About Us

Saddleworth is a shire of villages situated in a valley in the Pennine hills between Manchester and Leeds. Locals will tell anyone who asks that Saddleworth is in the West-Riding of Yorkshire, and not in Greater Manchester or Lancashire as many people say! Welcome

Saddleworth Morris Men perform what is known as “North-West” Morris, which means our dances are performed in Lancashire Clogs – shoes with leather uppers and wooden soles shod with iron. We are easily identified (or heard!) because of the number of bells worn on the clogs of the majority of the team. A member of Saddleworth receives two bells for each clog at the start of each season, so a new recruit isn’t as easily heard, however!

A Saddleworth man is also identified because of the unique pattern of red, white and blue of the waistcoat. These waistcoats have been a part of our kit since the late 70’s, but the current material is taken from a bolt that was woven for us in the 90’s by the Saddleworth Museum using a Dobcross loom, with yarn donated by a local spinning company. Each member must earn their waistcoat by dancing the Greenfield dance correctly in public on their first outing in kit (usually Maundy Thursday night at Road End in Greenfield), and the decision to award the waistcoat rests with the Squire and Foreman. It is considered an honour amongst Saddleworth Morris men to have a waistcoat and earning one means you will forever be a part of the family.

And then there’s our hats…DSC02672                                                                                                                                         Bowlers decorated with fresh flowers each time we turn out. To our knowledge we are the only mens morris side in England to do this. Silk flowers will not do though. It would be cheaper to use these, but any Saddleworth man caught dancing with silk flowers in their hat will have it taken away and kicked down the street by the Foreman!

The rest of our kit is a white collarless shirt (fastened at the collar always while dancing) with a red and a blue sash joined at the chest by our Rose badge – a badge with the White Rose of Yorkshire at the centre of the Red Rose of Lancashire – and a blue cummerbund. Black breeches, with red and blue rosettes at the knees, and white socks finish our kit. Sticks decorated with red and blue ribbon are used as part of the performances.

Each man is only permitted to wear certain badges on their wastecoat. These are any badges given by the side for certain achievements, such as the Silver Rushcart badge earned by dancing with Saddleworth at three Rushcarts. Also allowed is the White and Red roses of Yorkshire and Lancashire signifying our roots and home. Then there are the “campaign” badges – badges purchased by the side for those who have travelled abroad with the team. There are only five such allowed for dancing in Utrecht, Holland in 2000, Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2001, Dublin in 2002, Plzen, Czech Republic in 2004 and Raalte, Holland in 2006.

The dances we perform are our own dances and not traditional North-West dances shared by many North-West teams, such as the “Ashton” or “Clitheroe”. Over the years we have ourselves written and perfected the 7 dances and processional, and these are not noted and have not been given for use to any other team. To our knowledge we are the only side to perform these dances. Six of them are named after the villages of Saddleworth, with the 7th being a special dance performed only at Rushcart. They are all 8 man dances apart from the Diggle dance which uses a 9th man to end the dance. Dances and kit 1

The “Greenfield” is the dance we teach the new recruits to get an easy start on the understandings of the dance steps and movements.

The “Uppermill” or “Rushcart Dance” is the dance we open each Rushcart with and is started with a song about the “Rushcart Lads”…

Oh the Rushcart Lads are bonny, bonny lads
The Rushcart Lads are bonny
We dance round t’Cart and whistle like a lark
And that’s as good as ony
We shoulder t’gun, to fight the hun
And that’s as good as ony
Oh the Rushcart Lads are bonny, bonny lads
The Rushcart Lads are bonny!

The “Delph” is the shortest dance, but not one for the faint hearted. It is fast and a rest is not on offer from beginning to end for any man. This is the only dance that can be performed inside as it needs to be danced in a small set.

The “Denshaw” is the newest dance that has become the nemesis for many a Saddleworth man, and is often referred to as the “Barn Dance”. This is due to us only being able to get it right in the barn where we practised at the time in Diggle! When performed in public the sight of the Foreman’s whip being flung along the set is a regular occurrence!

The “Dobcross” and “Diggle” dances are a favourite amongst the members and are used as our show dances – the dances we do to show off!

The “Stang” dance is only performed on Rushcart Sunday and the only dance done without our hats or usual sticks. Instead we use the stangs used to pull the Cart over the weekend. 

We dance to music performed primarily by Melodians accompanied by Bass & Snare Drums, but the band have also had Accordians, Concertinas, Violins, Banjos, Piccolos, Flutes and a variety of Brass instruments.

SMM

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *