THE PLOUGH STOTS
CLEVELAND SWORD DANCE
The Long Sword Dances of North Yorkshire originally formed part of a Plough
Monday ritual with a Plough Play. The dancers were fools, locally known as "Plough
Stots". Cecil Sharp described one such dance at the village of Sleights. This
recording features the musician, Arthur Marshall, playing melodeon for a young
man's Long Sword Dance team at Loftus. In addition there is an important background
talk about their revival by Mr Normanton, headmaster of the school. Also included
is an actuality of the complete performance recorded at Scarborough in 1953.
Then North Skelton (as collected by his father) played by Peter on melodeon.
1. The tunes (John Peel, Oyster Girl, Lass o Dallogill, Keel Row & Cock
o the North) played by Arthur Marshall (melodeon) - 3'03"
2. Talk by Mr Normanton about his own research into the existence of teams
at Loftus and other villages such as Skelton and Lingdale. He mentions Cecil
Sharp's book "Sword Dances of Northern England" and the early musician, Mr Winspear.
How he started with Morris with the help of Victor Simpson and then his boys
started on the sword dancing with the help of Mr Marshall. He tells of a Mrs
Martin, sister of George Featherstone, who has given him more information. He
mentions too a member of the Goathland Plough Stots who lived in Loftus. He
himself has photographs of a Loftus team at Chesterfield in 1892 and another
in 1926 and Mrs Martin still has a set of swords, which originally cost 8 pence
each, which he hopes eventually to obtain for historical reasons. He talks about
the present team of boys, their practices and performances at Scarborough -
3. Complete performance of dance by the Loftus team with their musician, Arthur
Marshall (melodeon), recorded by Peter Kennedy at Scarborough in 1953. John
Peel (the March on), Figure One (The Oyster Girl), Fig Two (The Lass o Dallogill),
Fig Three (The Keel Row), Fig Four (The Cock o the North), and Fig Five (The
Keel Row) followed by applause - 14'13"
4-8. North Skelton Sword Dance (as collected by his father) played by Peter
Kennedy (melodeon): 2'26 - 2'32" - 2'43" - 2'14" - 3'28"
Recorded by Peter Kennedy 1953. Edited by Peter Kennedy and first published
on Folktrax Cassettes 1975.
To give some idea of the figures used by the Cleveland Long Sword teams, here
are the names of the movements as collected by Douglas Kennedy from the North
Fig.1. HIGH CLASH/ SHOULDERS RIGHT/ SHOULDERS LEFT/ ELBOWS/ OVER YOUR NEIGHBOURS
SWORD (16 bars)/ HILT-AND-POINT RING/ DOUBLE UNDER (No.1's sword leading)/ RING/
DOUBLE UNDER (No.2's sword leading)/ RING/ DOUBLE UNDER (No. 3's sword leading)/
SILENT LOW BASKET/ LOW CLASH/ THE BACK LOCK/ THE ROSE/ DRAW (16). (144 bars
Fig.2. LOW CLASH/ CROSS OVER/ THE HEY/ CLASH AND MARK TIME/ THE POUSETTE (16)/
THE ROLL (32)/ THE CIRCULAR HEY/ THE HILT-AND-POINT RING (16)/ CLASH HILTS & LOCK (40). (144 bars)
Fig.3. HIGH CLASH & SHOULDERS (24)/ RING/ OVER YOUR OWN SWORD (24)/ RING/
DOUBLE OVER WITH RINGS (40)/ CIRCULAR HEY (1 facing 6)/ BACK RING (16)/ THE
TURN-IN LOCK/ ROSE & DRAW (16). (160 bars)
Fig.4. HIGH CLASH & SHOULDERS (24)/ RING/ SILENT LOW BASKET/ LOW CLASH/
GUARD OF HONOUR (32)/ MOVE DOWN & CAST/ RING/ HIGH LOCK, ROSE & DRAW
(Left hand) (128 bars)
Fig.5. HIGH CLASH (Left hand)/ HIGH BASKET (R.H.)/ HIGH CLASH (R.H.)/ SHOULDERS/
RING/ INDIVIDUAL TURN (32)/ LOW BASKET/ LOW CLASH/ THE COLUMN (16)/ PROGRESSIVE
WINDOWS & ROLL (48)/ STRAIGHT HEY/ RING/ RIGHT-OVER-LEFT LOCK, ROSE & DRAW. (208 bars)
One local version of the dance, best known outside Cleveland, was collected
by Peter's father, Douglas Kennedy, from the "Plough Stots" at North
Skelton in the 1920s and Peter first learned to play button accordion from the
team's musician, ironstone miner and Union leader, George Tremain. A complete
description of the North Skelton dance, as collected by Douglas Kennedy, was
published by The English Folk Dance and Song Society, London, 1927.
GEORGE TREMAIN, the melodeon-player of the North Skelton team, can be heard
playing the tunes for the North Skelton Sword Dance, as well as for a number
of Yorkshire Country Dances, on FT-329.
An example of the type of Plough Play that originally preceded the dance was
recorded by Peter Kennedy in Lincolnshire on FTX-105.