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John Pell Morris

The previously undisclosed history of 
The John Pell Morris Men
now being written by their erstwhile musician Nick Martin

1. Origins

Barcelona Kit 1984-Sep

It all started sometime in the mid-80s with a group of local dads being encouraged to put a side together for the local summer school fete that was planned to take place in May.

The prime instigator was John Mays, a supply teacher at Kingston Grammar School and a gifted musician playing the mandolin.  I was persuaded to join him with my piano accordion, and we two were the main musicians.  We were helped in our efforts by Nigel Marshall who was the head master of St Mary’s School, Long Ditton, and who played the violin very well.  Nigel taught us Morris tunes for a simple assortment of stick and hanky dances.  A team was assembled for this one-off occasion of some ten local dads to be instructed by one of our number, Mark Rye, who came from a west-country family steeped in morris-dancing.  Mark luckily had access to the regalia - the tunics in a sort of harlequin format!  I seem to remember they resembled the strip of Barcelona F.C!

2. The Dancers

The dancers were led by Mark Rye who instructed the team with the basic movements to enable the team to perform a respectable dance!  

In the team, were the following 11 gentlemen:  

  • Mark Rye who worked in the music industry, and was our leader, teacher and musician. 
  • Tony Sutton and Nigel Stannard - both solicitors in a Kingston practice. Tony is still working in the legal profession, walked round with the bag and Nigel now lives and works in Devon, and has a married daughter.  
  • John Needham, a police officer in the C.I.D., still a close friend and now retired From the Met Police.  
  • Barry Hitchins, an accountant in the music industry. 
  • Colin Irwin musician and journalist.  
  • Chris Kirk, an IT specialist, now living in France.  
  • Michael Harvey, who worked for a local firm of architects (and still does).  
  • Chris Axton, who worked for a bank in the City.  
  • Bob McFarland an orthopedic surgeon (needed to get out more)
  • Nick Martin (me of course)

There may have been others from time to time and wives were encouraged to attend from a distance.

3. What we did

In the end, we performed at local events, summer fetes etc, over a period of five years or so, before disbanding, as the children grew up, and went off to different schools. Some of us are still living in the area-Chris Kirk is living in Brittany, John Mays immigrated to Australia with his family and he is still teaching and doing gigs out there! We raised funds, as the hat always went round, mostly for our own internal pleasure!

It was great fun while it lasted, and we were given firm support by our wives, who were often involved doing the teas etc!  We always regarded ourselves as the alternative to proper morris-dancing, but we would practice before an event - occasionally Nigel Stannard would default as he was under instructions from his wife, to stay in that particular evening, to do the ironing!

We rarely came across other more established sides, tended to avoid them if possible!  I well remember one occasion at a Sunday afternoon church fete in Teddington where I think the Thames Valley side were also on the bill.  They politely asked who we were-we told them and they said they had never heard of us!!   Surprise surprise!!

Our dances were vigorous but limited - ‘Oh Dear Mother’ comes to mind and we always signed off our performances with a version of ‘Bonny Green Garters’.  Our first dance would usually be Young Collins, which usually finished with a few blooded wrists I seem to recall which was very convenient for the first hanky dance!

It is fun to recall that a side which was formed for one school fete but carried on for another five years or so!                    

Nick Martin