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  • rjnelson03

Shock, Horror! Male dancers still participating in the Gorse Hill Morris troupe after WW1.

The following three postcards of a Stretford Rose Queen event recently came into the author's posession. These were not dated, the Rose Queen was not named and there were no clues on the back of the images.

Rose Queen Procession in Longford Park, Stretford, before the crowning ceremony. The maypole can be seen in the background.

Further research located the photograph below which clearly identifies the Rose Queen as Dorothy Thornton and the date as 1922. The information on this photograph has been confirmed through newspaper reports in the Manchester Evening News (15 July 1922, p.5) and the Manchester Guardian (17 July 1922, p.8). Dorothy was a native of Old Trafford and lived in Ayres Road in 1921.

Photograph posted by Paul Cooper on Longford Park and Stretford Pageant Facebook Group 24 Aug 2021 ( [Accessed 16 Jun 2023]

The image of the procession in Longford Park above has revealed important new information about the history of the Gorse Hill Morris Dancers that was not known at the time of the publication of 'Carnivals, Contests and Coronations'.

A blown-up version of a high-resolution scan of the parade which is following the Rose Queen clearly shows a young troupe of morris dancers wearing the familiar outfits of the Gorse Hill troupe and, critically, that both female and male morris dancers took part at Stretford Pageant in 1922.

Gorse Hill Morris Dancers 1922

The girls are dressed in outfits based on those the troupe wore in 1913 (See below). They are wearing white dresses, only with slightly shorter skirts than in 1913, with a sash around the waist; white socks and a black waistcoat. These are the same as the outfits worn by the troupe at least until 1939. However, in this picture from 1922 the girls are carrying handkerchiefs, probably with bells on the end as described by Phyllis Spackman, who became trainer of the troupe in 1927, in an undated interview held in the Poynton Jemmers’ archive.

The boys are also dressed in a similar way to the 1913 image. In the image above they are wearing white shirts, ties, a sash around the waist and knee length shorts, but their dark coloured socks finish well below the knee. They are carrying striped sticks just as the male dancers did in 1913.

All the dancers are wearing shoes. The main difference in costume between 1913 and 1922 is that neither the boys nor the girls appear to be wearing any headgear in 1922.

Gorse Hill Morris Dancers 1913

This is a significant find, as it was understood from the above-mentioned interview with Phyllis Spackman that only girls danced for the Gorse Hill troupe after the First World War. A photograph recently located in the Trafford Local Studies collection shows that the troupe was certainly an all-female team around 1929, and, by this time, using shillelaghs as used by the Cheshire style troupes in place of handkerchiefs. (See - Reference number TL7542).

More information is coming to light as research continues and new resources become available. It is really pleasing to discover that there is some evidence that males were still involved in morris dancing in Gorse Hill after the Great War.

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