Matt and Joe.  She has said that ‘... Bedford Morris played a large part in his life and meant such a lot to him ...’.  He was known affectionately as ‘Georgie’ for his role as King George in the Plough Play.  His Funeral and Thanksgiving Service was on 27 March at Clapham Parish Church.  Bedford Morris Men and a large contingent of police formed a guard of honour and Les Skinner played the coffin into church with Monk’s March on the concertina and later to the graveyard with Flowers of Scotland.  During the service, the Men sang hearty choruses to support Tim Durrant when he sang Rolling Home.  After the burial, the Men danced at the ‘Wake’.

Later in March we joined Letchworth Morris at their energetic Annual Curry Ale.  They joined us as usual, together with Offley Morris, as the Summer Season started on May Morning - a freezing and misty first Wednesday in May.  However, by 6.30 a.m., the sun was fighting through and the Men sang the May Carol and the Northill May Song.  A selection of Morris dances followed, then Folk Dances for all.  Two professional photographers were in attendance and we featured later in the day in the MailOnLine.  We then made our traditional first outing to dance at the Fox and Hounds at Riseley, this year in sunshine!  Although Jan Zielinski had retired, we were greeted by the new landlord and his wife.  They had chosen to have the ‘grand re-opening’ of the pub to coincide with our visit and the Charles Wells brewery bus was present with a barrel of Bombardier on board for the Men.  We later sang some favourite songs and made music until closing time.  It was a very long day, but someone had to do it!

The Ickwell May Festival followed on the Holiday Monday and was rewarded by a sunny day after the floods of last year.  With Letchworth Morris, we danced at the Crown, Northill, and later led the Procession from Northill to Ickwell and later busked at the Ickwell Pavilion.  Past Fool, Andy Malleson, joined the band with his melodeon. 

We danced a full Wednesday evening summer programme, despite some less than ideal weather.  At our second May Wednesday at the Cross Keys, Cranfield, we also practised a couple of North-West dances.  The next week was at the Horse and Groom, Clapham; that evening started in Clapham churchyard, where we were joined by the Birch family and danced to remember ‘Georgie’ Birch; we then passed around the Loving Cup in his memory, a very poignant ceremony.  We then danced at the pub, and our evening concluded with celebrations of the Squire’s birthday and also that of Allan Alsop.  The last two Wednesdays were at the Fox, Carlton; and the Victoria, Wilden.  Also in May, we helped with Harrold village’s twinning event at Carlton Village Hall.  Their twin-town visitors from Sainte-Pazanne (near Nantes, France) were shown some Morris dances and Sue Melvin danced some clog steps.  We ran a teach-in and sang songs.  An excellent meal was followed by guessing - generally incorrectly - the origin and grape type of various wines - we would have been more successful with beers!!!

On the first Wednesday in June, we danced at the Wheatsheaf, Bow Brickhill, where we were welcomed by Andy Malleson and Jonathan Ginn who joined with the musicians to play for some of the dances.  At the March Hare, Dunton, we were joined by Offley Morris Men; the après-Morris, included refreshments, and excellent music and song from Les Skinner; one of the ex-Albury Morris Offley men; and the [former?] publican of the John o’Gaunt, Sutton.  The March Hare deserved its award as local CAMRA pub of the year as the real ales were excellent.  We danced next at the Polhill Arms, Renhold, also showing some North-West dances to keep in practice.

Also in June, we danced for the Official Opening of ‘The Higgins’, the extensively refurbished Gallery and Museum; with events from dawn to dusk, we were dancing in their courtyard at breakfast time, and for the first school party, having already danced by the Castle Mound [see our card]. 

We revived our North-West tour visiting the Wellington Arms, the Kent Arms, the Burnaby Arms and returning to the Wellington – an excellent evening with accompaniment by members of the Bedford Town Bank, conducted by Roger Nicholls.  Also in June, representatives attended the Forest of Dean Morris Men’s weekend and others joined Offley Morris at the Bright Star, Peter’s Green.

In July we danced at the Bell and Bear, Emberton; the Guinea, Moggerhanger; the Bedford Arms, Souldrop and on a Thursday, with Letchworth Morris at the Stone Jug, Clophill.  Tradition was restored for the final Wednesday in July when we danced at the Bell, Odell. 

In late August we were invited to and attended the Saddleworth ‘Rushcart Festival’, pulling the Rushcart and dancing in Greenfield, Uppermill, Delph and Dobcross.  Next year is their 40th anniversary and we have been invited to attend, and are already ‘in practice’ and hope to be accompanied by our friends from the Town Band.

In September, we danced two spots at an evening ‘village fete’ - including a ‘beer tent’ (without canvas, but with free real ale!) - at Cranfield University as part of the entertainment for an International Fruit Supply Chain Conference!  At our AGM at the month’s end the Officers were re-elected.

In October, at the 36th Bedford Beer & Cider Festival at the Corn Exchange, we danced before and after lunch (with beers!).  As usual, two weeks later we danced two shows for the Apple Day event at Bromham Mill, and although poor weather was forecast, it stayed dry for us, although the drizzle returned soon after we finished!! 

Our practice season is now in full swing, at Ravensden Village Hall on Wednesday evenings at 8.00pm.  We still need more fit young, or not so young, men.


In November, John Frearson attended Anker Morris’s Ale - good companionship, four beers from the Church End brewery, a substantial supper, and energetic dancing.  The following Saturday, a larger number attended the Brackley Morris Ale, where Roger Nicholls was also present; he had reformed the Brackley Side more years ago than he would wish to remember. 


We had a further bad scare in November, when our Foreman, Simon Melvin, had a heart attack.  Fortunately prompt medical attention, and various ‘stents’, mean that he is now starting his recovery and although he may not be dancing at full speed for a while, we hope he will feel up to some ‘coaching’ before too long. 

Our “Carols and Capers” Border tour will be on the 18th December (the Wednesday before Christmas) and we will be performing at the Fine Companions Party two days later.  On Boxing Day we will be on Bedford Embankment and then at the Swan Hotel.  In the New Year, we will be performing our Plough Monday Mummers’ play.  The dates and venues are listed below, on our card and also on our website - 

We thank our ‘hosts’ for their generosity, tolerance and friendship through the year, and hope to see friends old and new, this winter season and next year. 

 Meanwhile, to you all, Wassail, and a very Happy Christmas and peaceful New Year, from the Bedford Morris Men.

For details of how to join Bedford Morris Men; information on events; or to check dates/times for the Summer contact:

 Ian Daye -  Tel: 01582 883009;  Email: - or visit  -

For Archive information [items always welcomed]: - John Frearson -  Email: