The Squire now found it necessary to leave with his firm for the West Country, and at a melancholy meeting over a beer he handed over the Club's swords and sticks contained in a golf bag to Gordon Neil, who was to carry on as Squire for the duration. But when the cessation of hostilities finally arrived, Jack Heaven remained permanently in Somerset and it fell to Gordon to organise the weekly practices.
A small nucleus of members either remained in London or were about to return there. These and other Morris men responded enthusiastically to an invitation to 'come along' to the first post-war meeting on June 14th, 1946. Despite extensive bomb damage, permission was obtained for the use of Trefusis Room at Cecil Sharp House, when the following men were present: William Ganiford, Spencer Ranger, Simon Freedman, Gordon Neil (these four being pre-war members), Joe Whiddett, John Bremer, Harry Cowsill, Cedric Furnivall, John Strange, Igor Jones and Mr Hayes as pianist. Within two months of this event, Greensleeves were able to send a team to the festival at Stratford-Upon-Avon during the week ending August 10th.
The last days of this festival were intended to constitute a Ring meeting, but, to quote from the log, it
"...had not the same atmosphere that previous Ring meetings have had. At the feast, beer was limited..."
which explains a great deal. It was not surprisingly a time of shortages, though the following Christmas meeting went off well enough. The appearance of Geoff Metcalf bearing sherry and biscuits met with a favourable reception when the toast was "the future of the Club and absent members".
That was a severe winter, with some of the lowest temperatures on record, and a demonstration at Hendon had to be cancelled because the heating system in the hall was frozen solid. So it went on. No pianist turned up for the practice on February 7th. When Joe Whiddett came to the rescue with his concertina, a power cut put out the lights, compelling the dancers to leave for the "York and Albany" where drinks were served by candlelight. Nobody seemed to care.
Preparations were now put in hand for the celebration of the Club's Twenty-first anniversary with a visit to the theatre ("Under the Counter") followed by supper in Soho, at Chez Auguste. Mr and Mrs Douglas Kennedy were there; so too were Miss Sinclair and the Club's founder, Cameron. Frank Masters sent his regrets from B.O.A.R. (British Army On the Rhine) in Germany: Kenneth Loveless was back at Chichester Theological College and not allowed out. But the evening showed, if it needed showing, that the Club had lost little if anything of its vitality during the enforced idleness of the war years. Regular practices were well attended and there was again a call for public demonstrations.
At some time during 1948, Greensleeves danced in a convent. After the performance, the Mother Superior commented that she had met Cecil Sharp when he was collecting the dances and trained a team, and we danced our morris as he intended it should be done. (Flattery will get you anywhere).
The following year saw the arrival of a new recruit named Leslie Nichols, and the temporary departure of Jack Snelgrove for a confrontation with his surgeon. Members offered sympathy and good wishes, coupled with warnings about nurses in general and those at the Temperance (!) Hospital in particular. In a short while, rumours were circulating about the success of the operation and Jack's satisfactory progress with or because of some pretty Irish nurses; it has never been made clear which.
1949 also saw a Day of Dancing at Headington Quarry to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Cecil Sharp's first meeting with William Kimber. It was by all accounts a memorable and moving occasion. Meanwhile, the dance repertoire of the Club was constantly being modified. The revival in 1950 of Papa Stour, which had not been practised since its introduction by Cameron in 1927, seems to have created a more general interest in 'sword' because North Skelton appeared regularly among dances practised during the following June. Alas, the repairs and restoration of bomb damage at Cecil Sharp House made life intolerable there, and the venue of weekly practices was altered with regret to St. Charles' school, Ladbrooke Grove.
Throughout the early fifties the club undertook an increasing number of away fixtures which meant the resident musician abandoning his piano in favour of the piano-accordion. one such demonstration took place in March 1952, at Willesden County School during the interval of a pupils' dance, when the boys showed an abundant energy and wild enthusiasm for the Morris, but none more than one of the prefects, by the name of Bert Cleaver.
Another regular function at this period in Club history was the annual Ross-On-Wye tour. Accompanied by theĀ Lumps of Plum Pudding, Greensleeves travelled widely under the guidance of Frank Hollins who knew that part of the country intimately. By dint of careful management, he always managed to arrive the week to precede or follow the Society's annual Festival at Stratford-on-Avon.
