East Suffolk Morris Men - Early Days
(Des Herring)

The Ipswich Folk Dance Club meeting every Tuesday night was the birth place of East Suffolk Morris Men. The club had for many years been run by Betty Borham with her mother as pianist. While this club subscribed to DouglasKennedy‘s pressure to get back to the simple English traditional dances and the post war Square Dance craze; the powerful Suffolk District was dominated by the silver badge experts trained and schooled in the Playford styles of Cecil Sharp. Many of the personalities had known the members of the executives of the pre-war Folk Dance Society who often spent time in Suffolk.

Morris Dancing was taught in schools and Leslie Ford had for many years run a successful boys team that drifted into manhood. This became the Ipswich Morris Men; a select group of good dancers; dressed by Leslie in beautifully embroidered waistcoats; black breeches and black caps. The standard of dancing was excellent

My Morris started with Douglas Kennedy at the Stratford Folk dance festivals. At these festivals I was inspired by Westminster, Jockey and the newly created Lichfield Morris Men , they simply enjoyed dancing. I learnt many dances including QUEENS DELIGHT when I danced with the Ipswich Men, and the Thaxted ring meeting became an annual event in my calendar.

The “ East Suffolk” was used not to differentiate regions of Suffolk ; but purely
the geographic area from which our dancers originated. Had I known of the pre-war Suffolk Morris Men we may have taken up the earlier name. The yellow ship and a two shade blue tabard ; dark blue at the back & light blue at the front first made its appearance at Stratford on Avon festival in 1957. and then at Exmouth and Buxton the following year

The first engagement for the side was in a tin hut; called the village hall at Baylham. Andy Vanderhook was living at Felixstowe and the local Rector drove him back to Ipswich to catch the last bus. Finding the bus already on the move; he expertly cut up the bus with his car. The stream of abuse that followed allowed Andy to catch the bus; the bus drivers in those days did not control the doors

The side was formally started for the 1958 Whitson Morris and Folk dance Tour when Andy took charge of the Morris. At this point the Tabards became Waistcoats; to accommodate the different forms of the dancers.

George Lawrence became squire in 1958 but after the Spring Tour and Thaxted ring meeting it became impossible to turn out a side.

Ivo Barne, a neighbour of mine had been the been our musician and together with John Puddick asked me take over and get the side started again; Ivo offered to be bagman; he provided his playroom at his new house at Felixstowe for practices and provided home-made beer weekly. He also started a publicity campaign for photographers to photo the morris; he did not add that, to get the best photographs, it is necessary to dance; thus our membership went up. The blue cummerbund was added to the costume at this stage and the cost of yellow hats became prohibitive . The yellow ship was taken from the Crest of Suffolk to show our association with the sea; the intention was to use Black Boaters to complete the naval style; but gradually hats lost out..

Numbers were a problem but we managed a programme most years of The Whit Monday tour; Thaxted Ring Meeting, two pubs every Monday night, a few fetes plus possibility another Ring Meeting. We danced every year at Thaxted. .Russel Wortley sometimes helped us out with music.

We entertained many other sides during the next 8 years while I remained squire until 1967 when we were admitted into the ring . Ewert Russel was bagman of the ring and we had joint events with Colchester Morris Men and Kemps Men from Norwich. Thames Valley made a visit in 1959 and we joined with the travelling morris on their Suffolk Tour.

Morris Sutherland, the Offley Morris Men and Staplers Country Dance group made two visit to Suffolk; in those days it was difficult coach trip and delays of 1-2hours was normal.

The first folkdance team from abroad was from Sweden. Then we discovered some of the accommodation problems when presented with a list of names of unknown sex . Their tour of Suffolk was marred by the lost of a violin; it was found and collected early Sunday morning at the Sudbury Police station. The musician entertained the Bobbies at the early morning parade.


East Suffolk Morris Men were admitted to the Ring in 1967 and danced Beaux of London, Adderbury into the ring at Thaxted ; it was the last lime we were to dance at Thaxted for 20 years.