Grenoside Sword Dancers

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Traipse Press Release 1

Travelled a Long Way

One hundred years ago Folklorist, Cecil Sharp, set out to Watch and write down all the traditional, Sword Dances of England, fearing that industrialisation and the waning of the country way of life might destroy them.

He was alerted by the family of Alfred Gatty, the celebrated and long lived Vicar of Ecclesfield, and their friend, the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, to the existence of a Centuries old tradition in Grenoside,(originally part of Ecclesfield Parish). Vaughan Williams himself had collected songs widely in the area, basing himself at the vicarage in Hooton Roberts where Alfred’s son Reginald was the clergyman.

It was there that Sharp stayed before setting out (by horse and carriage), to watch (and write down the steps of) the Grenoside Sword Dance. The next day he continued on his collecting way to Newcastle, there to collect the sword dances from Swalwell and Earsden. His book "The Sword Dances of Northern England" was published in three volumes between 1911 and 1913.

Grenoside Sword team intend to hold major celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the collection of their dance.

In the Victorian era, the team would set out early during the Christmas period and visit local country houses and farms, being offered food, drink and money, often travelling long distances. There is a fine description of a visit to Barnes Hall at the turn of the Century, written by David T Smith in Blackwood’s Magazine in the 1930’s.

This travelling tradition was revived in 1994, with the team visiting several houses in and around Grenoside, but as part of the Centenary Celebration the team intend to go back to the grand "traipse", as it has become known, and plans are being finalised for them, and guests Newcastle Kingsmen to set out on Saturday 9th Jan 2010, and travel and dance (and eat and drink) around Wentworth (in front of George and Dragon), Harley (behind Horseshoe), Scholes (behind Bay Horse) and Thorpe Hesley, Trinity Centre, before winding up at Thundercliffe Grange, a traditional calling place on their travels.

Some of these venues are already planning to turn the visit into a Community event with extra activities taking place.

This is an area of South Yorkshire with a special place in the team’s history, because not only was the Grange a regular destination for the Dancers, but after World war I, when many men were lost to Grenoside, the Vicar of Wentworth, Godfrey Scott Smith, another Grandson of Rev. Alfred Gatty, started a scout troop in Wentworth and invited old dancers and musicians from the Grenoside team to teach them the dance. So well did they learn it that many of them, including Walter Fleetwood, the musician, Reg Ward and the Housleys, formed the mainstay of the team through to the 60s.

At the end of tour party the two teams will for the first time perform "To Slay a Bullock", a tribute to the work of Sharp and all those who help to keep the tradition alive, which will be given several public performances throughout the country later in the year.

The Grenoside Sword Dance can be traced back to the 1750s but prior to that no one knows. The first written mention of the dance was in a Pall Mall Gazette article of 1895. At the same time Lady Tweedsmuir (an important writer in her own name and also the wife of John Buchan of The Thirty nine Steps fame) wrote in her memoirs The Lilac and the Rose of seeing the sword dancers perform at Wortley Hall. She compared the gentility of her surroundings with the historical, rough and elemental nature of the dancers and their dance.

For more detailed information on the history and celebrations look at the Grenoside Sword Team's website. Permission to use photographs from the web site is given.

For further information, or enquiries contact Jeremy Blundell 0114 2453660, or Jo Dunn 0246 0463

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