Ruby celebrations for Chapel-en-le-Frith dancers

Chapel Morris Men's fortieth anniversary, forty performances across the district
Chapel Morris Men's fortieth anniversary, forty performances across the district

The Chapel-en-le-Frith Morris Men have been shaking their bells and waving their handkerchiefs for four decades - and to mark their anniversary they completed 40 dances in one day.

Formed in the autumn of 1975, the group, which still has four of its original members, showcased their talents in six places around the Peak District at the weekend; Chapel, Buxton, Monyash, Ashford, Litton and Hope.

Chapel Morris Men's fortieth anniversary, forty performances across the district

Chapel Morris Men's fortieth anniversary, forty performances across the district

To further mark the occasion, the group performed the first dance they did in public on Easter Monday in 1976; Lads a’ Bunchum.

And it all started because of the Buxton Advertiser - when a letter was placed by Will Newman looking to see if anyone would be interested in joining.

Their first booked appearance was done at The Sandbach Folk Dancing Club Christmas party where Arthur McArdle was a member.

Now 74, he has been with the group for 39 and a half years and is the Morris Men’s bagman, or secretary.

Chapel Morris Men's fortieth anniversary, forty performances across the district

Chapel Morris Men's fortieth anniversary, forty performances across the district

He said: “I really enjoy being part of something and the camaraderie and friendship between the lads is great.”

This year the dancers have attended several 40th celebrations from other sides, or groups, around the country.

Arthur said: “It was clear there was a massive revival in the sport back in the 70s and it is great to see so many groups still going strong.

“We are in a lucky position because we have 17 active members and you only need six people to form a dance routine.”

Chapel Morris Men's fortieth anniversary, forty performances across the district

Chapel Morris Men's fortieth anniversary, forty performances across the district

Members in the all-male side include three melodeon players, one playing the harmonica, another on the fiddle and the squire of the dancers, Graham Kennett plays the flute and they all dance as well.

There were 15 non-dancing members from Portsmouth, Cumbria and Cheltenham who all returned home to be part of the special day.

“You never leave the group, that’s not what we are about but we do understand that jobs and family move people out of the area so it is great so many people have come back to celebrate with us.

“I think getting to the 40-year milestone is important and we are all really chuffed.”

Chapel Morris Men's fortieth anniversary, forty performances across the district

Chapel Morris Men's fortieth anniversary, forty performances across the district

The group meets every Monday evening during the winter in the Play House in Chapel and its oldest member, who is 86, still dances.

“Most of us started in our 20s and 30s now we are in our 60s and 70s and the only difference is we don’t jump as high nowadays,” joked Arthur.

He said: “We have about 25 dances we know well but we found one of our old books with dance routines in and have refreshed ourselves with another 15 so we can do 40 on 40.”

The dances are physically demanding but that does not put the side off who were looking forward to the challenge.

Morris dance is a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by music.

It is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed figures by a group of dancers, usually wearing bell pads on their shins.

Chapel Morris Men's fortieth anniversary, forty performances across the district

Chapel Morris Men's fortieth anniversary, forty performances across the district

The earliest known and surviving English written mention of Morris dance is dated to 1448.

Tradition for the dancers dictates their first dance of the year is always on Easter Monday followed by a dawn dance on May Day at Eccles Pike to welcome the sun and the start of summer.

As members get older there are no younger people wanting to take up the hobby so it is becoming a dying tradition.

The group would love to more people join. Anyone who is interested should visit www.chapelmorris.org

Chapel Morris Men's fortieth anniversary, forty performances across the district

Chapel Morris Men's fortieth anniversary, forty performances across the district