Whitstable May Day starts in late morning at the Library in Oxford
Street where several Morris sides perform in the square
surrounding the cenotaph. (NB Morris dancers don't have groups,
units or troupes. They have "sides" or "teams"). The procession
moves on to the Horsebridge for a second dancing performance and
it is here that it picks up a very important character -
Jack-in-the-Green. Jack is a talking/walking bush.
From here, the
procession shifts on to the harbour for dancing on the South Quay
before making its way to the Castle Grounds for the main May Day
celebrations. It is here that we pick up the story.
Of course, another way of describing the route is
that the Morris dancers progress via the New Inn, the Pearsons Arms and
the Quayside. ;-)
1: The Procession
Our first photo shows the procession advancing
towards the Castle Gatehouse....
I may need some help to explain it all. I'll
give my interpretation.... and then someone can correct me if I am
I believe the young lady in white is Maid Marion.
She is followed by the leafy shape of our talking bush, Jack-in the-Green
. Jack symbolises the spirit of springtime. To some
extent, it could be argued that the Jack character comes form the
16th or 17th century when people competed in making large garlands
of leaves and flowers around the time of May Day. However, the
folklore is entangled with a much older and more mysterious
character called the Green Man.
The Green Man appears to date back to pagan times and
the precise origins are unknown. There are many depictions of him
in carvings in and around churches and he is usually shown
surrounded in leaves - often with just his face visible. It seems
often associated with woodland and may embody springtime. Of course, his name has since been adopted by many old
country pubs and restaurants around England.
I have always been under the impression that the
character on the right of our photo was Robin Hood. However, I now wonder if he
is actually the Green Man of folklore.
2-3: Oyster Morris
Next up are the Oyster Morris
Women. Morris sides have "women" and not
Then, come the Oyster Morris Men...
As their name suggests, Oyster Morris originated
in Whitstable. Although now Canterbury-based, many of their
memebers are drawn from the oyster towns of Whitstable and
Faversham.. and they play a big part in organising the local May
What the uninitiated may not know is that there
are different styles of Morris Dancing. The Oyster Morris perform
a "vigorous" Cotswold style. You can find out more by
visiting their web site - click
4: Oyster Morris Music
Like most Morris sides, the Oyster Morris have
their own musicians and, over the years, they have become a
familiar part of the local scene....
The musicians perform traditional tunes but also
write some of their own.
5-6: Other Morris Sides
I believe the smartly dressed "side" below is the
Kettle Bridge Clogs.
They come from Maidstone and they acquired their
name from a footbridge across the Medway. The original bridge has disappeared but
it has been replaced by a newer version. The Kettle Bridge Morris dance
across it at 7.15 pm every May Day. For more information,
visit their web site by clicking
I am afraid I don't know the name or web address
of the side below.... but, if I can find out, I will add the
details in the next few days.
7-9: Dead Horse Morris
Aye, aye... I know the lot below.... because I've
hade trouble with them in the past. ;-) They are the
Dead Horse Morris...
... and they are led by this great character...
For me, they are the SAS of the Morris world. Just take a
look at the baton wielding troop below...
The Dead Horse Morris bring a lot of fun and skill
to events across the county and beyond. They are Whitstable-based
and you can find out more from their web site by clicking
here. In recent times, they have formed a ladies
team called the Boomdashers.
Dead Horse Morris perform a regional style
of the traditional dancing. I am no expert but in terms of vigour,
I would rate it as a very vigorous regional style. ;-)
10: ...To The Castle
All the Morris sides are sucked into the Castle
grounds through the narrow vortex of the gatehouse. There, they
join crowds that have been forming since late morning.....
11-12: ...Installing Jack on the Terrace
Jack-in-the-Green is installed on the west
... and the multitudes gather on the lawns
to witness the dancing....
13: ...Installing Jack on the Terrace
But, first, it is necessary to to sing the May Day
song.... while the SAS work out a plan to crack the castle