Notable Characters

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The first New Year's Day performance outside the Black Horse pub in 1971.
The Monkseaton Morrismen

The Monkseaton Morrismen and Folk Dance Club was founded in 1955 by Alan and Joyce Brown, assisted by Harry Etherington.

On commencing a teaching post in 1956 at Whitley Bay Grammar School (now Marden Bridge Middle School), Alan Brown organised a folk dance group and began to run an evening class. It was that school which became the first meeting place of the Monkseaton Morrismen and many of the first members were upper school and sixth formers of the Grammar School who were soon performing in public, as Alan had hoped.

Meanwhile, Bryan Jackson was first introduced to country dancing some years earlier when he was a pupil at Appletree Gardens Junior School, and later, when a pupil of Whitley Bay Grammar School, he went along to Alan Brown's school club.

As Bryan also played the violin, his talent was recognised as a potential member. By 1957 Bryan was playing and dancing for the group, which was his first introduction to the Monkseaton Morrismen, and, now a member, he was taking part in the shows.

In the summer of 1958 the Monkseaton Morrismen organised the first Morris Ring Meeting in Whitley Bay, even though the group were not at that time members of the Morris Ring of England, which is recognised as the "National Association" of Morris Dancing clubs. This meeting was held at the Army camp next to St. Mary's Island.

The Monkseaton Morrismen were later admitted to the Morris Ring and invited to perform at a showcase festival at the Royal Albert Hall in 1960. This was a major milestone in the history of the team, for this was one of the most prestigious festivals of traditional dance, to which only the best teams in the country were invited.

The team performed the dances for which they were founded to keep alive, the Northumbrian country-dances, the rants, and the rapper sword dance. The Albert Hall performances were a major success, and apparently Princess Margaret, who was present on the Saturday night performance, was in fits of laughter as Alan Brown, in his role of Betty, played hide and seek with the follow-spotlights as they tried to keep up with him running around the arena. That particular weekend probably put the Monkseaton Morrismen firmly on the map, with a reputation for the highest standards of dance performance, and as top exponents of the rapper sword dance, a reputation which the team still value very highly, and have striven to maintain over the following years.

Bryan Jackson is now the longest serving team member, still dancing and playing for the team after 50 years, and is presently Squire.

Locally based, the Monkseaton Morrismen have performed all over the world, playing and dancing for all types of audiences. It has been a tradition in Monkseaton Village since 1971 that the group perform their traditional dances and Mummers Play outside of the Ship Inn, on New Year's morning, before retiring to the local hostelries for some well earned liquid refreshment! This still remains the highlight of the year for the team, and the audience is still one of the largest and most enthusiastic for whom they perform. The group are always looking to recruit new members, to maintain and uphold the high traditions first aimed at by the founder, Alan Brown in 1955. Visit their website at www.monkseatonmorrismen.co.uk
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