Some Photos of the Ring Meeting

2010 Trigg Ring Meeting

Paul Reece's The Immortal Memory 4.9.2010

Log of the Meeting

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On this the 40th year of Trigg Morris Men and the launch this weekend of ‘5000 Morris Men’ at the South Bank, London, I will pursue the twin themes of Morris in the Wilderness and Morris Men are Mad. 


The West Country provided a rich source for folk song, however the sole dance collected and published in the final part 5 of ‘The Morris Book’ by Sharp in 1913 is the Processional Helston Furry Dance, although Furry or feast dances were common place in Cornwall, including here in St. Austell in 1913. 


While perhaps the very earliest reference to the Morris in Britain is from 1466 at Lanherne in Trigg’s dancing territory, John Forrest considers the processional dances of Cornwall and North Wales to be the most ancient dances.  Both of these areas are great sources of slate, a commodity in which Cecil Sharp’s father James traded.  At Altarnun church about 10 miles across Bodmin Moor from the slate quarries at Delabole the bench ends have elaborate carved dancers with swords and bells, a musician and a fool, dating from around 1540.  At St Columb, 10 miles west of Bodmin the parish records known as the Green Book of St Column have references to the Morris from 1585.  


The connection between mining, quarrying and the Morris, the relationship between the dancer and the earth and the ‘life’ below and the ‘life’ above, including the weather, have been postulated by John Kirkpatrick and others.  Cornish stone circles and rows have names denoting dance connections, although the reference to ‘dancing maidens’ is probably a corruption of the Medieval Cornish word ‘medn’ meaning stone.  Boys who washed the tin ore with their feet ankle deep in water were called, lappiors, the Cornish for dancers, while Tom Lappiors were spirited dancers, acrobats, tumblers as well as tin dressers.  Lead ore was similarly washed in places such as Winster.


Whether from Cornish slate or Cotswold stone the processional path to Headington Quarry, Sharp, the quarries of the Rossendale Valley, the Britannia Nutters, Winster and to us is a very powerful one in the reawakening of the Morris and Morris led communities.  As we leap skywards using the earth as our springboard we are making an important connection and union, not least bringing together and balancing our physical and mental selves in well being, our bodies and our spirits, the first steps in achieving true health.


Morris taps into the psyche of folk memory and keeps alive that all important therapeutic thread of identity, expression, animation and where we belong as part of communities and their cultures.  For Trigg this has expressed itself in going into the wilderness of dry villages that have lost their pub.  Here they set up their stall at the cross roads, offer free beer to the community, put on a display of Morris dancing and let Ian Chanter weave his inimitable magic in explaining what Morris dancing is all about.


When I first met Trigg some 30 years ago they still had dancing their chief luminary and founder member Chris Penton, then aged 70, who would be a 100 today if he was still alive.  Chris had first been a member of St Albans Morris Men and in 1953 a founder member and first Squire of Thames Valley Morris Men, the same year in fact that Chris Ridley joined them as a dancer, though both were musicians and helped out with playing for the side when their regular musician was unavailable.  While Chris Ridley is regarded as a living legend and practically an immortal in Trigg, the folk movement in Cornwall and of Thames Valley MM as their president, it is on Trigg’s chief mentor, the warmly remembered psychiatrist Chris Penton that I wish to dwell.  Pete Marlow I believe worked under him, but all who came under his spell were greatly influenced by him and remember him with particular deep affection.


Chris Penton was a Lt Colonel in the Royal Army Medical Corps where he became Assistant Director of Army Psychiatry and in civilian life until his retirement Director of Army Personnel at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough developing the techniques of personnel selection particularly those used in choosing candidates for officer training.  I will be making recommendations at the next AC that these are used for the selection of our next Squire of the Morris Ring.


On retirement Chris wished to return to clinical work but stipulated on his speculative application for the post of Assistant Psychiatrist at St Lawrence’s Hospital, Bodmin that he was only interested in the job if there was a local Morris side.  Whether this was for recreation, psychiatric research or therapy we are not entirely sure, but as luck and the Gods of Insanity would have it there were people in the hospital and outside who wanted to start a Morris side.   The hospital was used for practices and one of Triggs dances, ‘Old Carew’, was named after the Carew Ward and another ‘Wenford Bridge’ after the bridge close to where Chris Penton lived.   


