Royal Oak Morris Have Made Their Final Appearance
Royal Oak Morris dancers and musicians made their final appearance at Eydon Fete on Sunday 3 September 2023 before disbanding, after 38 years.
Our final performance included several of the ‘Eydon Tradition’ dances at the Fete, including one called ‘The Road to Eydon’, to the tune of ‘Dives and Lazarus’ with original choreography devised by Pat Cannell.
We’ve had lots of fun. We’ve danced on coaches; a ferry; with matchsticks inside pubs; outside the Kremlin (!); behind garlanded cows in Savoie; with baguettes; with hard hats on the M40; with feather dusters, dressed as French maids; on Zoom during Covid; and hold the distinction of being thrown off Mont St. Michel by les gendarmes.
Eydon’s own Morris dancers were formed in 1985 to perform at Eydon Fete. The brainchild of Nina the Royal Oak landlady, a scratch side (team) of 8 was formed. Over many a beer in the garden of Wayside, John Cannell from Byfield, a seasoned Morris dancer, instructed a motley crew of Eydonites in two basic dances from the Cotswold tradition to perform at the summer Fete 6 weeks later.
After the 1985 Fete was over, all concerned wanted to learn more and carry on dancing. John continued to be foreman (the instructor). Kevin Lodge of Eydon made many a spread sheet to keep track of all the appearances so we know that one year later there were 18 dancers, and that over the last 38 years 69 folk from a widening area have danced or played with us and many more dances were learned.
There are many varieties of Morris dancing. Royal Oak Morris danced in the Cotswold style, performing dances collected from Cotswold villages. Badby is the nearest source of recorded dances to Eydon, so using this as a starting point we developed six dances with our own stamp on them (these will form our archive). Members have shown their creative ability by composing dance tunes and devising special dances, including one to mark Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee in 2012. Live music was very important, as effective execution of the steps requires a dialogue between the dancers and the musicians. Over the years Royal Oak has had 17 musicians, if you include tambourine bashers and jingle stick entrepreneurs.
Since those early days Royal Oak Morris has danced in France, Germany, USA, and the Netherlands as well as hosting a visiting dance group from Savoie who were billeted around the village. Closer to home we have performed at numerous village fetes, pubs, weddings, Morris days of dance, Fairport Convention, and toured the country to various festivals ranging from Barnard Castle in Northumberland to ‘All things Morris’ in Ilfracombe. In 2002 Kevin arranged a ‘Tour of Royal Oaks’ where the side danced at thirteen Royal Oak pubs in the area over the course of a weekend.
Time has now caught up with Royal Oak Morris and our smaller active team, and we agreed that it was time to go out on a high, and call it a day. We were privileged to end as we began, at Eydon Fete.