The Britannia Coconut Dancers

From the town of Bacup with blackened faces and unusual costumes comes a unique folk dance troup. The team dances several garland dances once common as part of rushbearing festivals around the area, but also a “nut dance” of which they now seem to be the sole surviving example.

The Britannia Coco-nut Dancers, a folk dance troupe from Bacup in Lancashire, England.

Photo by Kezka Dantza Taldea Eibar

Whilst the clogs shirt and britches are traditional Lancashire, the white and red hooped skirt and white hat/turban seem more exotic in origin.

While Morris Dancing is rumoured to have been derived from the dances of the Moors, the African tribe that conquered large parts of Spain, Portugal and Southern France. The tradition danced by the Britannia dancers seems to have a more definite link. It is rumoured to have been taught to Cornish tin miners by Moors who came to this country and found employment in the mines. When the work in Cornwall became scarce during the 18th & 19th centuries some of the Cornish miners came to the North-West to work in the mines and quarries and brought the tradition with them.

Tunstead Mill Nutters 1907

Tunstead Mill Nutters 1907

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The Seal Catcher and the Merman

mermanThere was a man who lived not very far from John o’ Groat’s house, he lived in a little cottage by the sea-shore, and made his living by catching seals and selling their fur, which is very valuable.

He earned a good deal of money in this way, for these creatures used to come out of the sea in large numbers, and lie on the rocks near his house basking in the sunshine, so that it was not difficult to creep up behind them and kill them.

Some of those seals were larger than others, and the country people used to call them “Roane,” and whisper that they were not seals at all, but Mermen and Merwomen, who came from a country of their own, far down under the ocean, who assumed this strange disguise in order that they might pass through the water, and come up to breathe the air of this earth of ours.

But the seal catcher only laughed at them, and said that those seals were most worth killing, for their skins were so big that he got an extra price for them.

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Edward ‘Squire’ Higgins, Knutsford’s Gentleman Highwayman

Cann Office - Home of Higgins the HighwaymanWhen Edward Higgins arrived in Knutsford in 1756 he took possession of a large house known as the Cann Office. To the local populace he appeared to be a man of high standing. He took to renovating the house and stables and bringing several fine horses, taking on two local youths as apprentices to his groom.

Attending the local hunts, with his skill on horseback and affable manner he was soon welcomed by the local gentry as one of their own. His regular excursions outside the area were assumed to be the actions of a conscientious land owner collecting the rents which funded his extravagant lifestyle.

The following year he married Katherine Birtles, a spinster from a respectable local family and they became closely entwined within local society often dining at their neighbour’s houses and hosting lavish events themselves.

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The Pace Egg Play

Children”Pace Egging” in Hebden Bridge.

The Pace Egg Plays are traditional village plays, with a rebirth theme, in which St George smites all challengers and the fool, Toss Pot, rejoices. The drama takes the form of a combat between the hero and villain, in which the hero is killed and brought to life, often by a quack doctor.

The plays take place in England during Easter; indeed, the word ‘Pace’ comes from the old English word ‘pasch’ literally meaning ‘Easter’, but have also been known to have been performed at other religious celebrations such as Christmas.

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Ragnar Lodbrog and Crake Castle.

Ragnar Lodbrok or Lothbrok (Old NorseRagnarr Loðbrók, “Ragnar Hairy Breeches“) was a legendary Norse ruler and hero from the Viking Age described in Old Norse poetry and several sagas. In this tradition, Ragnar was the scourge of France and England and the father of many renowned sons, including Ivar the BonelessBjörn IronsideHalfdan RagnarssonSigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, and Ubba. While these supposed sons appear to be historical figures, it  is uncertain whether Ragnar himself existed. Many of the tales about him appear to originate with the deeds of several historical Viking heroes and rulers.

 

 

The Snake Pit

19th century artist’s impression of the execution of Ragnar Lodbrok

So far back as the days of the Saxon and the Dane, there stood, on the well-known prominent hill beyond Easingwold, the Castle of Crake — or Crec, as it was then called. Though situated in the Saxon kingdom of Deira, it belonged, at the time of our story, to Ella, King of Bernicia, the more northern division of Northumbria. It had previously been given to St. Cuthbert, the well-known northern saint, as a resting place on his long journey from Lindisfarne to the south; but Ella, who had little respect either for religion or for right, had seized upon it, and converted it into a fortress in his neighbour’s domains, and its underground dungeons into a prison for those whom he wished to hide from the world.

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Tim Bobbin’ Grave

Self Portrait

Self portrait of John Collier (Tim Bobbin)

I stoode beside Tim Bobbin’ grave
‘At looks o’er Ratchda’ teawn;
An’ th’ owd lad ‘woke within his yerth,
An’ sed, “Wheer arto’ beawn?”

“Awm gooin’ into th’ Packer-street,
As far as th’ Gowden Bell;
To taste o’ Daniel’s Kesmus ale.”
TIM.—”I cud like o saup mysel’.”

“An’ by this hont o’ my reet arm,
If fro’ that hole theaw’ll reawk,
Theaw’st have o saup o’th’ best breawn ale
‘At ever lips did seawk.”

The greawnd it sturr’d beneath my feet,
An’ then I yerd o groan;
He shook the dust fro’ off his skull,
An’ rowlt away the stone.

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