This month, the present Leyland Morris Men celebrate 50 years of continuous dancing since it was reformed in 1966 & first danced out in ‘67.
Leyland Morris Men was originally formed in 1889 and, over the years, has had considerable involvement with Preston. The first such occasion was on June 25th, 1892 – when HRH the Duke of Edinburgh visited to open the Albert Edward dock. A number of gentlemen met at the Stanley Arms to consider holding a festival to mark the visit – it would be a grand procession & Rose Festival.
Leyland Morris Men, under the leadership of Mr John Rose, took part in this procession from Strand Road to Preston North End. Despite continuous rain, the event attracted throngs of people along the roads up to Deepdale. The Preston Herald, on July 9th 1892, reported that the Morris dancers were so well received that efforts were to be made to establish a Preston team.
The present Leyland team has danced at the Guilds of 1972, 1992 & 2012 and has taken part in many other Preston events. (Some of the present team members danced at all three of these Guild processions!) Preston Hospital’s Fete was one of their early visits in ‘68 & ‘69 and St George’s shopping centre often saw them performing in the ‘70’s. Many a clog has also been ‘sparked’ on the Flag market & the Guild Hall has echoed to the sound of bells & sticks too.
Other notable venues include the docks, Avenham Park & West View leisure centre.
For folk not able to get out & see them; they have even performed at such places as Little Sisters, Fulwood, Sherwood Court, Elsie Finney House & other homes.
The younger element have not been ignored; they’ve held workshops in local Preston schools to introduce the kids to Morris Dancing. They tell Podio that they remain open to all groups to showcase the North West tradition of Morris dancing & that they would dearly love to see the team continue for the next half century. If interested (as either a dancer or musician) go to www.leylandmorrismen.com.
The team are celebrating on Saturday April 29th in Leyland town centre during the morning & then at Leyland cricket club in the afternoon. The club will be displaying photographs & videos depicting the history of the team since 1892. All are welcome – free entry
The team member common to both photos featuring in this article is current team leader Geoff Carson. In the 1979 photo he is the dancer with glasses but no beard while in the colour photo he is the dancer at the back on the left.
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