KJM Arms King John's Morris Men

Pig Sticking

21 years of King John's Morris Men

In the Beginning . . .

In the spring of 1975, a letter appeared in the Southern Evening Echo appealing for people who were interested in forming a new Morris side in Southampton. It was sent by some locally resident students from Southampton University who felt the need for a permanent team in the city, rather than one bound by the academic year, as was the case with the Red Stags who were based at the University.

The response to the letter was good, and in September of that year, the first practice was held at Red Lodge School. Early on in the practice season, the club's first AGM was held at the Pub in the Park in the Sports Centre. During the meeting, discussions were made on the dancing kit and the name of the team. Yellow and black were chosen as the club colours, (either because they looked good or because the ribbon was cheap in Tyrrell and Green's !) and it was decided to call the team "King John's Morris Men" (because it sounded good) !!".

There was also the connection with the monarch, in that he granted Southampton its first charters in 1199, so that made it all right !!. It was decided that the side should have its own "animal" and an 8 foot tall black "Hampshire Hog" became King John's newest recruit. It was affectionately known as "Piglet" to the dancers and "that bloody thing" to the members of the public !!.

The first "dancing out" season was summer 1976, and included dancing across the new Itchen Bridge in extreme heat, during the opening ceremony for that illustrious structure.

The object of the club, as set out in its constitution is "to learn and perform the traditional ritual men's dances of England, to a high standard" and in the early 1982 North West Morris (clog morris) was successfully added to the teams already solid repertoire of Cotswold dances, thanks mainly to the teaching of David Williams, who had joined King John's from Chanctonbury Ring Morris Men, by way of Winchester Morris Men. This was followed by the addition of rapper sword dancing, and Border Morris, to give the club a broad base of dances and styles.

In the late 1970's, a Mummers Play was taken around local hostelries at Christmas, to raise money for local good causes. This tradition has continued, and for many members of the team, this is almost the highlight of the year, and many thousands of pounds have been collected.

The club became members of the Morris Ring (the association of men's morris teams) in 1982, and in 1988 organised and hosted a very successful Ring meeting in Southampton, which was attended by nearly 200 men from all over the country.

Events

There have been many memorable events over the last 20 years or so, not the least of which were Whitby Folk Festival (1984), Sidmouth Folk Festival (1986), Towersey Folk Festival (1991) and in 1984 King John's danced for the English Folk Dance and Song Society's festival  at the Royal Albert Hall.

During many foreign trips, King John's Morris Men have been able to present English culture to the locals, whether they wanted it or not (!!!) and the most exotic trip of all took place in 1989, when the club went to Iraq for the British Council, and danced in the ruins of Ancient Babylon, which is something that I for one will never forget.

Throughout the year, there are regular causes for celebration, including "Dancing in the May" which takes place at The Bargate at 5.00 am each May the 1st, a Day of Dance in April, and Christmas celebrations in Old Bursledon on Boxing Day. The Old Year is seen out with a New Years Eve Barn Dance, which is always extremely well attended.

King John's Morris Men has become a way of life, and a store of the most amazing memories for many people. Long may it continue !!!



Further historical information and photographs are available in the archive

 

(sometime Squire and Bagman - King John's Morris Men - 1996)

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Last Modified Thursday, 01-May-2003 16:30:11 BST

1997-2003 King John's Morris Men