Jackstraws Past to Present

Jackstraws Morris was founded in 1977 by former members of Updown Hill Morris from Windlesham, and first danced out on Boxing Day of that year, at the White Hart Inn in Pirbright. Until 1996 the side was based in the village of Pirbright in Surrey. We moved to Farnborough in Hampshire after the Red Cross hall in which we used to practise was demolished, and then spent our Monday evenings honing our skills in a local school’s assembly hall. In 2006, we moved back to Surrey, and we now practise in the Hale Institute Hall, Hale, near Farnham.

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, Fran Flint, 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 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.

Jackstraws’ 21st Birthday Party (1999)

By Sue Hamer-Moss, Bagperson

This year, Jackstraws were 21 years old and we celebrated in style on 20th June in Farnham, Surrey. Braving the fortunately very short-lived drizzle, Jackstraws and 6 invited guest sides celebrated with generous amounts of Bucks Fizz in scenic Farnham Castle before dancing their way around Farnham for the day – not too far away from the many hostelries!! A pageantry of colour, music, dancing styles – Cotswold, Border and North West – not to mention strange mascots, greeted the citizens of Farnham as we progressed around the town.
The evening started with a slap-up buffet meal and a suitably adorned birthday cake, followed by a ceilidh with a great band – Junction 24 – with Hugh Ripon calling. It was wonderful to see so many past members of the side turning up to celebrate, including the very first squire of Jackstraws, from 21 years ago. Party spots included Jackstraws dancing a blind stick dance- fortunately using sausage balloons (the most difficult bit was blowing them up!) and Fleet Morris doing a hilarious spoof of Ring of Bells dressed as commuters on our favourite crowded service.
Our thanks to our guests – Alton, Fleet, Pigsty, Rose and Castle, Windsor and Yateley and we look forward to the next 21 years!

Original Kit

A white, hand made smock with green smocking based on a traditional Surrey smock design. Jackstraws was one of the first revival womens’ teams to wear trousers (in 1977!). The kit was completed with a green neckerchief, white shoes, bell pads with green and white ribbons and a white hat decorated with flowers.

2005 Kit change

We changed our kit in 2005 to something more modern. The new kit retains the same colours as the old kit (i.e. green and white), but instead of smocks we wear loose white shirts, with ribbons attached at the shoulders, and we have given up the flowered hats.

Daisy

On occasions Daisy, a cow, appears with Jackstraws. Daisy was specially made in 1987, our 10th Anniversary year. She is a papier mache carnival head with a brown spotted cloth for a body. She used to have a shy and retiring personality which kept her on the side-lines, entertaining the children in the audience, but since appearing at the Warwick Folk Festival in 2007, she has been an outrageous scene-stealer.

Jackstraws at 40

In 2018 we celebrated our 40th anniversary in style, enjoying a Day of Dance in our home town of Farnham. Joining us on the day were our friends from Hook Eagle Border Morris, Pilgrim Morris Men, Fleur de Lys Morris and Fleet Morris. Festivities with tea, cake and beer after the dancing was concluded.

The Future

We are proud of our history our high standards of dance and performance – to help us continue we need new members to join our friendly team – contact us to find out more.