Hageneth Morris Men – THE FIRST SIX YEARS 1977 – 83
Mr George Monger, who was living and working at the Museum of East Anglian Rural Life at Stowmarket, Suffolk, had been trying to generate interest in all things Folk around the town and its catchment area throughout 1976. He had founded the Stowmarket Folk Club, held some successful ceilidhs, and tried to form a morris side. The practices for the latter were held at Alton Mill within the Museums grounds. Although all these efforts later came to nothing, due to a lack of numerical support, they had whetted the appetites of several men who would be only to willing to continue their interest should a future opportunity present itself.
Because of his previous efforts, it was to George Monger that the organising committee of the 1977 Haughley Village Mediaeval Fayre turned. Could he possibly organise and train a side just for the one event? He said he would try, and called together all those that he knew would be interested, from the immediate vicinity, including the more serious men from his first attempt. Thus, with only eight weeks in which to practice, the so‑called Haughley Festival Morris started its life. To give the public a good representation of the various Morris traditions, it was decided to dance one or two dances from six or seven traditions, and not to concentrate on any one style. This has been Hageneth’s policy ever since. The side first danced in kit, and to the public, at the Chestnut Horse, Great Finborough, as a dress rehearsal for the main event, on the 22nd June.
Colin Barber (Novice)
Dave Burt (Previously with East Suffolk)
Paddy Butcher (Melodeon, and ex. St. Edmundsbury)
Brian Francis (Previously with Winchester and St. Edmundsbury)
Ronnie Godbold (Novice)
Roger Green (Novice; Betsy)
Mrs Sally Green (Novice)
Robert McMurtry (Novice)
George Monger (Previously with Blackmoor)
Mrs Eileen Monger (Whistle)
Kelven Studd (Fool)
Bruce Sydell (Novice)
Des Herring gave support by appearing with East Suffolk’s Horse ‘Billy’. The dances performed, in two thirty minute shows, included –
Bampton: Furzefield; Bobbing Around; Bonny Green.
Adderbury: Lads a Bunchem; Black joke.
Fieldtown: Dearest Dicky; Balance the straw.
Brackley: Jockey to the fair.
Headington: Getting upstairs; Constant Billy.
The whole event was a tremendous success, so much so that the side agreed to continue together, instead of breaking up as originally planned.
JUNE – NOVEMBER 1977
Once the decision to stay together had been taken it was obvious that certain details had to be agreed upon. Concerning a more permanent name, Paddy Butcher suggested the old name for the former castle at Haughley – HAGENETH. The idea of basing the side at Haughley was agreed to be sound as the side had been formed there, and was continuing to use the village hall (at a special, favourable rate) for practising. Confirmation of the old name Hageneth could be found in the Suffolk Directory for 1864. Tying‑in with the name, the members agreed to use the stylised village sign for its logo. This consisted of a wrought iron representation of a moat and bailey, and lent itself readily for badges, posters etc. When discussing colours, Ron Godbold suggested maroon, gold, and black, these being the main colours of the old Mid Suffolk Grammar School and Stowmarket Town Football Club. They also happened to be the ex. St Edmundsbury colours, so some form of West Suffolk continuity would be ensured. As to officers, until further notice, it was agreed that Dave Burt would act as temporary Squire, Brian Francis would be Bagman, and Ron Godbold Treasurer. Colin Barber agreed to handle publicity.
The rest of the ‘season’ was spent practising every fortnight, with dancing out alternate weeks at local pubs. A few weekend events were also undertaken, giving the side a chance to shape, organise, and find itself.
FIRST FULL SEASON 1977 – 1978
At the first AGM.(Haughley Kings Arms, 1st November 1977), all the previous decisions were endorsed for a further full two years, this being the period that the members agreed the officers should hold their respective posts (except the Treasurer: a lifetime appointment). Several lady friends of the men started practising alongside, in a loose team. It was agreed that this was acceptable, but that there would be no mixed dancing outside. The ladies eventually became Bury Fair, and a one‑for‑one policy was adopted when dancing out on Wednesday nights or at fêtes.
As this was the first major season it was obvious that Hageneth would chalk up a few ‘firsts’, but some of these were very important, and included an instructional by Roy Dommett and Tubby Reynolds (Stanton and Ducklington); the first stage show at Ipswich Arts Theatre (January 1978) with the Trunkles Ceilidh Band; the first radio show (recorded for Radio Orwell live on stage at Ipswich Corn Exchange, again with Trunkles), this later being released as part of the Trunkles Traditional’ LP (Sweet Folk & Country SFA 088), and thus Hageneth’s first recording. In June the side appeared at the Norwich Folk Festival.
The side also had a very strong social side, which resulted in several members organising ‘other interest’ events, including Bruce Sydell arranging for the side to climb mountains in Derbyshire, and Dave Burt with Roger Green putting on a surfing/water ski‑ing and camping weekend at Bawdsey on the Suffolk coast.