For the last night of the 1952 tour, dancing took place at Ross in the old covered market at the top of the town. It was raining heavily and the downpour increased in severity as the evening progressed, and space for dancing became more crowded as spectators pressed in to escape the torrential rain. But it was the best show of the week, the circumstances combining to bring out the close comradeship and mutual enjoyment of dancers and onlookers. This was the evening of the Lynmouth disaster.
Unique in the Club's experience was their trip abroad, which took the form of a visit in July 1953 to the Festival du Folklore International involving demonstrations in Nice and Rome. This was another joint venture in the company of Lumps of Plum Pudding, one of who was smitten in France by that well know disease of travellers, 'Egyptian stomach'. But the dancing went down well (even if the food didn't) and the writer of the Log records that he had never heard such applause.
With the advent of the Morris Ring's twenty-first birthday in 1955, the club was one of the host sides involved in the organisation of the July meeting in London, and leaders were provided for two of the nineteen tours, one through Pinner, Harrow and Kenton, the other covering Finchley, Swiss Cottage and Golder's Green. The Meeting ended on the Sunday with massed dancing at Tower Hill.
Apart from frequent attendance at Ring Meetings, Greensleeves visited a number of outside functions for more formal demonstrations of the morris, such as the Isle of Wight Festival of 1961, though outings of this sort were becoming less frequent. More popular with the Club at this time was the annual meeting at Thaxted, patronised by us in 1956, 1958, '61, '62 and '64. And again in 1961, we held the first of our own annual feasts at Chipperfield.
In 1963, London was again host to the Morris Ring, but tours through Soho and St Giles' under the guidance of Greensleeves were cancelled by order of the police. The weather was bad, and the amount of rain which fell was by all accounts in the nature of a rehearsal for the London meeting of 1972 when it fell with small remission until shortly before the feast on Saturday night. Meanwhile, back in the sixties, things of consequence were happening within the Morris Ring which were come to a head in the course of the 96th meeting, held at Winchester during September 1964. And the outcome of this was the inauguration of Leslie Nichols as Squire of the Ring on Saturday 12th.
Keenness and hard work have always been characteristic of the men of Greensleeves, and if anyone doubts this, let them consider the Club visit to the 1966 Folkshow at Broadstairs, In agreeing to attend, they undertook to appear in a formal demonstration twice daily every day from 6th to 12th August inclusive, though one wonders whether the programme had been seen in advance. There were eighteen items including Abram circle, Winster, Flamborough, Abbot's Bromley, Royton, North Skelton and rapper. Details of the hilarious and frenetic rushes to change costume can still be got from those members who were present.
We now reach the most recent decade of the Club History, marked as in other decades by important events punctuated with heavy rainfall. The downpour which greeted the 126th meeting of the Ring, held at Coventry in 1970, conformed with tradition by easing shortly before the Feast at which Bert Cleaver was inaugurated as Squire of the Ring exactly six years to the day after Leslie Nichols. And if history can be said to repeat itself, then the Club's experience at the Festival du Folklore, in 1953, has been more than equalled at the Preston Guild of 1972, where as guests of Garstang Morris Men, we took part in an enormous torchlight procession over a three-mile route and before (how many) thousands of responsive and highly articulate spectators. It was an unforgettable experience.
1973 saw the first meeting of a committee composed of representatives of Morris Clubs located in the area of Greater London, designed to promote communication between the associated clubs and to avoid, for example, potentially stressful incidents such as the un-authorised dancing of one club on another's 'patch'. The committee also opened discussion with the London Tourist Board, the result of which was a scheme to present Morris Dancing at the main door of Westminster Abbey every Wednesday evening through out the tourist season; and when this came to fruition in 1974, the inaugural performance was given by Greensleeves.
Our long association with East Surrey Morris Men has continued since the war through the medium of their Whitsun, subsequently Spring Bank Holiday meetings at Peasmarsh, and from time to time they have in turn been our guests at our own annual week-end at Chipperfield. It has also been the policy of the Club to invite recently established sides of a good standard to these meetings by way of encouragement, among which were Barnsley Longsword and the Garstang Morris Men, both of whom have since been elected to membership of the Ring.
If, during the last fifty years, Club practices have departed from the original intention that they should be 'description not Instruction', our efforts are still to see that members 'know their business up to a decent standard.' We look forward with confidence to our second half century, and to the maintenance of that 'decent standard'.
Greensleeves Morris Men