Jackstraws Morris
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The Early Years

By Jackie Weller (formally Emerson), a founder member and the first Squire:

Jackstraws Morris was formed in September 1977. The side was founded on limited experience, bags of enthusiasm, complete dedication and no money. The 12 founder members were as follows:

  • Jackie Emerson (Squire)
  • Sandy Grigson (Bag-person)
  • Anne Manley (Treasurer)
  • Maggi Laurence
  • Angela Rowe
  • Pip Paget
  • Jill Jackson
  • Jane Porter (Fool)
  • Barbara Porter (Musician)
  • Ivan North (Musician)
  • Pete Rowe (Forman)
  • Pete Lister

The idea to form the side came from Jackie Emerson and Sandy Grigson, who, although ex-members of Updown Hill, each had only one year of dancing experience and no experience of traditional Cotswold Morris.

We considered ourselves very fortunate when we attracted the interest of two Pilgrim Morris Men (Pete Rowe & Pete Lister) who instructed us in the traditions of Bampton and Bledington, which became the side's two main traditions for a number of years. Pete Rowe gave Jackstraws an excellent grounding but sadly left us after the first year due to hostility from his own side. We were then instructed by Alan Dean and John Glaister from Thames Valley Morris, both Morris Men of many years standing, who were pleased to pass on their vast knowledge of the dance to us until we felt confident enough to instruct from within the side, without relying on outside help. It was based on their instruction of the tradition that Carol Smith introduced the Fieldtown tradition when she became foreman four years after the side was started.
Jackie Emerson had been the fool in the Updown Hill side and as she modelled the side in her own image the idea of a smock for everyone was unanimously agreed by all at the first Jackstraws meeting. The idea of a Surrey Smock was suggested by Barbara Porter who informed us there was an authentic one on display at the Weybridge Museum (and still is to this day I think), and it was from there we obtained the pattern.
By Christmas of that year we acquired five other members, FranFlint, Carol Smith, Chris Mort (later English), Shanie Hockey and Roger English. Two future Squires in Carol & Chris and a future Bag-person in Fran, and they completed the Jackstraws line up in the first year 1977/78 . The photograph to the left shows most of those original members. It was taken during Jackstraws' first year.

As I hope you can see from the picture, Jackstraws in the beginning had a Hobby Horse. Daisy (the cow) came along in our third year. The original Daisy was stolen from outside a pub in Thorpe. The replacement, the second Daisy, was too unwieldy and a third Daisy was constructed in 1987.

Jackstraws Morris first danced out as a side on December 26th (Boxing Day)1977. The following summer we had a full programme starting with May Day (all day & evening) the usual peppering of fetes, ceilidhs and pubs, hosted a Day of Dance, took the side to an enormous rally in London hosted by 'The Women's Morris Federation' (as it was called then) and danced brilliantly in Trafalgar Square supported by Fool & Hobby Horse, and the full side went down to Devon for the Sidmouth Folk Festival for the whole week and danced every day. Not bad for a side in it's novice year.

The Jackstraws Day of Dance for years was always held in September. The first Day of Dance was held on September 10th to mark their first Squire's Birthday and was always held afterwards on the Saturday nearest to that date.