Equally mad was the fact that Bodmin had had a flourishing footwear industry from medieval times until the 20th Century supplying the surrounding quarries and mines and St. Lawrence’s Hospital workshop carried old stocks of scoots and toe plates to the delight of local scoot or step dancers up until the late 1980s.  So what was affectionately ‘the madhouse’ was secretly a kind of Cornish Cecil Sharp House, an underground Trefusis or Trelawney that attracted dancers and sparked Trigg’s beginnings as a kind of early do it yourself care in the community dance outfit, on Barry Bucknell lines, not those of Barry Care. 


Interestingly in  the early Morris or Mattachin dances denoting combat with swords of Christian against the Moors as illustrated at Altarnun, the word Matta also denotes mad or fools dance.  It is highly likely that migration of these dances through Europe along pilgrimage routes via Looe.  Roger Comley’s shell and bedpan are not therefore as mad as they seem.


Testament to how well Trigg was put together and run is that Trigg’s founding Bagman, Roger Hancock, is still doing the job, surely a record in the Ring for both service to a Morris side and sheer madness.  The membership may be as mad as ever, but the work they do in their distinctive individual celtic ropework baldrick designs taken from the celtic stone crosses of the region promoting the Morris in Cornwall and beyond is truly inspiring.  Almost as well travelled as the Cornish saints, miners and engineers they have danced and sung in Britanny, Sweden and California as well as the length and breadth of that other country beyond the Tamar. 


Chris Penton helped start something special here and nurtured with real passion and commitment away from outside interference, a club that is truly one for all and all for one.  All of you here I’m sure can remember a Chris Penton figure in your own side who make such a difference.  They have a vision which many on the outside would call mad, but with backing and sustained effort create such a meaningful flowering in the wilderness and thus contributing to Sharp’s dream of returning the dance culture of the people to the people. 


Let each one of us here work together and carry forward their work and in drinking a toast in silence to the immortal memory of Cecil Sharp remember also these absent friends and key workers in the Morris who have gone before and provided the bedrock on which you dance today and secure the Morris dance for the future.  Thank you.


Paul Reece 


324th meeting of The Morris Ring hosted by Trigg MM


Trigg MM Squire; Ian Chanter.                    Bagman for the Meeting; Roger Hancock


Based at Poltair School, St Austell, Cornwall


Social Activities and Catering were provided in the new Dining Area and adjacent Hall

Men slept in the Sports Hall with some camping on the sports field with camper vans on the car park.


Friday Evening; Men were provided with a Pasty supper, space was available for dancing, but men were also provided with information on local hostelries, and Trigg had arranged with the St Austell Brewery, that is next door to the school, for their Visitor Centre to be open for the evening, and this is where most men spent the evening. There was a little song or dance after this. The Trigg Men “on duty” had a quiet evening looking after the St Austell Tribute, & Skinners Betty Stogs Ales as well as Skinners Press Gang Cider.


Saturday; Breakfast was the expected cereals, croissants, full English etc. Which prepared the men well for their tours in the fine weather.

Tour 1 & 2 left a little late at 9.30, the buses having been delayed by traffic to provide a single show at Mount Folly, Bodmin where the Mayor turned out to see the excitement. Tour 1, guided by Vic Legg, Bob Mann, & Alan Tringham had Men of Wight (11), Harthill (11), & Winchester (10) continued to Wadebridge, Chapel Amble for a cottage pie lunch and thence to Padstow. Tour 2 With Mick Bull & Pat Broderick had Thames Valley (9), Thaxted (10) & Whitchurch (7 + Mike Chandler & Roger Comley visiting for the day) who went to Port Isaac, (Port Wenn to those who know), from where the men had a short coastal walk to Port Gaverne for lunch of Steak & Ale Pie, after this they continued to St Breward & finally to the Blisland Inn, famous for the choice of real ales on offer.

Tours 3 & 4 walked to St Austell town centre where they put on separate shows in Fore St & White River Place. Tour 3 with Peter Marlow, Malcolm Harvey & Maurice Dart who had Dartington (10), Chapel-en-le-Frith (11) & Rutland (12) who then boarded their coach for Mevagissey (where drinks were taken at the Fountain Inn), St Stephen, for a lunch of Chicken Hotpot, Vegetables & Plum Flan before proceeding to Grampound road and the Eden Project. Tour 4 with Phil Champion & Chris Thomas (accompanied by their respective wives, who are associate members of Trigg in recognition of their role as musicians. Sides on the tour had been consulted prior to the weekend). Sides on this tour were Grand Union (8), Lincoln & Micklebarrow (7) & Northwood (11), who went to Fowey, Luxulyan for lunch of a choice of Fish/Cottage Pie & Fruit Crumble before going to Tywardreath and the Eden Project.

