Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 8, 1897.djvu/351

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Some Oxfordshire Seasonal Festivals.

Appendix on Morris-dancing in Oxfordshire.

Morris-dancing was so inseparably connected with the Whitsuntide and other festivals in Oxfordshire, that a short account of it seems necessary. I have summarised below the accounts received from the following villages: Ascot-under-Wychwood, Asthal Leigh, Bampton, Brize Norton, Ducklington, Field Assarts near Leafield, Finstock, Leafield, Kirtlington, Shipton under Wychwood, Spelsbury, Wheatley, together with Oakley (Bucks), and Chipping Warden, (Northants), both close to the Oxfordshire border.

The dancers were always six in number, except at Bampton, where two spare men relieved two of the six dancers at times. They were nearly always men, but at Spelsbury, about 70 years ago, six girls used to dance, and Blount, in the passage quoted above, records that in the 17th century there was a "Morisco Dance" of women, as well as of men, at Kidlington. The girls at Spelsbury wore a head-gear of ribbons and flowers, with short dresses, and bells on their legs, similar to those worn by the men. The regular dress of the men consisted of a beaver or silk hat decked with ribbons — though in one case it had degenerated into a brown "bowler" hat — elaborately worked and pleated white shirts, crossed with coloured ribbons and rosettes, and white moleskin trousers, or else white knee-breeches and stockings. To this some dandies added a white waistcoat, but this was unusual. With the dancers went a spare man to look after their coats, &c., who was called the "Ragman."

Invariably accompanying the troupe was a fool, generally called the "Squire," but known at Asthal and at Field Assarts as "Rodney" — for what reason I do not know. The "Squire" wore a dress of motley, and carried a stick with a bladder and a cow's tail at either end. With this he would clear a ring for the dancers, and bang the spectators on the head. Sometimes, as at Bampton, he carried a "treasury" or money-box.

Attached to their trousers or breeches just below the