Framed in Time

FRAMED> Morris dancers in Galashiels. (Aug. 1980)
FRAMED> Morris dancers in Galashiels. (Aug. 1980)

All their bells, hats and ribbons – thought to bring fertility, good luck and good weather to morris dancers – failed miserably on one count when this set of dancers paid a visit to Galashiels in August 1980.

For they were met with rain, rain and more rain, when they bravely performed in the downpour to the delight of shoppers and passers-by.

Calling themselves The Ancient Men, the “set” was made up of dancers from across England.

Leader Stanton Guthrie said: “We try every year to tour different parts of the country for two weeks.”

This is the first time the set (morris dancers are not called a group or troupe) had visited the region.

“The weather hasn’t been all that good,” continued Mr Guthrie, “But we’ve had a favourable reaction from the people.”

Sticking closely to tradition, only male dancers were in the set, although Mr Guthrie admitted there were a few dances for women, but not many.

“The dances were originally performed by men in the Cotswold villages,” he said, but sadly this tradition died out about 90 years ago. The costume, complete with bells, hats and ribbons, always has a singular purpose, although no one knows for definite what they are supposed to represent. It is believed they will bring fertility, good luck, good weather and fortune to the dancers, and all who join in the spirit.

Despite the inhospitable weather the group seemed to enjoy their visit. After Galashiels, the dancers went to Selkirk, then Midlem, where they performed on the village green.