Seghill Jolly Lads
scoop sword competition

In an orgy of Sword competition held over two weekends in January 1881, Seghill Jolly Lads trounced the opposition to take the first prize at the Theatre Royal, Blyth in Northumberland.

“The novel contest, on January 22, drew together a very large audience who seemed to enjoy immensely the old fashioned pastime which dates as far back in England as the time of Edward III. The antics and grotesque figures of the Bettys and Tommys as they led their respective dancers on to the scene of action was highly amusing and the performance of each set was very graceful as they whirled and eddied round each other.

“The monster sword dancing competition took place at this place of amusement and was perhaps the greatest affair of the kind that has ever taken place.

“No less than fifteen sets of dancers contended, namely,

“The Wear Yule Dough Set; The Happy Lads of Hetton; The lads that everybody likes from Tyneside; The Excelsior set, Seaton Burn; Henderson Gibson's Putter's set, Holywell; The Merry Lads, Choppington; Load's Old Set, Choppington Gate; First Rose of Northumberland, Cramlington; The Funny Lads, Dudley; The Hastings Canny Lads, Hartley; Bob the Nailor's Young Set, Cowpen Quay; Dudley Putter's Set; East Holywell Putters; Jolly Lads Set, Seghill; First Northumberland.

“After a tie between The Jolly Lads Set and Load's Old Set it was decided by the judges, Messrs. William Dixon, William Oliver, Henry Gillis, Robert Crammond and Thomas Messer, that there should be a dance off on the following Saturday, January 29 at the Theatre Royal.”

Blyth Weekly News: 22/1/1881 and 5/2/1881 The indefatigable Gordon Ridgewell unearthed this treasure. The full reports of these events with an additional contribution from E. C. Cawte, can be seen in the correspondence section of the Folk Music Journal, Volume 9 No 2 2007. Thanks to Phil Heaton for this precis, and for drawing our attention to this important discovery. Ed