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Thursday 26th December 2013

Six Bells, Headington Quarry, Oxford

Headington Quarry Morris Dancers, Handbell Ringers, Mummers Play, and Rapper Sword Dancing

“There was an old man and he had an old cow, and for how to keep her he didn’t know how, He built up a barn for to keep his cow warm, and a drop or two of cider will do us no harm.” Trad.

One of the great advantages of my return to Oxford, is I can immerse myself in Quarry life, and possibly the biggest tradition of them all is the Boxing Day Morris Men. For as long as I can remember we’ve all headed bleary eyed from our Christmas hangovers into the cold December air at one or more of the 4 Quarry pubs. The schedule hasn’t changed for years, its always

11.15 Crown & Thistle

12.15 Six Bells

13.00 Chequers

13.45 Mason’s Arms

It’s a sign of the times that the performance at the Crown was in front of a closed pub. The roots of the performance are pure folk, rooted in the traditions of old England. There’s the Mummers Play where King George and the Turkey Snight (Turkish Knight) fight for the hand of the King of Egypt’s daughter. It evokes the triumph of good over evil as the Turkey Snight slays King George, but is quickly revived by the good Doctor. The script is altered each year to keep it topical, this year Nigella’s troubles got a mention, I remember one year it was Jimmy Carter’s haemorrhoids!

I particularly like the sword dance. That originated in the North-East of England, and it involves an evermore intricate dance to weave the swords into a star-shaped lock. It looks dangerous, but I’ve not seen a cut finger yet!

Mind you, local legend says that the performances improve as more pubs get visited! I did see King George go into battle with a spade once, and that was at the last pub, The Mason’s Arms, so perhaps the important factor is the about of beer consumed. I do remember Dad asking why King George was drinking a pint of lemonade, “I’m not,” he replied, “Its Gin and tonic!”

The show moved on to the Chequers, but Dad and I had an appointment at the football ground…. Its good to see the tradition continuing.

For more here’s their website http://www.hqmd.co.nr/