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Day two of our Whitby adventure found us dancing at Whitby Abbey. It was a bright, sunny day but there was a brisk wind.
The first abbey was built about 657 AD when Whitby was known as Streoneshalh (thank goodness they changed the name!). Here the Synod of Whitby was held, where the calculation for the date for Easter was agreed and the practice of monastic tonsure (the monk's distinctive bald patch) adopted. Unfortunately, at the later little-known Synod of Clintonscards, it was agreed that the celebration of Easter would actually start on Boxing Day and last for four months. Still, the webmaster felt very much at home, sporting his natural monastic tonsure.
The abbey is also the inspiration for part of the 1897 Dracula story by Bram Stoker. When his ship runs aground just outside Whitby, the Count (disguised as a black hound) runs up the 199 steps to the abbey. Obviously he didn't visit the Tourist Information Centre or he would have discovered that the Whitby Town Tour bus is a much better way of getting around the town, with a convenient stop outside the abbey. But perhaps he used the steps just so that he could "count" them.
One for the Sesame Street generation.
A few of us who are English Heritage members had a stroll round the abbey site before the dancing was due to start. There we heard a strange sound emanating from a dark corner of the ruins. Could this be Count Dracula himself, come to life??? No, it turned out to be Alistair Anderson recording some concertina music for the BBC Folk Show.
Enough waffle, let's get on to the dancing. There was some confusion about where we were to dance but our Folk Week co-ordinator eventually negotiated a spot with English Heritage in the forecourt a bit away from the visitor's centre and just outside the abbey ruins. This was a decent surface to dance on and in full view of the abbey visitors as they made their way in.
Performing with us were:
I had never heard of Goathland (the village — population 438 — or the long-sword side), but it does have a couple of claims to fame in popular culture. It was the setting of the fictional village of Aidensfield in the Heartbeat television series set in the 1960s, and Goathland railway station (on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway) was used as the location for Hogsmeade railway station in the Harry Potter films. Not bad for a small village in the Yorkshire countryside.
The Plough Stots have been dancing since 1923, so they must be pretty tired by now. According to the founder of the current side, Frank Dowson, "stot" meant "bullock" and the plough boys, having made offerings to the church on the Feast of the Epiphany, would take a plough round the village on the next day (Plough Monday) asking for contributions to cover the cost of their church offerings. However, this could just be a load of old stots.
New Esperance Morris was formed in 1973, inspired by Mary Neal’s historical Espérance Club girls. You can read a fascinating article about Mary Neal and how she started the original dancing side by clicking here.
Anyway, we started dancing about noon and, taking turns with the other sides, had time for two dances, namely Prescot and Marston 8. Then it was time for a break for lunch to explore the local sights of interest, including the adjacent Church of Saint Mary, or to enjoy the spectacular views across the town. Most popular of the local attractions for some inexplicable reason seemed to be Whitby Brewery, a micro-brewery that apparently provided free samples to those in morris attire. This seemed a somewhat dangerous marketing ploy if they wanted any beer left at the end of the day! But if you fancy enjoying an Abbey Blonde, you know where to get one.
Suitably refreshed, we did two more stands featuring KBC Processional, Annie's and Cossington. Then it was time to prepare for the Extravaganza at the Spa Pavilion, where all the participating sides performed one show dance each.
We all gathered together again at the venue well in advance of our slot at 5:04 p.m. Yes, the event was planned with such precision that it was timed down to the minute! When our turn came, Kettle Bridge came on in dramatic fashion, making best use of the sound that their clogs made on the hall surface, and swinging their bobbins (not a sight for the faint-hearted).
The performance of Milnrow went very well and was very much appreciated by the audience. You can judge for yourself by clicking here.
That marked the end of another busy day for us. We must say a big "well done" to the organisers of the Extravaganza for putting on an excellent show and for their brilliant logistics in getting all the sides there, on to perform and then off again.