Steel City morris men celebrate 40th birthday

Hanky dance at the Prince of Wales, with three dancers in the old kit.
Hanky dance at the Prince of Wales, with three dancers in the old kit.

Sheffield City Morris Men has marked its 40th anniversary by taking a trip down memory lane.

The group relived its first ever performance by returning to the two pubs where members made their debut back in 1976.

Stick dance at the Prince of Wales, with at the front Gerry Bates (founder member) and Tom Popplewell (in the original kit)

Stick dance at the Prince of Wales, with at the front Gerry Bates (founder member) and Tom Popplewell (in the original kit)

Crowds were wowed as members dug out original costumes for the dances at the Prince of Wales pub, Ecclesall Road South, and the Hammer and Pincers in Bents Green.

Club spokesman Dominic Rice said: “Along with the unsuspecting Sunday diners and drinkers at the two pubs, several former members and their families from the early days of the team came along to watch.

“One former member, Phil Croft, turned up in his original kit - which still fitted!”

The origins of the group date back to 1975, when Bob Hazelwood moved back to Sheffield from London, where he had been associated with Chingford Morris Men.

Alec Thompson, Gerry Bates & John Bowden playing at the Hammer & Pincers, with dancer (Dominic Rice) in foreground, in the original kit

Alec Thompson, Gerry Bates & John Bowden playing at the Hammer & Pincers, with dancer (Dominic Rice) in foreground, in the original kit

There he had been impressed by two things, that they were a very entertaining team and they had the beginnings of a tradition of their own.

He decided to form a new morris dance team which would embody the qualities he had found at Chingford – a team that would be, in his words, “fit, young, sexy”.

Bob got together some people he knew through the folk clubs in Sheffield, and this embryonic side began practising on May 1, 1975, at Limpsfield School.

While the team was founded they were not ready to inflict upon an unsuspecting public in that first year, which was primarily about ‘ difficult practice and getting everyone to dance to a similar style and standard.

However, the following year, in 1976, Bob deemed that the team was ready to ‘go public’ and a first dance-out was arranged for a Saturday.

Dominic added: “The team is still going strong forty years on and, over the years, has performed at festivals across the UK, the rest of Europe, and even in Ecuador in 1993 as well as at a vast array of pubs and other venues across South Yorkshire.”

The team will perform Francis Newton pub in Broomhill tonight and are welcoming new members.