Leyland Morris Men mark'¨golden era of merriment

Following TV appearances alongside Dame Judi Dench and on popular soap Hollyoaks, Leyland Morris Men have a lot to boast about.

Tuesday, 18th April 2017, 9:14 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:41 pm
Leyland Morris Men at an event in Astley Park in 2016 to commemorate the First World War
Leyland Morris Men at an event in Astley Park in 2016 to commemorate the First World War

They have a good solid membership and can claim 50 years as a continual society.

But Leyland Morris Men has an even longer association with the town of Leyland.

Formed in 1889, the team had a broken record as they met haphazardly and disbanded a few times, until it was reformed in 1966 by some like minded people with thoughts of marking National Folk Week in 1967.

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Roy Smith and Mike Bailey of Leyland Morris Men

A weekly night class in Morris dancing was started at Worden Secondary school and the reformed Leyland Morris Men made their first public appearance at Balshaw’s Grammar School on Saturday April 29 1967.

Their first outdoor public performance was on Monday May 1 1967 on Low Green, Broadfield Drive, Leyland before going on to dance in Bretherton and Croston.

It is therefore fitting that on Saturday April 29, the group will mark 50 years continuity by taking to the streets of Leyland to showcase their talents and engage the community.

The team dances traditional North-West Morris though more recently it has taken on other traditions such as Cotswold and Long Sword.

Leyland Morris Men dancing Constant Billy at a Lancashire folk event

Over the years they have visited and danced at places as far afield as London, the Isle of Man and Angers in France, not to mention the many places in the North West.

Group members also featured on local radio and even performed on channel four soap Hollyoaks, the Anthony Cotton show and the BBC film Cranford with Dame Judi Dench.

Something else rather remarkable is the fact is that two of the original team are still dancing with the team: Roy Smith and Mike Bailey.

Roy, 79, says: “We are proud to be a part of one of England’s oldest traditions.

Roy Smith and Mike Bailey of Leyland Morris Men

“Morris Dancing is a very ancient form of dance. There are many written references to Morris Dancers going back to the 1500s.

“My association with the team has been continuous.

“I was present at the original meeting when the idea was launched and for many years was the team leader.

“I am also the archivist and my records over the years will be a strong feature of the celebratory event.

Leyland Morris Men dancing Constant Billy at a Lancashire folk event

“This event will comprise two parts to which all are invited at no charge.

“In the morning, the team will be dancing in and around Leyland visiting some of the spots that we have danced at many times in the past. For example, Leyland Cross, the Museum and the market.

“Then in the afternoon we will adjourn to Leyland Cricket Club where there will be a display of photographs, archive film and artefacts.

“It would be good to catch up with and reminisce with any of you who have had links with the team.”

The team meets regularly on Mondays 7.30pm at The Guide Hut, rear of 263 Fox Lane, Leyland, and prospective new members are always very welcome either to dance or play with the musicians.

They are also doing well with their One Gig a Month project, where they give a rousing performance in the community each month.

Mike, 74, adds: “We have already a number of invites for this year.

“Currently we have ten active dancers and six musicians but we would love to increase that number so that the tradition can be maintained for another 50 years.

“In our heyday we could turn out 24 dancers for our very own Leyland dance.

“Are you available to join this band of ageing morris men who, despite their years, still enjoy dancing and playing and entertaining folk be they the elderly in rest homes, children in schools via workshops or the general public at fetes and festivals?

“For further details please come and speak with us when we are out in Leyland on Saturday, April 29 or visit our website - www.leylandmorrismen.”