“Gan on, ave a crack at this one hinny?”
The Cold Hesledon Sword Dance
Recorded on Boxing Day 1972, in the Murton Club, from Archie Carmichael and Waymond Collins (Both aged 73/4) - Dancers from Henry Lowerson's Murton team from just before the second world war. Both men mentioned Jackie White who was a dancer and a contact of E.C.Cawte. (ECC mentions in his field notes that he took down Jackie White's address as ‘Mount Pleasant’ and was unable to find him afterwards. ECC was looking in Murton. Mount Pleasant is a place in Seaham.)
Archie was very obliging, and really enjoyed the Grouse, unfortunately after a while he began to forget his vague remembrances of the Lowerson team. He did say that the rapper dance was originally ‘owned’ or sponsored by the South Hetton Coal Company, owners of the South Hetton, Hetton-le-Hole and Murton Collieries and also of the Murton Coking Plant. The managers were quite keen to have the dancers do well.
Waymond was very busy playing and winning at dominoes but listened while I talked.
Waymond said the swords were made in the Murton pit yard by the blacksmith and his lads from hand beaten and flattened coal wagon springs. Archie said that he couldn't bend the swords very well and that they sometimes split into “grit jags.”
Waymond remembered that ‘Old Lowerson’ was jealous of other people stealing his dance. (In the family for three generations) and that it was deliberately made to be different from the Coal Company dance. Archie told about Jackie White who had had some lads that did a dance at a ‘club’ at Cold Hesledon, a two street village nestling under a smoking and fiery pit heap alongside the A19 between Murton and Seaham. The Cold Hesledon back lane had a mud roadway with a long central drain, a cundy. It also had real middens emptied every week by the midden men, in the middle of the night. (The village disappeared in the 90's when the pits went)
I was really keen to learn about the dance... both were keen to tell me and drink whisky...
A junior team had performed at Sunderland and Durham competitions possibly as Murton Victoria.
Cold Hesledon dance
Various: it was suggested by me that they had danced with shorts and white shirts (photograph c. 1933). Waymond said they had short longs. He also had the story of the different costumes including Pierrot (This is also a story from the Lowersons).
There was a pool of concertina players who used to go out with the Lowersons and were quite happy to play for a few beers. (Jackie White and his brother may have been part of them)
Basically, Spins. (Archie and Waymond had seen other rapper teams including the Winlaton team at the Newcastle Tournament. They went up on the train from Seaham Harbour.)
Clash – Trot in and clash and turn... Spin 4 bars (“Culd he been ight, yungun”)
Curly into Reins (my interpretation – Nut held on the 3 like Choker). “Oh wye aye” they both said, into Nut & Spin Single and Double (Girdle said Waymond)- 1&5 cast and meet, 2&4 pick up second time 3 stands and shuffles... Open out. Jump over 2 sword into Nut
Fig 8 into Cramper (PH interpretation - No 1 in a No 3 position, through the set to stand at the front facing. 2&5 curly then 4&3. All stand, 1 passes through) and ties the Nut Jumpy - Everybody dances (jumps) over their own sword “Deed fast man.”
1 & 5 Roll around into Double Flip. “It just depends on who ye've got to gan back ower.”
Landlords – All face away in a line. Tie the Nut and turn to face.
How much of this is my interpretation and how much is jolly Christmas hospitality it's difficult to say.
From this distance, I can see High Spen, Amble, Newbiggin and Winlaton and I was so very keen to find this dance... Where was the mention of the widdershins figures or the left cackhanded ‘Lowerson’ dance? They both agreed, just at closing time, that my stepping was the real thing, but according to Henry Lowerson none of the Murton men jigged, they shuffled and scraped.
Another observer from around that time, George Wallace, said that I must have put the ideas forward and the two auld cheps probably just agreed.