Presented by Richard Walton, Squire, 25th March, 1997
The Hook Eagle Morris Man wears a black top hat adorned with feathers. The hat serves the very useful function of keeping the rays of the sun from turning the top of his head red, which is a problem that affects most of us in the side. The feathers are lobster feathers, that come only from a particular variety of lobster that lives off the north coast of Norfolk. It is a tradition that the number of lobster feathers on each man’s hat signifies the number of “romantic encounters” that he has had. It is also a tradition that Morris men are prone to wild exaggeration.
The question we are asked most often is “why do you blue your faces?”, although the question “would you like a pint?” also crops up very occasionally (perhaps not as often as we would like). The answer to the first question is two-fold:
- It leaves a very satisfactory mark on the faces (and other parts) of female members of the audience; and
- When washed off again, it makes us harder to recognise by the male companions of the aforementioned female members of the audience. Oh, and
- It’s traditional.
The answer to the second question is yes, please.
These are a de-rigueur fashion accessory for the modern man-about-town. Also, certain members of the side find that they cannot face bright sunlight in the morning after the night before.
The dancing members of the side wear waistcoats covered in yellow and blue rag strips. A hundred years ago, Border Morris dancers used to pin paper strips to their ordinary clothes, but found this was too dangerous because children used to set the paper alight. Rags are less flammable. The musicians tend to wear black tail-coats without the rags. We think this is because they are too lazy to sew any on.
This is so we can wipe the sweat off our (blue-ened) faces onto the shirt sleeves without it showing.
Some members of the side have to wear braces to keep their trousers up. This is necessary due to an absence of waist. The rest of us wear braces as well so that they won’t feel self-conscious about this.
These are to avoid us being arrested – as might be the case if we were to wear no trousers at all. Also, I can assure you that you really would NOT want to see us without trousers.
A single row of Morris bells is worn around each leg, just below the knee. The bells serve to frighten off evil spirits as they jingle merrily to the rhythm of the dance (the bells, that is). It is evil spirits that are sometimes the reason for having to wear sunglasses (see above). Bells also serve to warn of our approach which helps people to avoid us, in the same way that a bell is sometimes affixed to a cat to warn mice to keep out of the way.
Some Morris sides wear dainty dancing shoes. Some wear sporty trainers. Anybody can dance in trainers – that’s no challenge at all. Real Men such as the Hook Eagles (stop laughing) wear big clumpy boots to dance in. This gives us an excuse for not getting off the ground.
The Hook Eagle Morris man carries his stick erect, although to keep it out of the way whilst dancing he puts it over his shoulder. Some of our dances are for men who only have short sticks, and some are for men with long sticks. We even have one dance for men who have TWO sticks each! We don’t have any dances for people without sticks, although such people are welcome to join the band.