You'll hear various learned and scholarly explanations for the origins of what we today call 'Morris Dance.'
Don't believe a word of it. Morris dancing is entirely a myth, as a traditional art. It was actually invented by a bunch of students from Oxford who were on their way to Wales for a folk-festival in 1964.
They were motoring up the road in a clapped out Morris 1000 when the
SU fuel pump packed up.
They all piled out of the miserable old motor, and stood about looking glum. Going off to the bushes to have a piss, one of them returned with a bit of wood that he thought would make a smashing swagger stick.
When he returned to the car, one of his comrades, who wasn't very popular, had pulled out his wheezy old melodeon and began to play what he thought passed for a jig, only he never could get the timing quite right, and had to slow down in order to get all the notes in some of the passages; neither he nor his melodeon were much good at making music.
Motivated by the contents of a couple of bottles found in the boot, and by memory of a course in modern dance which they had taken when they had mistakenly thought they were signing up for crew, and hampered by the contents of a couple of bottles found in the boot, the other lads began to improvise a modern dance to the strange wheezings of the melodeon. The driver, meanwhile, decided to have 'one more go' at starting the Minor--- ---anything to get away from the racket.
In any case, just as the lad with the stick came 'round the back fender of the car in the midst of his Isadora Duncan impersonation, he managed to whack the car with his stick. "Oi, oi, oi, mind t'finish!" says the poor old rust-pile's owner.
Just then, the Morris came to life, the jolt of the dancer's stick having temporarily unstuck the contacts which motivate the fuel pump's oscillations.
Some sixty miles later, the scene was repeated, but the lads knew just what to do. As the engine starved and died, they would pull to the side of the road, get out the melodeon and the stick, and perform what came to be called the "Morris Dance," which got them all the way to the folk-festival and back.
The original Morris from which this dance originated can be seen, now preserved as a living memorial, just round the corner from Cecil Sharpe House. Unless someone's nicked it again.
Copyright 1994 Greg Bullough. All rights reserved.