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One of our regular partner sides is Hartley Morris and we enjoyed an excellent evening with them at The Bull in Barming. The weather was rather cloudy and chilly but this did not spoil our enjoyment.
Kettle Bridge have introduced the role of Squire of the Day where one of the dancers takes responsibility for leading the side. For this event, it was the turn of Caroline to be Squire – or should we say Grand-squire of the Day as she and Tim were celebrating the recent birth of another grandchild.
As is the custom, we alternated dances with Hartley and our set consisted of Prescot, Aughton, Shawforth and KBC Processional, all danced to the usual high standard.
Nothing of any particular note happened during the evening so I thought I would bore you instead with a bit of background that I have researched about our friends from Hartley.
They can trace their roots all the way back to 1934 and the Stansted Morris dancers. Being based at an airport, most of the dancers were of course airline pilots and baggage handlers. Their favourite dances were Lumps of Plum Pudding, inspired by the food served on the aeroplanes, and The Captain With His Whiskers which was all about a hirsute pilot.
The disruption caused by World War II unfortunately resulted in Stansted folding, but three of the members of the side found work together in the Hartley Jam Mines who were in direct competition with the nearby Kent Treacle Mines. The owner of the Jam Mines, well-known author J R Hartley, (when he wasn't off fly fishing) encouraged his employees to take up exercise and stay away from the evil of alcohol. So it occurred to the three ex-Stansted men to form a morris side which they named in honour of their employer and so helped to preserve (ouch!) a wonderful English tradition.
Their kit featured red braces to represent the strawberry jam for which Hartley is most well known and this connection is maintained with their most famous dance, Balance the Strawberry. And to this day, in remembrance of the abstemious Mr. Hartley, if you see a member of Hartley in a pub, you can guarantee that he won't buy you a drink.