The Squire’s Tour of Tours comprised Brian Tasker & Charlie Corcoran, with a small dancing side of Trigg driven by Peter Philp & led by Squire Ian Chanter with musician Chris Ridley, Terrry Letchford, Dave Marshall, Andy Payne, & Darren Marfleet who visited shows at Bodmin, Fowey, Chapel Amble, St Breward & The Eden Project.

Dartington Men brought their boys side for the day so that they could visit some tours, so a further Tour of Tours was planned & guided by Trigg’s Jim Hutchins, the visited Bodmin, Wadebridge, St Stephen, Tywardreath & the Eden Project.

All men returned to the School for saffron cake with clotted cream.

The Feast at 7.45 pm was held in the School dining hall colourfully decorated by the Catering Manager, Mrs Pauline Olds. 

The menu was; Parsnip & Apple Soup, Cornish Chicken Breast in Red Wine Sauce, Apple & Bramble Crumble with Clotted Cream, Cornish Yarg, Brie, Blue & Cheddar Cheese with Biscuits & Coffee. (We learned after that the gas supply had been cut off during the meal, but the effect was barely noticed.)

The Ale served was again St Austell Tribute, & Skinners Betty Stogs Ales as well as the remains of the Skinners Press Gang Cider that had been popular on the previous evening.

A special gift of a stick of specially commissioned “Trigg Morris” Rock was presented to all.

The Top Table comprised The Squire, Brian Tasker, Bagman, Charlie Corcoran, The Squire elect, Peter Halfpenney, Squire of Trigg, Ian Chanter, Trigg’s Associate members, Female musicians Viv Champion & Lynn Thomas.

Grace was offered by Revd Fr. Leonard Pepper of Whitchurch.

 The Loyal Toast by Peter Halfpenney.

 The Immortal Memory by Paul Reece representing both Thaxted & Trigg using a number of Cornish references, (A copy of his text is attached).

The Health of the Guests was proposed by Ian Chanter with humorous use of information gathered via his “customer care” form previously issued.

The Reply was byTim Shellshear of Grand Union, (having previously agreed to reply, coped admirably with what he had just heard).

Songs; As the meal finished later than intended, on seating designed for school dinners, songs were limited to “Linden Lea” from Past Squire & Winchester’s Geoff Jerram, “I have a Bonnet trimmed with Blue” from Viv Champion, & “Come my Friends” from Mick Bull of Trigg. The party then adjourned to the adjacent hall for an interesting mixed session of dances and songs. The 2 Ladies had intended to withdraw at this stage, but having been invited to stay by the Squire they remained to participate in the evening that seemed to be enjoyed by all.


Sunday; Breakfast was as on Saturday, but sadly the weather was not, and when the men had cleared their accommodation they had to walk in heavy rain to the start point for the procession. The short procession to church was also in the rain so little public interest was generated. No alternative to the Church Service was offered due to interest levels.

The Eucharist Service at St Austell’s Holy Trinity Church was conducted by the Curate, Olly Mears (The parish being in an interregnum period). The first of the readings was by The Bagman, Charlie Corcoran.The use of screens instead of books was a revelation to some as was the music by Keyboard, flute, Drums etc.  To quote our Squire, Brian Tasker; “I will always remember the church service. I am not a believer myself but I really enjoyed the service which is a first for me! I thought the whole presentation was highly professional and an approach to religion which is new to me”. After the service, Trigg performed their own “Wenford Bridge” in the style of Bucknell outside the church prior to all proceeding to the main show.

Sunday Show; was scheduled to begin at 12.15 in White River Place, (but started early at Noon). Fortunately by this time the weather had turned dry, however the wet morning had meant the PA could not be set up in advance, so there was a delay before Brian could properly address the substantial crowd that had assembled in spite of the morning’s weather. The Mayor of the Town of St Austell had come along to watch the proceedings.

Lunch was provided by the church volunteers and comprised a ploughman’s lunch, treacle tart or fresh fruit salad with ice cream and tea or coffee. It could be noted that we missed the company at lunch of our past Squire Geoff Jerram, he had nipped off to pack his tent, and having mislaid his information could not locate his colleagues.

Weather for Friday and Saturday was fine, but unfortunately heavy rain prevailed on Sunday morning that fortunately died away by about noon.


Some Photos of The Trigg Ring Meeting


Sporty Morris!

Do you want a bite of my bun Trigger?

Hard Day?

Mayor of St Austell

Outgoing and Incoming Squire challenge

A welcome relief!

Dartington Juniors


Penny for your thoughts


Apres Dinner

Massed Morris

Sticks everywhere!

More to follow