Masons Apron History
During the spring of 1981 a group of morris 'widows' and others were brought together by Janice Hicks and Alison Blake (then as now accordionist with Oxford City Morris), to learn some Northwest Clog Morris dances rather than watching or playing for men to dance. Janice had a long standing friend from her university days prepared to come and teach the first dances. This was Monica Redman who at the time was a dancer with the Northwest side Hertfordshire Holly (and was seen recently dancing with Taeppa's Tump). Some of the first dances taught by Monica are still performed by Mason's in the same style today.
The embryo side (without a name) first met to practise on the 13th July 1981 in the wooden function hut at the rear of the Mason's Arms in Headington Quarry. Both Jan and Alison were at the time also musicians with the Quarry Turners Barn Dance Band and practising a new tune for the band , the Irish reel 'Mason's Apron'. The coincidence of name and pub soon gave the new side its title. The leader of the Quarry Turners was accordionist John Graham who became the side's first musician. Most people will know John as the long standing musician of the traditional Cotswold morris side from Headington Quarry. Jan Hicks was the first Squire of Mason's Apron.
The first three squires of Mason's Apron. Jan Hicks (Far left), Barbara Honour (Far Right)& Liz Griffiths (2nd Right), at the first Day of Dance in Woodstock, Oxon.
The first dance display was performed on the 5th November 1981 at the Oxford Disabled Gardeners Club meeting at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre in Headington, Oxford. One dancer from that first display is still dancing with present side, Elsie Coombes (although she took some time off for the rather feeble 'excuse' of having twins!). One year after the formation another morris 'widow' Liz Griffiths joined, who is still dancing and is a former Squire of the side. Liz has also had 'time out' for producing offspring.... is this perhaps a consequence of morris dancing we wonder?
Highlights in the early years of Mason's Apron included a display of the Northwest Garland Dance from Marston at an E.F.D.S.S. AGM at Cecil Sharpe House and appearing at the Eastbourne International Folk Festival.
Dancing in the 'Old Kit' at the Perch Inn, at Binsey, Oxford.
One year after Liz joined, her accordionist husband Steve could not contain his curiosity any further and came along to assist with the music as second box player. Steve was at the time a dancer and musician with Oxford City Morris and is still playing for Mason's. In the current side in addition to Liz and Elsie, Di Shrimpton, Gill Pinkerton, Val Phillips and Pat Fiddler have all been dancing for over15 years. Di Shrimpton is the present Foreman of Dance and her husband Mike has been our drummer for nearly as long as Di has been dancing.
During the late Eighties the membership of the side began to change and more dancers joined from outside the City of Oxford whilst some locals moved on to other things. As most members were by then living in the West Oxfordshire area a descision was made to move the practice sessions out of the City. The Playing Fields Pavillion in the Village of Long Hanborough became 'headquarters' and remains so to this day. Sadly John Graham did not accompany us on the move and ceased to play for us, but the side will always remain grateful for the start he gave us.
Shortly after the move to Hanborough Jan Hicks began a junior side which ran for two years, which introduced local youngsters to traditional folk dancing. They went on to accompany the Adult side on the 1990 Day of Dance.
The Children's Side at the first Day of Dance
In 1991 our Founder and Squire Jan decided to move north to Cumbria to breed goats and sheep and generally enjoy the good life. Sadly the junior side then ended without her guidance & tuition. Jan's vision and energy had begun a Morris side that continues to this day and past & present dancers recognise her contribution to the side. Her invitation to the 20 year celebration party is top of the list!
Past Squires of Mason's Apron :-
1981 - 1991 Jan Hicks
1991 - 1993 Barbara Honour
1993 - 1997 Liz Griffiths
1997 - 2000 Jeanette Ancil
2000 - Present Sarah Bartleman
Over the years the Side has appeared at the following :-
Eastbourne International Folk Festival
Rochester Sweeps Festival
Wimbourne Folk Festival
Upton-on-Severn Folk Festival
Oxford May Morning Celebrations
Kirtlington Lamb Ale
Oxford City Lord Mayors Parade
Oxford Week in Bonn
Mason's Apron dancing in Cologne whilst in Germany for 'Oxford week in Bonn'.
Created using Macromedia Dreamweaver 4 by James Griffiths