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 ~ Bedford Morris Men ~

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

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Bedford Morris - Christmas Newsletter 2011

Bedford Morris Men send you Seasonal Greetings.  Our card illustrates our visit to Bamberg.

Last year we carried out our traditional Christmas events: The Bedford Victorian Fayre; the Fine Companions’ party; and our “Carols and Capers” tour to the White Horse, Newnham Avenue; the Royal Oak, Roxton; the Horseshoes, Blunham; and the Guinea, Moggerhanger.  On Boxing Day, 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 then moved to the Bedford Arms; the Castle and the Cricketers. 

In February we were back in contact with a long lost past member, Bryan Cole, who was able to provide items for the archive, and early in March John Frearson and Les Skinner provided an after lunch talk and music for the Kimbolton Probus Club.  In mid-March we danced for the formal opening of our practice hall at Ravensden, going on same evening to join Letchworth Morris at their energetic Ale.  On April Fool’s day, we joined Aldbury Morris at their Ale.  In mid-April, the plethora of Bank Holidays meant that St. George’s Day was celebrated a week early, with a pre-dinner performance for RAF Brampton.

The Summer Season started at 6.30am on the First of May.  Bedford, Offley and Letchworth Morris Men sang the May Carol and the Northill May Song.  A selection of Morris dances followed and then there were Folk Dances for all.  We were very pleased to see Janet Wittlestone [daughter of Tommy Northern, who taught and inspired our “Founders”] and her husband, and also past member Graham Wild in the audience.  The next day, May Holiday Monday, we were again joined by Letchworth Morris Men at the Ickwell May Festival to dance at the Crown, Northill.  We were pleased to see Barbara Sunderland [widow of past squire, Morris Sunderland] who was parked for a strategic view.  The Morris led the Procession from Northill to Ickwell, and was joined by past Fool, Andy Malleson, who joined the band with his melodeon.  We busked at the May Fete and then moved on to dance at the White Horse in Bedford, for their beer and food festival.

We danced a full Wednesday evening summer programme, despite a series of sprains, breaks and other incidents [not all caused by Morris, but three men required time out for operations!].  On the first Wednesday in May, we made our traditional first outing to the Fox and Hounds at Riseley.  The chilly evening was opened by the newly formed Riseley Mummers and we were soon warmed by our dancing, and refreshed and invigorated by the barrel of beer so very kindly provided by our host, Jan Zielinski, who later joined us for some favourite songs until closing time.  On the next three May Wednesdays, we visited the Carpenter’s Arms, Cranfield [a new venue for us with an enthusiastic landlord who has lifted this pub into a true community centre]; the Horse and Groom, Clapham; and the Horseshoes, Blunham [again with a large crowd and a new and enthusiastic landlord].

In mid May, we were saddened by the death of our past Bagman, Mike Cooper.  He had been unwell for a time, but had been to see us on a couple of occasions in the last year.  His funeral was at Wootton church and attended by the Bagman, Ian Daye; Angus [and Mala] Darling; and honorary life member, Roger Nicholls.  Mike’s son-in-law, past Bedford Squire, Simon Dommett was present, as was Roy Dommett.

On the first June Wednesday we visited the Sun Inn, Felmersham and the next week a cricket match intervened at Ickwell, so after a gap of several years, we danced for a very welcoming audience at the Three Tuns, Biddenham.  Representatives then attended the Forest of Dean Morris Men’s weekend.  In mid-June we danced a North-West Morris Tour in Bedford, accompanied by members of Bedford Town Band, conducted by Roger Nicholls.  We visited the Ship in St Cuthbert’s; the Embankment Hotel; and finished at the Castle in Newnham Street.  Later in the month we danced at the Residential Home and the Fordham Arms in Sharnbrook, and then at the Wheatsheaf, Bow Brickhill, where we were welcomed by Andy and Sue Malleson, also Jonathan Ginn who joined with the musicians to play for some of the dances.

A highlight in June was a Saturday visit to the “Ring Meeting” hosted by Thaxted Morris Men to celebrate their Centenary.  We toured and danced outside pubs in the sunny Essex countryside; danced in the massed shows in Thaxted High street; and partook of a sumptuous feast in Thaxted parish church; where those present received a stunning gift of a commemorative Moorcroft vase featuring the Thaxted Morris Men.

In July, we danced at the Polhill Arms, Renhold; the Bedford Arms, Souldrop and on the last Wednesday of the season at the Bell, Odell, where we opened with “North-West” Clog Morris and concluded with a selection of Cotswold favourites.  In the “interval”, whilst we changed, the Riseley Mummers performed for the crowd.

Near the end of July, and replacing a Wednesday evening, a representative group visited our friends, Die Regnitztaler, in our twin town, Bamberg.  Making a 3a.m. start, we drove from Bedford to Bamberg, picking up Antony Heywood [Greensleeves/Helmond MM] near Eindhoven and Keith MacDonald [BMM/Chanctonbury Ring MM] in Frankfurt [both of whom are thanked for their support and without whom we would not have been quorate].  We arrived in Bamberg for a welcome evening meal [and other “refreshments”] at the Regnitztaler Alm [clubhouse].  On the Friday, we were taken on a tour of the locality and in the evening went on the Night-Watchman’s Tour of Bamberg.  On the Saturday, we danced in Bamberg and in the afternoon, busked at a hilltop “tearoom”; that evening there was a party at the Alm with music and dance.  All these activities were interspersed with copious food [and - did we mention? - drinks!!], we naturally sampled the local speciality Rauchbier [smoked beer].  We drove home on Sunday having had, as always, a most enjoyable visit with unrivalled hospitality.

At the AGM, discussion time ran out before we decided on a new Squire or Bagman, so the present incumbents were incorporated into “committee” of senior members!  Richard Bird continues as Treasurer. 

We danced at the 34th Bedford Beer Festival, together with two Letchworth Morris “volunteers”.  The following weekend, in glorious sunshine, we danced two shows for the Apple Day event at Bromham Mill.  Our practice season is now in full swing, at Ravensden Village Hall on Wednesday evenings at 8.15pm. 

We anticipate performing at the Fine Companions Party; and our “Carols and Capers” Border tour will be on the Wednesday just before Christmas.  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 [as available] are listed on our card; updated below and will be published on our website/s. 

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 during next year, when we will celebrate our 80th Anniversary. 

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 our events; or to check our programme - contact:

 Ian Daye -  Tel: 01582 883009;  Email: ian.daye@btinternet.com  - or visit  -  www.bedfordmorris.org.uk

For Archive information [items always welcomed]: John Frearson - Email: johnphfrearson@btinternet.com