Sword Dancing

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The Goathland Plough Stots

Many of us Northerners are of Norse descent and so are lots of our customs.one of these continues in the tradition of the Sword Dance, perhaps derived from fertility rituals of long ago.

The surviving form of the dance is thought to have been only a small part of a much more complex performance involving a mummers play whose theme was death (maybe sacrificial ) and subsequent resurrection. There are still many  sword dance teams around the country but Goathland boasts one of the oldest. The Plough Stots have been in existence for at least 150 years, lapsing from time to time and then being reformed..on the last occasion by the efforts of F W Dowson in the early 1920's, since when they have gone from strength to strength.

At the most recent Day of Dance in January  2012 they were out in full force with three teams and a good following of musicians....

The Annual Day of Dance is probably the most important date on any Plough Stot's calendar. On Plough Sunday..the first Sunday after Epiphany .the plough is taken into Church to be blessed and on the following Saturday the teams and musicians assemble to dance from end to end of Goathland village and to the outlying farms and cottages in Beck Hole and Green End. They finish the day off with the 'Annual Do'.. a grand f dinner followed by a summary of team outings, speeches and awards to those members who have deserved recognition over the year !!

The Plough Stots, as they are today, still retain part of the Old Goathland Play in their introductory songs.

In the traditional round dance each dancer holds the tip of his neighbour's sword as they circle and weave through the intricate patterns of the dance figures( hopefully without letting go ) .

The Goathland dance has six figures each with its own accompanying tune, and culminating in the swords being raised in a Lock by the team leader or King. This is often lowered over the head of one of the comic Characters who accompany the dancers....'Betty' in her old rags and shawl, harassing the dancers with her besom or 'T'Awd Man' with his odd stockings, bashed felt hat and crooked stick.or sometimes even some innocent bystander. The dancers circle as they gradually tighten the lock before withdrawing the swords with a flourish.very scary I can tell you.it was once my turn to be 'it'.. 


A team of youngster dance outside the Birch Hall Inn

The youngsters dance outside The Birch Hall Inn on the Annual Day of Dance




The best of days....last year it waswas cold and blowy with frozen snow underfoot....this year dawned a fine frosty morning with brilliant sunshine....three teams and their attendant musicians danced around the village... eventually accumulating at the Birch Hall Inn for pints of beer, a warming mug of soup and sausage rolls...then IT WAS OUTSIDE for another round of dancing as dusk fell over Beckhole .

More pints and a warm up by the fire finished the afternoon off nicely and then it was time to get ready for the Grand Dinner at the Village Hall in Goathland.

Thanks to the Plough Stots for yet another good day and to all who came along to watch & enjoy the fun !

          and thanks especially to Dave for his irresistible Parkin and stuff ! ...see you again on Carlin Sunday !!!