The side was also honoured by being asked to attend the Silver Anniversary Celebrations of Colchester Morris: a team joined their day‑of-dance; another first for Hageneth.
SECOND SEASON 1978 ‑ 1979.
This was a period of great rationalisation; having survived for nearly two years Hageneth gained more confidence, and indeed more respect from neighbouring teams. Two more instructionals were organised by Brian Francis to standardise Adderbury and Bledington. Both sides produced new and more permanent uniforms, itself a statement of intent. Some traditions also emerged such as the May Day Tour being the first dancing‑out event of the season.
Almost logically, the next step was to organise an exchange with a foreign dance troupe. Over the period 19th to 23rd July, Hageneth, Bury Fair, and some interested members of East Suffolk played host to La Compagnie Marc Leclerc from Angers in the Loire Valley region of France. They were entertained to a format that has proved popular ever since – with visits to historic towns and cities (Lavenham, Cambridge, London), by day, and various ‘contact’ ceilidhs and parties in the evening. Coincidentally, Stowmarket was holding its own ‘twinning’ carnival that weekend, so the French visitors were asked to head the procession. The following week the hosts became the guests by travelling to Angers for a return round of sightseeing, fraternisation, and dancing, notably at the ‘Assemblée des Coiffes’, at which the English sides received top billing.
THIRD SEASON 1979 ‑ 1980
Two major changes occurred over the winter recess. Firstly, it was time for a change of officers: Dave Burt elected Steve Lloyd to the Squireship, and John Hewes became the second Bagman. Steve had joined Hageneth during the 1977‑78 practice season and was also active with East Suffolk. John had only recently joined (1978‑79), but had lots of previous experience with other sides. Secondly, Bury Fair decided to hold separate practices, which was mutually agreeable to all concerned. This implied the degree of independence that the ladies were acquiring. However, both sides would continue to dance out on Wednesdays as a double bill.
The two sides also held their first official ‘ale’ on the 16th February 1980. This was turned down by several invited all-male sides (i.e. wlth no female connection whatsoever), but this fact did not prevent the event being a success to all who did attend. It was, however, a pointer to the future.
The main instruction during the practice season for Hageneth involved learning Longborough, and the two non‑traditional stick dances: B1ack Joker (Bledington), and Skirmish (Fieldtown).
THE FOURTH YEAR 1980 ‑ 1981
This was the final year that Hageneth and Bury Fair were purposely connected. Practices continued to be separate, and a small crisis period arose for Hageneth when Paddy Butcher, up to this point the main musician, stylist, and mentor, decided to concentrate on Bury Fair. However, the team struggled through the year.
For the first time Bury Fair declined to join Hageneth on the traditional May Day Tour, and went to Southend instead to dance with Turn ‘n Tide.
The main event of the season was a combined Day‑of-Dance, although Bury fair did all of the arranging. Other teams attending were Windsor ladies and Downes Morris. The coach tours were around the Suffolk coast, including places such as Orford, Aldeburgh, and Snape.
THE FIFTH YEAR 1981 – 1982
At the AGM (now at the White Horse, Haughley New Street), the final break was made and Hageneth announced that they wished to separate completely from Bury Fair, although in practice this meant comparing programmes so that the two stands were close enough for husband and wife pairs to easily get to either.
Again it was time to elect new officers. Brian Francis became Hageneth’s third Squire, and Roger Green the new Bagman. New dances for the repertoire included the Upton‑upon‑Severn stick dance, and Trunkles (B1edington).
Although now split from Bury Fair, it was with the latter that the second foreign exchange was made both teams travelling to Aschau‑am‑Inn, Bavaria, to stay as guests of the Stoabacher dance group. The journey was a long one, but proved to be very worth it.
Whilst there, visits were made to Wasserburg, Chiemsee, and Waldkraiburg. It is worth recording that at the Saturday night festival in honour of the centenary of the local fire‑brigade, Hageneth gave one of its very best performances.
THE SIXTH YEAR 1982 – 1983
Highlights of the sixth season included dancing out with Westerly Morris from Rhode Island, USA, and with Thaxted Morris, both on normal Wednesday night stands. In August (12th–14th) Hageneth attended their first official Ring event: the Isle of Wight Ring Meeting. As the only non‑Ring side attending, they were honoured to be asked to perform a show dance at the final mass display at Sandown: Queen’s Delight, Bucknell was chosen.
The Aschau group made a return visit in September, and were treated to the normal fare of visits, parties, and ceilidhs. The climax was their main dance stand at the Felsham Street Fayre, the whole event being stage managed for their benefit.
At the seventh AGM, Ron Godbold was elected the 4th Squire, and Dave Evans became the Bagman. As part of the agreed policy it was decided to try for election to the Morris Ring of England.
Ron Godbold (dec)
23rd November 1983
Edited by Mike Bexon Feb 2015